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As in English, the name appears in the word for "nightmare" in the Nordic languages (e.g.the Swedish word "mardröm" literally meaning mara-dream, the Norwegian word "mareritt" and the Danish "Mareridt", both meaning Mare-ride or the Icelandic word "martröð" meaning mara-dreaming repeatedly). German Folklorist Franz Felix Adalbert Kuhn records a Westphalian charm or prayer used to ward off mares, from Wilhelmsburg near Paderborn: Such charms are preceded by the example of the Münchener Nachtsegen of the fourteenth century (See Elf under §Medieval and early modern German texts).Mara is usually invisible, but can take the form of a woman with long flowing hair, which she combs, sitting on a yarn.According to other sources, the mara is black, shaggy (olonets, tul.), And also a terrible and disheveled creature (Kaluga). Mora or Mara is one of the spirits from ancient Slav mythology.This association of the nightmare with fetch is thought to be of late origin, an interpolation in the text dating to circa 1300, with the text exhibiting a "confounding of the words marr and mara." Another possible example is the account in the Eyrbyggja saga of the sorceress Geirrid accused of assuming the shape of a "night-rider" or "ride-by-night" (marlíðendr or kveldriða) and causing serious trampling bruises on Gunnlaug Thorbjornsson.The marlíðendr mentioned here has been equated to the mara by commentators.
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The mare was also believed to "ride" horses, which left them exhausted and covered in sweat by the morning.
She could also entangle the hair of the sleeping man or beast, resulting in "marelocks", called marflätor ("mare-braids") or martovor ("mare-tangles") in Swedish or marefletter and marefloker in Norwegian.
Mara was a dark spirit that takes a form of a beautiful woman and then visits men in their dreams, torturing them with desire, and dragging life out of them.
In Serbia, a mare is called mora, or noćnik/noćnica ("night creature", masculine and feminine respectively). It is a common belief that mora enters the room through the keyhole, sits on the chest of the sleepers and tries to strangle them (hence moriti, "to torture", "to bother", "to strangle", "umoriti", "to tire", "to kill", "umor", "tiredness" and "umoran", "tired").
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To repel moras, children are advised to look at the window or to turn the pillow and make a sign of cross on it (prekrstiti jastuk); in the early 19th century, Vuk Karadžić mentions that people would repel moras by leaving a broom upside down behind the door, or putting their belt on top of their sheets, or saying an elaborate prayer poem before they go to sleep.