Friday, February 24, 2012

The Spirits of Water

A bit of whimsy for the weekend.  Enjoy!  Have a great weekend.

The spirits of water are known as undines (female water sprites who can acquire souls by marrying human beings), mermaids and mermen, merrows, water kelpies (a supernatural water horse from Celtic folklore), nixies, and selkies (seal people who can shed their seal skins on land).  They are creatures born of and in the water, some haunting mountain streams and lakes and still, quiet pools, and others dwelling in that larger world of sea-water.

People have been telling stories about mermaids and mermen, men of the sea and women of the sea, for a long time. Merfolk are half-human and half-fish creatures that live in underground caves. The Merrow are Irish mermaids. Mermaids, beautiful creatures with long flowing hair, appear to have been much more common than the green-toothed mermen. Some mermaids are believed to have lured their human lovers under the waves.

Fathoms deep beneath the wave,
Stringing beads of glistering pearl, 
Singing the achievements brave 
Of many an old Norwegian earl; 

Dwelling where the tempest's raving, 
Falls as light upon our ear, 
As the sigh of lover, craving 
Pity from his lady dear, 

Children of wild Thule, we, 
From the deep eaves of the sea, 
As the lark springs from the lea, 
Hither come, to share your glee. 

-Sir Walter Scott-

Nixies are a form of river merfolk who can be found in German springs and rivers. A Flemish legend tells of three Nixies who came from the waves of the Meuse and danced with the villagers at their feast. They sang and danced, and one of them, while dancing, took off her gloves and handed them to a peasant. When the clock struck twelve, the Nixies hastened away, but the unlucky one who had taken off her gloves could not find them again. She hastened away without them, but next morning the waters of the Meuse were blood-red, and these water-sprites were never seen again.

The water kelpies of northern Scotland dwell in deep pools, or preside over  deep pools of rivers and streams. He had commonly the form of a black horse, but this Scottish and Welsh male spirit has been known to appear as a horse or a handsome young prince.  They are notorious for placing themselves in the wy of weary travellers, enticing them onto their backs, and having accomplished their object, do, with a fiend-like yell, plunge headlong into the river, drowning the men and carrying the women back to their realm to marry and bear their kelpie young. 

When thaws dissolve the snawy hoord, 
An' float the jingling icy boord, 
The water-kelpies haunt the fiord, 
By your direction, 
And nightly travellers are allur'd 
To their destruction.

Legend has it that female Selkies can come ashore, shed their skin and become beautiful women. They do this on occasions to laugh and dance . It will remain human until it puts the skin on again.When a human man sees a selkie woman, he feels an enchantment grow on him, and he would do anything to possess that selkie forever.

Most stories told about Selkies are romantic tragedies. One story tells of a Scottish fisherman fell in love with a selkie woman he discovered on shore in her human form. When the fisherman hid her sealskin, she had only one choice. She agreed to be his bride, and she bore him several children. For many years they appeared to live happily together on land, but, like all selkies, she longed for the sea. Ultimately discovered where her husband had hidden her skin and found her way back home.

Undines are elementals of the water, their bodies composed of a formless mass of liquid. They reside in oceans and some inhabit waterfalls; others live in rivers and lakes. The human eye usually cannot see them but they exist within the water itself, but sometimes they show themselves to humans as mermaids or sirens.  They are mostly female with a beauty and grace that we humans could only hope for. The Undines tend to plants that grow under the water allowing them to balance themselves with nature.

Legend tells us that when an undine marries a human and bears a child, she will receive a soul.

The eyes of heaven were on her bent
In a rapture of loving wonderment;
As her song with the nightingale's was blent:
And one yearn'd for a love, and one sigh'd for a soul!

Moonlight and starlight alike seemed cold, 
As their silver glanced on her locks of gold; 
And the dream on her face was a dream of old, 
Whose sorrow no sunrise might smile away. 

I read her yearning and weary smile,
As her song rang sadder and sadder the while,
With its weird refrain of a magic isle,
Where some might have rest but never might she.

She, the darling of Sky and Stream, 
She was but as wind, or as wave, or as dream 
To play for a while in life's glory and gleam, 
But what would be left at the end of the day? 

The sun smiles down upon her distress 
With a tyrant smile most pitiless, 
As she stitches away in her tatter'd dress, 
With a song on her lips that sinks in a sigh. 

Yet scorning her dusty window pane,
For all his pride in love he is fain
Soft gold on her golden hair to rain,
But no sunlight may soften that soulless stare.

I read her yearning and weary sigh, 
And the eyes that would be but are not dry; 
And I catch the voice of that voiceless cry 
For a moment to rest, for a moment to weep. 

She, the darling of Want and Woe, 
Why was she sent, save to work and to go 
With feet that will ever more weary grow? 
Whither? She has not a moment to care! 

The Undine of olden days, I read, 
By the love of a soul from her trammels was 
Knows there another such dolorous need? 
Then on the earth lingers yet such a soul. 

By Arthur Shearly Cripps


  1. I've only heard the word, "mermaid" , and none of the other ,above. and learning.
    Have a great weekend m/f. (((hugs)))Pat

  2. Thank you for the whimsey...

    Enjoy your weekend!!!

    "One of the secrets of a happy life is
    continuous small treats."
    ~Iris Murdock

  3. ~enchantingly beautiful post for us this weekend...wishing you and yours a wonderful few days of rest and relaxing moments ahead...much love light and blessings~