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Bridging the Gap: From Serpent to Fish

Last time, I talked about sea maidens in Asia, and how they compare to their Northern European cousins.  They obviously have a common link, which seems to be the true story of the Fall of Man as recorded in Genesis.

But…they look so different!  Sometimes it’s hard to see the link until you have an example.  And fortunately, we have two tales that bridge this divide, linking east and west…

Sirens: Bridging East and West

It would be unconscionable to do a series on mermaids without touching on the sirens, however briefly.  In our culture, sirens and mermaids have become synonyms, meaning a half-fish, half-woman creature.

But they didn’t start out that way.  The actual Greek Sirens from mythology were half-bird, half-women.  Not quite as alluring, is it?

That’s ok, because they were not meant to allure men – not with their bodies at least.  Fascinatingly, they allured with knowledge.[1]


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Serpent Women

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…