“We Are All Mermaids At Heart“
The mermaid is a legendary aquatic creature with the head and upper body of a female human and the tail of a fish. Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, Africa and Asia.
The first stories appeared in ancient Assyria, in which the goddess Atargatis transformed herself into a mermaid out of shame for accidentally killing her human lover.
Mermaids are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings.
In other folk traditions (or sometimes within the same tradition), they can be benevolent or beneficent, bestowing boons or falling in love with humans.
The male equivalent of the mermaid is the merman, also a familiar figure in folklore. Although traditions about and sightings of mermen are less common than those of mermaids, they are generally assumed to co-exist with their female counterparts.
Merfolk in Mysterious Oceans
The world’s oceans cover nearly three-quarters of the Earth, so it’s little wonder that centuries ago the oceans were believed to contain many mysterious creatures, including sea serpents, Krakens and mermaids. Merfolk (mermaids and mermen) are, of course, only the marine version of half-human, half-animal legends that have captured human imagination so strongly.
The typical mermaid of European folklore is an enigmatic and often unreliable creature full of paradox in temperament as well as in form. The roots of mermaid mythology are more varied than one would expect. In modern myth we tend to see mermaids in a singular way – kind and benevolent to humans who keep to their own kind in the deep waters of the ocean.
Not all stories go this way, though, and in most cases the most ancient tales of mermaid mythology follow quite a different view, described to have and evil, vengeful and destructive tendencies. In these myths, mermaids would sing to men on ships or shores nearby, practically hypnotizing them with their beauty and song. Those affected would rush out to sea only to be either drowned, eaten, or otherwise sent to their doom.
Greek mythology contains stories of the god Triton, the merman messenger of the sea, and several modern religions, including Hinduism and Candomblé (an Afro-Brazilian belief), worship mermaid goddesses to this day.
In folklore, mermaids were often associated with bad luck and misfortune. They lured errant sailors off course and even onto rocky shoals, much like their cousins, the sirens – beautiful, alluring half-bird, half-women who dwelled near rocky cliffs and sung to passing sailors. The sirens would enchant men to steer their ships toward the singing – and the dangerous rocks that were sure to sink them.
The evil-intentioned mermaid is not the only way these creatures were seen as dangerous. Some believed that even well-intentioned mermaids would cause great danger to men who believed they saw a woman drowning and would dive into the waters to save them.
Other tales suggest that mermaids either forgot or didn’t understand that humans could not breathe underwater, and they would pull them down into the depths of the sea, accidentally drowning them in the process.
Modern Day Little Mermaids
In the modern mythology of mermaids, however, this is rarely the case. Today these beings are more likely to be seen as innocent and sweet, if not helpful in many cases to human kind.
Much of the modern interpretation of mermaids can be credited to the most famous tale in all of mermaid mythology – Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Little Mermaid’ and the Disney adaptation that came after.
This famous tale was likely the introduction of the mermaid to many children and adults alike, so it’s no surprise that people tend to stick with that version of this widely recognized creature.
Not that Mr. Andersen was alone in this interpretation. Many cultures believed that these beings were immortal and had powers ranging from the ability to cure disease to granting wishes to being able to share their immortality.
Aquamarine is the gemstone of the sea, and it’s supposed to be a cherished object for mermaids. In addition to being treasure, people once believed this gemstone came from the tears of mermaids, and it used to be thought had the power to protect sailors when they were at sea, or when they fell into the water.
As science and reason solidified their hold in European and American society, the mermaid slipped further out of natural history and deeper into sailor lore. After all, out on the high seas, it never hurts to dream. I mean, it worked for Tom Hanks when he got rescued by a mermaid in Splash, and look at him now. He’s got, like, Oscars and stuff.
PADI Women’s Day – July 16th
As a female scuba diver, I think it’s safe to say that “we are all mermaids at heart”. July 16th is PADI Women’s Dive Day. The idea is that we celebrate the famous women of SCUBA, that are so often forgotten in the shadows of the great male pioneers of scuba diving like Jaques Cousteau.
The inaugural 2015 PADI Women’s Dive Day event was a historic day for diving. In just its first year, PADI Women’s Dive Day featured events across 65 countries and all seven continents. Men and women from Alaska to Argentina, from France to the Philippines, enjoyed a day of diving together to celebrate the contributions of women to the sport.
Although diving is sometimes erroneously perceived as a “man’s sport”, PADI history is full of female dive icons and legends who paved the way for today’s divers of both genders, with many of those icons participating in last year’s events.
For example, shark expert and PADI Course Director Cristina Zenato, developed the PADI Caribbean Reef Shark Awareness Distinctive Specialty course and started a campaign that resulted in the complete protection for all shark species in the Bahamas.
She participated by offering a special shark dive for certified women divers and a special Discover Scuba Diving day for women to give them the opportunity to try scuba diving.
Another iconic participant was Sarah Ward, professional archaeologist and tutor for the Australian Institute of Maritime Archaeology.
Sarah, who dives on-the-job around the world and says that without her PADI certifications she wouldn’t be able to do what she loves, participated in the 2015 Women’s Dive Day by teaming up with a local PADI Dive Shop in Australia for a dive on Long Reef in Sydney’s Northern Beaches and an all-day beach barbecue.
Here at Crystal Dive we are offering a 15% discount to all Female fun divers on July 16th, as well as happy hour prices on ladies drinks all evening and a free BBQ to celebrate the 2nd annual PADI Women’s day.
For more information on what your local dive centre is doing on #PADIWomensday visit the PADI website.
Author: Nina Horne (PADI MSDT #355693)