Similar to the ALP of German folklore, the apsaras of India are female vampiric celestial creatures. They were created when Vishnu used Mount Mandara as a churning rod in the “Churning of the Ocean of Milk” legend. As he did so, aside from the other fabulous treasures and creatures he created, 35 million apsaras came forth, making it no surprise that their name should translate to mean “from the water.”
They are known for their goddesslike beauty and charms, artistic talents, and excessive love of wine and dice, as well as their love of dance. Apsaras are sent to earth to defile virtuous men, particularly those seeking to become even more virtuous. The creature will seduce him off his path, thereby causing him to use up all the merit he had previously accumulated.
Apsaras have a wide array of talents and abilities to assist it in carrying out its tasks, such as the ability to cause insanity, having complete control over the animals of the forest, inspiring a warlike fury in a man, making frighteningly accurate predictions, shape-shifting into various forms, and sending inspiration to lovers. Although apsaras can also perform minor miracles, they do not have the power to grant a boon like the Devas or the gods.
Occasionally, an apsaras will enjoy the task ithas been sent on. Should it succeed in breaking the man's will and finds him to be a pleasurable lover, it may offer him the reward of immortality. However, if despite its best efforts the apsaras cannot make the man succumb, it will either cause him to go insane or have his body torn apart by the wild animals of the forest.
Collectively, they are mated to the Gandharvas, who can play music as beautifully as the apsaras can dance; however, there have been times when an apsaras has fallen in love with the man it was sent to seduce. Rather than cause his ruin, she would marry him. Stories say they make for an excellent wife and mother.
When not seeking to undo righteous men, the apsaras fly about the heads of those who will be great warriors on the battlefield. If one of these warriors dies with his weapon still in hand, the apsaras will carry his soul up and into Paradise.
Source: Bolle, Freedom of Man, 69, 74 75; Dowson, Classical Dictionary, 19; Hopkins, Epic Mythology, 28, 45, 164; Meyer, Mythologie der Germanen, 138, 142, 1 48; Turner, Dictionary of Ancient Deities, 63
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Apsaras are beautiful female forest and water spirits. First documented in the Sanskrit Vedas, they star in myths from India, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Mauritius, and elsewhere. They are frequent subjects of Cambodian classical dance. Apsaras live in trees, specifically banana or figs, which can symbolize male and female genitalia respectively. This is no coincidence. Apsaras are spirits of sex and fertility, companions of the Gandharvas, male spirits of air and music.
• Gandharvas are musicians; Apsaras are celestial dancers.
• Apsaras serve as attendants to Kama, Lord of Love.
They are generally but not consistently benevolent. Contact reputedly results in either increased good fortune or insanity. Famously, Apsaras bestow luck in games of chance.
Apsaras manifest as incredibly beautiful women or mermaids. They ride clouds and/or transform into bird-women when they wish to fly.
Golden comb, mother-of-pearl mirror, and magical knives
Sacred places: The lake Grand Bassin in Mauritius was once called Pari Talao (Lake of the Apsaras). Apsaras were witnessed frolicking there; the lake became a sacred pilgrimage. In 1897, a Hindu priest had a vision of the lake springing from the Ganges River: it has been renamed Ganga Talao (Lake Ganges) and rededicated to Ganga.
They adore jewels, mirrors, and shiny things.
Pari-May is Queen of the Apsaras, or at least the Apsaras of Mauritius. Pari-May is witnessed dancing with her entourage by the shores of Grand Bassin. She may be petitioned independently and is traditionally invoked by women seeking fertility.
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.