Tales of mermaids date back to the first written accounts of humanity, but how much do we know about the mythical sea creatures?
What is a mermaid?
What does a mermaid symbolise?
Africa: Mami Wata
Ancient Greece and Rome: Sirens and Mermaids
The mermaids of Greek and Roman mythology are considerably close to the appearance and character of the European myths we think about today.
Many ancient Greek myths equate sirens with mermaids. However, while they share many characteristics, they are now seen as two different entities.
Eastern Europe: Rusalki
Often translated as "mermaid," the Rusalki are water nymphs of Slavic mythology.
While initially regarded as benevolent spirits of fertility and agriculture, Rusalki gained a more sinister description in the 1800s. They were believed to be the ghosts of women who died violent deaths by drowning. In their anger and sorrow, the Rusalki now lured men and children to their watery graves.
Ireland - Merrows
Southeast Asia - Suvannamaccha
Scottish Isles and Scotland - Selkie
Western Europe: Melusine
What are the origins of mermaids?
Are mermaids lucky?
What is the difference between a siren and a mermaid?
Sirens cited in classical literature
- Aglaope ("Splendid Voice")
- Parthenope ("Maiden Voice")
- Ligeia ("Clear-Toned")
- Leucosia ("White Substance")
- Thelxiope ("Charming Voice")
- Thelxinoe ("Charming the Mind")
- Thelxipea ("Charming Song")
- Peisinoe ("Affecting the Mind")
How are mermaids depicted in art?
The Little Mermaid
Mary Queen of Scots, the Mermaid & the Hare
Frans Franken - Allegory: Ship of State
Evelyn de Morgan - The Sea Maidens (1886)