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Myths and Legends Pop Culture

Feast of Li Ban Muirgen, The Irish Mermaid Saint

Saint Li Ban Muirgen of Ireland

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.

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Myths and Legends Pop Culture

The Sultry Starbucks Siren

Starbucks is the largest coffee chain in the world, and it’s synonymous for it’s addicting coffee and siren logo.

It’s not a coincidence that since Starbucks was founded in a port city, that it’s logo and name would be inspired by the sea.

Starbucks got it’s name from Starbuck, a character in Herman Melville Moby Dick. The company’s founders added the “s” at the end, so the name could be more conversational and easier to remember.

The medieval mermaid that inspired the original Starbucks Siren logo design

Starbucks sultry, bare breasted, two-tailed logo was risqué when it opened it’s doors in Seattle, Washington in 1971. It’s founder’s found a Nordic 15th century woodcut of a bare breasted, twin-tailed siren and they thought she was perfect! The mermaid exemplified the seductive and alluring nature of the sea.

It has also been speculated that Starbucks Siren could’ve also been inspired by a very famous medieval two-tailed mermaid…Melusine.

The medieval siren, holding up her twin-tails revealing her genitalia signifies the power of femininity and fertility.

As the years progressed, the Starbucks logo became less risqué and more refined. Overtime, the designers decided to cover the siren’s bare breasts with her long, luscious hair, another notable feature of a siren. Sirens were known to comb their luscious locks of hair to lure sailors to their untimely death.

 

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Myths and Legends Pop Culture

The Legend of Moana-Nui-Ka-Lehua

Official Disney Moana movie still

Did you know that Disney’s 2016 film Moana is based on a Polynesian legend?

Moana-Nui-Ka-Lehua was a Polynesian water goddess/mermaid, who resided in the ocean between the two islands Hawaiian islands of K’aui and O’ahu. It was Moana’s duty to guard the Ka’ie’ie Channel with the help of two two shark gods named Kuna and Kahole-a-Kane.

According to some legends, Moana appeared as a fish, while in others she was as a half-human half-fish hybrid (mermaid). Moana had the power to summon storms whenever she wanted.

Official Disney Moana movie still

Moana according to legend, wasn’t always the well-mannered goddess as depicted in Disney’s film version of Moana. Like many other deity’s and goddesses, Moana was mischievous and playful.

Moana prevented the volcano/fire goddess Pele from being with her human Lohiau by brewing a storm, so that the couple couldn’t go beyond the reef to be married.

However, there was one god, who could match Moana and that was Maui. Moana met the fisherman god, Maui (the island of Maui is named after him), when she found him fishing in her waters. She snatched his fishhook from the rock it was sitting on.

Maui, was known for being a trickster god and wasn’t going to take Mauna stealing his fishhook lightly. So, he pursued Moana, until he was able to capture her. Maui, then brought Moana to shore, where she passed away. Maui, paid his respects to the mermaid goddess by burying her body and built a shrine in her honor. Moana’s spirit was metamorphosed into a oli’a lehua, which is one of Hawaii’s most sacred trees.