Saturday, December 22, 2012

Secrets of the Mermaids - Guest Post by Michelle Snyder


Stories about mermaids have been told throughout the ages. They are related in symbolism to elementals and water spirits, and appear before storms and disasters strike. Mermaids and mer-men are associated with things of the sea, and like other popular story characters, mermaids have roots in ancient cultures. Mermaid means sea-maid or sea-woman. Their history entwines with that of Helen and Medusa, and they are descendants of the Ancient Mariners (circa 4000 BC). Ancient navigators were called Gorgons and are the basis of the beautiful female figureheads carved on the prows of ships, symbolic of a powerful Gorgon watching the sky and sea. 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 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 a human wife have a baby, the child will know the language of both the Earth and Sea – that of farming and navigation.

In early religions of the world there  were images of gods that were half human and 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 says that by obtaining an object belonging to a mer-person, one can keep them from returning to the sea until the object is returned to them or retrieved; this refers to maidens kept for marriage. 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, worthy of a ransom, was that associated with 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 palimpsest 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. This, and other similar folklore, 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.

Article and artwork © 2011 Michelle Snyder, author of The Lost Unicorn, available with her other books at Amazon. Visit her Blog: The Language of Once Upon a Time, sign up for her Premium Members Symbolism Newsletter, for only $1.95 month!
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Books by Michelle: 
The Lost Unicorn
Art and Symbols Once Upon a Time
Author Bio: Michelle is an author, speaker, columnist, blogger, and teacher. Her post-graduate degree from the University of Wales is in the discipline of decoding ancient symbols. She has been teaching art and visual language to students of all ages for 35 years, and has written many books about decoding symbols. Her latest book is an original fairy tale based on her research. Her artwork, inspired by her love of symbols, has appeared in galleries from Massachusetts to California. Michelle is co-owner of White Knight Studio with her husband

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