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Occultopedia

The Occult and Unexplained Encyclopedia  
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Mermaid

         

 
A Mermaid's Wish, by Julie Fain . . .  —  Buy this art print at AllPosters.com.
 
 
 
 


Generally called Merfolk, Mermaids are mythical creatures with the tail of a fish and the head, arms and trunk of a woman. Its male counterpart is called a Merman.


"From the navel upward, her back and breasts were like a woman's... her body as big as one of us; her skin very white; and long hair hanging down behind, of color black; in her going down they saw her tail, which was like the tail of a porpoise, and speckled like a mackerel."


This remarkable account of the sighting of a mermaid is taken from the journal of the English navigator Henry Hudson. He was describing what two of his crew claimed to have seen on June 15, 1608, when looking overboard from Hudson's ship off the coast of Novaya Zemlya, a group of islands off northern Russia.

   
        

  
Mermaids . . .  —  Buy this art print at AllPosters.com.
 
 
 
 


The origins of a half-human, half-fish creature date back to earliest history. The Babylonian god of the waters called Oannes was often portrayed as a man with a fish's tail, and a Syrian moon deity known as Atargatis, filled with shame after bearing a daughter by a young man, cast herself into a lake, whereupon her lower half turned into a fish's tail. Images of mermaids, and myths about them, abound in the art and literature of the world (there are carvings of them in many medieval cathedrals) — but of particular interest are the various encounters with these creatures that have been reported throughout history.


In 1403, for example, at Edam, in Holland, some women and their servants claimed to have found a mermaid stranded in floodwater from the sea. Describing this event in his Speculum Mundi (1635), English minister John Swan wrote:

   
       

 
Shipwreck, Mermaids with Salvage —  Buy this art print at AllPosters
 
 
 
 


"She suffered herself to be clothed and fed...she learned to spin and perform other petty offices of women...she would kneel down with her [mistress] before the crucifix, she never spake, but lived dumb and continued alive (as some say) fifteen years."


On January 4, 1493, Christopher Columbus, nearing the end of his first voyage of discovery in the Americas, entered in his journal that, off the coast of Haiti, he and his crew had seen three mermaids rise high from the sea:

   
           

  
Wahine from the Sea, by Warren Rapozo . . .  —  Buy this art print at AllPosters.com.
 
 
 
 


"They were not as beautiful as they are painted, although to some extent they have a human appearance in the face...."


Columbus also noted that he had seen similar creatures on an earlier voyage, off the coast of Guinea, West Africa.


Among the considerable catalog of more modern alleged sightings, one of the most remarkable is that which took place in about 1830 on the island of Benbecula off northwest Scotland. The account claimed that a woman washing her feet in the sea saw a mermaid, that the creature escaped (but not before being hit in the back by a stone), and that a few days later its dead body was washed up on the shore.The British folklorist Alexander Carmichael heard this story, he reported, from "persons still living who saw and touched this curious creature." In Carmina Gadelica (1900) he wrote:

   
          

 
Dragon Fly . . .  —  Buy this art print at AllPosters.com.
 
 
 
 


"The upper part of the creature was about the size of a well-fed child of three or four...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."


The sheriff of the island was said to have had a coffin made for the mermaid, which was buried on the shore.

   
          

 
'Mermaid' or 'Lobsterman', August 20,1955, by Norman Rockwell . . .  —  Buy this art print at AllPosters.com.
 
 
 
 


The mermaid caught in Belfast Lough in Northern Ireland in AD 558 had an unusual past. Three hundred years earlier she had been a little girl named Liban, whose family died in a flood. She lived for a year beneath the waves, gradually being transformed into a mermaid. The mermaid eventually gave herself away by singing beneath the waves. She was overheard, and a party of men rowed into the lake and caught her in a net. They called her Murgen, which means "sea born," and displayed her in a tank of water for everyone to see. She was baptized, and when she died, she was called St. Murgen. Many miracles were attributed to her.

   
          

 
The Mermaid and the Sailors, by Howard David Johnson  —  Buy this art print at AllPosters.com.
 
 
 
 


In I403 another mermaid was stranded on mud flats in the Netherlands. According to a 17th century historian, she was befriended by village women who "cleansed her of the seamosse, which did stick about her." She never learned to speak but lived for 15 years and was given a Christian burial in the local churchyard.


The beautiful mermaid of the Holy Island of Iona (off Scotland) daily visited an unknown saint who lived there. She was in love with him and wanted the soul that mermaids lack. The saint told her that to gain a soul she must renounce the sea. This was impossible, so she left in despair and never returned. But her tears remained and formed the gray-green pebbles that are found only on the island.

   
            

    
Mermaid . . .  —  Buy this art print at AllPosters.com.
 
 
 
 


Mermaids appear in the oldest legends of some of the world's most ancient cultures. The Philistines and the Babylonians of Biblical times worshipped fishtailed gods. Mermaids appear on Phoenician and Corinthian coins. Alexander the Great, it was said, had several adventures with beautiful sea maidens, visiting the bottom of the sea in a glass globe. The Roman writer Pliny recounts how an officer of Augusts Caesar saw many mermaids "cast upon the surds and lying dead" on a beach in faraway Gaul.


In folk tradition mermaid stories are often pathetic. The mermaids are lonely, occasionally taking human form for a night to join in village fun. Sometimes a man will seize their magic cap or belt, preventing their return to the sea, often with disastrous consequences. Marriages with humans are seldom happy, although some coastal people, notably in northwestern Scotland and southeastern England, claimed they had mermaids for ancestors.

   
      

 

    
   


In the Middle Ages distinguished French families tampered with their pedigrees to claim ancestry from the mermaid Melusine, wife of Raymonde, a relative of the Count of Poitiers. Their love story had a typically tragic ending. A condition of the marriage was that Raymonde should leave Melusine alone on Saturdays. For years they lived happily together. But one Saturday, egged on by family gossip, he peeped at his wife through the bathroom key-hole. She was sitting in the bath, partially transformed, with a fish's tail. Melusine cried out in dismay and fled through the window. Raymonde never saw her again, though she would return at night to suckle her babies. Nurses saw a gleaming figure with a blue and white scaly tail hovering over the cradles.

   
            

    
The Siren, by John William Waterhouse . . .  —  Buy this art print at AllPosters.com.
 
 
 
 


Sailors returning from far-off lands and seas often told of seeing mermaids and "sea wives." A detailed description of a "see wyf" found in the East Indies appears in a lavishly illustrated work on marine life in the Indian seas, published in Amsterdam in 1718. It reads:


"Zee wyf. A monster resembling a siren, caught near the island of Borneo in the Department of Amboina. It was 59 inches long and in proportion as an eel. It lived on land, in a vat full of water, during four days seven hours. From time to time, it uttered little cries like those of a mouse. It would not eat, though it was offered small fish, shells, crabs, lobsters, etc."


An African who posed as a mermaid had a more serious purpose — to save his life. King Chen, a 14th century ruler of Benin (now part of Nigeria), became paralyzed in his legs — and tribal custom demanded that Kings who grew old and sickly should be put to death. But the wily King Chen claimed he was the reincarnation of a sea god and had legs like a mud fish. This gave him an excuse not to walk and to hide his legs from his subjects' view. There is a statue of him in this form in the British Museum.

    

 
   


Perhaps no one found the mermaid myth more profitable than the enterprising London taxidermist who in the 1830's manufactured a hideous creature he said was half-fish, halfhuman. It was displayed in a London hall and sold to two Italian brothers for about $50,000. A naturalist of the time complained that the creature was a monkey stitched onto the skin of a fish. This monkey and fish combination was also the basis of a flourishing trade in mermaids by which 19th century Japanese fishermen supplemented their incomes. Many specimens found their way to Europe to be exhibited in traveling circuses and fairs.

   
            

    
Ulysses and the Sirens, by Leon-Auguste-Adolphe Belly . . .  —  Buy this art print at AllPosters.com.
 
 
 
 


The mermaid legend almost certainly goes back to the fishtailed gods of early civilizations. But probably it owes most to those creatures of the sea that seem almost human. In tropical waters sea mammals, such as the dugong and the manatee, rise up in the water as they suckle their young — perhaps this is the origin of a constant theme of the mermaid nursing her child. In colder regions there are the seals that love to bask on the rocks uttering strange cries. Credulity, wishful thinking, mistaken identity — whatever the origins, the mermaid myth dies hard. In 1961 the Manx (Isle of Man) Tourist Board offered a prize to anyone who could bring in a mermaid from the sea — alive, of course.

   
           

Cosmology 101; Enroll Today!

    
 
 


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Greek Mythology 101; Enroll Today!

    
  


Sources: (1)
Cooper, J.C. (Editor), Brewer's Book of Myth and Legend, Cassell Academic Publishing; (2) Evans, Bergen, Dictionary of Mythology, Dell Publishing Co., Inc.; (3) Dixon-Kennedy, Mike, Encyclopedia of Greco-Roman Mythology, ABC-Clio Inc. Publishers.
 

 
-- Further Learning

Copyright Info --
-- Videos and DVDs Bibliography --
-- Art and Graphics Basic Navigation --
-- Suggested Reading Additional Online Info --

  


       
Suggested Software:
 
Courses on New Age and Alternative Beliefs:
 
 
 

 
-- Age of Mythology Gold Edition.

--
Battle for Troy CD-ROM.

--
Breaking the Rosetta Stone Code CD-ROM.

--
Greek Mythology CD-ROM.

--
Heroes of Might & Magic 3 Complete - CD-ROM.

--
Titan Quest CD-ROM.

--
The Myth and Legend of Osiris CD-ROM.

-- Click HERE for more related software.

-- Click HERE for the best prices on top-selling software titles.
 


Suggested Videos:
 
 

 
-- Clash of the Gods: The Complete Season One DVD.

--
Earth Under Fire: Understanding Mythology as the Science of the Past DVD.

--
Greek Gods.

--
Helen of Troy (2003).

--
Hercules: Power of the Gods (Documentary DVD).

--
The History Channel: Gods and Goddesses (Documentary DVD).

--
Jason and the Argonauts (1963).

--
Jason and the Argonauts (2000).

--
Monsters of Greek Mythology: A Video Introduction to Greek Mythology.

--
National Geographic - Beyond the Movie: Troy.

--
Oracle at Delphi.

--
Powerful Gods of Mt. Olympus.

--
Rome: Power & Glory DVD.

--
Secrets of Delphi.

--
The Greek Gods DVD.

--
Timeless Tales: Myths of Ancient Greece.

--
Troy - Myth or Reality? DVD.

--
Troy - The True Story of Love, Power, Honor & the Pursuit of Glory DVD.

--
Who's Who in Greek and Roman Mythology DVD.

-- Click HERE for more related videos.

-- Click HERE for the best prices on top-selling DVD titles.
   
 

       
-- Ancient Civilizations (World History Part 1).

-- Creating the Life You Want with Self Hypnosis.

--
Greek Mythology.

-- New Age Movement: Historical Perspective.


--
Paranormal Investigations: Complete Edition.

--
Understanding Parapsychology and the Paranormal.

-- Click HERE for more new age and alternative beliefs courses.



Suggested Art prints and Posters:

         
Procession of the Trojan Horse into Troy
Procession of the...
Giovanni ...
Buy This at Allposters.com
  Apollo with Chariot
Apollo with...
Buy This at Allposters.com
 
         
Ravissement de Psyche
Ravissement de Psyche Art Print
Bouguereau,...
Buy this poster
  The Sabine Women, 1799
The Sabine Women,...
Jacques-Louis ...
Buy This at Allposters.com
 
         
Neptune's Horses, Illustration for "The Greek Mythological Legend," Published in London, 1910
Neptune's Horses, Illustration for "The Greek Mythological Legend," Published in London, 1910 Giclee Print
Crane, Walter
Buy this poster
  The Abduction of Helen, circa 1626-31
The Abduction of Helen, circa 1626-31 Giclee Print
Reni, Guido
Buy this poster
 
         
Venus and Adonis
Venus and Adonis
Poussin
Buy This at Allposters.com
  Fall of Icarus
Fall of Icarus

Bruegel the Elder, Pieter
Buy this Art Print
 
         

-- Click HERE for more related art prints and posters.
 
-- Click HERE for related magazines and periodicals.
 
 

Suggested Books:

            
     
-- A Cretan Cycle: Fragments Unearthed from Knossos.

--
A Treasury of Mermaids: Mermaid Tales from Around the World.

--
Adventures of the Greek Heroes.

--
Ancient Greek Mythology.

--
Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood: A Treasury of Goddess and Heroine Lore from Around the World.

--
Ancient Myth and Philosophy in Peter Russell's Agamemnon in Hades.

--
Ancient Roman Mythology.

--
Apollo: Origins and Influence.

--
Apollo the Wolf-God.

--
Apollonius Rhodius's Argonautika: The Story of Jason and the Argonauts.

--
Approaches to Greek Myth.

--
Bulfinch's Mythology.

--
Bulfinch's Mythology: The Illustrated Age of Fable.

--
Centaurs and Amazons.

--
Centaurs of Many Lands.

--
Celtic Gods Celtic Goddesses.

--
Celtic Myth & Magic: Harness the Power of the Gods and Goddesses.

--
Classical Myth.

--
Classical Mythology: Images and Insights.

--
Cyclops.

--
D'aulaire's Book of Greek Myths.

--
Daedalus and Icarus.

--
Daedalus and the Minotaur (Galloway, Priscilla, Tales of Ancient Lands).

--
Deities and Demons of the Far East (Myths of the World).

--
Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

--
Dictionary of Roman Religion.

--
Did the Greeks Believe in Their Myths?: An Essay on the Constitutive Imagination.

--
Didyma: Apollo's Oracle Cult and Companions.

--
Draw Fantasy: Dragons, Centaurs, and Other Mythological Characters.

--
Eleusis: Archetypal Image of Mother and Daughter.

--
Encyclopedia of Classic Mythology.

--
Favorite Greek Myths.

--
From the Deep Waters: Maidens of Myth and Mystery.

--
Gods and Heroes: Myths and Epics of Ancient Greece.

--
Encyclopedia of Classic Mythology.

--
Gods and Heroes; The Story of Greek Mythology.

--
Gods, Heroes and Men of Ancient Greece.

--
Greek and Egyptian Mythologies.

--
Greek and Roman Mythology A to Z: A Young Reader's Companion.

--
Greek Gods and Goddesses.

--
Greek Gods and Heroes.

--
Greek Myths.

--
Greek Myths: Gods, Heroes and Monsters: Their Sources, Their Stories and Their Meanings.

--
Greek Religion.

--
Heaven, Hell, and Hades; A Historical and Theological Survey of Personal Eschatology.

--
Heroes, Gods and Monsters of Greek Myths.

--
Hercules: The Wrath of Poseidon.

--
Hercules and the Maze of the Minotaur (Disney First Readers).

--
Himalayan Pantheon: A Guide to the Gods and Goddesses of Nepal.

--
Hindu Pantheon.

--
Hydra and Kraken, Or, the Lore and Lure of Lake-Monsters and Sea-Serpents.

--
Insight into the Ancient Mysteries (I.A.M.).

--
Jaina Iconography: Objects of Meditation and the Pantheon.

--
Jason and the Argonauts (Library of Myths and Legends Series).

--
Jason and the Golden Fleece.

--
Lord of the Sky: Zeus.

--
Lost Goddesses of Early Greece: A Collection of Pre-Hellenic Myths With a New Preface.

--
Mazes and Labyrinths: Their History and Development.

--
Medusa (Monsters of Mythology).

--
Medusa: Solving the Mystery of the Gorgon.

--
Mermaid Tales from Around the World.

--
Mermaids.

--
Mermaids Tales.

--
Mermaids: Nymphs of the Sea.

--
Mythology.

--
Mythology (J. Weigel).

--
Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes.

--
Myths of Greece and Rome.

--
Myths of the Greeks and Romans.

--
Olympus.

--
Onomasticon of the Hittite Pantheon.

--
Orpheus and Greek Religion: A Study of the Orphic Movement.

--
Orphic Pantheon.

--
Pegasus.

--
Pegasus: The Flying Horse.

--
Pegasus the Winged Horse.

--
Perseus.

--
Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion (Mythos).

--
Simon & Schuster Book of Greek Gods and Heroes.

--
Snake Dreamer.

--
Sirens: Symbols of Seduction.

--
Sirens and Other Daemon Lovers.

--
Snake Hair: The Story of Medusa (All Aboard Books Reading Level 2).

--
Sun Flight.

--
The Age of Fable.

--
The Ancient Greeks: In the Land of the Gods (Peoples of the Past).

--
The Argonautika: The Story of Jason and the Quest for the Golden Fleece.

--
The Bronze Cauldron: Myths and Legends of the World (Myths and Legends of the World).

--
The Centaur.

--
The Centaur (Supernatural & Occult Fiction).

--
The Chiron Dictionary of Greek & Roman Mythology.

--
The Classic Treasury of Bulfinch's Mythology.

--
The Deadly Power of Medusa.

--
The Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

--
The Encyclopedia of Mythology: Gods, Heroes, and Legends of the Greeks and Romans.

--
The Feejee Mermaid and Other Essays in Natural and Unnatural History.

--
The Flying Horse: The Story of Pegasus (All Aboard Books Reading Level 1).

--
The Gardens of Adonis: Spices in Greek Mythology.

--
The Goddess: Mythological Images of the Feminine.

--
The Gods and Goddesses of Olympus.

--
The Golden Books Treasury of Elves and Fairies.

--
The Golden Fleece and the Heroes Who Lived Before Achilles.

--
The Golden Hoard: Myths and Legends of the World.

--
The Great Stupa of Gyantse: a Complete Tibetan Pantheon of the Fifteenth Century.

--
The Greeks and Their Gods.

--
The Greek Myths.

--
The Heroes of the Greeks.

--
The Hindu Pantheon.

--
The Hydra (Monsters of Mythology).

--
The Labyrinth: Symbol of Fear, Rebirth, and Liberation.

--
The Library of Greek Mythology.

--
The MacMillan Book of Greek Gods and Heroes.

--
The Myth of Apollo and Marsyas in the Art of the Italian Renaissance.

--
The Myths of Greece & Rome.

--
The Oresteia: Apollo & Bacchus.

--
The Penguin Dictionary of Classical Mythology.

--
The Stellar Almanac: A History and Tour Guide of the Infernal Kingdom of Hades.

--
The Story of Hercules.

--
The Twelve Labors of Hercules.

--
The Trackers of Oxyrhynchus: The Delphi Text 1988.

--
The Warrior Goddess, Athena.

--
Theseus and the Minotaur.

--
Twelve Labors of Hercules.

--
Voyage to Olympus.

--
Walking a Sacred Path: Rediscovering the Labyrinth As a Spiritual Tool.

--
Who's Who in Classical Mythology.

--
Women of Classical Mythology: A Biographical Dictionary.

--
Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference: An Indispensable Compendium of Myth and Magic.

-- Click HERE for more related books.

-- Click HERE for the best prices on top-selling book titles.
 

 

  

Further info:

-- Classic Mythology.
-- Mermaid.
-- Mermaids.
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Occultopedia is a FREE online resource available to the whole world. Usage of my word definitions and articles by educational institutions, teachers and students alike, is here by granted. Reproduction for profit, and for display in another web site is strictly forbidden, and will be handled as copyright infringement and prosecuted to the full extent of the law. However, if you follow some simple guidelines, I will grant permission for limited reproduction. For more information, please consult my intellectual property rights, warranties and disclaimers information page. Support Occultopedia and make it your online shopping destination. If you prefer, you can also make a donation.



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Participate in Occultopedia and submit a word definition or article for the occult encyclopedia at my entry submission page. If you would like to suggest a web site or page for addition into Occultopedia's links database, please go to my URL submission page.

           






           

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