Stories about mermaids have been told throughout the ages. They are related to elementals and water spirits. Mermaids and mer-men are associated with things of the sea and appear before storms and disasters strike. Mermaid means sea-maid or sea-woman. Some stories describe mermaids living underwater in riches and splendor, eloquent and cultured.
Mer-people generally kept to the sea and rarely married mortals. When they did, they took their wives from the land to the sea. Some mermaids fell in love with human males, who, then enchanted, did whatever they could to marry the beautiful creatures.
Mer-people speak the language of the sea and the language of land-dwellers. A Syrian story records that if a mer-man and his human wife have a baby, the child will know the language of both the Sea and the Earth – that of navigation and of farming.
History of mermaids entwines with that of the Greek Medusa, who was a queen of the sea. In early religions of the world, the Philistine god Dagon ca. 2500 BC, (Dag = fish, oan = noah), and the Syrian god Atargis, were images of gods that were half fish. In Syria they are called Kukullu, which means fish-man. These fish-men also show up in Mesopotamian and Babylonian history. Sumerians and Assyrians depicted bearded human figures with a fish-body hanging off their head down the back to their toes like a cape. Mer-people images and sculptures are found in Assyrian, Babylonian, and Mesopotamian art and temples. In Japan they are known as ninayo. Hispanic folklore describes water maidens as small human-shaped beings with stars on their heads and golden hair (stars being associated with knowledge of astronomy, and golden hair a symbol of the sun).
Legends also say that by obtaining an object belonging to a mer-person, the captor can keep the mermaid or merman from returning to the sea until they regain possession of the object. If you were in business, you knew that captured mer-people could not refuse to keep a bargain they made, but they were considered tricky and dangerous to deal with. Sometimes mer-people were caught and held for ransom: Their wisdom and their knowledge of astronomy and natural science were unsurpassed. Knowledge and wisdom of such great value was worthy of a ransom; it was that of navigation: astronomy, longitude, currents, and mapping.
Many legends and historic accounts tell of Faerie-Queen Melucine (circa 400 AD), a double-tailed mermaid called a Siren. She was the daughter of Queen Pressine and Elinas, King of Albania. Despite rewritten accounts of betrayal, abandonment, and deformed children, many monarchies go to great lengths to have their genealogies traced to her family.
The Little Mermaid, made popular by Hans Christian Anderson in 1873, is a Faerie tale with roots in the history of the ancient mariner culture, reaching deep into prehistory to the Neanderthal Wars. This and other similar tales are legends of courage - originally tales of adults willing to sacrifice themselves to protect their children. Passed down through the millennia in legends and symbols, stories about mermaids have become childhood favorites. These powerful, elusive creatures are still associated with water, and have come to express the concepts of the unconscious and wisdom.
About Michelle Paula Snyder
Michelle Snyder is a professor of mythology, and an author, publisher, speaker, and artist. She did her post-graduate research at the University of Wales, decoding ancient and prehistoric symbolism, mythology, folklore, and fairy tales. Her artwork has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio.
Michelle Paula Snyder
Fiction – Fantasy Wonder Tales:
The Fairy Tales: Once Upon a Time Lessons, First Book
Call of the Dragon and other Tales of Wonder
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book one: The Lost Unicorn
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book two The Lost Mermaid
A Tale of Three Kingdoms, book three The Lost Dragon
Symbologist Michelle Snyder
Non-Fiction - Symbology:
Symbology: Decoding Classic Images
Symbology: Decoding Symbols through History
Symbology: Fairy Tales Uncovered
Symbology: Art and Symbols
Symbology: Hidden in Plain Sight
Symbology: World of Symbols
Symbology: Secrets of the Mermaids