Mircea Eliade - The role of the feminine spirit helpers
Type of Spiritual Experience
A Dictionary of Symbols – J E Cirlot
The Greek word for nymph means 'bride' and also 'doll'.
A description of the experience
Mircea Eliade – Shamanism Archaic techniques of ecstasy
A large number of myths and legends show the essential role played by a fairy, a nymph, or a semidivine woman in the adventures of heroes; it is she who teaches them, helps them in their difficulties (which are often initiatory ordeals) and shows them how to gain possession of the symbol of immortality or long life (the miraculous herb, the magical apples, the fountain of youth etc). An important division of the mythology of woman is devoted to showing that it is always a feminine being who helps the hero to conquer immortality or to emerge victorious from his initiatory ordeals………………
Sometimes the hero, though invited to share in the semidivine woman’s beatific condition and hence in her immortality, accepts unwillingly and tries to escape as soon as possible to rejoin his earthly wife and his companions (the case of Ulysses and the nymph Calypso). The love of such a semidivine woman becomes an obstacle rather than a help for the hero….
It is natural that the celestial wife’s intervention in the shaman’s mystical experience should be accompanied by sexual emotion; every ecstatic experience is subject to such deviations, and the close relations between mystical and carnal love are too well known for the mechanism of this shift in plane to be misunderstood
We will only observe that, just as the Great Mother of Animals grants men – and particularly shamans – the right to hunt and to sustain themselves on the flesh of beasts, the ‘feminine’ tutelary spirits give shamans the helping spirits that are in some sort indispensable to them in their ecstatic journeys