The Beautiful Mermaid
Imagine a beautiful woman resting by the rocks. Her beautiful soft skin, pouty lips, and alluring eyes fixated right on you. The upper half of her body is shapely, with no hint of what she looks like beneath the water. No, she is just a regular beautiful woman – nothing more, nothing less. Much like an iceberg hides much more underneath the water than above it, so does the mermaid.
The Lost Souls
Like an angler fish dangles a false fish to lure its prey, a mermaid tempts us with lust. In the sea her true nature is hidden. Her lower half is a fish tale, with scales and all. She grabs men who go near and drowns them, oh the power of true love. The Odyssey by Homer tells of the Sirens singing a lovely song that lures the men to the rocks and their death. Another myth tells of the mermaid having to seduce and marry a man to get a soul.
Mermaids in Babylon
The story of the mermaid does not begin in the age of exploration, with tall ships and pirates. No, the story of the mermaid begins much earlier, before the Vikings, Romans and the Greeks. As an artist who frequently painted mermaids, my investigation about them got more and more interesting. I found out that the first mermaid story comes from the Babylonians around 5,000 bc. Now this wasn’t exactly the mermaid that we all now and see. What they pictured was Oannes, the sun-god who looked like a man who wears a fish cape. Later the Babylonians transformed him into a god that was half man and half-fish.
The goddess that was associated with Oannes is Atargatis. Atargatis was the first mermaid as we know them to be. She was also later adopted into the Assyrian religion. She was a fertility goddess and was associated with the power of love and the destruction that comes from love.
The Greeks would take the story of Atargatis and create the goddess Aphrodite. Now, you might be thinking to yourself, I know who Aphrodite is and she is no mermaid. Well, the goddess Aphrodite is a fully formed human, no fish tail, but she was born from the sea and she is closely related to the sea. Aphrodite is said to be born from sea-foam originally – does this remind anyone of the fate of Hans Christian Andersen’s Little Mermaid anyone?
Lurking in the Water
The mermaid, like Aphrodite, is the goddess of fertility and love, her shapely curves and long hair all symbols of fertility. Her name would later change to Venus. Even as gods of the past would give way, there would be the beautiful mermaid always lurking in the water.