These beautiful creatures appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, with the first stories appearing in ancient Assyrian legends. Mermaids have been associated with negative events such as storms and shipwrecks, but there are also stories where they provide great treasure or fall in love with sailors.
Are mermaids real? Maybe! There is a rare congenital disorder known as Sirenomelia, which is referred to as “mermaid syndrome”. A child can be born with his or her legs fused together. In the animal kingdom, Manatees use arms for steering and paddle for propulsion. These animals have the remnants of legs floating deep in the muscle – and mariners before the mid-nineteenth century referred to them as mermaids. It could very well be that our ancient legends are based on prehistoric humans born with conjoined legs, surviving their deformity to swim along the coasts of seaside villages.
From history, the logbook of the English pirate Blackbeard records that he saw mermaids and kept away from waters which he thought were “enchanted”. Some sailors and pirates believed that mermaids brought bad luck and might bewitch them into giving up their gold.
The world of sailors and mermaids is no doubt a complicated one. It is filled with the longing for good luck, good weather, and attaining hordes of riches. Many legends of good fortune are often tamed by the fear of being dragged to the bottom by these mischievous, mysterious and beautiful exotic creatures – so sailors beware!