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A fourth-century Roman depiction of Hylas and the Nymphs

A nymph in Greek mythology is a female spirit typically associated with a particular location or landform. Other nymphs, always in the shape of young nubile maidens, were part of the retinue of a god, such as Dionysus, Hermes, or Pan, or a goddess, generally Artemis.[1] Nymphs were the frequent target of satyrs. They live in mountains and groves, by springs and rivers, also in trees and in valleys and cool grottoes. They are frequently associated with the superior divinities: the huntress Artemis; the prophetic Apollo; the reveller and god of wine, Dionysus; and rustic gods such as Pan and Hermes.

The symbolic marriage of a nymph and a patriarch, often the eponym of a people, is repeated endlessly in Greek origin myths; their union lent authority to the archaic king and his line.

Contents

Etymology

Nymphs are personifications of the creative and fostering activities of nature, most often identified with the life-giving outflow of springs: as Walter Burkert (Burkert 1985:III.3.3) remarks,"The idea that rivers are gods and springs divine nymphs is deeply rooted not only in poetry but in belief and ritual; the worship of these deities is limited only by the fact that they are inseparably identified with a specific locality."

The Greek word νύμφη has "bride" and "veiled" among its meanings: hence a marriageable young woman. Other readers refer the word (and also Latin nubere and German Knospe) to a root expressing the idea of "swelling" (according to Hesychius, one of the meanings of νύμφη is "rose-bud").

Greek deities
series
Primordial deities
Titans and Olympians
Aquatic deities
Chthonic deities
Personified concepts
Other deities
Nymphs

Adaptations

The Greek nymphs were spirits invariably bound to places, not unlike the Latin genius loci, and the difficulty of transferring their cult may be seen in the complicated myth that brought Arethusa to Sicily. In the works of the Greek-educated Latin poets, the nymphs gradually absorbed into their ranks the indigenous Italian divinities of springs and streams (Juturna, Egeria, Carmentis, Fontus), while the Lymphae (originally Lumpae), Italian water-goddesses, owing to the accidental similarity of name, could be identified with the Greek Nymphae. The mythologies of classicizing Roman poets were unlikely to have affected the rites and cult of individual nymphs venerated by country people in the springs and clefts of Latium. Among the Roman literate class their sphere of influence was restricted, and they appear almost exclusively as divinities of the watery element.

A Sleeping Nymph Watched by a Shepherd, by Angelica Kauffman, about 1780, (V&A Museum no. 23-1886)

Nymphs in modern Greek folklore

The ancient Greek belief in nymphs survived in many parts of the country into the early years of the twentieth century, when they were usually known as "nereids". At that time John Cuthbert Lawson wrote: "...there is probably no nook or hamlet in all Greece where the womenfolk at least do not scrupulously take precautions against the thefts and malice of the nereids, while many a man may still be found to recount in all good faith stories of their beauty, passion and caprice. Nor is it a matter of faith only; more than once I have been in villages where certain Nereids were known by sight to several persons (so at least they averred); and there was a wonderful agreement among the witnesses in the description of their appearance and dress."[2]

The Head of a Nymph by Sophie Anderson

Nymphs tended to frequent areas distant from humans, but could be encountered by lone travellers outside the village, where their music might be heard, and the traveller could spy on their dancing or bathing in a stream or pool, either during the noon heat or in the middle of the night. They might appear in a whirlwind. Such encounters could be dangerous, bringing dumbness, besotted infatuation, madness or stroke to the unfortunate human. When parents believed their child to be nereid-struck they would pray to Saint Artemidos, the Christian manifestation of Artemis.[3][4]

Modern sexual connotations

Due to the depiction of the mythological nymphs as females who mate with men or women at their own volition and are completely outside male control, the term is often used for women who are perceived as behaving similarly. (For example, the title of the Perry Mason detective novel "The Case of the Negligent Nymph" (1956), by Erle Stanley Gardner, is derived from this meaning of the word).

The term "Nymphomania" was created by modern psychology as referring to a "desire to engage in human sexual behavior at a level high enough to be considered clinically significant", "Nymphomaniac" being the person suffering from such a disorder. Due to widespread use of the term among lay persons (often shortened to "nympho") and stereotypes attached, professionals nowadays prefer the term "Hypersexuality" which can refer to males and females alike.

The word "nymphet" is used to identify a sexually precocious girl. The term was made famous in the novel "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov. The main character, Humbert Humbert, uses the term countless times and usually in reference to the title character.

Classification

Hylas and the Nymphs by John William Waterhouse, 1896

As H.J. Rose states, "all these names are simply feminine adjectives, agreeing with the substantive nympha, and there was no orthodox and exhaustive classification of these shadowy beings."[5] He mentions dryads and hamadryads as nymphs of trees generally, meliai as nymphs of ash trees, and naiads as nymphs of water, but no others specifically.[6]

The following is not the Greek classification, but is intended simply as a guide:

The Water Nymph by Herbert James Draper

See also

References

  1. ^ But see Jennifer Larson, "Handmaidens of Artemis?", The Classical Journal 92.3 (February 1997), pp. 249-257.
  2. ^ Lawson, John Cuthbert (1910). Modern Greek Folklore and Ancient Greek Religion (1st ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 131. 
  3. ^ "heathen Artemis yielded her functions to her own genitive case transformed into Saint Artemidos", as Terrot Reaveley Glover phrased it in discussing the "practical polytheimism in the worship of the saints", in Progress in Religion to the Christian Era 1922:107.
  4. ^ Tomkinson, John L. (2004). Haunted Greece: Nymphs, Vampires and Other Exotika (1st ed.). Athens: Anagnosis. chapter 3. ISBN 960-88087-0-7. 
  5. ^ Rose, Herbert Jennings (1959). A Handbook of Greek Mythology (1st ed.). New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.. pp. 173. ISBN 0-525-47041-7. 
  6. ^ Rose, Herbert Jennings (1959). A Handbook of Greek Mythology (1st ed.). New York: E.P. Dutton & Co.. pp. 172–73. ISBN 0-525-47041-7. 

Sources

External links


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010
(Redirected to nymph article)

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

Contents

English

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Etymology

From Old French nimphe < Latin nympha "nymph, bride" < Ancient Greek νύμφη (numphē) "bride"

Noun

Singular
nymph

Plural
nymphs

nymph (plural nymphs)

  1. The larva of certain insects.
  2. (Greek & Roman mythology) Any minor female deity associated with water, forests, etc.
  3. A young girl, especially one who inspires lustful feelings.

Related terms

Translations


Simple English

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A nymph may be one of these:


The first use of the word nymph was for a kind of female nature entity/spirit in Greek mythology. They are often companions of Greek gods and goddesses. Nymphs can be divided into different kinds, such as:

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