Mermaids Emerge from the Land of Celtic Folklore

By April 2, 2009 In the News No Comments

What prize awaits the fisherman who casts his net into the sea? He casts his rod or net expecting to reel in the big one for dinner, a fish that is. The last thing on his mind is catching a mermaid, unless you’re a fisherman who lived along the coasts of Norway or Iceland or Ireland.


Photo Credit: Mermaid on a Rock by Alice B. Woodward

This analogy did not hold true for the ancient Celts and Scottish folk who often told stories of these lovely mythical creatures. Since my ancestors were Celtic and Nordic, I sought out the stories passed down from my ancestors. I’m fascinated by the thought of half human and half fish creatures. I listened to adults in my family talk about them as if they were real . How could I dismiss the possibility?

Many stories told of these creatures spying upon the fishermen at sea or watching out for them. I’ve seem movies where a mermaid became real long enough to give a lonely fisherman a child. In the movie, she stayed long enough to raise the child to an age where a mother was not needed. The mermaid returned to the sea just as mysteriously as she came and the fisherman was not lonely any more. Fascinating idea, don’t you think?

I believe that many mermaid myths and legends originated from the evolution model taught by scientists today. Humanity has long questioned its origin and may have to accept the myths of mermaids as one possibility.

Most imagery in art and in books or movies show mermaids with beautiful long hair draping the back and covering their bare bosoms in front (on the women mermaids).  Sometimes artists decided to show more of the female breasts. In my opinion, this preserved more of the human side of mermaids. Often they are shown sunning on a rock which adds to the mystical features of these legendary creatures of folklore.


Photo Credit: The Little Mermaid, bronze sculpture by Edvard Eriksen, 1913, modeled after a story by Hans Christian Andersen; in Copenhagen harbour. Spectrum Colour Library/Heritage-Images

The statue above depicts the way I have always imagined I would find a mermaid sunning by the sea. I always wondered when my family took me to the ocean  if I would happen upon one of these mystical creatures by chance. I actually hoped that I would get a glimpse. Even though a part of me “knew” they were the stuff of myths and fairy tales, another part of me always hoped that mermaids really existed.

Whether the legends originate in Europe or the Chaldean sea, the allusion to these fish-like creatures having magical powers is the same.  According to the legends, mermaids love music so if you listen closely as you sit by the shore, you might hear the melodic voice of mermaids singing with the waves. Sometimes I heard sounds while listening to the waves that I was sure did not come from the sound of water hitting the shore. I’m almost certain that I’ve been serenaded by a mermaid, at least once or twice.

Mermaids were called “mermen” which describe these fantasy creatures whether male or female. As legend tells it, mermen lived long but had no soul. I can’t imagine beings as lovely as mermen would be created without a soul. The most common belief is that mermen are mortal. but somehow I think of them as having a key to immortality. I think of the ocean as the eternal waters and mermaids come from the ocean so it makes sense to me that mermen are as eternal as the ocean itself.

The tales further claim the magical creatures had the spirit of prophecy. Some cultures sought them out hoping for a glimpse into the destiny of mankind.

Whether mermaids are our distant ancestors or not is not important to me. I find it fascinating though that these same myths have carried forward into the lives of people today. Television still depicts the beautiful creatures and we show our children that we believe in the fantastic idea that mermaids could have existed, or still might.

My grand children love the TV show, “The Little Mermaid” and have owned mermaid costumes. I wonder where an adult might find an occasion to wear a mermaid costume. Perhaps I’ll find a party by the sea. The tail would have to be an illusion though, because I would trip if I tried to walk with a fish tail.

All this makes me want to live the fantasy for a while. I’m looking for a mermaid costume to wear as I sit by the sea and wait for one of these real creatures to show themselves to me. Do you think this costume will be convincing enough?


I’ve read that mermaids swim back to sea at sundown and resurface with the sunrise. I wonder what happened to them during storms?

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