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Molly Childers : Multicultural Muses : Mermaids

Multicultural Muses

From Sirens to Selkies: Mermaids as Muses

By Molly J. Anderson-Childers

Ahoy, matey! Welcome aboard! This month, we'll be sailing the Seven Seas in search of the elusive mermaid, Muse of the Deep. Since ancient times, humans have been intrigued and inspired by these fish-tailed lovelies. A wealth of stories, poetry, art, films, and historical artifacts with mermaids as their subject can be found all over the world. Many mermaid sightings and encounters have been recorded.

Originally, mermaids symbolized the divine aspect of human nature. Fish are an ancient symbol of abundance, creativity, wisdom, and renewal. The combination of a fish tail and a female torso and head could be interpreted as a goddess symbol, or a powerful rendering of female sexuality. It may also symbolize the astrological sign of Pisces. (I'm a mermaid myself, born on the cusp of Aquarius and Pisces — I've always been secretly fascinated by mermaids — no wonder!)

Powerful beings, mermaids were ascribed many different powers — said to calm or cause a storm, they could sink ships or rescue them at will. They have been known to grant wishes, and have built castles and magical boats for deserving mortals, including one vessel that could never sink, and from which no man would ever be lost. They also possess the power to prophesy, and foretell the future in fits of divine madness. They can drive men wild with lust, heal their diseases and wounds, or curse them.

Later, mermaids were demonized. Churches all over the world used the mermaid symbol as a cautionary tale, turning these beautiful and mysterious creatures into grotesque, evil monsters with a taste for human flesh, who lured unwary sailors to a watery doom beneath the waves. There are still chapels which exist that depict beautiful mermaid carvings and stained glass, but many were destroyed after being deemed too distracting for parishioners!

Who are these strange creatures? What messages from the deep blue sea do they carry ashore? How can we decipher their secrets and give them something to hold? Where does the journey begin?

Years ago, when I first began my love affair with mermaids, I foolishly believed they were the stuff of old stories and legends, or an extinct race of aquatic beings that ruled the earth long ago. I later learned, to my delight, that mermaids are alive and well… and much nearer than you think! Mermaids can delight and surprise, inspire and intrigue you, if you will only open your heart to them. You may discover that you have been living right next door to a mermaid without realizing it… or you might find one looking out at you the next time you gaze into a mirror!

Please join me now for some fabulous fun inspired by those lovelies from the deep. We'll gaze into the Mermaid's Mirror, hoping to catch a glimpse of the truth within. I'll share a poem and an essay inspired by these Sisters of the Seven Seas, and share ideas for story starters and art projects — a veritable Mermaid's Treasure Trove of creative fabulosity!

A Cool Blue Word Pool: Jump In,
The Water's Fabulous!

If you'd like to do a series of creative writing and art projects about mermaids, it helps to have a word-pool to keep your inspiration flowing. Using small cards or scraps of colorful paper of different sizes, write down a few words you associate with mermaids and water, or ideas for stories, poems and art projects. Toss them into a fishbowl, and keep it on your desk. The next time you're stuck, don't give up — go fishing for an inspiration-fish! Draw out a few words or ideas and keep writing!

I'll help you get started with these… slippery, swimmingly, slithery fishes, opalescent, mother-of-pearl… lovely ladies with sweet voices to lure men's ships onto the rocks… fathoms deep, their treasures untold… otherworldly, divine, mysterious, beautiful, with cypress leaves in their hair, and sweet laurel… sing the rapture of the deep… pearls and rubies, rubies and pearls… Davey Jones' locker down below… the vasty deep… the wild water wondering, wandering, wandering the lonely seas, a sailor-man thinks he spies a friendly port, full of lights and dancing ladies, but he is much deceived and soon meets an untimely demise, for they are The Sirens, and not dancing ladies after all.

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