The Mermaid weaves a siren song that leads you to vision and mystery. Half woman, half fish, the lovely mermaid represents the power of our unconscious desires. She gives us the power to seek beneath the waves of our emotions and dreams for the pearls that lie beneath, and she reminds us that unless we follow the truth our our inner selves, then our lives are as ephemeral as sea foam.
Early History & Origin of Mermaids
Irish say that they are old pagan women transformed to mermaid shape and banished by St. Patrick. Folktales say that mermaids are the Pharoh's children drowned in the Red Sea. Babylonians worshiped Oannes or Ea (sea gods). These sea gods were depicted in ancient art as men with a fish tail as legs. They were worshiped because they taught man the arts and sciences. Not all ancient water gods took the form of mermaids. Water nymphs were beautiful and musically talented like the mermaids. Ancient scholars confused them for mermaids. Also Sirens are not mermaids, they beings with the upper body of a woman and the lower body of a bird.
Indians worshiped flute playing water nymphs called Asparas.
In Japanese and Chinese legends, there were mentions of mermaids (called Ningyo), sea dragons, and dragon wives. The japanese mermaid only had the head of a mermaid, not the entire upper body.
During the early middle ages, the idea of the Siren began to develop. Even the most educated men believed they existed. They called them Sirens but imagined them as women with fish tails for legs (Mermaids).
In Greek and Roman mythology, Homer mentions Sirens in the epic jouneys of Odysseus. Though, he does not give a physical discription. The god known as Posiedon or Neptune is often depicted as a Merman.
In 1836 Hans Christian Anderson published his story, The Little Mermaid. Which received some attention in his time, but really grew in popularity after his death and especially after it was translated into English in 1846. Another story similar to Anderson's is Undine, by La Motte Fouque in 1811. It is a story about a water sprite who was adopted and brought up by an old fisherman and his wife who has lost their own child. When she grows up, she meets a knight and falls in love with him, she only reveals to him that she is not human. They are married and gains a sould from the marriage. They live happily for a short time til he meets the long lost daughter of the fisherman and falls in love with her. Undine returns to her home in the water and returns later to kill her knight with a kiss. Both The Little Mermaid and Undine were written and modeled after Melusine. Melusine is a story of a water sprite who marries a knight on the condition that he shall never see her on Saturdays, when she becomes a mermaid again.
Science cannot prove that there isn't a possiblity of some form of mermaids in existance. As long as there are parts of the Ocean that have not been explored and studied, people will still believe that Mermaids exist. The curiosity of the reality of Mermaids grew most in the 19th century. It was then that numerous sightings were reported and recorded. Sightings are still repored today though they are rare. Most are located around the remote sections of Scotland. Some have tried to rationalize sightings by saying that maybe the onlooker has confused a sea cow or basking seal with a mermaid.
Many, many sightings of mermaids have been recorded throughout early history. Here follow sightings by sailors, fishermen, and other such people around the water:
Henry Hudson and his crew, June 15, 1625, ". . . From the Navill upward, her backe and breasts were like a womans. . . her skin was very white; and long haire hanging down behinde, of colour blacke; in her going downe they saw her tayle, which was like the tayle of a Porposse, and speckled like a Macrell. . ."
William Munro, 1809, "'It may be necessary to remark, that previous to the period I beheld this object, I had heard it frequently reported by several persons, and some of them persons whose veracity I have never disputed, that they had seen such a phenomenon as I have described, though then, like many other, I was not disposed to credit their testimony on the subject. I can say of a truth, that it was only by seeing this phenomenon, I was perfectly convinced of its existence." In his report, he said that the maiden was sitting on a high rock while he was walkiong below on the sandy beach. She was sitting combing her hair, and appeared to be naked. Her face was plump with ruby cheeks and light blue eyes. He said that after a few minutes she dropped into the water and swam away.
The existance of mermaids was as firm a belief as the existance of shrimp in the 17th century. Travellers regularly brought back tales of sightings and encounters of mermaids off the coast of Britain.
An old fisherman living near the Bullers O'Buchan, north of Cruden Bay, on the coast of Aberdeenshire reported that he had not only seen a mermaid, but conversed with one.
1814, Aberdeen Chronicle, "Two fishermen at Portgordon, about a mile west of Buckie, ...were returning from fishing in Sprey Bay. About three or four o'clock yesterday afternoon, when about a quater of a mile from the shore, the sea being perfectly calm, they observed, at a small distance from their boat, with its back turned towards them, and half its body above the water, a creature of a tawny colour, appearing like a man sitting, with his body half bent. Surprised at this they approached towards him, till they came within a few yards, when the noise made by the boat occasioned the ceature to turn about, which gave the men a better opportunity of observing him. His countenance was swarthy, his hair short and curled, of a colour between a green and a grey: he had small eyes, a flat nose, his mouth was large, and his arms of an extraordinary length. Above the waist, he was shaped like a man, but as the water was clear my informants could perceive that from the waist downwards, his body tapered considerably or, as they expressed it, like a large fish without scales but could not see the extemity. But this was not the end of their encounter for he dived and surfaced some distance away and was not alone. With him was what appeared to be a female of his species for she had breasts and hair that reached past her shoulders."
A Campbeltown farmer, in 1811, swore that he had met a mermaid. His description was so convincing, that the parish minister and sheriff-substitute wrote that they were, "satisfied that he was impressed with a perfect belief, that the appearance of the animal he has described was such as he has represented it to be."
Mr. Toupin, 1812, said he had seen and heard a mermaid sing her wild melodies. He described her songs as similar to the sound of an Aeolian harp.
In the Island of Benbecula in the outer hebrides, around 1830, women cutting seaweed said they found the dead body of a creature described as, "The upper part of the creature was about the size of a well-fed child of three or four years of age, with an abnormally developed breast. The hair was long, dark and glossy, while the skin was white, soft and tender. The lower part of the body was like a salmon, but without scales."
Off the Isle of Yell, 1833, 6 fishermen reported that their fishing lind had been entangled with a mermaid. They kept her on board for about 3 hours and said she was 3 feet long. A few stiff bristles were on top of her head extending to her shoulders which she could erect and depress when she wanted. She had not gills, scales, or fins. Two superstitios fishermen threw her overboard eventually.
Isle of Man, A crew of sailors said that they found a mermaid caught in their herring drift net. "On examining their captive, by the largeness of her breasts and the beauty of her compexion, it was found to be female, nothing. . . could be more lovely, more exactly formed, in all parts above the waist resembling a complete young woman, but below that, all fish, with fins, and a huge spreading tail." They took her on shore and she would not eat or drink, they kept her there 3 days. She started to look ill, and she got away and returned to the sea surrounded by others of her species.
Island of Muck, 1947, an old fisherman saw a mermaid, combing her hair, floating on a herringbox used to preserve live lobsters. She looked around and noticed that she was being watched and dove into the sea.
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