Mermaid Tails
A look into mermaids & mermaid costumes
Mermaids
History & Background information.
Mermaid Folklore throughout the Different Parts of the World

Tales of mermaids have been spread since around 1000 BC, when the ancient Assyrians believed the goddess Atargatis fell in love with a mortal man but accidentally killed him. As penance, she dived into a lake and took the form of a fish, but her divine beauty could not be hidden and the story spread of a beautiful half woman, half fish creature haunting waterways throughout the Near East and Ancient Greece.

However, this myth evolved to say Alexander the Great’s beloved sister Thessalonike was transformed into a mermaid after her death. Legends say that she would approach ships and ask sailors one question – “Is King Alexander alive?”. The correct answer, of course, was that “He lives and reigns and conquers the world”. This answer would please Thessalonike and she would calm the waters for a safe voyage; any other answer would cause her to fly into a rage and stir up a terrible storm – thus, the beginnings of the “wrathful mermaid” stories were born.

Travelling west to the British Isles, fear of mermaids is a common theme in ancient folklore as they are seen as bad omens which both foretell and cause terrible tragedies. However, on the Isle of Man, mermaids were known as ben-varrey and were considered to be both bountiful and kind. One of the most popular tales of the ben-varrey saw a baby mermaid steal a doll from a human child, yet after the mermaid’s mother learned of this she insisted the doll should be sent back with a gift of a pearl necklace to atone for this sin.

Another, more sinister, story comes from Japan, where the mermaid comes in the form of a ningyo – a fishlike creature where, rather than receiving or bestowing gifts, humans must consume the flesh in order to gain amazing longevity.

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