Date of Discovery
While it’s difficult to pin down when the Xana first entered into Asturian mythology, it stands to reason that this fairy creature came to be discovered within the same time that the Kingdom of Asturia was established in 718.
Xana is the mythological equivalent of a water nymph from other cultures.
Said to be a small, slender, and beautiful woman with typically curly long blonde or light brown hair. Within her mythos, she is said to brush her hair with gold or silver combs, “woven from sun or moonbeams.”
An alternative physical description indicates that in the mythology where the xanas enter homes uninvited, they often bite or steal children–in these stories she is depicted as a small, thin, and dark-colored creature, likely to give her a darker and more negative visage.
While the origin of the name of this particular water nymph is unclear, there are linguistic scholars who believe that it is derived from the Latin name for the goddess Diana. The mythological origins of where Xanas lived are still common in Asturian toponyms–in other words, Xanas apparently appear within the place names of Asturias which is an autonomous community in the northwest part of Spain. The Xana also appear within Eastern Galician and Cantabrian mythology.
Mythology and Lore
A xana is a creature found within Asturian mythology, that always appears as an incredibly beautiful woman and lives within waters; in particular, she is said to inhabit fountains, rivers, waterfalls, and caves as well as regions of forests with pure water. Within these mythologies, they are prone to promising treasure, attacking people, and also stealing their food–if the xana, in particular, is causing too many problems, they can also be disenchanted. Despite the stories in which she is portrayed negatively, it is also said she can be a beneficial spirit, by offering “love water,”–which is a sort of love potion–to travelers; she also rewards those she finds to be worthy with silver or gold. Similar to a siren’s song, their hypnotic voices can be heard at night during the spring and summer, those who do not possess a pure soul will feel like they are being suffocated, or be driven to insanity. Those who do have a pure soul, on the other hand, upon hearing the song of a xana will be filled with a sensation of peace and love.
Another disturbing aspect of xanas, however, is in regard to their children. They can in fact have children, but they cannot care for the children themselves. They find themselves ill-equipt to feed their children, due to their lack of lactation. So instead of dooming their own child to the fate of starvation, they take a human child from their cradle and replace it with their own fairy child. This behavior is reminiscent of changelings in other cultures. Eventually, the human mother will realize that their child has been replaced.
Modern Pop-Culture References
Books & Literature
- The Island of Eternal Love (2006)
- Darkness Rising Series (2012-2014)
Is there anything we missed about the Xana? Let us know in the comments section below!
Author. Artist. A little bit Alaskan. Mary lives with her dog in a rural cabin outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. They explore the bounty of the Alaskan wilderness during the summer and cozy up in their log cabin during the winter.