Women of the Sea

Posted by on May-30-2009

Mermaids have always fascinated both men and women.  Fairy-tales about them are enjoyed by mariners and non mariners alike. They have been a mysterious phenomenon for centuries.

‘Mermaid’ needs no explanation, a marine creature with the head and upper body of a beautiful young maiden and with the lower body of a fish and they are usually found singing songs or combing their thick hair. They have been the source of inspiration for many stories, novels, poems and films. They have a different image in different stories, in some they are very affectionate, willing to sacrifice themselves for their love and in some they are wicked and evil. This has always given a distorted picture about them.

According to myths, they attract sailors by singing and with lovely music. They live in a kingdom on the bottom of the sea, and it is here they take their prisoners to. They are also believed to take the men they love, to the underwater, forgetting the fact that men cannot breathe below the surface, and killing them by mistake. Other stories have them squeezing the life out of drowning men while attempting to rescue them. They are believed to foretell disasters and at times provoke it. From these stories, the fear amongst the sailors grew and they thought that seeing a mermaid would cause bad luck and it could envisage death by drowning.

The belief in mermaids is not limited to a few countries, but there are tales from all over the world. The first known mermaid stories appeared in Assyria. Atargatis, the mother of Assyrian queen Semiramis, was a goddess who loved a mortal shepherd and accidentally  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 and a fish below.

Mermaids were well-known in European folklore as unlucky omens. Several variants of the ballad describe, mermaids speaking to the doomed ships. In some, mermaids tell the crew, that they will never see land again. Mermaids can also be a sign of rough weather.  Some were described as monstrous in size, up to 2000 feet. Occasionally, mermaids could be more beneficent, giving humans means of cure. Some tales raised the question of whether they had immortal souls.

Some of them like the’ Warsaw Mermaid’ have how ever become the icon of ‘True love’ The legend says that a mermaid once swam to Warsaw from the Baltic Sea for the love of the Griffin, the ancient defender of the city, who was killed in a struggle against the Swedish invasions of the 17th century. The Mermaid, wishing to avenge his death, took the position of defender of Warsaw, becoming the symbol of the city.
Lí Ban appears as a sanctified mermaid. She was initially a human being transformed into a mermaid and after three hundred years, when Christianity had come to Ireland, she came to be baptized.
‘Feminists’ can be proud of mermaids, because they are more popular than  ‘Mermen’, who are usually noted as wilder, uglier and  having little interest in humans.

Sailors from all around the world have been narrating their encounters with mermaids and these stories have been attracting people for a long time. Some have been able cash these beliefs and interests. During the later medieval period, victims of sirenomelia were exhibited as mermaids. In the 19th century, P. T. Barnum displayed in his museum a hoax called the ‘Fiji mermaid’. Others have perpetrated similar hoaxes, which are usually parts of deceased creatures, usually monkeys and fish, stitched together for the appearance of an ugly mermaid. After the Tsunami, pictures of these artificial mermaids circulated on the internet as supposed examples of items that had washed up amid the devastation.

It is generally believed that some marine mammals like the Sirena , Manatees and Dugong are often mistaken as mermaids .Their physical attributes coupled with the fairy tales often confuse the mariners .

Any way, I am eagerly waiting to see a mermaid. Every morning, I wake up hoping to meet one, hoping to hear their song. But I have a doubt, do they speak English?????

  1. vijay kumar Said,

    its really nice..fantastic blog

  2. CrisBetewsky Said,

    It’s a pity that people don’t realize the importance of this information. Thanks for posing it.

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