Undines are the elementals for water, the unseen intelligences that allegedly inhabit this element. They are said to have been here since the beginning of time, and to have created the landscape of reality. Their origins can be traced back to Greek mythology. Many ancient Greek texts cite a clan of nymphs called Oceanides (also referred as Nereids) who claimed the oceans of the world as their home. These beings were the daughters of Titan and his wife Tethys. Their presence in the oceans was legendary among seafarers, for the Oceanides were helpful beings that would aid sailors while navigating and provide safe seaway.
Later on, the name Oceanides changed to Undines (also spelled Ondine), and included fresh water nymphs. As water elementals, the Undines unite within their medium to form an impenetrable energetic bond. Many nature-based traditions pay homage to the Undine as the embodiment of water itself, and considered them guardians of the water.
In describing them, most ancient records agreed on certain characteristics. Nearly all the undines resembled human beings in appearance and size, though the ones inhabiting small streams and fountains were of correspondingly lesser proportions. It was believed that these water spirits were occasionally capable of assuming the appearance of normal human beings and actually associating with men and women. There are many legends about these spirits and their adoption by the families of fishermen, but in nearly every case the undines heard the call of the waters and returned to their realm.
As Undines, these elementals were first mentioned in the writings of Paracelsus (Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, a Swiss German philosopher), who theorized that there were spirits who inhabit and embodied the element of water, most of which were female, and he called then Undines. In his works, Paracelsus described that there were many groups of undines. Some inhabited waterfalls, where they could be seen in the spray; others were indigenous to swiftly moving rivers; some had their habitat in dripping, oozing fens or marshes; while other groups dwell in clear mountain lakes. The undines worked with the vital essences and liquids in plants, animals, and human beings, and were present in everything containing water. Some were described as human in form; others were more animal-like; or half-human, half animal. They were normally invisible to humans.
P. Hall, in his The Secret Teachings of All Ages, indicates that “there are many families of undines, each with its peculiar limitations. Their temperament is said to be vital. They are rather emotional beings, friendly to human life and fond of serving mankind. They are sometimes pictured riding on dolphins or other great fish and seem to have a special love of flowers and plants, which they serve almost as devotedly and intelligently as the gnomes. Ancient poets have said that the songs of the undines were heard in the West Wind and that their lives were consecrated to the beautifying of the material earth."
According to the philosophers of antiquity, every fountain had its nymph, as every ocean wave its oceanide. Often, a water nymph would take her names from the streams, lakes, or seas in which she dwelt, for they were attached to a specific place, such as a pond, river, or mountain creek.
In medieval times the conjuration and exorcism of elementary spirits, such as the Undines, was practiced extensively, crystals being the preferred mean of evoking them.
After the Middle Ages, European lore talked of the Undines as wandering, enchantingly beautiful, female nymphs. Tales indicate these nymphs were not born with a soul, but could get one by wedding a mortal man. They became human by falling in love with a man but were doomed to die if he was unfaithful. However, practically nothing is known concerning the male undines, for they existed but in very small numbers. The male water spirits did not establish homes in the same way that their counterparts did, but lived in coral caves under the ocean or among the reeds growing on the banks of rivers or the shores of lakes.
Among the Celts there is a legend to the effect that Ireland was populated, before the coming of its present inhabitants, by a strange race of semi-divine creatures; with the coming of the modem Celts they retired into the marshes and fens, where they remain even to this day. These ancient people are said to resemble the Undines.
-de La, F.H.K.F. 1872. Undine and Other Tales. Hurd and Houghton,.
-Hall, M.P. 2012. The Secret Teachings of all ages. Start Publishing LLC.