Is there a preponderance of seductive water nymphs in mythology? That is, among the more sexually inclined maidens in mythology, are they more likely to embody or be connected to water than other elements?

For example, there's the Russian Russalka, the German Rhine Maidens, the Lady of the Lake in tales that don't involve Excalibur, the Greek Naiads and Sirens, Scottish, Irish, and Faroese Selkies, and so on and so on; even the American First Nations have their water maidens that tempted young warriors to a soggy grave.

If there is a preponderance of seductive water nymphs in mythology, then why is that so?

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    I feel awkward writing this comment after talking about increasing activity in the chat, but this question needs a lot of work. (1) Is it really necessary to use the wording "preponderance of watery tarts"? It sounds weird, and I (personally) don't think it's funny. (2) I'm not sure how you would answer this question: are you asking to count the number of female characters in mythology and tell you what percentage are "watery tarts"? Because that's completely unrealistic. I'm sorry, but unless this question is significantly edited, I feel like it should be closed.
    – user62
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 22:41
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    what exactly are you trying to learn by asking this question?
    – user62
    Commented Aug 19, 2015 at 23:06
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    @Malandy, that's more of a hypothesis that has not—and cannot—be verified. Think about it. We see a lot of floods in mythology (which, btw, is not limited to IE religion), we then find evidence of Black Sea flooding 10,000 years ago. Therefore we assume it left a mark. But the two are't necessarily related.
    – cmw
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 13:24
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    It's a rather large topic in historical and archaeological conversations known as a the positivist fallacy. In other words, we cannot assume that any particular historical flood gave birth to mythological floods, something more especially realized when the fact that worldwide mythologies exist for floods is taken into account.
    – cmw
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 13:30
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    @Malandy I think mostly it's just that for the ancient Greeks, landscapes in general were very numinous - you had nymphs of all types of trees, hill nymphs, river nymphs, nymphs of the sea, you had the Maenads and Bacchae (nymphs associated with Dionysus), underworld nymphs, mountain nymphs. They were everywhere. The same is true for most mythologies - the wilderness and landscape share a piece of the divine.
    – cmw
    Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 13:40

2 Answers 2


Have you heard of the Thompson Motif Index? It's a huge 6 volume index of folklore from various cultures, organized by motif. It's also available for free online.

Looking at the index, there are a lot of entries for "water spirit as woman." I've listed the entires below:

F420.1.2. †F420.1.2. Water-spirit as woman (water-nymph, water-nix). (Cf. †F423.1.) *Type 316; *BP III 322; *Fb “nøkke” II 725ab.--England, Ireland, Wales: Baughman, Ireland: Beal VII 11; Norse: MacCulloch Eddic 261; Finnish-Swedish: Wessman 55 Nos. 468--469; Finnish: Aarne FFC XXXIII 44 No. 58; Germanic: Meyer Germanen 199ff., 202ff., De la Saussaye 323; Slavic: Máchal 254f., 271f.; Estonian: Aarne FFC XXV 126 No. 58; Livonian: Loorits FFC LXVI 42 No. 30; Armenian: Ananikian 84; Japanese: Ikeda.

F420.1.2.1. †F420.1.2.1. Water-maidens are of unusual beauty. German: Ebermann Elbsagen 115 (No. 66), Meier I 67 (No. 1); French: Sébillot France II 196, 345; Icelandic: Boberg.

However, there are also a lot of entries for "Water-spirit as man." For example:

F420.1.1. †F420.1.1. Water-spirit as man. Takelau (New Zealand): Beckwith Myth 150.

F420.1.1.1. †F420.1.1.1. Water-spirit appears as handsome man. German: Ebermann Elbsagen 93 (No. 55); French: Sébillot France II 409; Finnish-Swedish: Wessman 57 No. 487.

F420.1.1.2. †F420.1.1.2. Water-spirit appears as black man. German: Knoop 89 (No. 145), Sommert 108.

F420.1.1.3. †F420.1.1.3. Water-spirit as small gray man. Has green eyes and gray hair. Tobler 99.

F420.1.1.4. †F420.1.1.4. Water-spirit as man clothed in white and accompanied by a dozen attendants. Chinese: Werner 182.

Finally, there are equally as many entries for "Water-spirit as animal". There are actually too many examples for me to quote in this answer, but some examples are:

F420.1.3.2. †F420.1.3.2. Water-spirit as fish. Tobler 97; Icelandic: Boberg, German: Henne-Am Rhyn 113 (No. 216), Ebermann Elbsagen 74 (No. 39); French: Sébillot France II 196.

F420.1.3.3. †F420.1.3.3. Water-spirit as horse. England, Scotland, Ireland: Baughman; Icelandic: Boberg; Danish: Kristensen Danske Sagn (1893) 163ff., (1928) 112ff.; Norwegian: Solheim Register 17; Swedish: Hartmann 27; German: Künzig Badische 31 (No. 87), Karstens Sagen 79.

Finally, there is also "water spirit in abnormal form." Again, there are too many entries for me to list here, but a few examples are...

F420.1.4.5. †F420.1.4.5. Water-spirits with human body and webbed feet and hands. Tobler 98; German: Henne-Am Rhyn 113, Pröhle Deutsche Sagen 153 (No. 119); French: Sébillot France II 403.

F420.1.4.8. †F420.1.4.8. Water-spirits with green teeth. England: Baughman; German: Schöppner I 219--223, Schultze-Gallara 23; French: Sébillot France II 343 (green eyes).

So no, I wouldn't say that there is a "preponderance of seductive water nymphs in mythology." Women might be slightly more popular, but men, animals, and "abnormal forms" are also significantly represented.


Before modern sapiens had full cognition all mammals operated with their emotional cognition that has about 20 pre-programmed responses to external stimuli. We still use it when we cry, laugh, yawn or fight and it understands the world the same way an animal understands the world. There are still about 200,000 people in Africa with over 10% archaic admixture and up to 19% of their total profile. These people function with their emotional cognition and can't understand the world. They explain the world thru superstition and Gods. Gods that are happy or angry who live in every mountain, hill, lake, stream, mudhole... They have 1000's of Gods who make the wind, rain and sky.. Water Gods however are the most important and most individualized. This super-pantheon of Gods is also seen in archaic European religion,. the commonality between African folk Voodoo and European Pagans can be seen in their individual Gods for every water hole and their lack of understanding between cause and effect. Although the European of 500 bc was fully conscious his religion was a relic from emotional cognition and a dreamtime type existence. The association between death & water once confused me because water is life. But in the months before my widowmaker heart attack I became attracted to water to ease pain. I would lay in the shower for hours and got $300 hot water bills that I did'nt care about. In the last month before I died I spent about 10 hours a day in the shower or tub just lounging and living in it. Death is very attracted to water and I could'nt resist it. As soon as I would wake up it was the only place I wanted to be. Purple and black they brought me back and stuffed 2 stents in. I was in hospice and sure to die soon but my skin turned pink and steam started rising from my chest, back, head & armpits. Suddenly my attraction to water ended and for me this was a signal that the doctors might be wrong, that I will live. Now, 6 years later I know why wildlife seek out waterholes to die and why waterholes are part of the mystery of life & death.

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