Dryads, Nymphs and Other Faery Folk.
Tales of Nymphs in Greek mythology and religion abound, there were revered as the spirits of specific natural features – and often were identified with the part of nature in which they dwelled, The Oreads, were mountain nymphs. Others were associated with a particular function of nature, the Hamadryads, or tree nymphs, whose lives began and ended with that of a particular tree.
The name “nymph” comes from the Greek word that means “young woman”, and so naturally these beings were considered to be female. Indeed, they were represented as young, beautiful, musical, amorous, and gentle youthful creatures. And while there is some question about whether they were immortal or not – Hamadryads in particular were linked with the lives of their chosen trees – it is believed that they were extremely long lived.
A beautiful, ever-young creature that inhabits the lovliest of all wilderness places including clear lakes, streams, and crystalline caverns. They do not like any form of intrusion but there is a 100% that a nymph will be friendly if approached by another good creature. Nymphs are exceptionally intelligent and are very rarely found.
Dryads – wood nymphs
Dryads and Hamadryads are two types of wood nymphs in Greek mythology. These female nature spirits were thought to inhabit trees and forests, and they were especially fond of oak trees. Dryads were often depicted in myth and art accompanied – or being pursued by – their male counterparts, the satyrs.
There are many stories of dryads in myth and legend. One famous dryad was Eurydice, the beautiful but ill-fated wife of Orpheus. According to the tale, Eurydice was killed by a snake when she tried to escape from the unwelcome amorous advances of Aristaeus. The fact that a dryad such as Eurydice could die demonstrates the idea that these nymphs were not immortal. And indeed, the hamadryads were even more vulnerable, for it was believed that their lives depended on the health and well-being of the trees they inhabited.
Dryads can be found in the secluded places such as oak trees. They are very shy and non-violent so they are never more than a few feet away from their individual tree. Unless they are surprised, dryads can disappear by stepping into a tree.
Echo was a beautiful nymph, fond of the woods and hills, where she devoted herself to woodland sports. She was a favorite of Artemis, and attended her in the chase. But Echo had one failing; she was fond of talking, and whether in chat or argument, would have the last word. One day Hera was seeking her husband, who, she had reason to fear, was amusing himself among the nymphs. Echo by her talk contrived to detain the goddess till the nymphs made their escape. When Hera discovered it, she passed sentence upon Echo in these words: “You shall forfeit the use of that tongue with which you have cheated me, except for that one purpose you are so fond of – reply. You shall still have the last word, but no power to speak first.”
This nymph saw Narcissus, a beautiful youth, as he pursued the chase upon the mountains. She loved him and followed his footsteps. O how she longed to address him in the softest accents, and win him to converse! But it was not in her power. She waited with impatience for him to speak first, and had her answer ready. One day the youth, being separated from his companions, shouted aloud, “Who’s here?” Echo replied, “Here.” Narcissus looked around, but seeing no one called out, “Come”. Echo answered, “Come.” As no one came, Narcissus called again, “Why do you shun me?” Echo, asked the same question. “Let us join one another,” said the youth. The maid answered with all her heart in the same words, and hastened to the spot, ready to throw her arms about his neck. He started back, exclaiming, “Hands off! I would rather die than you should have me!” “Have me,” said she; but it was all in vain. He left her, and she went to hide her blushes in the recesses of the woods. From that time forth she lived in caves till at last all her flesh shrank away. Her bones were changed into rocks and there was nothing left of her but her voice. With that she is still ready to reply to any one who calls her, and keeps up her old habit of having the last word.
Narcissus’s cruelty in this case was not the only instance. He shunned all the rest of the nymphs, as he had done poor Echo. One day a maiden who had in vain endeavored to attract him uttered a prayer that he might some time or other feel what it was to love and meet no return of affection. The avenging goddess heard and granted the prayer.
There was a clear fountain, with water like silver, to which the shepherds never drove their flocks, nor the mountain goats resorted, nor any of the beasts of the forest; neither was it defaced with fallen leaves or branches; but the grass grew fresh around it, and the rocks sheltered it from the sun. Hither came one day the youth, fatigued with hunting, heated and thirsty. He stooped down to drink, and saw his own image in the water; he thought it was some beautiful water-spirit living in the fountain. He stood gazing with admiration at those bright eyes, those locks curled like the locks of Dionysos or Apollo, the rounded cheeks, the ivory neck, the parted lips, and the glow of health and exercise over all. He fell in love with himself. He brought his lips near to take a kiss; he plunged his arms in to embrace the beloved object. It fled at the touch, but returned again after a moment and renewed the fascination. He could not tear himself away; he lost all thought of food or rest, while he hovered over the brink of the fountain gazing upon his own image. He talked with the supposed spirit: “Why, beautiful being, do you shun me? Surely my face is not one to repel you. The nymphs love me, and you yourself look not indifferent upon me. When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckonings with the like.” His tears fell into the water and disturbed the image. As he saw it depart, he exclaimed, “Stay, I entreat you! Let me at least gaze upon you, if I may not touch you.”
With this, and much more of the same kind, he cherished the flame that consumed him, so that by degrees he lost his color, his vigor, and the beauty which formerly had so charmed the nymph Echo. She kept near him, however, and when he exclaimed, “Alas! alas!” she answered him with the same words. He pined away and died; and when his shade passed the Stygian river, it leaned over the boat to catch a look of itself in the waters. The nymphs mourned for him, especially the water-nymphs; and when they smote their breasts Echo smote hers also. They prepared a funeral pile and would have burned the body, but it was nowhere to be found; but in its place a flower, purple within and surrounded with white leaves, which bears the name and preserves the memory of Narcissus.
There was a certain nymph, whose name was Syrinx, who was much beloved by the satyrs and spirits of the wood; but she would have none of them, but was a faithful worshipper of Artemis, and followed the chase. You would have thought it was Artemis herself, had you seen her in her hunting dress, only that her bow was of horn and Artemis’s of silver. One day, as she was returning from the chase, Pan met her, told her just this, and added more of the same sort. She ran away, without stopping to hear his compliments, and he pursued till she came to the bank of the river, where he overtook her, and she had only time to call for help on her friends the water nymphs. They heard and consented.
Pan threw his arms around what he supposed to be the form of the nymph, and found he embraced only a tuft of reeds! As he breathed a sigh, the air sounded through the reeds, and produced a plaintive melody. The god, charmed with the novelty and with the sweetness of the music, said, “Thus, then, at least, you shall be mine.” And he took some of the reeds, and placing them together, of unequal lengths, side by side, made an instrument he called Syrinx, in honor of the nymph.
Nereids – sea nymphs
Nereids were nymphs of the sea in Greek mythology. Minthe was a sea-nymph who was one of the lovers of Hades – for this reason, she was punished by Persephone and transformed into a mint plant. The Nereid (sea-nymph) Thetis was the mother of the Greek hero Achilles.
In Greek mythology, a nereid, mother of Achilles. She was loved by both Zeus and Poseidon, but because of a prophecy that her son would be greater than his father, the gods gave her in marriage to a mortal, Peleus. According to one legend, Thetis burned alive her first six sons and sent their immortal spirits to Olympus. Peleus, however, snatched the seventh, Achilles, from the fire and sent him to be raised by the centaur Chiron.
The ancient Greek poet Hesiod states that the Nereids were the daughters of Nereus (a sea god) and Doris (an Oceanid). In addition, the poet claims that there were fifty of these nymphs. Other sources (such as Homer’s Iliad) indicate that the Nereids lived with their father in the sea.
Hesiod’s Theogony is also a good source for the names of the Nereids.
“Proto, Eukrante, Amphitrite, and Sao,
Eudora, Thetis, Galene, and Glauke,
Kymothoe, Speio, Thoe, and lovely Halia,
Pasithea, Erato, and Eunike of the rosy arms,
graceful Melite, Eulimene, and Agaue,
Doto, Proto, Pherousa, and Dynamene,
Nesaia, Aktaia, and Protomedeia,
Doris, Panope, and beautiful Galatea,
Hippothoe the lovely and Hipponoe of the rosy arms,
Kymodoke, who, with Kymatolege and Amphitrite
the fair-ankled, easily calms the waves
in the misty sea and the gusts of stormy winds,
Kymo, Eione, and fair-wreathed Halimede,
laughter-loving Glaukonome and Pontoporeia,
Leiagora, Euagora, and Laomedeia,
Poulynoe, Autonoe, and Lysianassa,
Euarne of the lovely body and unblemished face,
Psamathe of the graceful build, and splendid Menippe,
Nesso, Eupompe, Themisto, and Pronoe,
and Nemertes, whose mind is like that of her father.
These were the daughters born to blameless Nereus,
fifty of them, all wise in deeds of perfection.”
Naiads, nymphs of streams, rivers, and lakes
The Naiads, or water nymphs, dwelt beside running water. Like their cousins, the Nereids and Oceanids of the oceans, the Oreads of the hills and the Dryads of the forests and trees, they were usually sweet, benign spirits. Naiads, especially, were helpful and healing, nurturing fruits, flowers and mortals. Yet the youth Hylas who went to draw water from a pool was lured by the nymphs into the water and was never seen again.
In Greek mythology, Arethusa was a nymph connected with a spring or fountain. And, not surprisingly, Arethusa’s legendary association with water is revealed in the myth in which she played a significant role. So let us now learn about the tale of how the nymph Arethusa was transformed into a spring.
According to one popular version of the legend, the lovely nymph Arethusa was a companion of the goddess Artemis. The nymph, like the goddess she followed, loved nothing more than to wander freely in forest and field, enjoying the beauty of nature. Arethusa noticed a shimmering river during the course of her adventures, and, beckoned by the promise of a refreshing bath, she decided to take a dip in the welcoming water. But as soon as she entered the river, she realized that she was not alone. For the god of this particular river (who was named Alpheius or Alpheus) was roused by the sight of Arethusa, and immediately fell in love with the nymph.
Arethusa, however, wanted nothing to do with the passionate river god. The nymph, you see, was a maiden, and like Artemis, she preferred to remain chaste. So Arethusa fled the advances of Alpheus. However, Alpheus was not so easily deterred – the god of the river simply assumed the form of a hunter and pursued his chosen prey. Some versions of the story say that Arethusa was chased over the sea, all the way to Sicily. Finally, she found refuge on the Island of Ortygia (which is near Syracuse), where she called upon the goddess Artemis to rescue her. Artemis responded by transforming the nymph into a spring or fountain. And this is how the nymph Arethusa became identified with a now legendary spring.
Oceanids, nymphs of the sea
The Titans Okeanos and Tethys were the parents of “three thousand slender-ankled daughters”
In Greek mythology, the Oceanids were beautiful sea-nymphs. Calypso was the beautiful sea-nymph Calypso who detained the hero Odysseus on her island. Calypso was a sea nymph, which name denotes a numerous class of female divinities of lower rank, yet sharing many of the attributes of the gods.
Calypso received Odysseus hospitably, entertained him magnificently, became enamoured of him, and wished to retain him forever, conferring on him immortality. But he persisted in his resolution to return to his country and his wife and son. Calypso at last received the command of Zeus to dismiss him. Hermes brought the message to her, and found her in her grotto.
Calypso with much reluctance proceeded to obey the commands of Zeus. She supplied Odysseus with the means of constructing a raft, provisioned it well for him, and gave him a favoring gale.
According to the Greek poet Hesiod, these nymphs were the daughters of the Titans Okeanos and Tethys (in case you are wondering, the word Oceanid is derived from the name Okeanos – which is also spelled Oceanus). Indeed, Hesiod claims that there were three thousand of these sea-nymphs who inhabited the waters.
Hesiod lists the names of many of the Oceanids in his Theogony, which is a poem that describes the birth of the Greek gods and goddesses.
“They are Peitho, Admete, Ianthe, and Electra,
Doris, Prymno, and godlike Ourania,
Hippo, Klymene, Rhodeia, and Kallirhoe,
Zeuxo, Klytia, Idyia, and Peisithoe,
Plexaura, Galaxaura, and lovely Dione,
Melobosis, Thoe, and beautiful Polydora,
shapely Kerkeis and cow-eyed Plouto,
Perseis, Ianeira, Akaste, and Xanthe,
lovely Petraia, Menestho, and Europe,
Metis, Eurynome, and saffron-robed Telesto,
Chryseis, Asia, and enchanting Kalypso,
Eudora, Tyche, Amphiro, and Okyrhoe,
and Styx, who holds the highest rank.
These are the eldest daughters born to Tethys
Leimoniads – nymphs of the meadow.
Meliae – these were nymphs of a particular kind of tree – the ash tree.
Oreads – nymphs of mountains.
(From Britannic Encyclopedia)
Fairy, also spelled Faerie or Faery, in folklore, supernatural being, usually of diminutive human form, who magically intermeddles in human affairs.
While the term fairy goes back only to the Middle Ages in Europe, analogues to these beings in varying forms appear in both written and oral literature, from the Sanskrit Gandaharva to the nymphs of Greek mythology and Homer, the jinn of Arabic mythology, and similar folk characters of the Eskimos and the American Indians and of the Samoans.
The modern tendency to prettify fairies in children’s stories represents a bowdlerization of what was once a serious and even sinister folklore tradition. The fairies of the past were feared as dangerous and powerful beings who were sometimes friendly to humans but could also be cruel or mischievous.
Fairies were usually conceived as being characteristically beautiful or handsome and as having lives corresponding to those of human beings, though longer. They have no souls and at death simply perish. They often carry off children, leaving changeling substitutes, and they also carry off adults to fairyland, which resembles pre-Christian adobes of the dead. People transported to fairyland cannot return if they eat or drink there. Fairy and human lovers may marry, though only with restrictions whose violation ends the marriage and, often, the life of the human. Some female fairies are deadly to human lovers. Fairies have been said to be of human size or smaller, down to a height of 3 inches (7.5 cm) or less. Female fairies may tell fortunes, particularly prophesying at births and foretelling deaths. Serveral herbs, such as St.-John’s-wort and yarrow, are potent against fairies, and hawthorn trees, foxglove and ragwort are so dear to them that abuse of these plants may bring retribution.
Fairy lore is particularly prevalent in Ireland, Cornwall, Wales, and Scotland. Fairies are common in literature from the Middles Ages on and appear in the writings of the Italians Matteo Boiardo and Ludovico Ariosto, the English poet Edmund Spenser, the French-man Charles Perrault, and the Dane Hans Christian Anderson.
- Echo, Narcissist, and Nemesis: The Story Behind the Definitions (english.answers.com)
- Wood nymph (en.memory-alpha.org)