nymphs of the clouds and rain

The Nephelai were nymphs of clouds and rain. They rose up from Okeanus and poured carried water back up to the heavens in pitchers made of clouds. The Nephelai are often depicted as being beautiful,young women pouring water from pitchers, much like their sisters the Naiades (fresh water nymphs), or simply floating across the sky in billowy robes.

Normally they are depicted as being the youngest of the Okeanids, which is why many of them are part of the sixty nymph followers of Artemis (Goddess of the hunt). Hyale, Nephele (the third one), Phiale (some sources say she’s a Naias[spring nymph] instead), Psekas, and Rhanis are all Nephelai in the service of Artemis.

Their parents are either Okeanus (Titan and protogenos), Tethys (Titaness of fresh water), or Aether (protogenos of Light).

In Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound they appear before Atlas (Titan of endurance) in order to listen to his story of how he became bound and forced to hold up the sky.

However later on in the story Hermes (God and Zeus’ messenger) warns them that they have to run away since Zeus has heard what was going on and was about to strike them with lightning for being sympathetic to Atlas. At first they say they’ll stay and suffer with Atlas, but after it begins to thunder they run away.

Aristophanes claims that they are the greatest of the gods in his play Clouds. In this Sokrates (Socrates, ancient philosopher) claims that they are the greatest goddesses for the lazy, and that they gave men thoughts, speeches, trickery, roguery, boasting, lies, sagacity (sound judgement and mental acuteness).

Occasionally in myths the gods, usually Zeus had them take on the shape of other women, either god or mortal, in order to test or trick men. In one instance he had one of them look like Hera (Queen of the gods) because Ixion (mortal son of Ares and King of the Lapiths) attempted to rape her.

To test him he had the Nephelai lie beside him, and when he awoke to see her he bragged that he had slept with Hera. As punishment Zeus turned him into a wheel and the winds blew him throughout the clouds. Another account says that one of the Nephelai took the shape of Helen so that Hermes could take her away from Paris and bring her Egypt, while Paris went to Troy with the Nephelai.



[1] "Greek Mythos"

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