Sylphs

according to Middle Age belief, are the elemental spirits of air; so named by the Rosicrucians and Cabalists, from the Greek silphe (a butterfly or moth). (See Gnomes.)

Sylphs.
Any mortal who has preserved inviolate chastity may enjoy intimate familiarity with these gentle spirits. All coquettes at death become sylphs, “and sport and flutter in the fields of air.”

Whoever, fair and chaste,
Rejects mankind, is by some sylph embraced.

Pope: Rape of the Lock, i.

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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