Litany of the Nereids

And Sea begat Nereus, the eldest of his children, who is true and lies not: and men call him the Old Man because he is trusty and gentle and does not forget the laws of righteousness, but thinks just and kindly thoughts. And yet again he got great Thaumas and proud Phoreys, being mated with Earth, and fair-cheeked Ceto and Eurybia who has a heart of flint within her.

And of Nereus and rich-haired Doris, daughter of Ocean the perfect river, were born children, passing lovely amongst goddesses, Ploto, Eucrante, Sao, and Amphitrite, and Eudora, and Thetis, Galene and Glauce, Cymothoe, Speo, Thoe and lovely Halie, and Pasithea, and Erato, and rosy-armed Eunice, and gracious Melite, and Eulimene, and Agaue, Doto, Proto, Pherusa, and Dynamene, and Nisaea, and Actaea, and Protomedea, Doris, Panopea, and comely Galatea, and lovely Hippothoe, and rosy-armed Hipponoe, and Cymodoce who with Cymatolege and Amphitrite easily calms the waves upon the misty sea and the blasts of raging winds, and Cymo, and Eione, and rich-crowned Alimede, and Glauconome, fond of laughter, and Pontoporea, Leagore, Euagore, and Laomedea, and Polynoe, and Autonoe, and Lysianassa, and Euarne, lovely of shape and without blemish of form, and Psamathe of charming figure and divine Menippe, Neso, Eupompe, Themisto, Pronoe, and Nemertes who has the nature of her deathless father. These fifty daughters sprang from blameless Nereus, skilled in excellent crafts.

And Thaumas wedded Electra the daughter of deep-flowing Ocean, and she bare him swift Iris and the long-haired Harpies, Aello (Storm-swift) and Ocypetes (Swift-flier) who on their swift wings keep pace with the blasts of the winds and the birds; for quick as time they dart along.

from Hesiod’s Theogeny, tr. Hugh G. Evelyn-White 1914

The lists of the the daughters of Nereus and of Okeanos are prayer lists that come from an older religious tradition. Every one of these names has a meaning. The following example is taken from Hesiod’s Theogony:

Proto, Eukrante, Amphitrite, and Sao,
Eudora, Thetis, Galene, and Glauke,
Kymothoe, Speio, Thoe, and lovel Halia
Pasithea, Erato, and Eunike of the rosy arms…

In an entirely literal translation:

First One, Mingling Gently, Water-Girt, and Savior,
Of the Good Gifts, Nurturing, Calm, and Grayish-Blue,
Of the Runshing Waves, Of the Numberless Caves, Swift and lovely Sea
Seen By All, Lovely, and Fair Victory of the rosy arms

The Sea’s foundations are your realm,
the abode of blue-black darkness,
you exult in the beauty
of your fifty daughters
as they dance and the waves.
O Nereus, god of great renown,
O foundation of the sea, O end of the earth

…they are strings of nouns or epithets addressed to a divinity.

(from The Orphic Hymns: Translation, Introduction, and Notes by Apostolos N. Athanassakis and Benjamin M. Wolkow

First One
Mingling Gently
Of the Good Gifts
Of the Rushing Waves
Of the Numberless Caves
Swift and Lovely Sea
Seen By All
Fair Victory
Gracious Calm Seas
Good Harborage
Who Gives a Good Catch
Of the First Voyage
Who Speeds Ships
Of Islands
First Queen
Where Fresh and Brine Waters Meet
Milky White Foam
Loveliest Waves
Swiftest Wave
Steadier of the Waves
Ender of Waves
Surrounding Third
End of Waves
Beach Strand
Mastering the Gray
Crossing the Sea
Assembler of Fishes
Keeper of the Good Assembly
Leader of the Folk
Who moves Swiftly*
Who rears fishes*
Mother of Monsters*
Rich of Mind
Knows Her Own Mind
Deliverer of Royals
Goddess of Sand
Strong Waves
Fine Procession
Law of the Sea

(These are most of the names of the Nereids, (minus two for which I couldn’t find any translations) as named by Hesiod (and mostly in the same order from his Theogeny), with a *few extra from Homer and Apollodorus…)


About thalassa

Occasionally doting wife, damn proud momma of two adorable children, veteran of the United States Navy, semi-steampunk bohemian beach addict from middle America, Civil War reenactor and Victorian natural history aficionado, canoeing and kayaking and paddleboarding fanatic, Unitarian Universalist and pantheistic Pagan, devotee of various aquatic deities, and practitioner of bioregional witchery View all posts by thalassa

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