Multicultural Muses

Muses to Inspire Creativity

Sirens to Selkies: Mermaids as Muses

Fish-Tailed Lovelies Symbolizing Abundance, Creativity, Wisdom, Renewal

By Molly J. Anderson-Childers | Updated September 9, 2018

Ahoy, matey! Welcome aboard! Today 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!

Creative Mermaid Visualizations, Writing Prompts, and Story Starters

Join me for some creative fun inspired by these lovelies from the deep. We'll gaze into the Mermaid's Mirror a creative visualization, 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 words: 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.

The Mermaid's Mirror: A Creative Visualization

Mermaids are often seen holding a mirror. Legend has it that anyone who gazes into the mermaid's mirror will see her Truest Self. Read this visualization, then close your eyes and picture the scene. Afterwards, create a poem, story, or painting to celebrate! You may also wish to journal, create a ritual related to this vision, or explore it more deeply in future creative visualization sessions.

Imagine yourself on a tiny boat at might, sailing a calm sea beneath a full moon. The motion of the waves rocks you gently, and makes a soft sound like whispering. Suddenly, the whispering becomes a song — a beautiful, mysterious siren's song, promising wishes and desires granted, secret treasures, grand adventures. You spy a small rocky island to the starboard side, and sail closer to investigate. As you approach, you see a lovely mermaid sitting upon the rocks, combing her pearl-studded hair and smiling into the silvery surface of a mirror.

"Would you see your Truest Self Divine, mortal?" she asks.

"I would, if you please," you reply. It is always wise to be polite to mermaids. They can be dangerous when crossed.

"Then swim to me!"

With no hesitation, you leap from the deck and swim with all your might towards her rocky island in the waves. When you reach the shore, she reaches down one lovely hand to help you up.

"Because you came to me without fear, I recognize you as one of my own. I will let you see your reflection."

She turns the mirror towards your face. What do you see? Look as closely as you dare! When you are finished, the mermaid begins to sing again.

Mysteriously, your tiny sailboat begins to approach the island against the wind. She is calling it, as a man might call a faithful hound, and it obeys her, inching its way to the shore and remaining steady as you step inside. As you leave, the mermaid utters a strange word.

"I will protect this vessel always, and the one in it, while I might none will ever be lost from it's deck, and she will never sink."

Then she whistles up a wind to send you sailing safely home.

End your visualization session here, knowing you may return to these enchanted waters any time you have need.

Selkie Story Starter: Write Now!

Selkies, or seal-women, are magical creatures which can appear as human females or seals. With the aid of magical sealskin cloaks, they make the transformation from one to the other whenever it suits them. Some mortals have attempted to entrap these gentle creatures by taking their cloaks from them to prevent them from returning to the watery realms below, always with disastrous results.

I'll give you the first scene of a short story about Selkies, and you supply the rest!

Once upon a time, but not so very long ago, a man was out walking by the river late at night with his dog. They came upon a strange scene — seven lovely women, dancing naked near the shore. The man was too shocked to speak or make a sound, but the dog began to bark. Quick as winking, the seven women dressed themselves in magical sealskin cloaks and were transformed into seals. They slipped into the water and swam away. The man could not believe his eyes, and vowed to return the next night, hoping to find the Selkies dancing beneath the moon.

What happened next?

The Mermaid's Tale: In Defense of Our Use of Sex as a Deadly Weapon

By Diamrem A. Mermaid

Mermaids have long been accused of lewd and lascivious behavior designed to drive men out of their minds with lust. Of this, we are definitely guilty, but we view this as self-defense, even self-preservation rather than an attack of the innocent, with malice aforethought. I'll explain that in a minute. Furthermore, you claim that we have committed countless murders, drowning our helpless victims in hurricanes, or calling malicious curses down upon their heads. All of this is true. I admit to all these so-called "crimes," and a million more! But I maintain that they are acts of self-defense, rather than hostility.

Men sail to our islands from every port on the planet, each hoping to conquer our people, enslave us, and claim our homes for their own. They come like a ceaseless tide, breaking upon the rocks. Many have come — many have been broken. They come to take us, steal our treasures, and claim our secrets for themselves.

They were armed with cannons and guns, knives and long spears, and what weapons did I have? Only this body, this spirit, this mind — and all flesh is weak. Just this: my cunning crimson lips, ripe with sweet song and rich with riddles; my raven curls, an indigo splash of night-time I ply with pearly comb and scallop-shell brush, then dress with hyssop and water-myrtle, and precious jewels and keys; my knowing eyes, dark and deep enough to drown in — and many men have, chappie, many men have; just my perfect self in a seashell bikini, my graceful hands and iridescent scaly tail, my golden wings — just this heart no man can tame — this fearless heart. so wild and free!

The Mermaid Queen's Lament

Oh my love
I see her still blue face
forever gazing into the moon's mirror, admiring her dark curls all crowned with cypress leaves and pearls,
her inviting smile that tempts and knows too much.
Lady, you are a mystery, wild and shrouded by deep water/ always water/ever-flowing, all a-shining.
Proud and strong.
Take me to the Palace of Lost Dreams and Broken Hearts
Swim with me through these rooms of ruin.
The Red Tower draws ever closer now,
I cannot see to fight.
And so, my merry mermaid friends, it's time to say goodnight. Only love can save me now, only love, and light!

This poem was inspired by a recent encounter with a mysterious mermaid and her mirror. I saw within this magical looking-glass a beautiful mermaid with milk-blue skin like a shining full moon, and indigo curls caught with stars. My Truest Self Divine revealed — amazing!

Next Muse: The Fire of Inspiration: Pele

©2007 Molly J. Anderson-Childers. All rights reserved.

Inspirational Mermaid Quotes

If you want to learn more about mermaids, read Theodore Gachet's Mermaids: Nymphs of the Sea, a wonderful resource for all things mermish, as well as a feast for the eyes, with interesting photos, beautiful artwork, and whimsical, fun overlays.

Some of our most prominent and talented writers have been inspired by these fish-tailed beauties:

"And if the earthly no longer knows your name whisper to the silent earth I'm flowing. To the flashing water say, I am." — Rilke, The Sonnets to Orpheus

"Go, and catch a falling star
Get with child a mandrake root
Tell me, where all times past are,
Or who cleft the Devil's foot,
Teach me to hear the mermaids singing."
— John Donne

"I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each. I do not think that they will sing to me. I have seen them riding seaward on the waves; Combing the white hair of the waves blown back; When the wind blows the water white and black. We have lingered in the chambers of the sea; By sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brown Till human voices wake us, and we drown." — T.S. Eliot, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


9 Greek Muses
Calliope: Muse of Epic Poetry
Clio's Lessons
Erato: Art and Soul of Sensual Poetry
Making New Music with Euterpe
Melpomene: Muse of Tragedies and Elegies
Polymnia: Muse of Sacred Song, Lyric Poetry
Terpsichore: Muse of Music and Dance
Thalia: Athenian Muse of Comedy
Urania's Meteor Shower

Elemental and Multicultural Muses

Zarpandit: Ruler of Moon & Night
Finding Yemaya: An Adventure At Home
Ninsaba's Garden of Dreams
Leanan Sidhe: Dark Faery of Emerald Isle
La Fauna: A Journey to the Heart
Soaring with Hopi Butterfly Maiden
Seeking the Elusive High Desert Gnome
Sirens to Selkies: Mermaids as Muses

The Fire of Inspiration: Pele
Water: Fount of Inspiration
Earth: Creative Bedrock
Air: Soaring with Swans
Dark: Muse of Shadows
Light: A Return to Joy
Dancing Stones at Cornwall
Landscape for Writers
Nature: Muse, Healer, Guide
The Chaotic Muse
Fear: Muse & Motivator
Dreams as Muse
Story as Muse
Coming Home
Be Your Own Muse
Inner Muse Interview

Badonsky's Nine Modern Day Muses

Bea Silly
Muse Song
Shadow Muse
Arnold (Bodyguard)