Creatures of the water: Mermaids and Undines

In a previous article we have already dealt with the spirits of nature, the ” little people “, the elemental beings who live and work in their natural elements which are: earth, air, water and fire.

And today, as you will have understood from the title, we are going to deal with the spirits of the water element: the undines, the sirens …

A mermaid is a legendary aquatic creature with the appearance of a woman (or man, merman) in the upper body and a fish in the lower body.

It should be borne in mind that this medieval-derived siren is totally different from the divine sirens of Greek mythology and religion, iconographically represented with the appearance of a woman in the upper part of the body and of a bird in the lower part.

The reality of mermaids, understood as half in human form and half in fish form, was hypothesized during the Middle Ages, when they were practically depicted alongside known aquatic animals, such as whales. Hundreds of years ago, sailors and residents of coastal towns around the world reported meeting the sea maidens. A story dating back to the 1600s stated that a mermaid entered the Netherlands through a dam and was injured in the process. She was taken to a nearby lake and soon healed. Eventually she became a productive citizen, learned to speak Dutch, did household chores, and eventually converted to Catholicism.

In the Liber Monstrorum , a medieval bestiary from the 8th century, the first literary attestation of Sirena as a fish-woman hybrid can be found:

(LA)
«Sirenae sunt marinae puellae quae navigantes pulcherrima forma et canto mulcendo decipiunt et capite usque ad umbilicum sunt corpore virginali et humano genera simillimae; squamos tamen piscium caudas habent, quibus semper in gurgite latent “

(ENG)
«Sirens are marine maidens who deceive sailors with their beautiful appearance and entice them with singing; and from the head to the navel they have the body of a girl and are in all similar to the human species; but they have scaly fish tails which they always hide in eddies “
(Liber Monstrorum, I, VI)

The Siren, in particular the two-tailed one, is an image often present in Christian churches. The most ancient testimonies can be found in the capitals of the cloister of the Cathedral of Monreale in Sicily and in the Monastery of Sant Pere de Rodes in Girona.

In the 16th century, mermaids were commonly depicted holding a mirror and a comb. According to the beliefs of the time, the mirror was considered a magical object: attributed to impure women, it was used to contemplate the face of death or to worship the devil.

Often the ancient ships had a figurehead on the prow (carved wooden figure) depicting a mermaid, as if the seamen wanted to avert the hostility of these aquatic creatures, through this singular homage. In the mid-19th century, the mermaid became the most common figurehead, being used as a talisman against storms.

In Cornwall the figure of the mermaid was also used to illustrate the two natures of Christ. While the mermaid was human and fish, so Jesus could be human and divine at the same time, a message that would affect the inhabitants of this isolated region whose lives were intertwined with the sea. Local legend of the Zennor mermaid claims that this figure commemorates a royal event from parish history, when the singing of a chorister named Mathew Trewhella, would lure a mermaid to come ashore from the depths of the sea. According to the story, every Sunday she sat at the back of the church, enchanted by her beautiful voice. One day, no longer containing his infatuation, he took him to the small stream that still flows through the town center and leads into the sea at nearby Pendour Cove. Mathew Trewhella was never seen again. On warm summer evenings, walking in the picturesque cove now called “Mermaid Cove”, the two lovers are said to be heard happily singing together, and their voices pass hearable through the roar of the crashing waves.

Mermaids and Tritons are very popular figures in Filipino folklore, where they are locally known as Sirena and Siyokoy respectively. Dugongs, sea turtles and small cetaceans such as dolphins usually accompany the Philippine Mermaid.

Mami Wata is a mermaid with magical powers, revered in many African countries, the Caribbean, Brazil and even in Europe. According to his followers, he lives in a beautiful city located at the bottom of the sea, but accepting his invitation to live in the city means accepting to abandon one’s life and being dragged forever into the depths of the ocean.

There have been many alleged sightings of mermaids throughout history.

In 1493 Christopher Columbus reported sighting mermaids while at sea. Columbus wrote in the logbook: “they are not as beautiful as they are painted, even if to some extent they have a human aspect on the face”. He also noted that he had seen similar creatures off the coast of West Africa.

In 1614, Captain John Smith of Jamestown, known for his brief association with Native American Pocahontas, reported seeing a mermaid off the coast of Massachusetts. Smith wrote that “her upper body is perfectly like that of a woman and she was swimming with all possible grace near the shore.” She had “large eyes a little too round, a finely formed nose (a little too short), well-made, somewhat long ears, and her long green hair gave her a curious character that was anything but unattractive.”

In 1857 The Shipping Gazette reported that Scottish sailors had spotted a creature off the coast of Great Britain. John Williamson and John Cameron stated: “We distinctly saw an object about twenty feet away from us in the form of a woman, with full breasts, dark complexion, comely face and beautiful hair falling into curls on the neck and shoulders. He was about halfway between the bottom and the surface, looking at us and shaking his head. The weather was fine, we watched the complete scene for three or four minutes ».

In 2009, reports from dozens of people sighting mermaids stimulated the municipal administration of Kiryat Yam, near Haifa, which decided to offer a million dollars to anyone who can prove with photos or videos that mermaids exist. “Many people tell us they are sure they have seen a siren and they are all independent of each other,” Council spokesman Natti Zilberman told Sky News. “People say I’m half girl, half fish, jumping like dolphins. They make all kinds of moves and then disappear.

Unlike the Gnomes, who are very awake and extremely curious about everything that happens around them, the Undines rather like to live in a “dreamy” spirituality. The inner life of the Undines unfolds as if immersed in a soft, suffused atmosphere, interwoven with light, evanescent, delicate feelings like the light of the Moon which, mysterious and poignant, is reflected on the water. 
The Gnomes are beings penetrated above all by intelligence, the Water Elementals, on the other hand, live in a special way of feeling: in fact, the latter do not perceive the Earth, the cosmos, the surrounding environment in the form of clear thoughts and ideas like the Gnomes but through changing “waves” of pleasure and sorrow, of joy and pain, of splendor and darkness.

Everything is understood and assimilated through the manifestations of sentiment and its multiform flows .

The star that rules the waters, which reigns over them unchallenged and mighty, is the Moon. And the Undines are devoted to the Moon, as to their inspiring guide: they live intimately united to it, to its rhythms, to its invisible spiritual being, to its secret breath that beats, right down, on Earth.

The Undines welcome in their being the most intimate characteristics of the Moon, its most occult and penetrating influences, and transmit them to their Element, Water, which thanks to them is enriched, nourished, lives on these lunar radiations which, at the gaze of the clairvoyant, appear as a very light and impalpable silver rain.

And precisely because of their devotion and dependence on the Moon, our Water Elementals are so evanescent, changeable, dreamy in their depths: in fact, in their interiority, they reflect the characteristics of the nocturnal star, dear also, in the world of men, poets and lovers.

Through the lunar rays the Undines perceive the pulsating life of the cosmos as a sweet, subdued and very distant song; in their golden reverberation they come to feel the life and activity of the highest celestial Entities, in particular of the Angels to whom they are particularly devoted.

They know that the Angels are beneficial higher spiritual beings, who protect and guard all that lives in the cosmos. They feel an intense reverence for them, and they yearn to one day be like you: becoming like them eternally radiant with love and cosmic wisdom.

On the soul of the clairvoyant the Water Elementaries generally exert an impression of great peace and serenity; when we manage to perceive an Ondina, a feeling of sweetness, gratitude and devotion pervades us, as if our heart were for a moment open to all the grandeur of the world of the spirit and its infinite beauty. It is as if, seeing an Ondina, we too came to dream her dreams, to listen to the song of the cosmos that she hears, to experience her own feelings, it is as if our thirsty soul was finally filled with a sweet nectar like honey is as invigorating as a spring of crystalline water.

The Undines have a mixture of conflicting feelings towards men: they consider us bizarre beings, rather superficial, and dedicated to activities that seem completely useless to them. The thing that amazes and disturbs them most is our need to live piled up in “concrete boxes” and to build complicated machinery for the most diverse needs: to travel, to communicate, to speed up our work.

It seems really strange to them that we “humans” are unable to be satisfied with what Nature offers us, and that we struggle to invent ever more abstruse systems, believing that they will improve our existence. For the Undines, in fact, Nature is an open book, and in it you can find everything you need. 

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