January 27th is the feast day of Saint Li Ban Muirgen of Ireland. She is a lesser-known mermaid Saint of Ireland and her story is miraculous and mystifying.
Saint Li Ban Muirgen’s story dates back to the 6th century and passed down generation to generation with the oral tradition of scéalaíocht or storytelling. It was also was preserved in the medieval manuscript of Annals of the Four Masters, which isa compilation of medieval Irish legends written by Irish monks in the 17th century.
So, who was this mermaid Saint?
Our story begins in the year 558. Li Ban (meaning beautiful woman in old Irish) was the daughter of Eochaidh, King of Ulster. When her father’s kingdom flooded, drowning all its inhabitants except for Li Ban and her dog, forming the Lough Neagh Lake.
Li Ban spent the next year, living under the lough with her dog. She would pray to the goddess Danu, asking to be turned into a salmon, so she could swim with the fish for company. Danu, did grant Li Ban’s wish, but only half of it. Li Ban’s dog became an otter and she was transformed into a mermaid.
Li Ban swam out of the lough and out into the sea. She lived in an underwater cave and like most mermaids, had the most beautiful singing voice. Li Ban drifted for three-hundred years, fulfilling a prophecy:
Liban will swim eastwards, westwards, hither, thither, over each sea.
300 years had passed, when Comgall had founded the monastery in Bangor, that is known as the Bangor Mor. The Bangor Mor was revered throughout all of Ireland and became a place, where many young men came to study.
One day, Comgall sent Beoan and the monks to Rome with a message for Pope Gregory. While they were out at sea, Beoan caught Li Ban in his fishing net and she promised to return to them in a year.
A year had passed, Li Ban came ashore as promised, and Comgall baptized her with the name Muirgen. Li Ban passed away not long after her baptism. Comgall had promised Li Ban a heavenly reward and she became known as the Mermaid Saint.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Saint Li Ban Muirgen’s story is that there are remnants of it today. If you journey to Bangor, there is an abbey that remembers Comgall and the mermaid with a quilt, hanging on the transept wall, depicting the story of the mermaid.
Yasu Matsuoka is a self-taught Japanese artist, who creates beautiful mermaid and mythology-themed art. He creates art for a variety of spaces varying from private collectors to art galleries to interior design installations.
Yasu Matsuoka’s digital illustrations are so unique, because they tell a story of his own imagination. His passion for fantasy worlds, mermaids, and stories is apparent in his work.
You’re instantly drawn to the world he’s created with its vivid colors and exquisite details. The juxtaposition of his pieces are reminiscent of classical paintings.
Yasu Matsouka also known as Yasu Art Studio on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter has gained a large following for his awe-inspiring fantasy art.
I highly recommend that you follow him. You won’t shell-gretic it!
Alfred Lord Tennyson had written a poem titled The Mermaid that was included in his 1893 novel, The Works of Alfred Lord Tennyson. The poem below:
Who would be
A mermaid fair,
Combing her hair
Under the sea,
In a golden curl
With a comb of pearl,
On a throne?
I would be a mermaid fair;
I would sing to myself the whole of the day;
With a comb of pearl I would comb my hair;
And still as I comb’d I would sing and say, Who is it loves me? who loves not me?
I would comb my hair till my ringlets would fall
Low adown, low adown,
From under my starry sea-bud crown
Low adown and around,
And I should look like a fountain of gold
With a shrill inner sound,
Over the throne
In the midst of the hall;
Till that great sea-snake under the sea
From his coiled sleeps in the central deeps
Would slowly trail himself sevenfold
Round the hall where I sate, and look in at the gate
With his large calm eyes for the love of me.
And all the mermen under the sea
Would feel their immortality
Die in their hearts for the love of me.
But at night I would wander away, away,
I would fling on each side my low-flowing locks,
And lightly vault from the throne and play
With the mermen in and out of the rocks;
We would run to and fro, and hide and seek,
On the broad sea-wolds in the crimson shells,
Whose silvery spikes are nighest the sea.
But if any came near I would call, and shriek,
And adown the steep like a wave I would leap
From the diamond-ledges that jut from the dells;
For I would not be kiss’d by all who would list,
Of the bold merry mermen under the sea;
They would sue me, and woo me, and flatter me,
In the purple twilights under the sea;
But the king of them all would carry me,
Woo me, and win me, and marry me,
In the branching jaspers under the sea;
Then all the dry pied things that be
In the hueless mosses under the sea
Would curl round my silver feet silently,
All looking up for the love of me.
And if I should carol aloud, from aloft
All things that are forked, and horned, and soft
Would lean out from the hollow sphere of the sea,
All looking down for the love of me.
A popular Cornish folklore is the Mermaid of Zennor. The mermaid is beautiful, but there is one detail about this legend that is distinct from other mermaid legends. The human is the one with the enthralling singing voice, not the mermaid.
The small town of Zennor in St. Ives, is known for two things: The Mermaid of Zennor and the Mermaid chair (located inside St. Senara’s Church).
The legend is about a beautiful, young woman, dressed in fine clothes, who attended mass occasionally at St. Senara’s Church, located in the small coastal village of Zennor. The mermaid named Morveren never aged, which baffled the parishioners, who had seen her attend mass for years, and would watch her from Tregarthen Hill. Morveren was the daughter of the sea king Llyr and resided in Pendour Cove, which wasn’t that far from St. Senara’s Church.
After many years, Morveren became smitten with Matthew Trewella, who was “the best singer in the parish”. Matthew was known for having the most beautiful singing voice and was incredibly handsome. She was so infatuated with him, that she only attended mass to see him sing.
Matthew, eventually figured out that the beautiful woman, was a mermaid disguised as a human. It didn’t take long for Matthew and Morveren to fall in the love. Yet, one thing ached Morveren. She desperately wanted to tell Matthew, that she was a mermaid, since she couldn’t be with him on land, knowng that she had to return to the sea.
When Morveren told Matthew that she had to leave, he told her that he couldn’t live without her in his life. So, Matthew followed Morveren to Pendour Cove, where she jumped into the water and he did the same. It is said, that they lived happily in the sea.
Locals wondered what had happened to the happy couple, since they had simply disappeared.
Years later, when a mermaid appeared to sailors, asking for the anchor to be raised, since she couldn’t reach her children. The sailors kindly obliged and raised the anchor for her. It’s speculated that the mermaid they had seen was none other than Morveren, the mermaid who had lured Matthew to live with her in the sea.
Pendour Cove locals say on calm nights, Matthew’s sweet voice can be heard over the waves. That if his voice is high, the waters will be calm, but if it his voice is low, it will be rough waters. Even in the ocean’s depths, Matthew still sings his love and devotion to the Mermaid of Zennor, Morveren.
But our story, doesn’t end there.
Inside, St. Senara’s Church at Zennor, there is a 15th century, medieval seat carved with a mermaid. The Mermaid Chair as it’s called, depicts a mermaid holding a mirror and comb. It is said, that the mermaid in the carving is the Mermaid of Zennor and that this was the very seat, that she would listen to Matthew sing at the parish.
Kaysha Siemens was born and raised in Canada, and currently resides in the state of North Carolina, USA. She is a very talented artist and illustrator, whose main mediums are graphite and oil.
Her style is unique and full of exquisite detail. Kaysha’s figures are flowing and fluid, while her backgrounds are linear and structured. This style gives Kaysha’s art balance and pulls you into her work!
Kaysha’s main source of inspiration is Greek Mythology. Her MNEMOSYNE collection is a compilation of all of her works inspired by the Greek Mythologies. MNEMOSYNE is the Greek Goddess of memory and the Mother of the Greek Muses. The Greek Muses were connected to the arts and to knowledge.
Kaysha’s art and illustrations showcases an array of monsters, gods, goddess, NEREIDS (mermaids), and TRITONS (mermen).
According to Greek Mythology, the water nymphs were subcategorized into three kinds of species. The OCEANIDS resided in the sea, NEREIDS lived in freshwater and seawater, and the NAIADS lived in springs, lakes, and rivers.
Kaysha’s mermaids are straight out of a fairy tale. In fact, none of her mermaids are identical. They’re unique and have their own personality in their own little under the sea havens. Each mermaid is full of elaborate details, such as their hair and intricate tails. Her work is as compelling as a mermaid luring a sailor out at sea, singing her euphoric song!
Kaysha Siemens is definitely an artist to follow and she’s currently open for commissions!
According to the legends in the Ukraine, the Rusalky, Rusalka or mermaid was a young, attractive water nymph who adorned her long green or blonde hair with wreaths made of marsh. Perhaps, the most prominent features of a Rusalky was their almost translucent skin and their eyes that were a green fire. They also have the ability to transform into animals, whenever it pleases them.
The Rusalky were the souls of drowned girls and unbaptized children, who reside in underwater crystal palaces for majority of the year, until springtime.They would however, emerge from the water on Rusalka Easter (six or seven weeks after Christian Easter), where they would come to land to dance and play.
In early June, during Rusalka Week, is when the Rusalky is said to be at their most dangerous. It is said, that during this time of year, people avoid swimming, in fear of being pulled underwater by the water nymphs.
When a Rusalky, is on land, they appear to be beautiful, lighthearted young girls, but they aren’t. They are dangerous creatures, especially towards humans. It is said, that a Rusalky had the power to enthrall a man with her voice, and would then proceed to drown or tickle him to death. She could also kill a man with her sensual laugh.
If a man wanted to protect himself from the Rusalky, he would wear an amulet made of wormwood or lovage, or carry pieces of lucky cloth.
The Rusalky are in many ways, the classic mermaid. They’re beautiful, yet dangerous creatures.
Poseidon was the son of Cronus (the youngest of the 12 Titans) and Rhea (Cronus sister). Cronus was the god of agriculture. Rhea was the goddess of fertility. Poseidon was the brother of Zeus, the King of the gods and of Hades, god of the underworld. Poseidon, like Zeus was one of the most revered gods in Greek Mythology.
Poseidon ruled over the oceans and was the god of the sea, earthquakes, flood, drought, and horses. Poseidon’s legendary trident was created by the Cyclopes, the same beings who created the thunderbolt for Zeus and Hades helmet. The trident is a fishermen’s spear.
Poseidon, like his brother, Zeus, had a weakness for human women and had many children with them. He had Pelias and Neleus with Tyro, who was the daughter of Salmoneus, who was part of the royal family. And many of Poseidon’s descendants would become rulers of Greece.
Poseidon had other children, that were giants and savage creatures. Most notably, Polyphemus, Orion, and Antaeus.
Poseidon was also known to have consorts. Progenitor, was one of them.
He was married to the Oceanid Amphitrite. Together, they had the sea creature, Triton. Triton became a powerful figure in Greek mythology, like his father Poseidon.
On the Faroe Island of Kalsoy, a territory of Denmark, there is a small village, called Mikladalur. In Mikladalur, there is a legend about a young farmer who falls for a Kópakonan or selkie and how he tricks her to be his wife.
Legend has it, that a young farmer grew up listening to stories about the selkies, so he decided to wait for them to come to land, to see if the stories were true.
Every year, on the 13th night of the year, the selkies are permitted one night on land, where are permitted to go to land and have fun.
The young man watched in astonishment, as the selkies swam in a large group towards the rocks in a great magnitude. They shed their skin (sealskin/pelts) on the rocks, and they appeared to be normal human beings. The selkies frolicked and danced on the shore and the young farmer was mesmerized, by what he was seeing. The selkies, did in fact exist, and they were enchanting.
For a selkie, their sealskin or pelt, was what made them what they were. It was apart of them, as much as the ocean was. Steal or possess their skin and you possessed them.
One beautiful selkie, in particular, caught the young farmer’s attention, so he snuck up, and stole her sealskin.
As the sun, began to rise, the selkies began to gather their sealskins and retreated back to the sea. That is, all for one. The selkie, whose skin was stolen by the young farmer, couldn’t find hers and she panicked, since she could smell it, but couldn’t find it. It was then, that the young farmer, came out from where he was hiding, holding her skin. She begged and pleaded for him to give her her sealskin back, but he refused and made her return to his farm with him.
He married the selkie and she had several children with him. To guarantee that the selkie would be his forever, he locked away her sealskin in a chest, so she couldn’t return to the sea. The chest was locked with a key, which he kept on him at all times, on his belt.
One day, the man forgot his key, when he went on a fishing trip with his friends. He was devastated, at the realization, that his selkie wife would return to the sea. He cried to his fellow fishermen, “Today my wife shall lose my wife!”-the man explained the story to the men, and they took him back to shore. He was distraught to see that his children were abandoned and that his wife was gone.
His wife went to the shore, with her sealskin and dove into the water. In the water, waiting for her, was a bull seal, who had waited many years for her return, for he had loved her very much. The children, she had with the Mikladalur man, went to the shore and a seal prevented them from entering the water. It is believed that the seal who stopped them, was their mother.
Many years had passed, since the Mikladalur man had seen his selkie wife. He was planning to go with the other Mikladalur men on a seal hunting excursion in the caverns. One night, his selkie wife, came to him, in his dreams. She warned him, not to kill the large bull seal for he was her husband and not to kill two seal pups for they were her sons. She described their skins to the man, so he would know, what they looked like and know not to harm them. The man woke up, not taking the warnings in the dream seriously and went to the caverns with his friends to hunt seals. They killed the bull seal and the two seal pups and divided the bounty amongst themselves.
That evening, as the man cooked head of the bull seal and the flippers of the seal pups over a large fire, the seal woman appeared in the form of a terrifying troll. She was mortified when she saw the head of her husband and limbs of her children. She yelled and cursed to the farmer in her grief, “Here lie the head of my husband with his broad nostrils, the hand of Hárek and the foot of Fredrik! Now there shall be revenge, revenge on the men of Mikladalur, and some will die at sea and others fall from the mountain tops, until there be as many dead as can link hands all round the shores of the isle of Kalsoy!”
Shortly after placing her petrifying curse, she vanished, and there was thunder. She was never seen again. The eerie part though, is that every once in a while, men of Mikladalur are drowned at sea or fall of the cliffs. It is unknown, if this is related to the curse of the selkie, but its an eerie coincidence to say the least.
In August 2014, a statue of Kópakonan or Selkie was raised in Mikladalur, on the Faroe Island of Kalsoy, in honor of the legend. The statue can withstand 13 meters of waves.
Remarkably, in 2015, there was a terrible storm and the statue was able to withstand a 11.5 meter wave. The statue remained firm and there was no damage whatsoever.
The statue of Kópakonan is as strong as the Kópakonan herself.