08 April 2013


Nymphs and Satyr
(William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1873)
Nymph has at least three meaning in our modern sense.

The first use is in Greek mythology for a minor female nature deity. there were Celestial Nymphs, Water Nymphs, Land Nymphs, Plant Nymphs and Underworld Nymphs. They were not goddesses, but divine spirits who animate nature, and are depicted as beautiful, young nubile maidens who love to dance and sing.

They were loving and free and lived in mountains and groves, by springs and rivers, and also in trees and in valleys and cool grottoes. They could never die of  old age or illness, though they were not immortal.

Some of these young maidens were attached to a god, such as Dionysus, Hermes, or Pan, or a goddess, generally the huntress Artemis.

The word nymph is said to come from the Greek word νύμφη which can mean "bride" and "veiled" (suggesting a marriageable young woman) as well as the Latin nubere and German knospe with the sense of "swelling" (according to Hesychius, one of the meanings of νύμφη is "rose-bud").

Since these mythological nymphs were described as females who mate with men or women at their own volition, and they were outside male control, the term became attached to women who are perceived as behaving similarly.

The term nymphomania was created by modern psychology as referring to a "desire to engage in human sexual behavior at a level high enough to be considered clinically significant." A nymphomaniac is the term for a person suffering from such a disorder.

The word nymphet is used to identify a sexually precocious girl. The term was popularized in the novel Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.

The term became widely used by lay persons, often jokingly and shortened to nympho, and so the term "hypersexuality" was adopted by the medical profession in referring to males and females.

Certainly, these nymphs led to the use of nymphomania to describe the hypersexuality of of frequent or suddenly increased sexual urges or sexual activity.

Although hypersexuality can be caused by some medical conditions or medications, in most cases the cause is unknown. The International Classification of Diseases of the World Health Organization includes “Excessive Sexual Drive” and nymphomania as the term for females suffering from it. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) rejected a proposal to add sexual addiction to its list (the DSM) of psychiatric disorders arguing that labeling sexual urges "extreme" merely stigmatizes people who do not conform to the norms of their culture or peer group. Terms such as "man-crazy", "nympho" and "nymphomaniac" are not used as they "perpetuate the myth of female sexual inferiority and condemn the woman on moral and philosophical grounds."

Satyriasis is the term for males with hypersexuality. In Greek mythology, a satyr is one of the male companions of Pan and Dionysus with goat-like features (a goat-tail, ears, and sometimes a goat-like phallus) and according to legend, quite sexually aggressive.

Far less exciting is the term nymph used to describe the young of any insect that undergoes incomplete metamorphosis, like grasshoppers, termites, ticks and cockroaches.

Nymphs are born with many of the characteristics they will carry into adulthood, unlike moths and butterflies which undergo a full metamorphosis, liquefying and reforming with wings in the pupal stage.

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