Mermaids and water nymphs: simultaneously the most well-known and mysterious creatures in mythology. They’re commonly used in movies and books – from Pirates of the Caribbean to Harry Potter – and you can buy pretty much anything you want with a mermaid on it. But how much do you really know about these fanatical creatures? Cultures from all over the world have their own stories of them: from beautiful women with enchanting voices, to hideous monsters that prey on the vulnerable. This article will go over mermaids from Greek, Inuit, Celtic, Polynesian, Asian, African, Slavic, Germanic and South American beliefs.
One of the most well known mythologies in the world, stories from ancient Greece have had a major influence for both the pop culture world as well as us folklore geeks. You may be surprised to find the siren not on here. That’s because in Greek origins, they were actually bird-ladies cursed by Demeter.
Nereids are the daughters of Nereus and Doris who bore fifty nereid daughters altogether.
Considered to be one of the most gorgeous creatures in existence, nereids symbolise everything that is beautiful about the sea. In water, they possess a fishy tail, while on land they have human legs. These beautiful girls are often crowned with branches of red coral and dressed in white silk robes trimmed with gold. When on land, they always walk barefooted.
Nereids are kind and helpful creatures, guiding sailors on their voyages when facing fierce storms. They’re friendly, great with children and a part of Poseidon’s entourage. Often, they carry his trident and will argue over who’s turn it is to hold it. When not doing any of these things, they prefer to dwell in sea caves.
Naiades are one of the more commonly known Greek mermaids, dwelling in various freshwater bodies. But a lesser known aspect to them is they come in five different subspecies. There’s the pegaiai naiades of the springs, krenaiai of the fountains, heleionomai of the marshes and wetlands; limnades and limnatides of the lakes; and potameides of the rivers and streams.
With long, flowing hair and the frequency to roam around naked, naiades are water nymphs known for their beauty, often attracting both Gods and men. Those who feel drawn to them eventually fall in love.
For the most part, naiades are good-hearted and nurturing spirits, often protecting people and the waters which they reside in. These freshwater sources are often the main life-giving current to nearby civilisations, so offerings are occasionally made to keep the dwelling naiade in a good mood and the waters blessed. Naiades can live as long as their body of water remains strong. If the water runs low, their strength slips away and could eventually die.
If you swim in a place protected by a naiade, you could absorb some of her magical qualities. These waters have often been known to heal the sick, inspire poets, and bring fertility to women and crops. If she is provoked or a dramatic romance occurs, this will be reflected in the waters. She can unleash flash-floods, or inflict droughts on her enemies. She can change the quality of water making it undrinkable if she is irritated.
With more oceanids in the waters than any other kind of mermaid, this surplus population of beings live in the deepest, darkest depths of the ocean.
Like their Greek nereid and naiade cousins, oceanids were considered to be exceptionally beautiful with fish tails instead of legs.
An oceanid’s purpose is to protect the deep oceans, as well as to serve as wives and lovers to the Gods. They would watch over the children who later became Gods themselves. Because of their compassion, many sailors dedicated prayers and sacrifices to the oceanids in order to receive protection from the deadly sea storms. Some oceanids also had divine blessings such as providing wealth, good fortune, fame, success and wisdom.
Maybe not the creature you were expecting when on the subject of mermaids and water nymphs, but I couldn’t bring myself to exclude these wondrous underwater hybrids.
Also known as hippocampoi or hippokampoi, this seahorse is an underwater equine that not only appears in Greek mythology, but also Etruscan, Phoenician and Pictish.
With the body of a horse and the lower serpentine tail of a fish, hippocampi can have green scales or regular horse’s fur, or even a combination of the two. Sometimes the scales only appeared on the hippocamp’s tail or it could spread to other parts of its body. They can also have either a horse’s mane or fish fins sprouting from its neck, and have been described to be brazen-hoofed. Etruscan and Phoenician mythology have been known to depict them with wings, though this does not occur in Greek tellings.
These proud looking beings were used in the service of Poseidon, the God of the Sea, who rode a chariot drawn by brazen-hoofed hippocampi. It is their most well-known depiction in Greek mythology. In Phoenician mythology, Melquart, the tutelary God of the Phoenician city of Tyre, was depicted as riding a winged hippocamp. Winged hippocampi also appear in tomb wall-paintings of Etruscan mythology, as they are in the Trevi fountain. They are believed to be a part of a sea-voyage to the other world.
The hippocamp in Pictish mythology is a little more unknown. Stone carvings of the seahorse appear in Scotland, with it’s symbolism to the Picts unknown. They’re similar to the Roman depictions but it’s unsure on whether these images originated from earlier Pictish tales or were inspired by the Romans’.
The Ichthyocentaur is a lot similar to a few other creatures from Greek mythology: the centaur and the hippocamp. These unusual sea creatures possess the upper body of a human, lower forelegs of a horse and the tail of a fish. They rarely have scales ascending their tails and have large fins. Some tales also depict them with brows crowned with crustacean-claw horns.
Ichthyocentaurs tend to be peaceful. They place a great deal of value on family and friends. While they can have a wild nature, generally they tend to stick with milder behaving parties. Generally, they get along with most of the other water-dwelling races. The most obvious ability of these water-dwelling centaurs is that they can both breathe underwater and swim with great speed. They also have more physical stamina than any of the other aquatic races. All of them can communicate underwater and with a great many of the races that live there. Ichthyocentaurs tend to live for centuries.
The first two known ichthyocentaurs in Greek mythology were named Aphros and Bythos. They were the sons of the Titan God, Kronos, and the Goddess, Philyra.
From Scottish folklore, to Irish legends, to a mysterious Cornish mermaid, you’d be surprised by just how many mermaid legends exist within the British Isles.
Known as “maid of the wave” in Scottish Gaelic, this Celtic ceasg can be both a symbol of fortune and danger.
A ceasg’s appearance usually resembles the traditional depictions of a mermaid: beautiful and enchanting. Their tails are always one of a salmon or grilse – never being any other type of fish.
Ceasgs are known to grant their captors three wishes, asking to be released in return. Sailors and fishermen often sought out these mermaids, hoping to receive fame and fortune.
Sailors are also known to fall in love with a ceasg, entranced by their beauty. If a ceasg reciprocates these feelings, she will transform into a human and walk on land, giving her husband good fortune for the rest of his life by guiding him to the best fishing spots and protecting him from storms. Some Scottish families even claimed that their family descended from a mermaid-human couple. The ceasg can be immortal by putting their soul in an object, like a shell, and hiding it so humans can’t find it.
However, ceasgs aren’t always known to be such harmless creatures. Some stories claim they are easily annoyed, monstrous creatures that will lure any person that angers them to their death.
Merrowmaids stem from folklore all around the British Isles. In Welsh, they are called a murga, and in English and Irish versions they are known as a merrow or merrowmaid.
These Celtic mermaids are usually green in colour: with seaweed green hair and fish tails that vary in shades, as well as possessing webbed fingers and gills. In order to breathe underwater, they wear a magical red cap which grants them this ability. While the female merrows are beautiful and enchanting, the males are referred to as hideous, cruel and ugly. This often causes the females to date human males instead, and human males find them especially attractive.
Merrows are entrancing creatures: known to sing to sailors and drag them to the bottom of the ocean. They don’t drown their victims, however. Instead they enchant them so they can stay alive under the water to enjoy the company of the mermaids. Merrows are also known to fall in love with humans on land, and they’ll leave their homes to live with their husbands – even bearing children for them. But a merrow’s love for the sea overrides its love for everything else, and they will abandon their family on land to return to their true home.
Due to the common occurrence of merrows returning to the sea and leaving their lovers, the men found a way to prevent this from happening: they would steal their cap they needed to breathe underwater, preventing their mermaid wives to return to sea.
Some tales also mention merrows being able to transform into hornless cows, and sea cows are often believed to be Merrows in disguise.
Finfolk origins have their roots in both Norse and Celtic folklore, living in Scandinavian countries throughout the year and migrating to the Orkney Islands during the summer.
These mermaids are dark and gloomy creatures, feared by mortals. They tend to hunt in packs, are cunning, smart and dangerous, as well as beautiful and alluring. Unlike other mermaids, a finfolk’s aim is to force their captured prizes into marriage and slavery rather than eating or killing them for pleasure. When they are not trying to capture humans, they live in a deep water palace called Finfolkaheem which is a far off luxurious castle in the sea.
The appearance of finfolk are undetermined, some saying the resemble the usual depiction of mermaids but with gills and fins, while others claim they look almost entirely amphibious. Regardless of such, they lure in unsuspecting seamen with their charm and beauty.
Finfolk possess the ability to shapeshift, often into plants or sea creatures, which captures the attention of many an explorer. They are also able to control seas and storms, and have excellent boating skills. They have deep greed for things that sparkle like jewellery, coins, and other silver land dwellers can provide. If a victim were trying to escape, they could distract the Finfolk by throwing a silver coin their way and they just might have a chance of getting out.
The most dangerous mermaid in all of Celtic folklore, the Irish morgen is an evil water spirit notorious for drowning unsuspecting seamen. They’re cunning, evil and remorseless creatures, but said to also love nature and their aquatic environments.
As beautiful as they are malicious, morgens lure in innocent sailors with their beautiful appearances. Often, their hair is said to be heir greatest asset: long and flowing, and enticing to their male victims. When witnessed by a water’s edge, they can be seen combing their hair as they sing.
If their beauty alone isn’t enough to entrap a man, they use their powers of hypnotism to control their victims, lulling them into trances that make them susceptible to doing whatever the morgen orders of them. Morgens are also known to possess the ability to manipulate the climate, often casting treacherous floods that destroy crops and wipe out villages.
Morgens also live in underwater cities, with structures made of crystal and gold. Glimpses of these buildings from above the surface also inclines inquisitive seamen to explore them, only for the men to be lured to their death.
Selkies are seal-like mermaids from Celtic folklore, found all around the British Isles and have also been known to appear in Iceland.
These mysterious mermaids aren’t like many of the others other there. Instead of being half woman, half fish, they are beings that take on the form of a seal with the ability to transform into a human. Often, they are pale and considered generally attractive.
To transform from seal form to human form, the selkie sheds their skin, hiding them on the British beaches so that they can wear them again to return to the sea. Once they have shed their seal hide, they have legs that they can use to walk on land. They do not possess any magical abilities and have not been known to cause harm to humans.
As innocent and harmless as these mermaids are, sadly many find themselves living a life of misfortune. If a selkie’s skin is found by a man, the selkie must stay on land to be enslaved to the one who has their seal suit, forcing them to live on as their wife. Unfortunately, the selkies have an insatiable longing for the ocean and will desperately try to search for the skin. If they finds it, they’ll put it on and head straight for the ocean, never looking back. If they cannot find it, they often end up committing suicide out of misery from their life on land.
Mermaid of Zennor
Known as An Vorvoren a Senar in Cornish, this mysterious mermaid has been the talk of the town for centuries since she first arrived.
The mermaid of Zennor was mostly witnessed as a beautiful lady dressed in fine and wealthy clothes. She was a gorgeous figure and a mysterious stranger in the small town, so her beauty soon became popular discussion. Often, she is depicted with long flowing hair, with a mirror in one hand and a comb in the other.
She arrived one day in the Cornish village of Zennor in the medieval church between the West Cornwall moors and North Cornish coast. With such beauty, many men of the village wanted to be her suitors and took it upon themselves to find out who this beautiful stranger with an exceptional singing voice was. After a service one Sunday, the mermaid had smiled at a man named Mathew Trewella, so he decided to follow her, captivated by her beauty. She walked towards the edge of the cliffs and so did he. He was never seen again; many presume he fell to his death while others believed he was kidnapped.
After many years, Mathew’s unexplained disappearance became forgotten until one Sunday morning, when a ship cast an anchor off Pendower Cover near Zennor. The captain was sitting on deck when he heard a beautiful voice coming from the sea. When he looked, he saw a beautiful mermaid with long, blonde, flowing hair. She kindly asked him to raise his anchor as it was in the way of the doorway of her house, explaining she was keen to return to her husband Mathew and her children. This mermaid from the church was one of the daughters of Llyr who was King of the Ocean, and went by the name of Morveren.
Wary of the stories of mermaids, the captain weighed anchor and headed for deeper water fearing the mermaid would bring the ship bad luck. He did, however, return later to tell the townsfolk of the fate of Mathew. As a warning to other young men of the dangers of mermaids, the Mermaid of Zennor was carved into the church pugh.
An Asrai is a water faerie from Celtic and English folklore that only comes out at night.
Standing at only two to four feet tall, these gentle water fae are completely translucent with glass-like skin. If it’s foggy, it’s nearly impossible to see these beings due to their transparency. They can also be either male or female.
Asrais are shy and timid, and will rarely come in contact with humans. If they spot a human they will flee, making them very hard to capture. These creatures are rarely sighted, however, due to their watery appearance and nocturnal behaviour. If one is to see an asrai, it would be during a clear night in a still body of water. As water lovers, they never leave their aquatic area as they cannot come on land.
Often mistaken for sea ghosts, this being is rarely harmless, though malice has known to occur in these creatures. Generally, they remain calm until provoked. Their mystery is often sought after and those who do manage to capture one in a glass jar will find them gone by morning, as asrais cannot come out during the day. Some recon they melt away, others say they simply disappear.
The Inuit legends of Alaska, Canada and Greenland have a fair few stories of creatures lurking in their icy depths – some of them good and some of them … well, not so much.
Agloolik is a spirit that lives under the ice in the freezing waters of Inuit lands. It acts as a guardian for the seals, but is also know to aid hunters and fishermen. If prayed to, the spirit will bless them with successful prey.
Not much information could be resourced on this spirit, but it’s safe to say everyone can agree on it’s harmless and protective nature. Its appearance isn’t set in stone, either. Some depictions cast it as an amphibious-like being, some present it as more humanoid, while others just aren’t sure.
Fun fact: one of the craters on Jupiter’s moon Callisto is named after this water spirit.
Also known as a Qallupilluit, the qalupalik is a mermaid from Inuit folklore that is feared by many.
While westernised versions of mermaids are beautiful creatures, qalupaliks couldn’t stray further from this. They’re aquatic humanoids with scaly, bumpy skin; clawed, webbed hands with elongated fingers; and fins running down its back, neck and head. It’s also rumoured they smell of sulfur, wear eider duck clothing and can even have long, flowing hair, depending on its depiction. It’s undetermined whether qalupaliks are male or female. Some stories use the masculine pronouns, whereas they’re often described as feminine or androgynous.
The qalupalik lurks within icy, arctic waters of Inuit lands and is said to abduct misbehaving children. It’s believed the legend of this creature was spun by Inuit mothers who wanted to prevent their children from nearing too close to the water’s edge or thin ice. Another aspect to this legend is the strange humming noise the qalupalik makes; if one hears it, they should flee from the waters as a qalupalik is near. It’s also believed the humming noise will entice the children into the water.
When abducting children, the qalupalik carries an amautik – which is an Inuit baby carrier – on its back. The creature puts the children into this before taking them away. It’s unsure what exactly the qalupalik does with these children: some stories say it drowns the children immediately, others say they take them away to a cave and put them under a sleeping spell so they can remain on their young, innocent energy to remain immortal.
African mythology is, unfortunately, more swept under the radar despite the unique stories they have to tell – particularly their ones about water nymphs.
Mami Wata is an African water nymph in mythology, sacred to the Efik, Igbo, Ibibio, Bahumono and Annag people.
She’s often described as a mermaid-like figure with a nude woman’s upper body and the lower half of a serpent or fish. In other tales, Mami Wata takes on the form of a human, despite never being one. She is usually accompanied by a large snake that wraps itself around her, usually with its head between her breasts. Snakes are a symbol of divination and divinity, and as is her.
Her existence holds a lot of spiritual importance in the ancient traditions of coastal southeastern Nigeria. While commonly seen with a mirror in hand, Mami Wata is able to embody ritual performances and worship ceremonies for Africans through this instrument. Her mirror represents a movement through the present and the future; her devotees are able to create their own reality through an imaging of themselves in their own recreation of Mami Wata’s world. In this world, one can embody her sacred powers, fulfilling their inventions of their own reality.
She has been known to try and pass as completely human, sometimes taking on the form of a man as she has the ability to manifest in multiple ways and forms. She’s also been known to wander busy markets and bars.
Mondao are evil creatures from African Shamanistic traditions that will drown anyone that comes into contact with it.
The mondao are described in many different ways, sometimes as women with fish-like tails that swim in fresh waters and salt waters off the coast. In these depictions, they have long, black, shiny hair; extremely pale white skin; and deep red eyes. Others say they take on the forms of a giant sea snake.
Many witnesses claim numerous sightings of people being drowned to death by this evil being. People have been known to refuse to work near certain bodies of water they claim the creature lurks, and many not dare take any water from rivers before praying to the water spirit. Further inland, where it is desert and waters have long since dried up, ancient humans etched the story of the mondao into the natural landscape so future descendants would never forget.
This being has tremendous powers, and she is said to be in charge of money and abundance. In the form of a coiled up snake, she is said to symbolise awakened sexual energy or vital life force.
Maori folklore and spirits from the Solomon Islands, these beings from Polynesian legends aren’t something you want to run into on a swimming trip any time soon.
A marakihau is a type of taniwha – a water monster from Maori legend. These deadly beings are known to be guardians of the sea.
Marakihau have a human head and upper body, but with a dark, translucent tail which is often compared to the appearance of stormy seas. They also have skin like a dark seal and thick hair that resembles kelp. Their most notable quality is their long, tubular tong which is hollow and used to suck up prey.
These frightening beings were known to not only attack boats at sea and large shoals of fish, but also terrorise the people living on shore, before finally consuming them. There are even ancient stories of humans turning into a marakihau after death, many believing they were the spirits of departed men. They tend to swim alone, and will often attack those that step in their paths.
From the mythology of the Solomon Islands, adaro are malevolent sea spirits that take on a merman-like appearance.
Adaros can be described as shark-finned mermen with gills behind their ears, and a single horn growing out their forehead like a swordfish’s, sawfish’s, or shark’s dorsal fin depending on the depiction. They usually have shark fins instead of feet or their entire lower body are that of a shark’s.
Living in the Pacific Ocean, these dangerous creatures are said to arise from the wicked part of a person’s spirit. A person’s spirit is believed to be divided between aunga – the good side – which dies, and adaro – the evil side – which stays on as a ghost. However, some believe they don’t actually come from the ocean; and are said to live in the sun and travel back and forth to Earth by sliding up and down the rainbows. They also use sun beams to travel and often move about through waterspouts.
They’re most notorious for killing unwary fishermen by firing poisonous flying fish at them, usually aiming for the neck. They’re greatly feared spirits and are known to kill on sight. However, adaros have also been known to visit men in their sleep, and teach them new songs and dances.
Another more slept-on aspect of folklore and mythology, there are mermaids all across Asia, from Japan to the Philippines.
From Japanese folklore, the ningyo is known to have a terrible anger, followed by terrible consequences.
Contrary to the beautiful imagery that often depicts the westernised mermaid, the ningyo are described as giant fish with humanoid features and faces, and sharps horns and fangs. The scales of a ningyo are often a brilliant, dazzling gold in colour. Often, their faces are deformed with monkey mouths and their human arms can have long bony fingers with sharp claws. It’s also said the sound a ningyo makes is similar to a quiet skylark.
Ningyo have a terrible temper, are aggressive around anyone who dares to near it and have violent rages. When angered, ningyo can set off deadly storms and heavy floods, that can wipe out civilisations within hours or even minutes.
The flesh of a ningyo is said to be delicious and can bring eternal youth and good fortune onto those who consume it. However, this is not as easy as it sounds as capturing a ningyo is difficult and many are killed trying to get one. If they are successful in capturing one, terrible curses will be unleashed onto its captors. Ningyos are also known to cry tears of pearl.
Also known as the syokoy, the siyokoy are monstrous creatures in Filipino mythology.
They are usually illustrated as horrifying sea creatures with scales, webbed limbs, gills and fins – sometimes even with cephalopod tentacles. Some say their bodies are more fish-like while others claim they resemble aquatic humanoids. Their scaly skin is typically green or brown. These deadly sea creatures are known to snatch mortals, drowning them before eating them. Siyokoy will also intimidate other aquatic beings such as octopus, squids, eels and rays.
Slavic mythology and folklore is home to a variety of mythical creatures – some of them unnervingly evil.
Rusalka are ghostly water nymphs from Slavic folklore and paganism that dwell in lakes and rivers. Initial concepts showed them as kind beings who nurtured crops and water. However, after the 19th century, they became depictions of evil and malice.
Rusalka have translucent, ghost-like skin and long beautiful hair which is often blonde or red. They also possess human legs as opposed to a fish’s tail, as they are considered water nymphs and not mermaids. Their long hair is used to lure in victims where they either strangle them to death with, or trap them in their locks, holding them under the water until they drown.
These nymphs are evil creatures who enjoy killing humans for the thrill of it and will remain restless until their untimely death is avenged. They have dark pasts and dwell in the body of water in which they died violently in. It’s also believed that rusalki can change their appearance into what their victim would find most attractive. Generally, however, they’re considered to represent universal beauty.
Girls become rusalki by dying a tragic water-related death, often murders or suicides. These deaths can include: drowning themselves to escape an abusive marriage, being drowned by partners usually in the case of falling pregnant to an unwanted baby or, rarely, being murdered and having the corpse hidden in a body of water.
Germanic and European folklore is considerably quite popular, with an array of beautiful mermaids – one of them now depicted as a very popular logo.
Also known as a nix or neck, nixies are water spirits found in England and Germany, as well as Scandinavian countries.
Nixies are shapeshifters and can take on many forms such as humans and horses. When in human form, there are often telltale signs that they are a nixie in disguise. For example, they are elegant and beautiful, with sharp ears and bright eyes. Their hair may also be tinted blue or green, and clothes will always be slightly damp. Rarely, they can be seen with gills, or webbed hands and feet while in human form. As a horse, they will either appear as white or apple grey in colour, with dripping manes full of river reeds. These avid shapeshifters can also appears as merpeople, snakes, fish or even sunken treasures.
While nix are wise teachers and romantic figures, they are also dangerous and cunning. They have seductive qualities from their music and beauty, which they use to lure humans to the water’s edge. At last, when their prey is close, they grab their victims and drown them in the water. Males are better at luring women and children, while females hypnotise men better. Dropping a piece of silver or iron into a nixie’s home will silence it while you safely cross the water. Shouting their name can silence them forever as the Nixie will perish at the sound of their own name.
When they accept humans as students instead of victims, they can teach them wonderful musical abilities. Usually, they require payment for their lessons. A black animal, a gift of alcohol or tobacco, or a beautiful maiden can buy a nixie’s time.
Nixies can fall in love with humans. When they do, the humans can rarely resist returning their feelings. After all, these magical water spirits are both beautiful and spectacular at serenading their lovers. Most nixie-human relationships come to a bittersweet end as they can’t bear separation from their watery home and returns to life there, despite being deeply devoted to their human partner. If they can’t return to water, they become depressed and will eventually perish from longing for their river or lake.
When nixies appear as horses, they’re often subjected to tricks by local farmers, who want to harness their magical powers to a plow. A nixie might be lured into the field by a beautiful maiden, then forced into the plow’s harness by men with silver or iron.
Undines are harmless creatures from European tradition known to dwell in many bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, waterfalls and even fountains.
Undines are incredibly beautiful: with golden hair, green eyes and luscious lashes. They’re also known to have either a tail or human legs, depending on if they’re on land or in a body of water. However, as beautiful and gentle as these creatures are, they have no soul.
In order for these mermaids to gain a soul, they must marry a human. That is why they will attract unsuspecting men with their voices, then play the role of a victim in hopes they will fall in love with them. These relationships are not without risk: if he is unfaithful, she will lose her soul, and he will die.
Supposedly, undines have been on this earth since the beginning of time. Sometimes they are attached to a specific place such as a tree, plant, mountain or river. Undines are also known for protecting nearby waterways from pollution or poisoning by sewage or industrial waste. They cleanse chemicals, pesticides, and other substances from the water. They work relentlessly on the environment by controlling the tides as well as climate change.
That Starbucks logo looking familiar? You guessed it – their iconic imagery used on their cups is actually a picture of Melusine, a well-known nymph throughout European folklore.
Considered a water fairy, water spirit or water nymph, Melusine is usually depicted as a beautiful, young creature with the head and upper body of a woman and the tails of a fish or snake. She’s known to have two tails and can sometimes be represented with wings. Despite being charming and elegant, Melusine is an elusive and potentially dangerous water spirit, dwelling and and around streams, springs and other sources of fresh water. There are many legends talking of Melusine – hence why the popular water spirit was used as a certain coffee shop’s icon.
Melusine was the oldest of Pressina’s three daughters. An ancient French story tells that Pressina, who was a beautiful water fairy, married a human man but this union was not unconditional. It was based on a certain promise that the husband should never see her while she was delivering a child or bathed. Unfortunately, Pressina’s human husband was not able to keep such a promise. Excited and happy when he heard that his wife had delivered triplets, he entered her birth chamber. Surprised, he saw a very angry woman who immediately reminded him of his broken promise, then disappeared with the children.
Melusine grew up angry at her father for breaking his promise and therefore denying them the luxuries of human life. When she was old enough to take revenge on her father, she arranged a raid on her father’s castle, detaining him and all people around him inside a magical mountain. Her mother, however, did not like the daughter’s revengeful action and she cursed her to become a serpent from the waist down.
Mermaids are abundant in South American folklore, with helpful folks that protect others and malicious creatures that seek to kill.
Sirena Chilota is a herbivorous, kind and caring mermaid from Chilote mythology – a mermaid to not be afraid of.
These beings are youthful, beautiful mermaids that never age and have exceptionally gorgeous long, blonde hair. Their tails are also incredibly strong so they can swim long distances without ever getting tired.
The Sirena Chilota cares for all life: the oceans, nature, aquatic animals and people on the sea, known to rescue drowned sailors and restoring them to life before helping them back to dry land.
For those who have drowned and can’t be resurrected, they carry the dead bodies and their spirits to El Caleuche which is a ghost ship for those who died at sea. It is also said that a Sirena Chilota’s tears are very delicate and can be used in spells.
Encantado are dolphin mermaids from Amazon folklore. Although beautiful and talented, they can still pose a dangerous threat towards men.
The appearance of an encantado varies from story to story. Some declare them as pink dolphins who shapeshift into human form, while others says they are pink mermaid-like beings with dolphin features such as heads and tails. Regardless, they are always the same colour and when in human form, are young, beautiful and well dressed into clothing worn by the wealthy.
Found in the Amazon River, the encantado are excellent at singing, dancing and playing musical instruments. At night, they go into married men’s houses and place them under an enchanting spell. They then take the men to a nearby hut and visit them every year on the same night to mate. On the seventh night, she changes the man into a baby and transfers him into the man’s own wife’s womb. This is known as the cycle of a baby.
Besides the powers of enchantment they place on men, they also have the abilities to control storms, inflict insanity and illnesses and even cause deaths.
From Caribbean folklore, aicaya are a subspecies of mermaid that were once disowned humans. These mermaids are kind and caring souls. They’re deeply empathetic and want to help out others who have shared their issues. Aicaya are harmless yet highly emotional.
It’s unsure when exactly they first came about, but they were men and women who were disowned by their native communities and banished at sea. Now aware of the powers of isolation, aicaya seek out other people who have been disowned, abandoned or exiled at sea, or even those who have just gotten lost. They help these people out by transforming them into one of their own kind, so they may never feel lonely again.
This not-so-friendly immortal mermaid can be found in the freshwater river of the Amazon. Her name means “Lady of the Waters”.
Iara is the common depiction of a mermaid: beautiful, enchanting, with long flowing hair and a pretty fish tail on the lower half of her body. The exact description of her appearance varies; her eyes can be blue, green or brown, and her hair is known to be a variety of colours such as green, brown or black. While the legends do not agree on the image of her features, all can agree that Iara is of extraordinary beauty. The men find her irresistible and are so enchanted, that they will follow her to the bottom of the river without any concern for their own life.
Iara loves music, has exceptional musical talents and has even been known to make her own instruments. Once great warrior who turned mermaid, Iara now sits on the river rocks to comb her hair and lure men in with her beauty and singing voice. If Iara finds true love, she will make a good companion as they cater to all the needs of their lovers for the rest of their lives. However, Iara usually has evil intentions and normally plans to kill.
To conclude, mermaids aren’t always your typical fair-haired maiden singing harmonious melodies. Some are hideous, some are kind, some are downright evil.
If you’re curious to know what mermaid you’re most like, you can take the quiz here.