On the other side of the globe, our sea maidens look somewhat different.  However, (I know it’s bad to generalize, but…) they are very similar to our Northern European maidens.  They are beautiful water deities who can bring both good and ill.  Some of them are major deities, who are associated with beauty and lust/love, just as Aphrodite/Venus were (who also is said to have come from the sea).

This should not surprise us.  After all, the oceans and seas are all relatively the same.  They are beautiful, and can bring both good and ill to those who travel upon her.  There is a musical quality to the sea, and those who love the sea seem “called” as if by a voice to keep returning.  Thus, it would make sense that aquatic deities across cultures have similar powers.

But as I said, their look changes.  And the look makes all the difference in the world…

Serpent Women

Serpent women are found across the continent of Asia.  There are two types of serpent women: actual snake women, and dragons.  In India, they have half-human, half-snake women, called naginis (nagas for males).[1]  In China, the snake goddess Nuwa rescued China and became the mother of mankind.[2]

In addition, water spirits “often ally themselves” with dragons.[3]  The Japanese Benzaiten (who was originally a Hindu goddess), is a water deity who shares similar attributes with Aphrodite/Venus.  The difference is that she’s often depicted as “riding a dragon – sometimes a sea snake or sea serpent” and can “transform herself” into a snake.[4]

China also has many “female dragons whose magical qualities and dazzling beauty remind us of mermaids in other cultures.”  They live in the water, but can become human or fly if they want.[5]  In fact, “in Japan and China the word for mermaid means ‘dragon wife.’”[6]

We can easily see the similarity between serpents and fish; after all, if you do not see the fins, a tail might indeed look like a snake!  And the word “serpent” in the old days was a synonym for dragon.  And so these differing beings must have a common origin!

In fact, I believe they do.  For women and serpents go way back…to almost the dawn of time.

Of Women and Snakes

Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”  The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden.  But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’”  

“No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman.  “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will be opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”  Then the woman saw that the tree was good for food and delightful to look at, and that it was desirable for obtaining wisdom. So she took some of its fruit and ate it; she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it….

So the Lord God called out to the man and said to him, “Where are you?”  And he said, “I heard You in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.”  Then He asked, “Who told you that you were naked? Did you eat from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”  Then the man replied, “The woman You gave to be with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate.”  So the Lord God asked the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “It was the serpent. He deceived me, and I ate.” (Gen. 3:1-6, 9-13)

The Serpent and Our Stories

This Truth was never entirely forgotten, but it was warped to be almost entirely obscured.  Man associated the snake with woman.  He conflated them into one being: the serpent woman.  Or, a dragon…for references to dragons in the Bible are often symbolic of the serpent of old (Rev. 12).

I can almost hear the evil, jubilant laugh of the serpent: for in these tales, the woman is part of the snake…and, as in the one Chinese myth, seen as a savior.  Of course the serpent would want to be seen as our savior, and of course he would warp man’s memory, twisting it in this way.  And if he can’t be the savior, then he will ruthlessly inspire the degradation and vilification of women, as the myth of the Sirens shows.

Granted, this doesn’t mean man is innocent – “the devil made me do it” isn’t an excuse.  But deception, evil, and lies are the devil’s chief tools in this spiritual war (John 8:44).  And these stories are ammunition aimed at mankind.

The Redemption of Serpent Women?

This is the primordial root of our mermaids.  I hate saying it, for I want our sea maidens to be wonderful, wild and free!  I want to redeem them.

Up until now, every story I’ve dealt with in this blog has been connected to Europe.  Our Western culture is solidly founded on European culture, and thus I felt comfortable interpreting the stories in light of the Gospel.  But these stories are different.  I do not know their culture.  I have not studied their intricacies.

And therefore I cannot say in full how God will entirely redeem these stories.  But I know he already has in part.

Eve, Havah.  She was the original “mermaid,” and she was wonderfully free and wild in God’s lavish love while in the Garden.  Sin tarnished the initial image, but she was still wild and free in Christ…How do I know?

Her name.  The man could have named her death or destruction.  Instead, he named her “life” (Gen. 3:20).

And life – abundant and wild and free – is what the mermaid has always stood for.  And God redeemed her story in the acts of His Son, Jesus the Messiah.

Then the Lord God said to the serpent:….I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed.  He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel. (Gen. 3:14-15)

And I have enough faith to believe that one day God will redeem each of these “serpent women” individually.  Just as he did for all our other sea maidens.  After all, He is the God of Salvation.



[1] Skye Alexander, Mermaids: the Myths, Legends, and Lore, (New York: Adams Media, 2012) 148.

[2] Ibid., 165.

[3] Alexander, 153.

[4] Ibid., 154.

[5] Alexander, 163.

[6] Ibid., 167.

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