N is for nymph.
Nymphs are often seen as beautiful women.
The history of nymphs is quite fascinating.
A nymph (Greek: νύμφη, nymphē [nýmpʰɛ͜ɛ]) in Greek mythology and in Latin mythology is a minor female nature deity typically associated with a particular location or landform. Different from other goddesses, nymphs are generally regarded as divine spirits who animate nature, and are usually depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing; their amorous freedom sets them apart from the restricted and chaste wives and daughters of the Greek polis. They are beloved by many and dwell in mountainous regions and forests by lakes and streams. Although they would never die of old age nor illness, and could give birth to fully immortal children if mated to a god, they themselves were not necessarily immortal, and could be beholden to death in various forms. Charybdis and Scylla were once nymphs.
Other nymphs, always in the shape of young maidens, were part of the retinue of a god, such as Dionysus, Hermes, or Pan, or a goddess, generally the huntress Artemis. Nymphs were the frequent target of satyrs.
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.”
Wikipedia also has a list of the different kind of nymphs.
The Nymphai (or Nymphs in English) were minor nature goddesses which populated the cosmos. Although they were ranked below the gods, they were still invited to attend the assemblies of the gods on Olympos.
The Nymphai presided over various natural phenomena: from springs, to clouds, trees, caverns, meadows, and beaches. They were responsible chiefly for the care of the plants and animals of their domain, and as such were closely associated with the prime gods of nature such as Hermes, Dionysos, Artemis, Poseidon and Demeter.
A list of nymphs can also be found at http://www.theoi.com/Cat_Nymphai.html
The Goddesses of Nature
Nymph is a general term for the goddesses who coexist with rivers, springs, mountains or any type of natural life-form. The name Nymph literally means Bride. Although Nymphs can live for a very long time, they are not immortal … they can die or be killed.
Nymphs have assumed the form of young, beautiful women with a loving and supportive nature. They have been the consorts of the Immortals and even taken mortal men as their lovers and companions. The children of Nymphs have lived lives as poets, soldiers and ordinary men and women. The role of Nymphs has generally been quite passive but there are instances where they became vengeful and assertive.
Dionysos and Pan
Nymphs have a special affection for Dionysos and Pan … whenever these two vivacious gods caper through the mountains and woodlands, they will undoubtedly be in the company of Nymphs. Pan is the son of Hermes and Dionysos is the son of Zeus … their lust for life is contagious and the Nymphs that accompany them are there to help celebrate life and vitality.
Where Are They Now?
Nymphs have always been integral to the processes of nature and are readily perceived by the very young and the pure of heart. In ancient Greece, Nymphs were not a common sight but that did not inhibit the belief in their reality or the unwavering devotion of their worshipers. The natural world is fraught with ‘strangeness’ and Nymphs have made significant contributions to our perceptions and misperceptions of how the ‘real’ world works.
When the question is asked, “Are Nymphs still with us?” Be assured that most modern people will say, “No … definitely not … Nymphs are mythological and in no way real.” People who say that sort of thing have probably called upon Nymphs for divine assistance without realizing what they were doing or why they were doing it.
You are surely familiar with the expression, “Knock on wood.” Someone will say something like, “I’m sure the weather will be perfect for my vacation” and then realize that they might have jinxed themselves by saying that. They will then say “Knock on wood” as they rap their knuckles lightly on something made of wood … that combination of word and deed will call forth a Nymph from the wood to act as a protector.
Nature is truly alive and that vitality can take many forms … Nymphs are simply an expression of the life-force that resides in trees, lakes and even the air we breathe.
So … are the Nymphs still with us? Yes … yes they are.
There’s also a list of the most notable nymphs in history at http://mythagora.com/bios/nymphs.html
NYMPHAE (Numphai), the name of a numerous class of inferior female divinities, though they are designated by the title of Olympian, are called to meetings of the gods in Olympus, and described as the daughters of Zeus. But they were believed to dwell on earth in groves, on the summits of mountains, in rivers, streams, glens, and grottoes. (Hom. Od. vi. 123, &c., xii. 318, Il. xx. 8, xxiv. 615.) Homer further describes them as presiding over game, accompanying Artemis, dancing with her, weaving in their grottoes purple garments. and kindly watching over the fate of mortals. (Od. vi. 105, ix. 154, xiii. 107, 356, xvii. 243, Il. vi. 420, 616.) Men offer up sacrifices either to them alone, or in conjunction with other gods, such as Hermes. (Od. xiii. 350, xvii. 211, 240, xiv. 435.) From the places which they inhabit, they are called agronomoi (Od. vi. 105),orestiades (Il. vi. 420), and nêïades (Od. xiii. 104).
For nymphs according to ancient writers, go to http://www.theoi.com/Nymphe/Nymphai.html
Nymphs are fascinating Fae – they can have the power of almost anything found in nature.
In my own writing, I like to use the different kind of nymphs as Solitary Fae (and bound to the land) who can act as ambivalent guides to my heroines. One even helps Kate on her impossible mission to save Nature (The Quickening of the Mist trilogy).
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” Friedrich Nietzsche
Anything about Nymphs you’d like to add? Do you use them in your own writing?