A head with long flowing hair, a chest that looks human enough, but a tail instead of legs. Mermaids have been apart of just about every culture since ancient times.
Atargatis is credited with being the first mermaid. She was a powerful priestess in ancient Assyria, who fell in love with a shepard boy. He was only a mortal and did not survive their intimate time together, and Atargatis was absolutely distraught. She soon found out that she was pregnant with his baby. After giving birth to her baby girl, Semiranis, on the land she threw herself into the Ocean in an attempt to drown herself. But her beauty and power were so great, the gods did not allow her to die, instead she was transformed into a mermaid and made goddess of the seas. The worship of Atargatis spread to Greece and Rome, but she was considered the main goddess worshiped in Syria. She is a fertility goddess of earth and water. Doves and fish are considered sacred to her.
Mermaids and Sirens are both beautiful and mythical female creatures. But they do differ in appearance. A ‘mermaid’ in folklore is a female marine creature, having the head, torso, and arms of a woman and the tail of a fish. A Siren in Greek Classical Mythology is one of several sea nymphs, part woman and part bird, who lure mariners to destruction by their seductive singing. Both attract the sea sailors and navigators with their alluring and fascinating nature.
Then at some point, the sirens lost their feathers in a singing contest with the Muses, and being now no longer able to fly, flung themselves into the ocean – where they either perished or transformed into mermaids, depending on which legend you read.
The Romans adopted the Sirens into Roman mythology as women with a fish tail, and that became the much-preferred interpretation in later times. The Sirens were supposedly daughters of the river god Achelous.
Later yet, the Greek and Roman mythologies on Sirens were mixed with local myths, legends and beliefs in other cultures. In many languages today, the word “siren” is synonymous with mermaid.
Mermaids have always been apart of cultures around the world since then. One of the most famous stories about a mermaid is “The Little Mermaid” by Hans Christian Anderson which was published in 1837. Disney then made the story into a movie in 1989.
Mermaids continue to be apart of our culture and inspire us. People continue to report mermaid sightings today, just as they’ve done for thousands of years. Most to the time, these “mermaids” turn out to be manatees, but the deep ocean remains one of the most underexplored places known to humans. Only five percent of the seafloor has been topographically imaged, which leaves 65 percent of the entire planet (not counting land masses) relatively unknown. So, mermaids just might be out there…
Smita. “Difference between Mermaid and Siren.” Different Types of Music | Different Types of Music, 10 Aug. 2015, http://www.differencebetween.info/difference-between-mermaid-and-siren
Dictionary.com, Dictionary.com, http://www.dictionary.com/browse/siren.