Remember when I used to translate the SMT4A mythology topics a long time ago in a galaxy far far away? Well, I decided finishing them is actually a really good idea, especially since I’ll be able to focus on other things as well. So, here we are (in case anyone’s interested anymore).

Previous topic (eleventh) – The Birth of Humans and the Birth of Gods

The spirits of the deceased of Greek legends

  • Napaeae are a type of nymph;
  • There are many types of nymphs (valley, mountain, river), the former thought to be the spirits of the deceased;
  • The name Napaeae doesn’t appear in legends much, so we don’t really know anything about them;
  • Mountain spirits = Oreads, water spirits = Naiads, Napaeae are said to be their equivalent;
  • Euridice was a water or tree nymph from Thrace, so she might have been a Napaea;
  • The story of Orpheus and Euridice is similar to that of Izanagi and Izanami (x);
  • When Orpheus loses Euridice for good, she turns into a spirit of fog;
  • Nymphs were also venerated by humans, regardless of their affinities (water, valleys, mountains);
  • Another category were sea nymphs, the Nereids, the fifty daughters of Nereus, among them Achilles’s mother, Thetis, and Poseidon’s wife, Amphitrite;
  • Napaeae are thought to be related to Aphaea, the guardian goddess of the island Aegina, venerated during the times of the Minoan civilisation which preceeded the Greek one;
  • Aphaea was also called Britomartis, a mountain goddess, which was eventually conflated with the Greek goddess of hunting, Artemis, and is believed to have become an oread, a mountain nymph;
  • Nymphs were very beautiful and attractive and became the wives of both gods and humans; they had a lower standing than goddesses though, so we can place them between humans and gods;

From the knights of the Middle Ages to the art of the Renaissance

  • The belief in natural phenomena or things inhabited by gods or spirits of the dead can also be found in many European cultures, Celtic or Germanic for example, said to have been based on the nature worship of the Paleolithic, where these spirits became existences situated between gods and humans;
  • Two such spirits/fairies are Cu Chulainn and Fionn mac Cumhaill, heroes of Celtic legends from Ireland; they were the son of the sun god Lugh and the grandson of Nuada and thus demigods; they are believed to have been real kings whose lives were dramatised, even resembling Herakles of Greek legend a little;
  • As Christianity spread in Europe, old legends were modified to accomodate it, and it is believed the tales of heroes like Cu Chulainn morphed into the medieval knight tales;
  • The most famous is that of King Arthur, the promised king who wields the magic sword Excalibur, given to him by the fairy of the lake, Viviane, who is either the protector or the adopted mother of Lancelot; another knight of the Round Table, Pelleas, marries Nimue, another lake fairy;
  • The influence of the Greek nymphs can also be seen in the character of Morgan le Fay, Arthur’s older sister, whose name basically means `Morgan the Fairy`and who is sometimes conflated with Morrigan, a triple goddess who fell in love with Cu Chulainn;
  • The fairies who survived under `disguise` during the propagation of Christianity in the Middle Ages made a full comeback during Renaissance while the Reformation was taking place; Roman and Greek influences could be found in painting, sculpture, theatrical plays and other arts;
  • Another great role in the return of fairies in art was played by William Shakespeare, the representative playwright of Renaissance England (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Tempest);
  • Shakespeare was influenced by Plutarch’s Lives and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, his fairies being obviously inspired by the nymphs of Greek legends;
  • There were also many people who believed in the existence of fairies, one of them being Arthur Conan Doyle, who concluded that fairy photography was real and published writingsaccompanied by photos of the famous Cottingley Fairies (1916), later proven to have been fake;

Fairies outside Europe

  • Japan had a similar nature worship culture, with the kamui of the Ainu (most turned into youkai) or the Eight Million Gods being existences placed between humans and gods, or better said, between humans and demons, due to their mischevious nature;
  • Celestial maidens (tennyo 天女) can be said to be close to nymphs, having descended on earth, getting their raiments stolen while bathing, therefore being unable to return to the heavens and marrying humans;
  • We can also look at the roots of the celestial maidens, like the Chinese spirits (sennyo 仙女), or the buddhist celestial beings (hiten 飛天), the Hindu Apsara, the Islamic Houri or even the well-known angels;
  • The Old Testament also mentions quite a large number of angels who fell in love and stayed with human women, probably leading to the existence of Incubi, which can be called another type of fairies;
  • There’s a Japanese saying ma ga sashita 魔がさした (’the devil made me do it’), where 魔 (ma) can mean both demon and an evil spirit, thus another type of mischevious fairy.

* you will notice that the name of Thetis’s husband, Peleus, sound remarkably similar to that of Pelleas, the knight of the Round Table, both ending up married to water fairies/nymphs (here’s some more info);

*speaking of water fairies, Viviane and Nimue are pretty much the same person, the Lady of the Lake, who became two characters at some point in time;

*kanji, yay! Tennyo literally means women 女 of heaven 天; sennyo are hermit 仙 women 女 (you’ve probably heard of sennin  仙人 (hermit person), the immortal sages of Daoism); hiten are flying 飛 divine beings 天 (this kanji can also be used for the deva of Buddhism)  –> here’s a great article about all these celestial beings and then some!

*the theme of fairies/nymphs/goddesses having their clothes stolen (by mortals mostly) and subsequently losing their powers is an awfully common one. Here are several stories based on the Swan maiden theme, including the Japanese Hagoromo.




About dijeh

I translate things, mainly almost everything that has to do with gods screwing with humans' lives and getting their asses kicked in return.
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