What is a forest nymph? Beautiful Nature
Are there stories you have heard mentioned but never fully understood. Questions you have wondered such as what is a forest nymph? Throughout history mankind has tried to explain the workings of nature by assigning deities or qualities to various aspects. Wood nymphs or Dryads are one of these creatures. Let’s take a closer look at this beautiful aspect of nature.
Origin of the nymph?
The ancient Greeks created a complex mythology. One of the lovely creatures they envisioned and described was a nymph. The origins of nymphae is described differently by the various writers over the centuries.
They give credit for the creation or birth of the nymphs to multiple deities. Including of course Zeus. Also:
The story of how Gaia gave birth of the nymphs goes into interesting detail. It says that Cronus was castrated by Uranus. The blood dripping from this wound fell to Gaia as she rotated through the seasons. This gave birth to the Gigantes and the nymphs. Both are given various forms as the seasons changed.
The term dryad is often used in place of forest or wood nymph. Dryos is the Greek word for tree. Nymph is defined as a nature spirit who animates different parts of nature. They are usually bound to whatever item they animate. They are lesser deities similar to the well known Greek goddesses.
Dryads in Greek Mythology
Artemis the Goddess of the hunt was said to keep 20 nymphs in her service as handmaidens. They were tasked with guarding her hounds and bow while she rested.
Pan the Greek God of fertility, shepherds and music is said to have been enamoured with them. Although they found his appearance horrifying. One story tells of the nymph Syrinx running from him. She is changed into a group of march reeds. He makes his famous panpipe out of them.
Dionysus the God of the grape harvest, wine and ritual madness is said to have his own group of nymphs. They are called Maenads.
There is frequent mentions in mythology of nymphs. Not all of whom are forest connected or dryads. They range anywhere from the forest, springs, meadows, oceans and even the underworld. Their exploits and tales are as varied as they are making for fascinating reading and imaginings.
What is a forest nymph?
While nymphs can be deities associated with many areas of nature. The forest nymph or dryad is very connected to trees and other plants found in woods, forests, glades and meadows. They are associated with a specific place. Frequenting areas distant from human civilization. Often connected to a specific tree or plant.
They are depicted as beautiful young maidens. They are different from other goddesses in that they are free to frolic sexually. The word nymph has become synonymous with sexuality. It has become the modern word in Greek for marriage. They are often the exact opposite of Greek women in that the wives and daughters are usually chaste and restricted sexually. The term Nymphet was coined to describe a sexually precocious girl as in the story of Lolita.
There are two different types of Dryad. The hamadryad and the dryad. Typically the hamadryad is said to have a limited lifespan. Linked to trees they share the same lifespan. If their tree is destroyed so are they. Which is often why they protect their trees from human destruction with their lives. Dryads on the other hand are said to be immortal. Protecting the forests or places that they inhabit from man.
It is said that to encounter a nymph is dangerous. It can bring about dumbness, infatuation, madness or stroke in those unlucky enough to encounter one. While the nymphs themselves seem to be kind and gentle in nature their effect on the human mind is unpredictable.
They are the crafters of nature. They cause trees and plants to grow, nurture wildlife and form springs and wetlands.Without these benefits nature would not exist. Since nymphae are able to be attached to all sorts of nature elements there is an infinite number of them.
Types of wood nymphs
- Meliai = Ash Tree Nymph
- Epimeliades = Apple Tree Nymph
- Kissiae = Ivy Nymph
- Hyleoroi = Watchers of Woods
- Daphnaeae = Laurel Tree Nymph
- Balanos = Oak Tree Nymph
- Kraneia = Dogwood Tree Nymph
- Morea = Mulberry Tree Nymph
- Aigeiros = Poplar Tree Nymph
- Ptelea = Elm Tree Nymph
- Alseides = Grove Nymph
- Anthousai = Flower Nymph
- Melissai = Honey Bee Nymph
- Oreiades = Mountain Nymph
- Leimonides = Flowery Water Meadow Nymph
This list doesn’t even begin to cover all of the nymph varieties. As there are nymphs for oceans, rivers, the sky, clouds and many other aspects of nature. This is just a list of the more frequently mentioned wood nymphs in Greek mythology and other lore. These wondrous creatures have been seen throughout history in various forms. With the ability to disappear simply by walking into whatever plant they inhabit, they are like ghosts when they do not wish to be seen.
Nymphs and Dryads in Pop Culture
Since Ancient Greece people have been fascinated with these magical supernatural creatures. They have featured them in poetry, paintings, books, music and more. I can list some of the more well known places to find mention of nymphs. However as with nymphae themselves the possible mentions could be infinite. One would have to comb through thousands or millions of books, stories and poems alone to find them all.
- Paradise Lost by Milton
- The Virginians by Thackeray
- Ode to a Nightingale by Keats
- Poems by Sylvia Plath
- Age of Empires
- Elder Scrolls
- The Witcher
- World of Warcraft
- Chronicles of Narnia
- Dungeons and Dragons
Do you have a favorite story of a wood nymph or dryad? perhaps from a tale you were told as a child or a game you played? I would love to hear any of them. Please comment below.