I’m 2 (well, almost 3) posts behind with my little fairy project, and I realize it makes no sense to have three different posts which basically deal with the same thing, but I think this makes them easier to read and gives me the time and patience to deal with them separately and, implicitly, better.
I can’t help but going back to the Pre-Raphaelite John William Waterhouse, whom I greatly like. Again, his painting does not represent the typical fairy, but a figure of Greek mythology called a hamadryad.
This is his 1895 painting, called A hamadryad (and disappointingly so, as I find the little Pan-like creature of the lower part of the painting just as interesting, but I’ll save that for another post.). For those who aren’t exactly sure what a hamadryad is, it is some sort of subspecies of the dryads, which are in their turn a particular kind of nymphs, more specifically those who are associated to trees. They are inherently feminine spirits, perceived as an integral part of nature, its generative essence. They are, as above, often portrayed as being part of the tree, and are said to die when their tree withers, or is cut down. Wikipedia kindly informs me that the Hellenistic author Athenaeus lists eight Hamadryads, which are:
Karya (Walnut or Hazelnut)
Aigeiros (Black Poplar)
Ampelos (Vines, especially Vitis)
I have two quotes, one of which is directly related to the painting, and aims at making its subject more accessible to the viewer…
One traditional symbolic meaning of the female nude is a Nature spirit. One of these, the Hamadryad, represents a stand of oaks. The Hamadryad is noble, robust, and fertile, full of potential: She oversees the health and wisdom of her trees. The trees are a domain – a place – a graceful, wild, wise, and magic place where people go to meet God, to meet themselves. Hamadryads were depicted as Nature’s seductive playmates; humans partook of their pleasures, solace and wisdom.
Hamadryads perish when their trees die, or suffer when their trees are defiled – their context destroyed, they lose their purpose. Because of rampant overdevelopment, our endowment – the Nature Symbols – is being systematically disembodied, along with Nature itself. To invoke Nature spirits in traditional treatments, without expressing the present threat to their very existence, would be a lie.
Alzofon Art Institute: Explanatory Comments – Symbols
…while the other is a poem by Edgar Allan Poe (no, there is no such thing as overquoting his work) , in which he references the Hamadryad, and proves, yet again, that he was not only fascinated with the tenebrous and very g0th side of the fabulous, but also with such supernatural beings as Dryads, Naiads and so on.
Sonnet : To Science
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet’s heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?
How should he love thee? or how deem thee wise?
Who wouldst not leave him in his wandering
To seek for treasure in the jewelled skies,
Albeit he soared with an undaunted wing?
Hast thou not dragged Diana from her car?
And driven the Hamadryad from the wood
To seek a shelter in some happier star?
Hast thou not torn the Naiad from her flood,
The Elfin from the green grass, and from me
The summer dream beneath the tamarind tree?
– Edgar Allan Poe
Also, this video might be of interest as well – it is short and strange, but bizarrely fascinating as well