Nymphs of Ancient Greece

Posted on 07/11/2010
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Ancient Greek mythology has many legendary, magical creatures. One of the most popular of these creatures is certainly the nymph, or nymphai if they are collected as a group or there is more than one in a particular locale. Their name of “nymph” is actually related to the ancient Greek word for bride or young woman, indicating their role as lovers of gods and even mothers of heroes. However, they are known to take human lovers if the mortal is exceptional beautiful or skilled in some way like fighting or music. Nymphai are beautiful women who have the ability to change into natural objects based on which landscape they live in or become absorbed into the nature of their environments to live inside the natural vessel. Since they are so gorgeous, they draw the attention of many mortal men. However, it takes a very special man to entice them such as a god or demi-god. Most of the time though they prefer to be around satyrs so that they can party and celebrate without annoying mortals fawning over them. Nymphs are not completely magical beings though as they can die even though they live for a very long time in comparison to humans, and human women can be magically turned into nymphs by the gods.



Dryads are some of the most well known of the nymph species. They are nymphs of the forests. Even though the name broken down in Greek specifically means a nymph of oak trees, the term has come to be a general name for most tree nymphs. These types of nymphs are known to be very shy though and rarely venture more than a few feet away from the individual tree that they guard and live inside. They can completely disappear to mortal viewers by merely stepping inside their tree to become part of it.



The Hamadryads are very close relatives of the regular dryads—almost like cousins. They are the other type of wood nymph that is more specific in their tree choices. There are individual famous Hamadryads who are considered to be the guardians of all of a particular tree species, such as Orea of the ash tree and Ptelea of the elm tree. They are so specific to their trees that they are an integral part of it. If their particular tree is harmed or dies, the nymph of it will be hurt or die as well. This connection with their trees led the gods to protect the trees of the Hamadryads by punishing mortals who harmed one of their trees before pulling the nymph from it.



Nereids are one of the aquatic species of nymphs. They are sea nymphs, primarily found in the Aegean Sea. They are all sisters, coming from the same two parents of Nereus and Doris. Roughly one hundred have been identified by mortals with specific names even though only fifty are direct daughters of the original marriage of the two Titans. The Nereids have a fondness for Poseidon, the god of the sea, and are generally seen accompanying him. They also are extremely kind to humans, helping travelers of the seas who get caught in perilous storms. However, their homes are in very deep waters. They are said to all reside with each other, as they are all close family, in a giant silvery cave toward the bottom of the sea.



Hydriads are more commonly known as Naiads in the traditional folklore. They are nymphs who live near running natural water sources. Prime examples of their habitats are streams, lakes, and rivers. Like the other nymphs to whom they are related, Hydriads are very shy and benign spirits of the water. They are often seen as nurturing things of nature such as fruits and flowers to their utmost potential. However, these nymphs were reportedly responsible for luring a handsome, young man named Hylas into their waters, and he was never seen again.



The name Oread comes from the ancient Greek word for “mountain.” This translation has a direct relation to the homes of the Oreads. They were nymphs of the mountains and ravines—always living in the extreme habitats on land rather than flat grasslands. The Oreads also are guardian spirits of pine trees since they are the dominant tree of their environment. Like the other tree based nymphs they have a connection with those trees and tend to be found near them or even inside of them. They are closely associated with Artemis as the goddess of the hunt prefers rocky cliffs when she visits the realm of mortal humans. In the manner of Artemis herself, these nymphs tend to have more attitude and a toughness about them more so than the playful, frivolous nymphs of other settings.



The Oceanids are the three thousand daughters of a different Titan union than the Nereids. These nymphs were born from Oceanus (their father from whom they get their name) and his sister Tethys. Since their father was the personified god of the world ocean, rather than being the patronesses of simply the Aegean Sea, these nymphs roamed all of the water supplies in the world. They are particular to the ocean beyond the Aegean Sea, out of the normal range of average Greek sailors. Therefore, most of their human interactions were with journeying heroes or soldiers sailing off to war. However, while the Nereids were more friendly helpers of Poseidon, the Oceanids were his female consorts—acting as lovers rather than colleagues.



These nymphs have a literal translation of “wooden dell” for their names. With this description automatically placed on them, it is easy to understand how they are most common in wooden valleys and glens. They are the perfect melding of a tree nymph like a dryad only living in an environment that more closely resembles that of the Alseids. Rather than an actual forest, these habitats are lightly wooded. Yet, Napaea are just as mischievous as the Alseids as they enjoy scaring solitary journeymen who wander into their woods. Until the Napaea would find a particular human traveler that they wanted away from themselves and their land, they generally like to be absorbed into their trees like the dryads or finding an opening in their woodlands which has bright sunshine flowing through it to sunbathe on beautiful days.



The Alseids are like the other nymphs in that they are beautiful women who are a part of nature. They tend to reside in glens and meadows, basking in the warm sunlight as they lay on comfortable beds of grass and flowers. The Alseids are more like a race of Fae though than the other nymphs in their interactions with mortals. They had an inclination to scare or frighten travelers who wandered through their territory as a short cut on their journeys or those who walked too close to large glens or span of grasslands away from the road. They were mischievous though than evil as they never really harmed these travelers, just spooked them slightly to let mortals know they existed and were not simply defenseless beautiful women.

Author: Brooke Windsor Copyrighted © paranormalhaze.com

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