Myth & Lore

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Sprites, Nymphs & Dryads
By CinnamonMoon

Elemental spirits that inhabit various places in nature are called sprites, nymphs or dryads, names that are used interchangeably. Generally invisible to mortals, the particular kinds of nymphs were associated with the various providences of nature amid the elements. The most heavily noted source of reference is found in the Greek mythological teachings. They were often found in the company of Pan and a search on his lore will also aid your research.

A web search on any of these names will bring you a wealth of information: Dryads, Nayads, Nereids, Oceanids, Oreads will get you started if you are interested in an extensive amount of information; as will "Bullfinche's Mythology" as a resource reference book. I have some notes on them to share here but did not note the sources since it was intended for my own personal reference only and I did not anticipate having to share it. Since there is an extensive amount of information available here's a sample of what you can expect to encounter on the Dryads (who are the woodland tree nymphs).

Dryad females are very pretty, but not stunningly beautiful, they are very slight in build, appearing child-like sometimes even when they are very old. They cease to show physical age at the equivalent of 20 human years. They favor greens and other forest colors in their clothing. Dryads are very much like humans in that their disposition varies from being to being. Most are very open to other fae, although they are somewhat reclusive and seldom leave the safety of the colony. They are friendly and caring beings who never go out of their way to hurt anyone. They normally avoid the mortal realm except for the occasional curious child, and the occasional trickster who will travel there to play tricks on them. They are also very trusting and innocent in most cases, although they sometimes become jaded towards certain things after that innocence leads them to bad experiences. Indefinite in lifespans, they are very long lived, but also tend to not keep track of the years after they leave 'childhood', which can vary from person to person.

Dryads normally live in colonies, although some are solitary. Each being has its own tree which it shares an extended understanding with, families share a tree, until the child is old enough to choose one of her own. Dryad trees are extremely noticeable, particularly in the winter, it seems that their owner's immortality wears off on them so they do not die off naturally as most trees do.

If a Dryad is killed her tree will die, if a Dryad's tree is chopped down the Dryad will perish. There is a colony of Dryads in the tamer area of the Wildewood… However, wherever there are large wooded areas it is likely that there are Dryads. The Dryads pay allegiance to the Seelie Court (see Celtic folklore for this), and obey the rules thereof, however they do have an overall Queen of their own, and an appointed representative of her deals with any problems that should crop up in individual colonies.

There are so few Dryad males that it is easier to say there are none, as they are born perhaps one a century. When the situation arises that there are males in the colony, and some Dryads do bond with males of other species, the gender roles are equal. A Dryad family is usually a mother and children, since often a male will take advantage of the Dryad's racial trait of trust and waltz out without a trace.

A Dryad will choose her own mate, and if she marries it will be for love. However, because there are so few male dryads the marriages are usually inter-species and rare because the Dryads seldom leave their colonies. However, many men take advantage of the Dryad's trustful nature and leave the scene as soon as the first child is born.

Dryads love children, no matter what occurred to bring them into the world, in fact many times they will find themselves happier with the child and no husband than they would have had the male stayed around. The bond between mother and child is incredibly strong.

The Naiades (Naiads) (Nayads) were nymphs of bodies of fresh water and were one of the three main classes of water nymphs - the others being the Nereides (nymphs of the Mediterranean Sea) and the Oceanides (nymphs of the oceans). The Naiades presided over rivers, streams, brooks, springs, fountains, lakes, ponds, wells, and marshes.

They were divided into various subclasses:
Crinaeae (fountains),
Pegaeae (springs),
Eleionomae (marshes),
Potameides (rivers),
and Limnades or Limnatides (lakes).

Roman sources even assigned custody of the rivers of Hades to Naiades classified as Nymphae Infernae Paludis or the Avernales. The Naiad was intimately connected to her body of water and her very existence seems to have depended on it. If a stream dried up, its Naiad expired. The waters over which Naiades presided were thought to be endowed with inspirational, medicinal, or prophetic powers. Thus the Naiades were frequently worshipped by the ancient Greeks in association with divinities of healing, fertility and growth. The genealogy of the Naiades varies according to geographic region and literary source. Naiades were either daughters of Zeus, daughters of various river gods, or simply part of the vast family of the Titan Oceanus. Like all the nymphs, the Naiades were in many ways female sex symbols of the ancient world and played the part of both the seduced and the seducer.

Zeus in particular seems to have enjoyed the favors of countless Naiades and the other gods do not seem to have lagged far behind. The tale of the Naiad, Arethusa, and her pursuit by the river god, Alpheus, is a classic example of a lustful deity infatuated by a Naiad. The Naiades fell in love with and actively pursued mortals as well. Classical literature abounds with the stories of their love affairs with gods and men and with the tales of their resulting children.

Naiads, along with the other nymphs are extremely beautiful, and therefore usually very vain, playful, and often shy. They are often seen playing in the waves having a good time. All Naiads are connected to their body of water and if that water gets polluted it effects them. It was thought that their water was prophetic and so were they as a result. Often they would fall in love with a mortal man or vs./vs.; seducing men but sometimes the men could seduce them, as did the god Zeus.

The Nereids were nymphs of the Mediterranian Sea, and comprised of the 50 daughters of Nereus (the sea god) and Doris. They are most often portrayed as helpful and friendly, often to sailors in storms but they can be vengeful creatures that destroy their enemies by creating storms at sea. They enjoy riding on the backs of dolphins.

The Oceanids are like the Nereids, and usually shy as well as helpful; they can be vengeful.
Crimaeae are the nymphs of fountains;
Limnades or Limnatides the nymphs of lakes;
Pagaeae are the nymphs of springs;
the Potameides the nymphs of rivers;
and the Eleionomae the nymphs of marshes.

Here are further listings:
Dryades/Adryades/Hamadryades: Ladies of the Trees/Ladies of the Oak.
Oreiades/Orodemniades: Ladies of the Mountains
Meliades/Epimelides/Hamameliades: Ladies of the Fruit Trees/Protectors of the fruit trees.
Daphnaie/Kissiai: Ladies of the Laurel/Ladies of the Ivy
Alseides/Auloniades/Napaia/Hyleoroi: Ladies of the Grove/Ladies of the Glen/Ladies of the Vale/Dell Watchers of the Wood.
Dryades/Oreiades: Ladies of oaks and pines, poplar and ash, apple and laurel. At their birth trees sprung up from the earth, trees to which their lives were closely tied. While the tree still lived so did the nymph but when it died she died with it. There were several classes of Dryades, each associated with a particular type of tree.
The Meliai: Ash trees. They sprang up from Gaia (Mother Earth) when she was impregnated by the blood of the castrated Ouranos. The men of the Silver Age married these nymphs (in the time before women were were created) and mankind descended from there.
The Oreiades are the Ladies of the oaks and pines. Their offspring, the five Daktyloi and five Hekaterides with subsequent generations falling from the Oreiades and their brothers the Satyres/Satyroi. The forests of ancient Greece were found mainly in the mountains, and it was therefore natural for the Dryades to be thought of as mountain dwellers.

Aigeiros: The first black poplar-tree Hamadryas.
Ampelos: The first grape-vine Hamadryas (or alternatively a satyr who was transformed into the vine, become a "male Hamadryas").
Atlanteia: An Egyptian Hamadryas loved by Danaus prince of Egypt.
Balanis: The first acorn-tree Hamadryas.
Byblis: A girl of Miletos in Karia transformed into a Hamadryas.
Daphnis: A Phokian Oreias appointed by Gaia as the prophetess of her oracle at Delphoi (in the time before the famed oracle passed to Apollon).
Dryope: A Lokrian poplar or oak-tree Hamadryas Nymphe. Originally a mortal woman she was transformed into a poplar-tree Hamadryas by other Hamadryades.
Eidothea: A Malian Oreias of Mt. Othreis who was loved by Poseidon.
Ekho/Echo: A Boiotian Oreias of Mt. Helikon and companion of Hera. She was cursed to only repeat the words of others by Hera. Ekho was also loved by Pan but spurned his advances and she herself fell in love with the non-responsive Narkissos and faded away in grief until only her echoing voice remained.
Erato: An Arkadian Dryas and wife of Nyktimos king of Arkadia.
Karya: The first hazel or chestnut-tree Hamadryas.
Khelone: An Arkadian Oreias who refused to attend the wedding of Zeus and Hera and was transformed into a tortoise as punishment.
Klaia: A Messenian Oreias who had a shrine near her cavern on Mt Kalathion.
Kraneia: The first cherry-tree Hamadryas.
Kyllene: An Arkadian Oreias eponym of Mt Kyllene in Arkadia. She was the wife of Pelasgos the very first Arkaidan king.
Morea: The first mulberry-tree Hamadryas.
Nomia: An Arkadian Oreias and eponym of the Nomian Mountains in Arkadia.
Othreis: A Malian Oreias eponym of Mount Othrys. She was loved by both Apollon and Zeus.
Penelopeia: An Arkadian Oreias of Mount Kyllene. She was the mother of the god Pan by Hermes.
Phigalia: An Arkadian Oreias and eponym of the Arkadian town of Phigalia.
Phoibe: An Egyptian Hamadryas loved by Danaus prince of Egypt.
Pitys: An Oreias loved by Pan. She fled his advances and was transformed into a pine-tree.
Ptelea: The first elm-tree Hamadryas.
Sinoe: An Arkadian Oreias and eponym of Mount Sinoe in Arkadia. She was the nurse of Pan.
Sose: An Oreias prophetess loved by Hermes.
Sphragitides: The Oreiades of an oracle located on Mount Kithairon in Attika.
Syke: The first fig-tree Hamadryas.
Tithorea: An Arkadian Dryas and eponym of the Arkadian town of Tithorea.

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