29 March 2021- Supernatural and Other World Beings

By | April 9, 2021

The session started looking at a selection of creatures associated with the natural world covering mermaids, water spirits, seal people, kelpies, all with watery connections.

Mermaids in Inland Water:-

By late C12th in western art the mermaid had acquired all her familiar features.  In western Christian imagery she was a symbol of lust & desire.

In British folklore, mermaids were associated with water, love, marriage, procreation , danger and also wisdom.

Examples looked at in the session were:-

Atargatis:- venerated in ancient Near East; associated with the River Euphrates; personified the light & aspects of love; by C2nd AD depicted as half woman/ half fish.

Aphrodite:- Greek goddess of love (Roman Venus); born from the foam of the sea: in Roman times depicted as rising from the sea holding a looking glass.

Sirens:- in Greek mythology lured sailors onto the rocks with their beguiling song; depicted as half woman/ half bird.

Child Ercall, Shropshire:- a mermaid guarded treasure at the bottom of her pool.

Rostherne Mere, Knutsford, Cheshire:- a mermaid swam from the River Mersey to the mere every Easter Sunday (by way of an underground channel) and rang a bell at the bottom of the mere.

Marden, Herefordshire:- a mermaid appropriated a church bell that fell into her river.

Black Mere, Staffordshire:- a mermaid lured unwary travellers to their deaths.

East Anglia:- mermaids haunted the fens and inland pools.

River Kinder, Derbyshire:- a mermaid with the gift of immortality appeared in a pool at dawn on Easter Day.

Loch Benachally, Tayside:- the Laird of Lornty escaped a mermaid in the loch.

Girvan Water, Strathclyde:- a mermaid cursed the Lord and Lady of Knockdolian.

Dalbeattie Burn, Galloway:- a mermaid took revenge on a Christian woman.

Monmouthshire:- Nicky Nicky Nye dragged unwary children into rivers.

Fordham, Cambridgeshire:- a mermaid dragged unwary children into her pond.

Rendlesham, Suffolk:- a mermaid dragged unwary children into her pond.

Lancashire, Cheshire, Shropshire:- Jenny Greenteeth dragged unwary children into weed-filled rivers, ponds, lakes.

Piercebridge, County Durham:- Peg Powler lurked in the River Tees.

Frig/Nerthus:- Germanic/Scandinavian Earth Mother.

Rivers Tweed, Dart, Till, Derwent, Ribble:- “demanded” a certain number of lives each year.

There was a discussion on the possible origins of Mermaids in Inland water sources

  • They could have been the goddesses or water spirits who guarded the pools and rivers in the pagan past when these sites were regarded as sacred places. Possibly the legends and tales may contain some dim “folk memories” of the rituals once performed at these sites.
  • On a more mundane level, the mermaid legends would also serve as warnings, to keep adults and children away from dangerous water.

We will have more to say about the mermaids and church bells in our next session (19th April).



Last Updated on April 9, 2021