Bullies and Saints Book Review

Title: Bullies and Saints: An Honest Look at the Good and Evil of Christian History Author: John Dickson Brief Description: This book gives snapshots of Christian history – from just after Christ to present – enumerating instances where Christians have succeeded in showing Christ’s love and instances where they have Read more…

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Paracelsus’ Water Women

“To God everything is possible….For he wants to be looked upon as a God who is marvellous in his creations.”[1]

“There is also a true story of the nymph in Staufenberg who sat on the road in all her beauty and served the lord she had chosen.”[2]

As I said last time, we have left the realm of reality and entered into the land of fairies.  Echoes of our historical priestesses are preserved, but the direct links are severed as history gives way to folklore.  Many of the true stories are grafted into the medieval romances of the day.  We saw how this specifically happened with the King Arthur legends, and it occurred all over Europe.

However, one important thing changed over time: sea maidens were no longer looking for salvation, but for souls.  And what is more, most clergy denied them this…


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Looking for Fairies

What is the Christian equivalent of a fairy? I cried in earnest.

I don’t think my husband ever expected to be asked such a question.  It is a strange question, I suppose.  But after reading Paracelsus’ theories on supernatural beings (which we’ll cover next time), it was a natural question for me.  Paracelsus goes into great detail about how supernatural beings serve a divine purpose, which includes “water women” – our sea maidens.  I think most of what he says is wrong, but it made me think: what is the Christian equivalent for middle-ground forces?

Christianity has never been good at the both/ands of the world, even though it’s so crucial to our faith.  We split everything into light and dark, good and evil.  And yet, there is a middle ground where the two seem blurred.


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Caught in Transition: Liban the Mermaid

I love the story of Liban, for it reflects God’s heart so beautifully!  God longs for all to be saved, and He’ll stop at nothing to make Himself known.  Liban is unique: she was a mermaid who became a saint.  Rather than be reviled and judged, she was accepted and hallowed.

And despite all odds, it shows how some sea priestesses felt the tug of the Gospel on their hearts…

Liban of Lough Neagh

Liban was a lovely young woman whose family died when Lough Neagh overflowed.  She, however, “lived for a whole year with her lap-dog, in her chamber beneath the lake, and God protected her from the water.”[1]  Sounds like Noah, which makes sense – many water deities echo the truths of Noah,[2] having been corrupted over time.


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Historical Mermaids: Caught in Transition

Last week we discussed the attributes of the Celtic priestesses who became our “mermaids.”  What did these powerful women do when faced with Christianity?  Fortunately, our stories show us some tantalizing glimpses…

The Lady of the Lake

As I said last week, I got the idea of mermaid stories having their roots in historical priestesses from Norma Lorre Goodrich’s King Arthur.[1]  Although she did not make this connection, the Arthur myths seem to (almost) perfectly capture the transition from priestess to water spirit.  One of these women is the Lady of the Lake, who I believe to be a remnant of the undine tradition.


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Historical Mermaids: Priestesses

For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God ~ 1 Corinthians 3:19a

The story of Svané got wrapped up in something bigger than her: an ancient religion.  It’s unclear what this religion was, and frankly it doesn’t matter for our purposes.  What does matter is how it shaped the women we know today as “mermaids.”

I originally got the idea of these mermaids – or sea maidens – being priestesses from an offhand comment in Norma Lorre Goodrich’s King Arthur.  While speaking of the Lady of the Lake, she describes her as a queen, “or, as the Irish say about their ancient kings, she was a priestess.”[1] I don’t know for certain that my supposition is correct; however, I’m fairly confident that it is a viable theory.  How else can we explain the traits of our mermaids?


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Svané and Rosmer the Merman

“Then wrought proud Lady Svané lyle what Rosmer little wist; for she’s tane out the goud sae red, and laid herself i’ the kist”[1] ~ describing Svané’s ruse to escape from Rosmer (i.e. she took out the gold and put herself in the chest)

Not all kidnapped women were mermaids; occasionally, mermen would capture mortal women and take them into the sea.  Such was the case of Svané, who was stolen from her mother’s home in Denmark.

The story of Rosmer Hafmand was written down in the Kaempe Viser, a Danish work composed in the early 1500s, and finally written down in 1591.[2]  It has three renditions of this tale, two with an “Eline,” and one with Svané.  The only one in my collection was Svané’s story, and I could not find the other two anywhere except in summary.  It is, however, the first of the collection,[3] and from what I can go off of, it seems the most authentically Danish.  After all, “Eline” is not really a Danish name…


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“Turkish Gudda”

 “Guðríður’s remarkable story—of a common woman who survived nine years of slavery and returned home, becoming a respected pastor’s wife—is considered to bear witness to a woman of stronger character than most.”[1]

“She is considered to have travelled the road of suffering and the cross, but prevailed to gain a new lease on life and love.”[2]

Mermaids in our stories always return home, unblemished from their time on land.  The real kidnapped women do not.  Most of them never return; the ones who do are not considered “unblemished,” as Turkish Gudda’s story shows.

I don’t know how God will redeem all of her story, but it is a powerful testimony.  Or should I call it a “mermaid tale”?



God and the Mermaid

“You cannot realize our free and untrammelled existence” ~ the Mermaid to Old Man Lutey[1]

This series seems to be one of fluidity – it’s always changing, always surprising.  I had all sorts of disparate ideas about mermaid stories, and I’m beginning to see them all come together in a way only God can do.  

The Lessons

Last time, I talked about our “questions” and lessons, but I want to expound upon them further.   We are all trying to answer these two vital questions:  “Do I have what it takes?,” and, “Am I worthy of love?”  We talked last time of how mermaids answer our questions for us; however, only God can truly fulfill those questions.  He gives us the ability to “do what it takes” in any endeavor, and He gives us our worth.  

What we turn toward to answer our “questions” determines what type of “mermaid” we are.  Either we are “worldly mermaids” or “godly mermaids.”  And as such, everyone has a “mermaid tale.”  I think that’s why there are so many mermaid stories – they all resonate differently with each one of us, according to our life stories.  Or, some may say, testimonies.

“Worldly mermaids” turn to the world to answer their questions.  And sometimes the world answers in a positive way…at least it often does in our stories!  And so I found myself asking: how do you convince those who think they’re free that they are not free?  After all, we all know those people – the unbelievers who truly seem to be better people than we are, who embrace a “what will be, will be” attitude. Like the mermaid above, they tell us we “cannot realize their free and untrammelled existence.”  How do we show them that they do need Christ?  How – when Christianity looks like such a fetter to most people?