The Nymph

Nymph under Water

The Nymph, also known as the Undine

A splash, a giggle, shushing sounds and the night returns to its usual sounds. It’s dark, but the moon manages to shine through some of the treetops. It’s enough for you to make your way toward the sound. Again you hear the voices. They seem almost a part of the night, but the occasional giggle and sound of breaking water is enough to compel your curiosity. You really must see who is making all the fuss. The wind rustles the leaves, small branches crunch under foot, chirping and croaking fill your ears as you slowly make your way. A break in the trees reveals the moonlight clearly and brightly lighting the riverbank. Looking for the source of the sound, you crouch in the surrounding shrubbery while casting your eyes about until you see them. Four young, lovely women splashing, laughing and diving in the water. Beautiful, but there's something odd about them. They seem to disappear in the water; coming back into form as they emerge once again into the air. 

A strong urge to grab one, have her, keep her, and take her back to your tent overwhelms you. If only to ask her who she is and what she is. You really must have one. Sliding your pack off your back you silently slide out your rope. The roughness of it scratches at your skin as you ready to sling it round the nearest water woman. Emerging from your hiding place, moving more effortlessly than you can ever remember doing before in your life, you inch closer. They do not notice you. Their movements are beyond graceful. It’s as if they are the water, and yet somehow separate from it. Now only mere steps away you toss the rope and watch as it soars toward the back of the young woman with long flowing green-tinged hair. You miss. The rope lands with a pathetic plunk in the water by her small hand. Her friends have already gone, you didn’t even register their departure. She scoops up the rope lying on the surface and turns to look at you. Her eyes are dark as the night around you, mesmerized you stare at one another for a moment more before she melts into the water and is lost to you forever. Along with your rope.

The Water Elemental

There are four Elemental beings first recorded for us by the medieval physician, alchemist, and astronomer, Paracelsus. I talk a little more in depth about the elementals on the page regarding the Sylph if you are interested. Paracelsus did not invent these Elementals, but was deeply moved by the stories and beliefs in them. He was compelled to include his thoughts on the subject in his many writings.

From Paracelsus, we know the Nymph, also known as the Undine, are a special Elemental to us specifically. They come into contact with us more often than others. There are many differing types of water nymphs, now we even ascribe the name to some wood nymphs. In more modern terms the name has come closer to defining a feminine aspect in nature, although the nymphs are certainly male as well. Perhaps in this context it helps to use the name Undine. This name still brings to mind the mermaid, endlessly called by the sea. A closer representation to the original intention of the word Nymph.

There are numerous stories of the Undine. Mermaids, Selkies, and general water spirits are just a very small number in the vast world of the fairy who live in this chaos. Doubtless, the many stories are due to the changeable nature of a nymph. They can leave behind their world once bonded to a human and live in our world so long as the relationship holds. Paracelsus explained this by insisting a Nymph does not originally have a soul, but once married to a human — who does have a soul — they are gifted with one themselves. A soul alone does not remove their desire to return to their home, however. They may marry a human, have children and live a “good” life among us. Their desire for their own chaos never leaves them and it is necessary for the wedded to be watchful, keep them from the waves, and above all remain faithful. If the marriage contract is breached by an act of infidelity the Undine is no longer bound and has been known to kill their offender and reunite with the water, free again. 

Just as we live, breath, eat and sleep in our environment, so the Undine also live in the water. They are a part of an often dark, swirling, mysterious world we can only visit in such a way as to blend perfectly into the environment. This leads us to a near complete ignorance of their life beneath the surface and in possession only of stories regarding their time spent with us. Out of their element, it’s of course impossible for us to understand these fae. They come from a world alien to us, but this is exactly what makes them endlessly fascinating.