Undine (alchemy)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
  (Redirected from Ondine (mythology))
Jump to: navigation, search
Undine / Ondine
Ludwig Michael von Schwanthaler-Water Nymph-1855.jpg
Ondine with harp, by Ludwig Michael von Schwanthaler (1855).
Grouping Alchemical works of Paracelsus
Sub grouping Water elemental
Similar creatures Sylph, Nymph, Naiad Morgens, Siren, Rusalka
Habitat Ponds, lakes, rivers

Undines (from Latin: unda "wave"), also called ondines, are water elementals in the alchemical works of Paracelsus.[1] Undines are mythical creatures seen often in European mythology particularly that of the Teutonic tribes, these water nymphs become human when they fall in love with mortal men and are fated to die if the man she loves is unfaithful to her. [2]

Hermetic Teachings[edit]

There are four orders of elements and each has a ruling elemental over it:[3]

  1. Spirits of Earth - Gnomes
  2. Spirits of Air - Sylphs
  3. Spirits of Water - Undines
  4. Spirits of Fire - Salamanders


First described in 1658 by German Swiss author Paracelsus in his identification of elemental creatures in his alchemical works of ‘Treatise of Elemental Spirits’ Paracelsus describes the elementals as”… invisible and spiritual counterparts of visible Nature…resembling human beings in shape, and inhabiting worlds of their own, unknown to man because his undeveloped senses were incapable of functioning beyond the limitations of the grosser elements.” [4] Undines are usually found in forest pools and waterfalls. They have beautiful voices, which are sometimes heard over the sound of water. According to some legends, undines cannot get a soul unless they marry a human man. This aspect has led them to be a popular motif in romantic and tragic literature. [5]


These elemental spirits were divided into four categories by which they are still known today. The four elemental categories state that gnomes are earth elementals, sylphs are air elementals, undines are water elementals, and salamanders are the fire elementals. According to Paracelsus’s description in “The Treatise of Elemental Spirits”, sylphs and undines feature good will towards the human race not seen in Salamanders or Gnomes. [6]

In Literature and Media[edit]

The Undine myth has been the subject of countless retellings in novels, ballets, operas, and television. The romance Undine by Friedrich Heinrich Karl La Motte-Fouqué was published in 1811. The popular French play of Pellas et Mélisande, written in 1892 by Maurice Maeterlinck and scored by Claude Debussy has elements of the Undine myth as seen in the title character of Mélisande. The 1939 drama by French dramatist Jean Giradoux is based upon La Motte-Fouqué novel. Additionally Margot Fonteyn cited the myth as the basis of much of her ballet choreography and performances.[7]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Silver (1999), p. 38
  2. ^ "Elemental." Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained. London: Chambers Harrap, 2007. Credo Reference. Web. 16 November 2014.
  3. ^ Regardie (2002).
  4. ^ Hare, John. "The Elements and Their Inhabitants." Secret Teachings of All Ages:. Evinity Publishing INC, 1 Jan. 2011. Web. 14 Nov. 2014. <http://www.sacred-texts.com/eso/sta/sta25.htm>.
  5. ^ "undine". Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014. Web. 11 Nov. 2014 <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/614337/undine>.
  6. ^ "Undine." Brewer's Curious Titles. London: Chambers Harrap, 2002. Credo Reference. Web. 12 November 2014
  7. ^ Undine, Or The Water Spirit, a Romance Friedrich Heinrich Karl La Motte-Fouqué Published by J. Miller, 1811


  • Dane, Daniel (2006), Invisible Wombs: Rethinking Paracelsus's concept of Body and Matter. 
  • Brewer's Curious Titles, Edinburgh:Chambers Harrap Publishers, 2002, ISBN 978-0-304-36130-4 
  • Chambers Dictionary of the Unexplained:Elemental, London, Chambers Harrap, 2007 
  • Undine:Dictionary Definition, Random House, Inc., 2014 
  • Undine:Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2014 
  • Hare, John (2011). "The Elements and Their Inhabitants." Secret Teachings of All Ages:. Evinity Publishing Inc. 
  • La Motte-Fouque, Friedrich Heinrich Karl (1811), Undine, Or The Water Spirit, J. Miller 
  • Silver, Carole G. (1999), Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-512199-6 
  • Regardie, Israel (2002). The Golden Dawn: the Original Account of the Teachings, Rites & Ceremonies of the Hermetic Order. Llewellyn Publications. ISBN 9780875426631. 

External links[edit]

  • Media related to Ondine at Wikimedia Commons