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Neraides (nymphs, nereids)

Neraides (nymphs, nereids)

Among the most distinctive of the beliefs of the ancient Greeks was that of the beautiful nymphs which haunted the countryside. As neraides, they have survived into modern times in the folk beliefs of the people.

Usually female, beautiful, dressed in white and crowned with garlands, they nevertheless had some imperfection which marked them out as paranormal beings, such as reversed feet with toes pointing backwads, or the hoofs of a goat, donkey or cow.

Encounters with nymphs could be dangerous, particularly for lone young men, and may end in madness or death. On the other hand, if the young man took an article of her clothing or her kerchief, he could take a nymph as his wife. As long as he kept the article of clothing he could keep her, but if she ever took it back, she was freed to return to her own kind. As a result of such unions, children were born; thus some families claim to have the blood of neraides in their veins.

Neraides, nymphs or nereids

A folk tale about a neraid from the region of Corinth

A workman used to like to get up very early each day to go to work. One day he got up earlier than usual, before daybreak. On the road he heard the sound of voices. Going nearer he saw neraides swimming in some water. They had discarded their petticoats and left them on the grass. Quickly he darted towards them and snatched one up. When the nereids saw him they stopped singing, came out of the water, snatched up their petticoats, and vanished. Only one was left behind, she whose petticoat the workman held. He took her home and she became his wife.

In time she bore him three children. She was a good wife in every respect except one. Whatever he bought her in the way of clothes, she constantly pleaded to have her original petticoat returned to her. Then one day he thoughtlessly gave in to her importuning and said that she could have it. She waited one day, until he was away working in the fields, then she put it on. Then she murdered her three children, went outside, locked up the house, and vanished. When her husband returned he called and knocked, but received no answer. Then he remembered that a neraid would be compelled to stay as long as you kept an item of her clothing. He realised what a fool he had been to give her the petticoat, and that he had lost his wife. But at least, he consoled himself, he still had their three small beautiful children. When he got inside the house, it was to find them lying dead on the floor.

Read more about exotika in Haunted Greece: Nymphs, Vampires and other Exotika, by John L. Tomkinson

Read about other exotika

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