Monday, 5 November 2012


MERMAID is a word which points many questions to the scientists till today. It was sometimes explained as the extinct species and sometimes never accepted as a species which ever existed. The word mermaid is a compound of the Old English mere (sea), and maid (a girl or young woman)
There are myths from all the parts of world on the MERMAID. Some of them are explained by the sailors of great seas and some are from the greatest creations of famous writers.

MERMAID First Folklore:-
A Mermaid is a legendary aquatic creature with the upper body of a woman and the tail of a fish. Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, and Asia. The first known mermaid stories appeared in Assyria, ca. 1000 BC. The goddess Atargatis, mother of Assyrian queen Semiramis, loved a mortal shepherd and unintentionally killed him. Ashamed, she jumped into a lake to take the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine beauty. Thereafter, she took the form of a mermaid—human above the waist, fish below—though the earliest representations of Atargatis showed her as a fish with a human head and arm, similar to the Babylonian god Ea. The Greeks recognized Atargatis under the name Derketo. Prior to 546 BC, the Milesian philosopher Anaximander proposed that mankind had sprung from an aquatic species of animal. He thought that humans, with their extended infancy, could not have survived otherwise.


A popular Greek legend turns Alexander the Great's sister, Thessalonike, into a mermaid after she died. As a mermaid, she lived in the Aegean and when she encountered a ship she asked its sailor’s only one question: "Is King Alexander alive?" to which the correct answer was: "He lives and reigns and conquers the world"              This answer pleased her so she calmed the waters and wished the ship farewell. Any other answer would spur her into a rage. She would raise a terrible storm, dooming the ship and every sailor on board.


A 15th-century compilation of quotations tells of a mermaid who "wept tears which became pearls". An early 19th-century book entitled Jottings on the South of China contains two stories about mermaids. In the first, a man captures a mermaid on the shore of Namtao island. She looks human in every respect, except that her body is covered with fine hair of many colors. She is unable to speak, but the man takes her home and marries her. Upon his death, the mermaid returns to the sea where she had been found. In the second story, a man sees a woman laying on the beach while his ship was anchored offshore. Upon closer inspection, the woman appears to have webbed feet and hands. She is carried to the water and expresses her gratitude toward the sailors before swimming away.

MERMAID in Hinduism:-

                 Suvannamaccha (lit. golden mermaid) is a daughter of Ravana that appears in the Cambodian and Thai versions of the Ramayana. She is a mermaid princess who tries to spoil Hanuman's plans to build a bridge to Lanka but falls in love with him instead. She is a popular figure of Thai folklore.


                 On the anniversary of each daughter's 15th birthday, they are allowed to visit the surface. The Little Mermaid waits patiently and when her turn arrives, she witnesses a shipwreck and saves the life of a handsome young prince. She returns to where the Prince lives many times and falls in love with him and so she goes to a sea witch in order to obtain legs so she may pursue her love. The sea witch obliges but the exchange is that the Little Mermaid will lose her voice and walking will feel like she is standing on sharp knives. The Little Mermaid agrees and is told she must marry the prince or "the first morning after he marries another your heart will break, and you will become foam on the crest of the waves". The sea witch cuts out her tongue and gives her a potion which turns her tail into legs.
She is soon found by the Prince on the beach and, being a kind person, he takes her in regardless of her muteness. She reminds him of the person who saved him, a person he believes belongs to the Holy Temple and can never be with him. The Prince begins to love her but doesn't consider marrying her. Soon he is told he must marry, so he takes the Little Mermaid with him to visit a prospective bride with whom he falls instantly in love.

The Prince marries his new bride and that night, and the Little Mermaid looks out to the sea and sees her sisters rise to the surface. They have given their hair to the sea witch in return for a means for their sister to rejoin them in the ocean. In exchange for their hair, they were given a sharp knife which she must plunge into the prince's heart before sunrise. That night, the Little Mermaid goes to the Prince who is in bed with his new bride but she cannot bring herself to harm someone she loves so much. She kisses him tenderly and flings herself into the ocean to become foam and die. Instead of becoming foam, she rises up and sees ethereal beings around her who explain that mermaids who do good deeds become Daughters of the Air, and after 300 years of good service they can obtain a human soul.

CELTIC MYTHS: the vengeful mermaid


                     Mermaids in Celtic myths are always beautiful and usually friendly, even helpful to sailors and fishermen. However, when pushed, they can reveal an ugly side. In Scotland, they tell the story of the Knockdolion family who had a large house on the shore near Girvan. At night, a mermaid would come out of the water and sit on a large black rock. There she would comb her long blond hair and sing for hours. The lady of the Knockdolions felt that this serenade was annoying her baby, and ordered her servants to destroy the rock with heavy mallets. When the mermaid returned the next night and saw her favorite seat was gone, she sang:
Ye may think on your cradle--I'll think on my stane;And there'll never be an heir to Knockdolion again."("Stane" means stone.)Not long after, the baby's cradle was found overturned, and the baby dead beneath it. All the Knockdolion children died like this soon after they were born and the family became extinct. Celtic myths of destructive mermaids are not common but there are several.

CELTIC MYTHS: the mermaid wife


                          This Celtic myth comes from the Shetland Islands, near Unst. It tells a fairly common story that can be found in many places with only the details changed to match the location. Often actual names are given to the people and places involved, sometimes even the date, to firmly attach the story to a particular location. One fine summer's evening, an inhabitant of Unst happened to be walking along the sandy shore of a small bay. The moon was risen, and by its light he saw at some distance before him a number of the sea-people, who were dancing on the smooth sand. Near them he saw lying on the ground several seal-skins. These seal-people are called "selkies" in Celtic myth.
As the man approached, they stopped dancing and raced for the seal-skins. Putting them on they plunged into the sea in the form of seals. In the confusion that they had left one skin behind, which was lying at his feet. He snatched it up, ran to his home and hid it.

                   On returning to the shore, he met the fairest maiden that he had ever seen. She was walking up and down, moaning about the loss of her seal-skin robe. Without it she could never rejoin her family and friends below the waters. She would have to remain in the world lit by the sun.

The man approached her and tried to console her. She begged him to restore her dress, but the sight of her lovely face, more beautiful in tears, had steeled his heart. Mermaids are always beautiful but never more so than in Celtic myth. He told her that it was impossible for her to return, and that her friends would soon forget about her. Finally, he asked her to marry him.
The sea-maiden, finding she had no alternative, at length consented to become his wife. Marriage is easily arranged in Celtic myth, and they lived together for many years. During that time they had several children, who had no sign of their marine origin except for a thin web between their fingers and a bend of their hands, like the fore paws of a seal. Characteristics that remain in their family to this day.

                    The Shetlander loved his beautiful wife, but she did not return to his affection. Often she would sneak out alone and hasten down to the lonely beach. There a large seal would appear, and they would converse for hours in an unknown language. She would return home from these meetings thoughtful and sad.

                     According to this Celtic myth, many years then glided away, and her hopes of leaving the upper world had nearly vanished. One day, one of the children, playing behind a stack of corn, found a seal-skin. Delighted with his prize, he ran with it to his mother. Her eyes glistened with delight because she knew at once that it was her own dress. She was free at last to return to her friends beneath the waves. One thing alone troubled her. She loved her children and she was now about to leave them forever. After kissing and embracing them several times, she took up the skin and proceeded down to the beach.

A few minutes later her husband came in, and the children told him what had occurred. The truth instantly flashed across his mind, and he hurried down to the shore with all the speed that love and anxiety could give. But he only arrived in time to see his wife take the form of a seal and plunge into the sea.
The large seal, with whom she used to converse, congratulated her on her escape. But before she vanished she turned round to her husband, who stood in despair on the beach. "Farewell," said she, "and may all good fortune attend you. I loved you while I was with you, but I always loved my first husband better."
Of all the versions of this Celtic myth that I have read this one has the best ending.

AMERICAN INDIAN MYTHS: the river mermaids


                        From the American Indian mythology of California come tales of the River Mermaids, also called Ho-ha'-pe or Water Women. The Ho-ha'-pe are beautiful with long hair. They usually live in deep pools, and are known at several places along the Merced River. In that part of the river which runs through Yosemite Valley they have been seen a number of times.

Another lives in the deep water a little below Pleasant Valley. At this place a few years ago some Indians from Bear Valley and Coulterville came to catch salmon. They put their net in a deep place in the river, and when it was full of fish tried to pull it out, but could not, for it was stuck on the bottom. The Water Woman had fastened it to a rock, but the men did not know this. One of them went down to find where the net had caught, and to lift it up. While he was doing this the Water Woman put a turn of the net-rope around his big toe and he was drowned. Then several of the men had to go down to get him. After they brought up his body all of them saw the Water Woman in the pool below, and saw her long hair float out in the current.
This story takes place after the west was settled. The Indians continued to add stories to American Indian mythology up to modern times.

The story of Ho-ha'-pe the River Mermaid, varying more or less in details, reaches north at least to the American River, where the Nissenan (who call her Ho-sa'-pah) have the following version:
Two maidens were walking along the American River below the foothills when they heard a baby cry. They followed the sound and soon saw the baby lying on a sand bar in the edge of the river. One of them reached down to pick it up when it suddenly changed into the River Mermaid, who, seizing the young woman, dragged her into the river. She cried out and her companion took hold of her arm and pulled and pulled as hard as she could to save her, but the River Mermaid was the stronger and dragged her under the water and she was never seen again.

The other maiden ran home to the village and told her people what had happened. She was so terribly frightened that her mind became affected and in a short time she died.
Mermaids are often shape-shifters in both European and American Indian mythology. In Europe, this trait probably carries over from the time when they were goddesses. American Indian mythology may have adopted this from the Europeans, or it may just be coincidence. I am struck by how mermaids are always described as having long hair. Could this be because the stories all have a common source? Or could it be simply that men like long hair on women?



Japanese myths are often used, as myths are, to explain how things came to be. To connect the mythological age to the modern age. This is especially true in Japan where dates are sometimes given, though usually only approximate dates. There are also many Japanese myths that concern real, historic people:

A long time ago, there were two brothers who were princes, gods actually. The older one was called Hoderi and the younger Hoori. Hoderi was a great fisherman and Hoori a great hunter. One day they decided to have a contest to see who was better at the other's sport. Hoderi gave Hoori his lucky fish hook to use. Unfortunately, Hoori was not so lucky and not only did he catch no fish, he lost the hook. Hoderi, enraged, told him to not come back till he found it. Hoori went to sea in a small boat hoping for the best.

After some time, Hoori met and married the Sea King's daughter. She took him to live in her home under the sea and they were very happy. Over time, Hoori came to miss Japan and his bother. One day, he found the missing hook in a small fish and told his wife he wanted to visit his brother to return it. Although she was pregnant at the time she agreed.

Back in Japan, Hoori's wife asked him to build a small hut for her to have her child in. She said that once she entered the hut Hoori was not to enter or even look inside. When it was time for the baby to be born she went into the hut. Hoori, of course, did look in, and to his horror saw a dragon giving birth. Terrified, he ran away, but thought better of it after awhile and returned. The hut was now empty except for the baby, a boy. Hoori's wife had returned to the sea because he broke his promise.
Hoori never saw his wife again, but she sent her sister to take care of the baby. When he was grown, he married his aunt and their son was Temmu, the first emperor of Japan.

Historically, Temmu was a real person. He became emperor of Japan in 673 AD, establishing a line of descendants that has continued unbroken until today. He commissioned the earliest book of Japanese myths, the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters), to be written.



                  In Japanese mythology Benten was a sea goddess, giver of wealth, romantic happiness and the protector of sailors and children. She was a daughter of the Dragon King and is often shown riding or accompanied by a dragon or sea serpent. Some say she would use white dragons as messengers. In Japanese mythology, she is shown as having 8 arms, two of them in the prayer position. This hints at her real origin in India where she was called Sarasvati.

In Japan mythology is a part of everyday life. It's legends tie the people and places of today with the past. There is one myth about a dragon with a bad temper who was eating the children in a village now called Koshigoe. Benten, hearing of this in her home in Lake Biwa, decided to put an end to it. The villagers saw an eruption in the sea near Koshigoe and Benten appeared in the sky above the flames. The eruption created the island of Enoshima and Benten stepped down there from the clouds. On the island, she married the dragon and changed his awful ways. The children of Koshigoe were now safe, and the people built a shrine to Benten on Enoshima.

                This is not merely Japanese mythology, the island of Enoshima really exists, and there is a shrine to Benten there. During low tide Enoshima is a peninsula connected to the mainland, during high tide it is an island again.



                The rusalka of Russian myths are the spirits of young women who were murdered before marriage and are then cursed to live in a lake in the form of a mermaid. There they will sing sweet songs to entrap men into the water and drown them. A rusalka can be released from her demonic form if someone avenges her murder.

             The rusalka are slim with long, loose hair, blazing eyes and magnificent breasts. Their hair may be light brown, blond or green. They can assume the form of a fish or have legs like a human. In the latter form, they haunt the forests, dance with the moon and swing from the branches of trees. Often we see them sitting on the bank laughing with their friends the water sprites. Sometimes they visit local villages to join in the dances and entice men into their lakes to become their husbands or kill them.

                If you would like to go swimming with the rusalki (plural of rusalka) put fern in your hair so they cannot pull you under and drown you. Some say that only witches can swim safely with rusalki.Another group of Russian myths claim that the rusalka are water nymphs who marry the Wodjanoj. The Wodjanoj are male water spirits who live in great castles under the water and can change their shape at will. Marriage alters the rusalka. She goes from wild and lustful to sweet and demure.

                 I see many obvious links between the rusalki of the Russian myths and the mermaids of Celtic myth. Both are beautiful, sexually liberated and occasionally dangerous. They are both descended from goddesses of fertility and retain some of their characteristics. One article I read makes especial reference to the hair of the rusalka. It is loose and uncontrolled like the rusalka themselves. Notice how even now we associate loose, wild hair with sexuality.



                    In Greek mythology Scylla was a beautiful sea nymph who became a sea monster because of her lover Glaucus. This is one of the classic Greek love myths. The story starts with Glaucus who was a fisherman. One day while he was drying his nets he placed the fish he had caught on some unusual grass. No birds or bees or other animals would go near it. The fish, when they touched it, came to life and flopped about until they fell back into the sea. Glaucus felt that the grass had some special power and tasted it. Immediately, he had a mad desire to jump into the water. He could not stop himself, and had in fact no wish to. Once in the sea the sea gods welcomed him and made him an immortal like themselves. He turned blue, with long, green hair and a long, green beard. He had become a merman with a scaly tail. There after, he would swim about the Aegean Sea, visiting the various islands and making prophecies.

                One day Scylla was walking on the beach. According to Greek mythology Scylla was a beautiful sea nymph who never seemed to have time for men. She had been playing with the other nymphs but when they had left for deeper water she decided to remain at the shore. She looked very pretty strolling on the beach with just her feet in the water. When Glaucus saw her he instantly lost his heart. He tried to talk to her but she was frightened by the strange green man. He said the foolish things that lovers always say, he said whatever he could think of to make her stay, but she ran away.

Sad, but not despairing, Glaucus swam to the island of sorceress Circe. There he begged Circe to use her magic to make Scylla love him. Unfortunately, Circe had instantly fallen in love with Glaucus.

                 According to Greek mythology, Circe had offended the goddess Venus, who took revenge by giving her usually strong sexual desires. She asked him to remain with her, forget about Scylla, and be her lover. Glaucus did not listen to her words. He told her that he could only love Scylla. When Circe realized how love-struck he was she grew extremely angry. Her first thought was to hurt Glaucus, but being in love with him she decided to go after Scylla instead. Circe made a special brew of magical herbs and flew with it to Scylla's island. There she put them into a pool where Scylla liked to bathe and said many incantations over them. When Scylla entered the water she became a horrible monster with six heads and twelve feet. Glaucus, when he saw this, wept and swam away from Circe forever. Scylla came to live in a cave over a strait across from another monster called Charybdis. When ships tried to avoid Charybdis, Scylla used her long necks to take the sailors from the deck, six at a time, and eat them. According to Greek mythology Scylla later attacked the ship of Odysseus even though Circe had warned him about her. In all of Greek mythology Scylla has one of the saddest stories. After all of this, she was turned to stone.



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