A Dream of Mermaids
“This fabulous creature of the sea, well known in ancient and modern times as the frequent theme of poets and the subject of numberless legends, has from a very early date been a favourite device.” – John Vinycomb, Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art 1909
Long have mermaids been with us, like all the hidden folk and forces of this world, much longer than most people probably realize. They are the most supreme symbols of femininity, intuition and magic – indeed, the ultimate oracles of water. They have certainly been with me all my life and are a cornerstone of my spiritual and magical practice.
Somewhere around the age of 10-12, I had a remarkable dream that I have never forgotten and that strengthened not only the passion I already had for mermaids and water, but confirmed a powerful connection.
In the dream, I found myself standing by the shore of a calm sea lit by a full moon. Suddenly a strange little ball of glowing white light, somewhat like a will-o’-the-wisp, appeared before me and led me along the water’s edge. It moved out over the water and pulled me along until I started to wade out into the gentle waves to keep up with it.
The light continued on and soon went under the surface and still I followed, diving down and swimming through the darkness. I was surprised, but also not, to find that I could breathe comfortably under the water. I swam on, following the ball of light, down deeper and deeper into the submarine night where all I could see was the little light that led me on. Then two forms came into view ahead of me. Two beautiful, luminescent mermaids completely unlike I any I had yet seen depicted in any book or movie.
Their skin was a translucent pale green, their torsos being the same color but a lighter shade than their long, scaled tails. They had huge, fluttering fins and long pointed ears. Their long, billowing hair was the dark serpentine color of spirulina. They had no nipples or bellybuttons, and no pupils or irises in their glowing eyes that peered at me as they whispered excitedly to each other and pointed at me with their webbed hands.
The dream faded out at that point but felt amazingly real and profound, the memory of which has never left me. So was born an even more determined love for and personal connection to one of the most ubiquitous, enchanting and popular elementals known throughout nearly all cultures. As far as I can recall, I have never again dreamed of those two particular mermaids but I very frequently dream of being underwater in various settings, and I am always able to breathe just as naturally and comfortably as I did in that first dream.
Imagination, Reality and Personal Spirituality
A belief in mermaids and a spirituality based upon them may sound fanciful or even silly to most people, particularly those who are still, as Frank MacEowen puts it, “sleepwalking” (The Mist-Filled Path: Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers and Seekers, New World Library 2002); people ambling obliviously through this physical realm wearing the blinders imposed on them by a society tirelessly determined to sever them from the sacred, including from their true selves.
One of society’s – and many organized world religions’ – most effective tools in that endeavor is to attempt to squash our intuition and imagination by telling us exactly what is holy and what is not and even what is real and what is not (what is desirable and what is not, what is beautiful, valuable, worthwhile, significant, etc.), and millions fall prey to the illusions, usually out of simple fear, ignorance, or both – a most dismal combination.
The first thing to do here is to simply adjust your understanding of what is “real”. Reality is surprisingly subjective, and when you allow yourself to let go of hyper-analytical, linear, boxed-in, scientific method and “grown-up” thinking, it’s not hard to be open to the concept of the existence of certain entities and energies. In their simplest terms, that’s just what mermaids and other such beings and elementals are – energies.
More to the point, have you reached a point in your life or possibly in your search for spirituality where you are tired of others telling you what to want and to believe, and how to live and approach the divine? Of telling you that you must go outside of yourself or nature to find truth, meaning, guidance and sanctity?
After my departure from Christianity, where I found an inexhaustible laundry list of flaws, fears, ignorance, insults, contradictions, lies, perversions, etc., it took no time at all to begin studying worlds and ways I had already been attracted to from the age of about twelve; those of paganism, magic, witchcraft and multiple pre-Christian indigenous spiritualities. However, even within those realms, I have found that many labeled and strictly defined paths and practices are still limiting and seem a little too dogmatic for my taste.
We are naturally closer to the divine and are more pure when we are children, and returning to our childhood beliefs and loves is a wonderful starting place for creating our own spirituality as adults. My very first genuine ambition in life was to be a mermaid; I truly believed that I could and would grow up and turn into a mermaid because that was what I wanted. Well, in a way I wasn’t wrong.
Mermaids have been a timeless and permeating feature of myth, history, heraldry, art, fantasy and popular culture for literally ages. From tales of the great flood and the Ark to a coffee house logo seen daily by millions, it’s plain to see that mermaids have had a seductive grip on our imaginations since well before the ascent of religious dogmas that would both shame and ironically even seek to “convert” them. Oh yes…there is even a “saint” of the Catholic church who was a converted mermaid, and you will meet her here.
“Victorian writers and artists were fascinated and repelled by the mermaid, to see a beautiful woman from the waist up and then to see her legs and her sexuality fused together in a powerful tail; did that mean that she controlled her sexuality? The power frightened them and the idea that they had no access to her sexuality bewildered them. They wrote about her and they painted her, but they never learned her secrets. Hans Christian Andersen tried to tame her by taking away her voice or her soul. A modern cartoon turns her into a calypso-singing redhead, a kind of fishy, singing doll baby. Nevertheless, the attraction of her mystery remains beneath the surface of the cartoon.” – Gail Wood, Sisters of the Dark Moon (Llewellyn 2001)
Mermaids have indeed been misunderstood, misinterpreted and misrepresented predominantly since and because of the high-minded yet wildly hypocritical Victorian age. This is the age we have to thank for our current, modern understanding and depictions of various elemental beings, like mermaids and faeries, not many of which really do them any justice. Characters like Tinker Bell and Ariel have reduced very powerful natural entities to rather uppity, superficial and simplistic little girls with delirious crushes on little boys.
It’s time to really get to know them for who and what they truly are, and to benefit from the extraordinary lessons they teach and the channels to Nature and Source that they provide.
Elementals as Deities, Nature as Religion
“All countries seem to have invented some fairy like story of the waters. The Finnish Nakki play their silver harps o’ nights; the water imp or Nixey of Germany sings and dances on land with mortals, and the “Davy” (Deva), whose”locker” is at the bottom of the deep blue sea, are all poetical conceptions of the same description. The same may be said of the Merminne of the Netherlands, the White Lady of Scotland and the Silver Swan of the German legend, that drew the ship in which the Knight Lohengrin departed never to return.” – John Vinycomb, Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art 1909
I am, for want of a better term, a Pagan metatheist, and an animistic venerator of Nature. Having previously considered myself somewhat polytheistic (as most Pagans of any and all stripes are) I do still appreciate the gods and use their myths and symbols in my practice, but I also understand the real natures and origins of all “gods”, none of whom created us so much as we completely created and imbued them, especially as they are named, defined, recorded and anthropomorphized in our cultures.
Madame Blavatsky tells us that…
“Polytheism is based upon a fact of nature. Spirits mistaken for gods have been seen in every age by men – hence the universal belief in many and various gods, who are the personified powers of nature”
– Insights to the Invisible World of Elementals
Manly P. Hall states in his Secret Teachings of All Ages…
“A number of authorities are of the opinion that many of the gods worshiped by the pagans were elementals, for some of these invisibles were believed to be of commanding stature and magnificent deportment.”
Mermaids are indeed among the personified powers of nature, and very much of commanding stature and magnificent deportment.
Too many people, even modern Pagans who think they are “deprogrammed”, still take the anterior forms and existence of certain “gods” a little too literally, take certain things a little too personally and still presume to tell other people how they should approach their spirituality or even define their personal relationships with their chosen deities.
The more I trusted my life-long love of mermaids and water, and the more I realized that I wanted to always be in and around water and all nature, the more I began to discover a pattern and that what I was attracted to within each tradition I studied or even tried to practice was the almost ineffable, natural elemental aspects or beliefs therein. I began to realize that we really need to choose and define our own path and spirituality as much as we can, and that there is no harm in being “eclectic” (something I have heard many modern Pagans and witches criticize).
We need to be original! And why not? Why do you want to sift through a grab-bag of named practices and pick one ready-made that you think you can fit into? Make your own! Find the value and truths in each one and piece together your own understanding of the divine. It’s in all of us and it permeates every cell of Nature.
In an age when there are so many defined, structured paths with specific names, deities, practices, labels and styles, it can be overwhelming and confusing to figure out what you even believe, much less what is true. Yet there are so many elemental beings that have taken on various names and forms but whose energies, power and lessons remain the same and are very much natural, not so-called supernatural. In fact, nothing is really “supernatural”. Nothing is above or outside of nature, not if it exists in any way. These elementals are, if nothing else, a great place to start.
I don’t follow any specific, established path, tradition or practice. I am part of no group, kindred, fellowship, clan or coven. I create my own path and spirituality, as everyone should, and Nature is at the core. I follow the Elements, specifically Water, and these are some of her Daughters…
Three Mermaid Shrines
Below are the shrines to each of what has become my “Mermaid Trinity”: three recorded, mythological and even historical mermaids with incredible stories and sufferings that all people, but especially women, can relate to and from whom healing and empowerment can be found.
They are not the only three I know, work with and love, but these three in particular come together as a wonderful, watery version of the Triple Goddess – the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone – a revived concept that was common to the ancients and is now well known and beloved in much new Paganism and witchcraft.
To each I assign not only an aspect of the Triple goddess, but also a direction(along with Sedna, who is not part of my “Trinity” but is indeed a mermaid goddess of my pantheon and helps complete the four directions), a secondary element and other relevant symbols based on their various corresponding energies. Click on each of their names to visit their individual page and learn their stories and associations.
Li Ban, the Maiden – The mermaid of Lough Neagh, Northern Ireland, who was descended from the Tuatha De Danaan and teaches lessons of patience, perseverance and identity.
Mélusine, the Mother – No stranger to betrayal, this royal, fiery serpent-mermaid of French, Germanic and English lore cautions against uncontrolled anger and broken vows.
Atargatis, the Crone – The most ancient known mermaid and multi-cultural, supreme mother goddess who promises that there is life and renewal after the most painful loss and deepest grief.
Sedna, the Inuit goddess whose shrine can be found through the main Temple of Water page, I place in the quarter of the North, as she is the northernmost of all the mermaids and whose dark story of loss in the frigid Arctic is very appropriate to all other associations with the direction of the North – winter, death, transformation, and endings to make way for new beginnings.
Note: As is almost always the case with all folklore and mythology, and even history, there are at least a few different versions of the following stories, though most variations are only fairly minor details. I have endeavored to present the most comprehensible and concise versions of their stories, bringing together as many of the most consistent facts and aspects as I have found. I include relevant links and references but leave it to you and your leisure to further research these legendary mermaids and their origins. Their introductions here have been condensed and paraphrased from my own journey, so far, of research and study. My suggested correspondences, associations, symbols and ways to commune with them are the result of that research as well as my own meditations, reflections and other personal experience.