The Velvet Chamber
An Anthology of Revisioned Myth and Fairy Tale

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

A siren song

The first known mermaid stories appeared in Assyria, ca. 1000 BC. Atargatis, the mother of Assyrian queen Semiramis, was a goddess who loved a mortal shepherd and in the process she accidentally killed him. Ashamed, she jumped into a lake to take the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine beauty. Thereafter, she took the form of a mermaid; human above the waist, fish below. In other versions of the myth, the seal wife, called a selkie, marries a mortal man but always yearns for her home in the sea.  She is exiled on earth.  Her husband has hidden her pelt--- but after many years, and several children, when his guard is down, she finally finds it. She wraps it around her mortal body and jumps into the sea. She leaves behind her family and descends down into the water, Queen of the Underworld, Neptune's daughter--- some say she still lures men to a watery grave, but, at least, she says, I am home again.


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