You - Mermaid! Your sea-green hair and sin-sweet
singing Bewitch me.
- Anne Marie Ewing
other female water spirits have appeared in folklore and religions around
the world for many centuries. They may be viewed as symbols both of
men's idealization of the feminine and of men's fear of women. There
is also ambivalence in women's views of mermaids, which may represent
subservience to patriarchy, as in The Little Mermaid, yet also
embody female freedom and power, as in images of goddesses.
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has not yet entirely explained away the mermaid who, like the Loch
Ness Monster, still lurks on the borders of credibility. As long
as parts of the world's oceans remain a mystery no doubt people
will continue to believe in the existence of hidden submarine beings.
Reported mermaid sightings while much diminished still occur, and
the remoter regions of Scotland, traditional haunt of the mer-folk,
have supplied several twentieth-century eye-witness accounts testified
to with much apparent sincerity.
In an attempt
to rationalize such sightings, science has produced a sea mammal
theory reliant on the possible confusion between the mermaid and
a surfacing sea cow or basking seal. As the explanation goes, sailors
long at sea were so desperate for the company of women that their
minds tricked them into seeing beautiful mermaids, curiously spying
on their ships from the waves. A lively imagination would be required
for such misidentification at closer range, however; particularly
in the case of the two favorite sea cow contenders, the dugong
and manatee...A chance meeting between a dugong and a mermaid demonstrates
the unlikelihood of mistaking one for the other.