Mermaid Mythology

The oldest form of the mermaid in mermaid mythology is the goddess Atargatis from Syria. A famous statue of Atargatis shows her as a woman from the waist up and a fish from there down. Later, Atargatis was conflated with other goddesses (a fancy way of saying that she became so closely associated with other goddesses that they were considered the same), such as Aphrodite, Cybele, Rhea and the wife of Hadad (they were protectors of the city).

All sea goddesses inherit the sea's qualities. Just as the sea could be gentle and nurturing or violent and deadly, so could they. These are the same contradictory qualities we see in mermaids to this day: beautiful, cruel, tender, loving, destroying, etc. In a larger sense this is man's view of nature. The mermaid, a fantastic creature, is nature herself.


Mermaid Symbolism

Mythology is more than a bunch of stories. These stories have relavance to our lives today or they would not have endured as long as they have... Or remained as popular. Click here to see how mermaid mythology influenced, and formed, the life of one woman.



Aphrodite and Venus were identified with Atargatis
Poseidon (Neptune) and his son Triton were often described as mermen
Scylla, Glaucus and Circe form a famous love triangle
Thetis and Peleus, parents of Achilles

Russian and Slavic

The Rusalka, murder victims are transformed into mermaids.


Benten, a gentle sea goddess
Hoori, a mythic Japanese hero

North America

The Man-Fish - Shawnee
Salmon Boy - the Haida of British Columbia
Sedna - Baffin Island
Ne Hwas - water-snake-women
River mermaids - California


The mermaid wife story, a mortal tricks a mermaid
The vengeful mermaid of Scotland
Prince Ruad, a very old Celtic myth
Duke Magnus infuriates a mermaid
The unhappy mermaid, also from Scotland
Shannon, Irish river goddess
Aine, Celtic mermaid goddess


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