I know there’s a cable TV network
that has constantly hyping
their programming marathon
about sharks for an entire week long —
But I’m a diver,
and I’ve been around enough
of those huge, brainless eating machines
” Who Gives A Flying Fuck About Sharks —
We Want MERMAIDS !!!! “
the exotic maiden of the seas—
—- every Sailor’s waking dream.
After thousands of years of lonely men
sailing the high seas, coming back
with stories of lovely fish-like women —
or is that ,
women-like fish —
Can this be strictly a matter of imagination —
a simple case of vivid auto-erotic fixation
——— or can there really have been such a thing?
one thing is for sure—
Tales of mermaids
(…. sure, it’s a pun, sue me )
have been with us since almost the beginning of human history.
The Assyrians (c 2000 B.C.)
had a Goddess named Atargatis —
— who, after falling in love with a young human
and becoming pregnant by him,
turned herself into a mermaid, took to the sea,
……….. and forever forbade her followers from eating fish.
A pity, that.
The Roman writer Ovid described Venus descending into the sea as a mermaid, to hide from the monster Typhon.
The ancients seem to have viewed the mythology of Mermaids
with a mixture of curiousity, sensuality, and dread —-
Mermaids were thought to be messengers of coming disaster ,
as well as being potentially dangerous —
………. the sirens of Homer’s Odyssey are certainly tied in with the whole mythology of Mermaids.
These passionate maidens of the oceans were thought to raise all kinds of hell —
…. bringing flood, tsunami, and tidal waves
when they were a bit on the pissed-off side,
( much like angry human maids and maidens today )
But they were also capable of bringing good fortune,
making wishes come true,
saving ship wrecked sailors,
and even falling in love with human beings.
My sweet South American friend Aquileana is an expert on mythology, and she made a very interesting comment about Mermaids :
” In Greek Mythology,
their technical name would be Nereids….
(Sirens were different, as they have birdish shape) “
Famous appearances of mermaids in literature
almost always describe mermaids as beautiful,
almost irresistible creatures—-
… including, for instance, ‘Djullanar the Sea-girl’ in Nights 738-756
of the 1001 Arabian Nights,
and she was described by the poet thus:
” I am enamoured of her: she is perfect in beauty, and perfect also in gravity and in dignity. She is neither tall nor short; but her hips are such that the izar is too narrow for them. Her stature is a mean between the small and the large: so there is neither tallness nor shortness to find fault with. Her hair reacheth to her anklets, [and is black as night,] but her face is ever like the day. ”
The castle at Durham, England
contains a Norman chapel on
which is engraved what is thought
to be the first depiction
of a Mermaid in Britain:
— it was done around 1100 AD.
Mermaids in British culture,
however, frequently presaged trouble…
……sometimes they were
simply a warning,
but other times,
they actually wrecked havoc themselves.
But not always.
The Scottish Mermaid Ceasg was thought
to be capable of granting three wishes
to the lucky Sailor who caught her,
but he was obligated to release her after that time.
About that Ceasg mythology, my buddy CrocodileJock wrote me:
“If I can add to your tale of Ceasg, the Scottish mermaid (half woman, half salmon I believe), there are the Merrow folk, also from Celtic / Highland & Island mythologies… these were a peaceful friendly race of both Mermen and Mermaids, but the lady Merrow were supposed to have a special cap, that allowed them to breathe underwater. If you captured one, and hid her cap, she would stay with you happily, as your wife, but if she ever found where you’d hidden her cap she would return to the sea, no matter how long she had spent with you. Or so my Granda’ told me. “
Also, on this subject,
my friend AEWallace sent me this info
about the Selkie myth from the Scottish Highlands:
” Ceasg sound a wee bit like The Selkie.
They look like seals but shed their skins and walk among us.
They are beauties. If you find their pelts and hide it,
they have to stay with you.
But if they find their pelts…they leave. ”
the same is said for Mermaids
around the Isle of Man,
called ‘Benvaries’ —
“A Mermaid Weighs In” – by Bill Layne
These maidens are of royal lineage,
and the tradition runs that,
if you’re sufficiently nice to one of them,
and can catch her,
…she’ll tell you where to find
her weight in treasure, as a sort of a ransom.
It certainly gives new meaning to the
idea of ‘catch and release’,
I’ll say that.
And this was not the case in many
other cases of human-mermaid encounters…
the most popular myths
involve love affairs between
mermaids and humans —
Atargatis just mighta
started a trend.
St. Senara’s church in Zennor,
has a 600 year old engraved pew end
dedicated to a local
Mermaid-Human love story…..
It seems that a local choir boy,
had such a lovely singing voice that a mermaid
would leave the water every evening,
struggle up the path to the church,
don a long dress to cover her fins,
and attend the nightly services to hear him sing.
One night, Matthew cast his gaze upon her,
and they fell madly in love.
They were last seen heading
toward the water, at Pendour Cove,
the Zennor Mermaid
in his arms.
But on certain summer evenings,
his melodious voice can still be heard wafting
over the waves,
singing odes and hymns
to his beloved Maid of the Waves.
I’ve heard of ‘lose the dress, keep the shoes’,
but this particular set-up baffles me….
Just don’t even ask me
how they’re gonna pull
those fin things off in order to….
… well, you know.
And even if Mermaids have been
very popular in literature—
they’ve been even more so
in Art and Movies.
What do you think of,
when I mention
” The Little Mermaid ” ?
Well, if you love to travel like I do,
….you think of this beautiful little lady, right here…..
She’s the official greeter of visitors
to the Langelinie district at Nyhavn, in Copenhagen, Denmark, and she’s been doing that job since 1913.
She was sculpted in bronze by Edward Erikson,
based on the fairy tale by
Hans Christian Anderson.
And I have to admit,
whenever I think of that beautiful city,
she’s the first thing that comes to mind.
( Please don’t tell a certain Danish girl named Freja I said that…. )
I’m also particularly fond of the
vintage pin up art that features Mermaids —
Bill Layne is a prolific artist
that did a whole range of
lovely postcards and illustrations
in the 40’s and 50’s,
…..and he especially loved to feature
his idea of mermaids in his illustrations.
He always put an interesting spin
on his sirens of the sea, setting up amusing situations,
and giving their lively personalities a chance
to get into a little mischief.
Today, they are very popular with collectors,
because they’re fun, playful, and wonderfully sexy.
But, many vintage artists
that have been
featured here on the Muscleheaded Blog…..
…..like Joyce Ballantyne,
and Raphael Kirchner–
have also done really gorgeous work in this area.
Kirchner’s Mermaids are ethereal and sensual,
…and despite having been
(as most of Kirchner’s work was )
modeled after his wife,
have a very distinctive look from his other illustrations.
Henry Clive uses depth of color and shading,
…. to achieve a wonderful and very effective
three dimensional effect,
….. on what is certainly,
one of his most famous paintings.
This Clive work, the Mermaid with Pearl,
was completed in 1939,
for the cover of the magazine American Weekly,
as part of their Visions of Artists series.
It was said to be one of his favorite pieces, and it is certainly one of mine.
@ Elena Berezina
The most amusing and unusual use
of Mermaids in modern times, though….
has to be an advertising series for
Western Fishing Line Company
that appeared in Field and Stream in the 1950’s ,
….. and in a booklet by humorist Ed Zern
called ” How to Catch a Mermaid ” ,
that is today, well,
pretty much unavailable.
Collectors swallowed em all up
like they were chum.
But have no fear, my friend …..
You know yer ole buddy
wouldn’t leave ya hangin’.
Here comes a sample of the
rather fishy dialogue to wrap up our little post.
and just in case you decide to go
after one of those undersea hotties yourself ,
I wish ya Good Fishin ‘ !
” ONCE there was a man named Gus,
who was bait-casting in a lake and foul-hooked a mermaid.
When he reeled in and saw what was on his plug, he was furious. “Beat it, sister,” he hollered. “G’wan, scram! Can’t a guy fish in peace without some dizzy fish-tail dame butting in? Take off!”
I can’t, stupid,” said the mermaid, “I’m hooked right in the – well, see for yourself.”
“Gosh,” said Gus, blushing, “you sure are! Here, take my pliers.”
While the mermaid was unhooking herself,
Gus said, “Don’t you know no better than to fall for a bass plug, dopey?”
“Sure I know better,” said the mermaid, “but this one what chugging along without a line on it! When I swam over to investigate, I accidentally got hooked. How can you fish a plug without a line? ”
Can’t get enough of Mermaids?
Well, check out :
More About Mermaids – Weeki Wachee