1. A water spirit of classical mythology, that dwells beside running water
2. A submerged aquatic plant with minute flowers
Long before water spirits became something of an evil, in the time of much older tales, there lived the Naiads - the water spirits belonging to rivers, springs and fountains. It was the moving waters which they loved.
They lived long lives, upwards of a thousand years, but looked akin to you or I.
As water is necessary for all of life, so it is necessary for other modes of creation - and often the gift of a Naiad's waters would bestow upon the drinker a natural poetic talent or the power of prophecy.
The Naiads were beloved in these times, as they provided life and blessings to every village or city via the waterways. And although they had no temples dedicated to their worship, the most beautiful sections of a river or forest were esteemed by the local people as the home of that Naiad.
It was not uncommon in classical stories for Naiads and other nymphs to transform into natural features of the landscape, with the help of a Goddess such as Artemis. Such stories reveal the feelings of the ancients towards their surrounding landscape: one of wonder and reverence; a world in which each brook and each tree may be divine.
THE NAIAD'S WREATH
On the shores of an icy river sat a maiden.
The Naiad of this river spoke to the girl, telling her of a patch of wild strawberries, which, if plucked and woven into a wreath, would endow her with the power of clear sight.
Beside the river was a small forest, with evergreen trees that grew in tight bundles, and a mossy carpet underneath. The maiden walked there, searching for the strawberries. Eventually she found them, in a pile of bracken, and she wove them into a circlet of flowers.
Placing this upon her head, she was lost to our world, entering that of the nymphs, and tree spirits. For many years she passed to-and-fro beneath the boughs of the evergreen forest, wandering in dells and along the lane, through meadows and over stiles, and always she was drawn back to the river where the Naiad sat singing and combing her long hair.
The Naiad sang songs that started merrily in the hills and came tumbling down into deeper pools. She sang to the maiden, to herself and to the stars.
But then the maiden began to feel as if she must return to our world, to see her friends and family once more. She was loth to leave the Naiad and the tree nymphs and the stars, and yet she knew it must be so. Gathering her courage, she took off her crown, placing it gently in the river waters. It was washed away, and with it went the spell. She returned home, and all her memories became but distant dreams; sometimes she would smile as she heard the sound of a singing brook.