Homer Hesiod Hymns Tragedy Remythologizing Tools Blackboard Info
Form: properly "the young maidens".
Inferior divinities of Nature who dwell in groves, forests and caves, beside springs, streams and rivers; in some cases too on lonely islands, like Calypso and Circe. The nymphs of the hills, the forests, the meadows and the springs (called in Homer daughters of Zeus, while Hesiod makes the nymphs of the hills and the forests together with the hills and the forests children of earth) appear as the benevolent spirits of these spots, and lead a life of liberty, sometimes weaving in grottoes, sometimes dancing and singing, sometimes hunting with Artemis or revelling with Dionysus. Besides these divinities it is especially Apollo, Hermes and Pan who are devoted to them and seek after their love; while the wanton satyrs are also continually lying in wait for them. They are well disposed towards mortals and ready to help them: they even wed with them. According to the various provinces of nature were distinguished various kinds of nymphs: nymphs of rivers and springs, the Naiads, to whom the Oceanids and Nereids are closely related; nymphs of the hills, Oreads; nymphs of the forests and trees, Dryads or Hamadryads; besides this they often received special names after certain places, hills, springs and grottoes. The Naiads, as the goddesses of the nourishing and fructifying water, were especially rich in favours, giving increase and fruitfulness to plants, herds and mortals. Hence they were also considered as the guardian goddesses of marriage, and the besprinkling of the bride with spring-water was one of the indispensable rites of the marriage ceremony. On the same principle, legendary lore represents them as nursing and bringing up the children of the gods, as for instance Zeus and Dionysus. Further, owing to the healing and inspiring power of many springs, they belong to the divinities of healing and prophesying, and can even drive men into a transport of prophetic and poetic inspiration. The Muses themselves are in their origin fountain-nymphs. Popular belief assigned to the nymphs in general an exceedingly long life, without actual immortality. The existence of Dryads, it was supposed, was closely bound up with the origin and decay of the tree in which they dwelt. They enjoyed divine honours from the earliest times, originally in the spots where they had power, at fountains, and in groves and grottoes. In later times shrines of their own, hence called Nymphoea, were built to them, even in cities. These eventually became very magnificent buildings, in which it was customary to celebrate marriages. Goats, lambs, milk, and oil were offered to them. Works of art represented them in the form of charming maidens, lightly clothed or naked, with flowers and garlands; the Naiads drawing water or carrying it in an urn.
Type: Standard
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