Tuesday, July 12, 2011

More Bits About Merfolk and Souls

Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales From Around the World

Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales From Around the World has many references to souls in connection to the merrow folk. I wanted to share a few more of them today after yesterday's post of "The Soul Cages."

According to Thomas Keightley, many of these mermaid tales must be derived from the "ancient idea of the water-deities taking the souls of drowned persons to themselves. In the Edda, this is done by the sea-goddess Ran."

From Credulities Past and Present by William Jones:

In Bohemia, fishermen are afraid of assisting a drowning man, thinking the water-sprite will be offended, and will drive away the fish from their nets; and they say he often sits on the shore with a club in his hand, from which hang ribbons of various hues: with these he allures children, and those he gets hold of he drowns. The souls of his victims he keeps, making them his servants, but their bodies he allows to float to shore. Sometimes he changes himself into a fish, generally a pike. Sometimes, also, he is represented like the Western merman, with a fish’s tail. In the Ukraine there is a tradition that, when the sea is rough, such half-fishy “marine people” appear on the surface of the water and sing songs. In other places they are called “Pharaohs,” being supposed, like the seals in Iceland, to be the remains of that host of Pharaoh which perished in the Red Sea.

From Water Sprites and Mermaids by Fletcher S. Bassett

These mermaids particularly desire a human soul—a thing denied them by the churchmen. Paracelsus says: “So it follows that they woo men, to make them industrious and homelike, in the same way as a heathen wants baptism, to save his soul; and thus they create so great a love for men, that they are with men in the same union.”
From the middle-age treatise of Paracelsus comes the legend of Undine, whose story is so charmingly told by Fouque. She is really a water-sprite, who visits her foster-parents, and on one occasion sees and loves a wandering knight, who marries her, when she becomes the possessor of a soul, and various vicissitudes common to mortals await her. She once revisits the water-depths, and strange enough, returns unharmed, but the knight soon after dies.

I have Friedrich de la Motte Fouque's Undine in Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales From Around the World but it is also available on the SurLaLune website, too.

From The Fairy Mythology by Thomas Keightley, a German tale:

The Peasant and the Waterman

A WATER-MAN once lived on good terms with a peasant who dwelt not far from his lake. He often visited him, and at last begged that the peasant would visit him in his house under the water. The peasant consented, and went down with him. There was everything down under the water as in a stately palace on the land,—halls, chambers, and cabinets, with costly furniture of every description. The Water-man led his guest over the whole, and showed him everything that was in it. They came at length to a little chamber, where were standing several new pots turned upside down. The peasant asked what was in them. “They contain,” was the reply, “the souls of drowned people, which I put under the pots and keep them close, so that they cannot get away.” The peasant made no remark, and he came up again on the land. But for a long time the affair of the souls continued to give him great trouble, and be watched to find when the Water-man should be from home. When this occurred, as he had marked the right way down, he descended into the water-house, and, having made out the little chamber, he turned up all the pots one after another, and immediately the souls of the drowned people ascended out of the water, and recovered their liberty.
In Mermaid and Other Water Spirit Tales From Around the World, there is also the tale of "Lidushka and the Water Demon’s Wife" in which Lidushka is the heroine who frees the captured souls.

1 comment:

  1. Also in the religious vein, have you heard of St. Murghen? She was changed by God into a mermaid and later made a saint. You can read the story here: http://pivarski.watson.org/mermaid_saint/index.html

    Now that would be an interesting feast day to celebrate...