Region of origin: Macedonia
The daughter of King Philip II and Nicesipolis and half-sister to Alexander the Great, Thessalonike would go on to become queen of Macedonia and the namesake for the Greek city Thessaloniki. By the historical record, her sons Antipater and Alexander clashed over her decree that the two would share power instead of Antipater ascending to the position and in retaliation Antipater had her put to death. However, in legend it was said Alexander (her brother) had provided her with water from a fountain of immortality which granted her eternal life after she bathed her hair in it. When Alexander passed on, a grief-stricken Thessalonike flung herself into the ocean but unable to die, she instead transformed into a mermaid. Driven mad, she would approach vessels and ask if Alexander was still king; appeased by an answer of “he lives and reigns and conquers the world,” she would let the ship pass but when any answered in the negative she would take on a monstrous form and destroy the ship and kill the sailors.
Originally posted on Tumblr on May 28, 2016
Region of origin: Western Africa, possibly modern-day Liberia or Nigeria
A water deity (or class of deities) of the Vodoun religion, the Mami Wata is venerated throughout communities in Africa and brought with the African diaspora to the Caribbean islands and surrounding regions. They often appears as a mermaid or serpentine figure and are said to live in a kingdom under the ocean, but will also come on land in the guise of a normal human. A creature of dual natures, worshipers believe that she can grant them great luck, great wealth and assist with health issues such as fertility, but she can also bring destruction, water-related deaths and disease, with many ailments being blamed as a result of the Mami Wata’s displeasure. This duality is represented by followers in the use of white and red in their clothing and iconography.
Originally posted on Tumblr on May 27, 2016
Region of origin: Northern France
One of three daughters of a Scottish king and the faerie Pressyne, Melusine was raised on Avalon away from her father because he had broken one of the taboo of the fae folk. Learning this on her fifteenth birthday, Melusine sought out to punish her father for his behavior but learning of her daughter’s attempts at revenge, Pressyne put a stop to it and instead cursed her daughter to take on a demi-serpentine form every Saturday. Years passed and eventually Melusine was married (to whom varies with the telling, but often a nobleman from Poitou) but forbade her husband from viewing her on Saturdays, locking herself away in a bath for the day. One day the husband’s curiosity got the better of him and he spied on her in her chambers, and, either through the terms of the curse or fueled by her own rage, Melusine’s serpentine form consumed her, turning fully into a dragon and flying away. Never able to return to a human form, she is said to live on, acting as a guardian of her descendants.
Originally posted on Tumblr on May 26, 2016
Region of origin: Brazil
A creature living in Brazilian lakes and other large bodies of water, the iara would lure men into the water with hypnotic songs, where they would live with and serve her. While the iara are immortal, their thralls would grow old and die as normal at which point she would seek out a replacement. Origins for the iara lore exist as one way of explaining what happened to people who had wandered into the jungle and never returned, and developed over time from a mixture of river monsters from traditional indigenous Brazilian mythology and the stories of European mermaids brought over by Portuguese settlers.
Originally posted on Tumblr on May 25, 2016
Region of origin: Thailand
“The Golden Fish,” Suvannamaccha is a daughter of the demon Ravana from versions of the Hindu epic Ramayana told in southeastern Asian countries. The monkey hero of the story, Hanuman, is sent by the god Rama to rescue his consort Sita after she was kidnapped by Ravana and kept prisoner on an island. To reach the island, Hanuman and his helpers began building a bridge but each day they would come and find their progress undone by Suvannamaccha and her fellow mermaids who had been sent by Ravana to hinder their progress. Instead of becoming angry, Hanuman began falling in love with his adversary and, eventually enticed her to stay and parlay, explaining why he was building the bridge. Learning the truth, Suvannamaccha reciprocated Hanuman’s love and ordered the other mermaids to return the rocks as well as assist in finishing the bridge. The two would have a son, Macchanu, who would go on to have his own adventures differing between versions of the Ramayana. In modern usages scrolls depicting Suvannamaccha are hung in Thailand as a good-luck charm.
Originally posted on Tumblr on May 24, 2016
Region of origin: Ireland
Water faeries of the Irish seas, the merrow had a conflicted relationship with humanity. Believed by many to be dangerous, stories warned the females, who appeared as beautiful women with the lower body of a fish, sang beautiful, hypnotic songs that lured people into the water where they drowned or were viciously torn apart by the merrow while the males, more monstrous and porcine in appearance, captured souls of drowned sailors and kept them in cages under the sea. Contrary to these negative depictions there were tales of merrow coexisting with people, shedding their skin like a selkie to take on a more human form when they came on land. Some even formed relationships and intermarried with the humans, although it was said any merrow living away from the sea would eventually languish and desire to return. The merrow wore a hat, known as a cohuleen druith, that if stolen would prevent them from being able to return to the sea.
Originally posted on Tumblr on May 23, 2016
Region of origin: Mi’kmaq tribes, northeastern North America
“Water people,” otherwise known as the Halfway People, were mermaid-like water spirits who held some sway over the weather and could bring storms. Their songs could be used to predict the weather by people who had learned to understand them. The sabawaelnu were generally well-natured but could become vengeful when wronged.
Originally posted on Tumblr on May 22, 2016