The Celtic Mermaid: The Old Man From Cury

An old man from Cury was walking along the seashore when he encountered a Celtic mermaid. She was sitting on a rock arranging her hair, and had not heard the old man approach. The tide had gone out but there are a large pool of water next to the rock which she used as a mirror. The man watched her for a moment then decided to speak. As soon as the mermaid heard his voice she slid off the rock and into the pool. The old man tried to talk to her but the Celtic mermaid was terrified and tried to avoid him. She could not escape to the sea because the pool had been isolated by the receding tide. The old man spoke to her in a soft, reassuring voice and at last she answered him. She was crying and begged him to leave. "I cannot," said the main. "It is not every day that I meet a merry-maid." ('Merry-maid' is the old word for mermaid.) He continued to speak to her gently and asked how she came to be on the rock. The mermaid replied that she and her merman husband and her two mer-children had been out swimming in the ocean all day. Her husband had grown tired and went to rest in a small cave. Her children playing in the waves, the mermaid had been lured on to the rock by the smell of the spring flowers. Once there she had begun dressing her hair. She had not realized the danger she was in till she heard a mortal suddenly speak to her.

"My husband is very cruel," she said. "When he wakes he will be hungry, and if there is no food around he may eat the children." Then she asked the old man to carry her to the sea, offering him three wishes if he would do so.

"I will not wish for riches or gold", the old man said,” but for the power to help others. I would like to be able to break the spells of witches, cure disease and discover thieves and recover the things they have stolen."

The Celtic mermaid agreed and the man carried her on his back to the sea. Once in the water she gave him her comb, and told him to come to a rock near the ocean in a few days and use it to comb the water and call her. She would come immediately whenever he called. Throwing him a good-bye kiss she dove under water and disappeared.

Some days later the old man combed the waters as the mermaid had said. She came to him then and began to instruct him in the magical arts necessary to do as he had wished. He learned charms to cure diseases, find stolen goods and break spells. He did many good things with this knowledge and his family prospered. He passed the secrets down to his children along with the Celtic mermaid's comb, which they have to this day.

Share this page: