From time immemorial, mermaids are mystical creatures talked of and even depicted in several art forms across the globe. No matter the age, ethnicity, or residence of a person, each of us has at some time or other come across a tale or some sort of mention of mermaids.
These enchanting creatures have piqued the curiosity of humans for a very long time. Hence, in this article, we are exploring the origin, nature, and existence of the mysterious creatures – mermaids.
What Exactly Are Mermaids? And How Did They Originate?
Mermaids are mythical aquatic creatures with a half-human female upper body and a lower body with a fishtail. And the male counterparts of these creatures are called merman. These mystical creatures are known for their seducing beauty and shrill melodious voice. Their name is a combination of two words – mere which means sea and maid. Hence, it literally translates to the Maid of the Sea.
Originally, in early Greek mythologies mermaids were said to be another creature called Sirens with half-human and half-bird-like bodies. But with the advent of Greek paintings and artworks, Sirens began to be depicted with a fishtail which gave birth to the mermaids.
The first accounted origin of mermaids dates back to 1000 BC Syria, where people worshipped a mermaid goddess called Assyria. Later, in the 2nd century, the famous philosopher – Lucian of Samosata, talked of seeing a real-life mermaid. It was one of the first human encounters with a mermaid to be talked of.
The earliest text to talk of the siren as fish-tailed is ‘Liber Monstrorum de diversis generibus’ which was written in the mid-7th or 8th century. Also, several artifacts from the Mesopotamian civilization that dates back to the 1st or 2nd century, portray certain figures resembling mermaids.
Are Mermaids Safe For Humans To Be Around?
In folklores and mythologies across the world, mermaids are depicted as ancient mystical creatures with a mortal body but no souls. Over so many centuries of tales and artworks, some portray mermaids to be kind, generous, and good-hearted creatures. Whereas others cast them off as cunning and malicious creatures, best to be kept a distance from.
The bad mermaids could bring misfortune to humans by invoking floods, ship wreckage, and luring humans to the depths of water bodies often causing them to drown. In older times when people believed in this folklore, it was an omen to spot a mermaid on a voyage. The tale of Lorelai of the Rhine narrates how a mermaid lured several humans into deep seas which led to their death.
But to balance the bad aspects of these mythologies, several works cast these beautiful creatures in a positive and good light. As already stated, in ancient Syria, Atargatis or Assyria was worshipped by the people as a goddess of water, fertility, and the moon. She was deemed to be a kind goddess who looked after her devotees.
Apart from this historical account, several tales narrate the story of mermaids falling in love with humans and living in the human world. Or often they granted a calm voyage or treasures to sailors.