Mare German Folklore – Myths of the Night Terror

Written By Jason Kim

Writing stories of mythical proportions.

Ever woken up from a scary dream, heart pounding and body sweaty? This frightening experience has hit many people over time. German folklore tells of a creature blamed for these bad dreams: the mare.

In stories, the mare is a bad spirit who scares people in their sleep, creating nightmares. This figure comes from ancient Germanic and Slavic traditions. The German word “mare” has roots in Old English, Old Dutch, and Proto-Slavic.

The mare is tied to riding horses and messing up hair. It’s said to exhaust horses at night, yet they’re sweaty by morning. People talk about the mare messing up hair, calling the tangles “marelocks” or “mare-braids.” In folklore, it’s said mares ride trees, leaving behind tangled branches.

Key Takeaways:

  • The mare is a malevolent creature in German folklore that visits people during their sleep, causing nightmares and terrorizing their subconscious.
  • Its origins can be traced back to Old English, Old Dutch, and Proto-Slavic languages, with various forms and translations in different cultures.
  • The mare is associated with riding horses, entangling hair, and even inhabiting trees, leaving traces of its presence behind.
  • Legends speak of mares riding horses, leaving them exhausted and covered in sweat, as well as entangling the hair of sleeping individuals or animals.
  • In German folklore, the mare’s connection to trees leads to the belief in entangled branches, showcasing the enduring impact of this creature on folklore traditions.

Origins and Etymology of the Mare

The word “mare” comes from cultures in Europe like Germany and Slavic countries. It comes from languages such as Old English, Old Norse, and more. The word may be linked to things like crushing and pressing. This brings a bit of a scary idea to the word. People think of bad dreams or harm when they hear “mare.” In Germany, stories about the mare are important in the culture.

The mare is in stories about riding horses and tangling hair. These ideas come from old stories that are still told today. These stories aren’t just in Germany. Many countries have their version of the mare.

Germanic Origins of the Mare

In German stories, the mare is known to mess with people’s dreams. It goes by names like Mahr or Mare. It is quite famous for being not so nice. Many people in German-speaking areas know these stories.

The name “Mahr” or “Mare” itself shows it comes from German culture. The name has a lot of history and importance to people. It makes some Germans scared but also interested in this creature.

German Folklore Myths

According to German stories, the mare is a scary thing. It comes at night and makes people unable to move. People have shared many ways to keep the mare away. They do things like putting shoes by the bed in a special way. This is how much they fear the mare, even today.

The mare isn’t only in dreams, though. It’s also why people think hair gets tangled up. This is where the idea of “marelocks” comes from. People use it to explain hair problems, like the Polish plait problem.

German Mare Beliefs Associated Elements
The mare enters rooms through keyholes or knots Protection practices: placing shoes by the bed with laces facing away, plugging up openings
Entangles hair during sleep, resulting in “marelocks” or “mare-braids” Explanation for hair-related ailments
Associations with witches and shapeshifting Superstitious belief in mares forming alliances with witches

The mare has been part of German stories for a long time. People both fear and find it interesting. This has kept its place in the traditions and stories of Germany.

Beliefs and Legends of the Mare

In German folklore, the mare is a fascinating creature that has spooked people for ages. It’s known for riding horses at night till they’re tired and sweaty in the morning.

This creature’s mischief isn’t just with horses. It can also tangle up the hair of sleeping folks and pets. This leads to “marelocks,” or what some call “mare-braids.” It could be why some folks think they get the Polish plait hair condition.

Folklore also links the mare to trees. It’s said the mare can ride trees too, making their branches all tangled up. This shows how deeply nature and the mare are connected in stories.

Some tales even say the mare and witches are somehow connected. Witches might change into animal forms during their journeys, like taking on a mare’s look. This mixes up folklore creatures with mythological beings.

The mare is thought of as a creature of the night, bringing fear and worry after sundown. This makes its story even scarier, influencing how people think, dream, and protect themselves from nightmares.

“The mare’s powers over horses, hair, and trees show how strong it is in German tales. Its story still captivates people, reminding us of folklore’s lasting effect on what we believe and do.”

The Polish Plait Phenomenon

The idea of marelocks, caused by the mare, is tied to the Polish plait phenomenon. This is when hair knots up without a clear reason. Experts discuss whether it’s linked to stress from bad dreams and the fear that comes with them.

Protection Practices Against the Mare

Because the mare is connected with frightening dreams, people have developed ways to keep it away. These include putting shoes at the bed with laces out. This is because it’s thought that mares can’t tie knots like this. People also block off keyholes and such spaces. They do this, and some even pray or have charms, to be safe from the mare’s scary night visits.

Beliefs and Legends of the Mare
The mare has the ability to ride horses and leave them exhausted and covered in sweat by the morning.
The mare can entangle the hair of sleeping individuals, causing marelocks or mare-braids.
The belief in marelocks is often associated with the occurrence of the Polish plait phenomenon.
In German folklore, the mare is also believed to ride trees, resulting in entangled branches.
Legends associate mares with witches who can shapeshift into animals.
The mare is considered a nocturnal creature that brings terror and unease during the night.
Protection practices such as placing shoes with laces facing away or making offerings are believed to ward off the mare’s presence.

Mare in Scandinavian Folklore

In Scandinavian folklore, the mare stands out with its rich myths. The Norse Ynglinga saga tells of King Vanlandi’s death by a Finnish sorceress’s nightmare. This shows how powerful and harmful the mare was seen.

In Sámi myths, the mare captures people with its mystique. An evil elf, Deattán, changes into various shapes. He sits on people’s chests as they sleep, creating bad dreams. This makes the mare seem like a scary, dream-controlling being.

Stories about mares are also in Icelandic sagas and Danish tales. These accounts show the mare’s lasting importance in Scandinavian culture. It highlights the deep effect this creature has had in their myths over the years.

Scandinavian Mare Legends

Legendary Encounters

“I was caught up in the stories of the mythical mare. It haunted the Norse Kings’ dreams. The mare’s power over their nightmares was both scary and intriguing.” – Traveler in Scandinavia

Mare in Modern Culture

Even now, the legendary mare remains interesting to Scandinavians. It shows up in art, books, and media. Its persistent appeal reflects how deeply it’s ingrained in the culture.

Mare in German Folklore

In German folklore, the mare is a creature known to scare. It goes by Mahr or Mare. Many stories and beliefs make the mare a nightmare-inducing fear.

A German belief is that shoes by the bed, laces facing out, can stop the mare. Plugging keyholes can also keep it out. Some even give offerings to protect themselves, like leaving milk out or saying special prayers.

“The mare’s role in German folklore is deeply rooted in the fears and beliefs of the German people. It represents a German nightmare creature that embodies the darkness lurking in the depths of the night. The legends and superstitions surrounding the mare German legends serve as cautionary tales and reminders of the importance of protecting oneself from the malevolent forces that may invade our dreams.”

Mare Protection Practices in German Folklore

German tales have ways to protect against the mare. These practices aim to keep nightmares away and ensure peaceful sleep. Here are some common practices:

  • Placing shoes by the bed with the laces facing away
  • Using amulets or charms specifically designed to ward off the mare
  • Closing or plugging up openings, such as keyholes or knots
  • Reciting prayers or incantations before sleep
  • Leaving offerings, such as bowls of milk or bread, to appease the mare

These practices show both fear and respect for the mare in German lore. People use them to guard against its harm and sleep soundly.

German nightmare creature

Mare in German Legends and Folktales

German tales often talk about facing the mare. These stories warn of its torment in the night. One tale is about a young man who used a charm to trap the mare, saving his village.

German Nightmare Creature German Folklore Beliefs Mare German Legends
Represents a malevolent entity that haunts people’s dreams Believed to enter rooms through keyholes or knots, causing sleep paralysis Stories of brave individuals who outsmart the mare and protect their communities
Provides cautionary tales and reminders of the importance of protection Protection practices include placing shoes by the bed and making offerings Reflect the enduring fear and fascination surrounding the mare in German culture


The folklore creature mare has long captivated people in Germanic cultures. It comes out at night, causing nightmares. Its stories originate from Germanic and Slavic roots, spreading across Europe.

The mare is a symbol of night fears, staying alive in stories for years. Germanic folklore is full of tales about it, from riding horses to living in trees. These stories show how deeply the mare impacts beliefs.

The mare remains a creature of fascination and fear through the years. It has shaped stories, beliefs, and even traditions to protect against it. The mare’s role in Germanic folklore is a key part of how myths influence culture.

Stories about the mare highlight the role of storytelling and myth in culture. They show us the power of imagination and how our fears and beliefs evolve over time. The mare in Germanic folklore is a lasting, thought-provoking figure.


What is the origin of the word “mare” in German folklore?

The word “mare” comes from Old English, Old Dutch, and Proto-Slavic languages. It links to the idea of crushing, pressing, and causing fear.

What are some common associations and characteristics of the mare in German folklore?

In German folklore, the mare is linked with horse riding and tangled hair. It can even live in trees. This creature brings bad dreams and can appear as many animals.

Are there any similar creatures to the mare in Scandinavian mythology?

Yes, in Scandinavia, a similar being named Deattán exists. This evil elf sits on people’s chests as they sleep, leading to nightmares.

How does the mare affect people during sleep?

The mare is thought to ride people’s horses at night. It makes the horses tired and sweaty. It also ties knots in people’s hair, known as “marelocks” or “mare-braids”.

What are some protection practices against the mare in German folklore?

To protect against the mare, some put their shoes near the bed with the laces facing out. They also close any openings tightly and leave gifts for the mare.

How does the mare feature in Germanic and Slavic folklore?

The mare is a feared creature that appears in people’s dreams, causing nightmares. In Germanic and Slavic lore, it represents fear and scary dreams.

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