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21 Facts about Mermaids

Mermaids have always been shrouded in mystery, being so alluring, yet ever evading to the public eye. But many people claim to have seen them. Are they like the sailors of the 1800’s, tired, sick and potentially delusional? Or are they lying?

Mermaid sightings go way back. Even Christopher Columbus wrote about seeing mermaids on his voyage.  Could mermaids really exist and what would they be like? In this article I will answer questions about mermaids and share about mermaid history, mythology, pop culture, and media.

1. What is a mermaid?

A mermaid is an aquatic creature that has the upper body of a human and the tail of a fish, instead of legs.  In legends, mermaids are depicted as beautiful women, known for their enchanting song.

black mermaid tail silicone

2. Are mermaids real?

We can only speculate the answer to this question. Mermaids are considered mythical creatures, but there is still the question of where the myth of mermaids came from. Perhaps there is truth to legend.

It is believed that the sailors of olden days who wrote about seeing mermaids were actually delirious from months at sea and mistook manatees for mermaids. Manatee tails are resemblant of a mermaid tail and when you’ve gone so long without seeing a woman, you might just imagine one.

mermaid manetee

That may or may not be the case. Mermaids may seem like something out of the imagination, but the majority of the ocean has been unexplored so we can’t rule out their existence.

There is a scientific theory that life originated in the sea and everything evolved from there, eventually to the point of creatures leaving the sea. What if mermaids are the missing link? Perhaps they are our evolutionary ancestors.  While science does not confirm this, it is just something to ponder about.

It is a great mystery. Do we discount all the tales of mermaid sightings as merely lies or delusions?

3. Where do mermaids live?

This is kind of a no brainer. Mermaids live in the sea and inhabit marine areas all around the world, according to legend. But there are also stories of mermaids living lakes and rivers.

Mermaids are also common as spiritual beings, or deities. These mermaids are more metaphysical and cannot be seen, but can be prayed to and communicated with.

Mermaids may also live in Atlantis. The Lost City of Atlantis is a fictional island that sunk and is now submerged. In some stories and movies mermaids live there.

Mermaid with seal habitat ocean underwater swimming

4. What are the recorded mermaid sightings

Mermaid sightings have been reported by many sailors and pirates throughout history. The theory is that they actually were mistaking a manatee for a mermaid, but who knows? Here are a few historical accounts of mermaid sightings.

Christopher Columbus- Christopher Columbus was the first documented account of seeing a mermaid. He wrote that the mermaid was not as beautiful as legend, and had a masculine face. It is believed that it was really a dugong that he saw.

John Smith- There is a story that John Smith, of Jamestown, sighted a mermaid. He said she was graceful and “by no means unattractive.” It is debatable whether it is historically accurate or just the story of a writer.

Edward Teach – Edward Teach was an English pirate who sailed around the West Indies. He was famously known as Blackbeard. He was a huge man and one of the most dangerous pirates around. In a log book it is recorded that Blackbeard made an order to steer clear of a certain area that he believed was inhabited by merfolk.

Mermaid sightings pirate

5. What are the Mermaid hoaxes?

Many people have tried to capitalize on mermaid beliefs. People thought they could profit off selling mermaid hoaxes, tricking the public. Here are a few instances of that.

P.T Barnum- Phinneas Taylor Barnum is the founder of the Barnum and Bailey circus. He was an American showman known for promoting hoaxes. One of those hoaxes was the “Feejee Mermaid.” It was the upper half of a dried monkey sewn to the tail of a fish. This was on display in the 1840s and created a mermaid craze in New York. Barnum teamed up with Levi Lyman, who posed as a naturalist to sell the mermaid to the public. It was a success and Barnum took it on a tour in London.

feejee mermaid

Jenny Hanivers Sailors around the world in the 16th century earned extra income by creating Jenny Hanivers as novelties to tourists. They were advertised as mermaid bodies, but they were actually ray carcasses that had been dried and carved. They were debunked in 1558 by Swiss naturalist Konrad Gesner.

Mermaids: The body found- Animal Planet aired this mockumentary full of fake footage that many people believed to be real. It promoted a narrative about real mermaids being creepy humanoid creatures who live in the depths of the sea. It attacked the subject very scientifically sounding and many people were fooled.

Mermaid documentary animal planet

6. Are sirens and mermaids the same?

While the word ‘siren’ is a translation of ‘mermaid’ in many languages there is a difference between the two. According to folklore mermaids and sirens are not quite the same. You’ll find that the aquatic humanoids in The Little Mermaid are far different than the ones in the show Siren.

Sirens and mermaids are both half human, half fish. In fact, sirens are often considered to be a different type of mermaid.

Sirens are predators. Sirens are the bad guys, the ones who lure sailors to their deaths. The ones who you picture with spikes, sharp teeth, webbed hands and fierce eyes. They are portrayed as monstrous beasts who eat humans in some cases.

Mermaid vs siren

Sirens of Homer’s Odyssey were violent creatures who lived on an island and would sing a song to entrance any sailors who ventured near. They would drive them to their death. In some Greek art, sirens were depicted as a bird figure with a woman’s head.

Mermaids are beautiful, enchanting creatures who sit on the beach singing lovely songs. They are the ones who will rescue a drowning sailor and drag him to the shore. They are the ones who will fall in love with humans and transform into one themselves.  This is a generalization, but more frequently than not, this is the case for mermaids. Some stories portray mermaids as evil. 

7. Are mermaids dangerous?

Mermaids have been depicted as dangerous in certain films and stories, but they are often known to rescue sailors. It just depends on the work of fiction they are in.  Generally, it is sirens who are considered to be dangerous.

However, with mermaids and humans being closely related, there are likely to be a few bad eggs. Mermaids are able to experience emotions, and probably have ideas of right and wrong. This means there could definitely be mermaids who choose to do bad things.

Mermaid rescue sailors dangerous

8. How do sirens kill?

Sirens are known to use their haunting voices to lure sailors to their death. How they actually kill them varies. In some folklore sirens drag sailors to the bottom of the sea and they drown. In other tales, the ship crashes into rocks and kills everyone aboard. But there are also tales of man-eating sirens! Sirens may be bloodthirsty, whereas mermaids prefer a different diet.

9. What do mermaids eat?

It really depends on the mermaid. Most people would simply say “mermaids love seafood!” AKA fish, clams, crabs… Then there are mermaids like me, who say “fish are friends, not food!” Vegetarian, or herbivore mermaids, eat plants like seaweed.

10. What is the mermaid mermaid anatomy?

People often want to know more about the anatomy of a mermaid. What we know is that a mermaid has the upper half of a human body and a fishtail for their lower form. Some assumptions can be made based on this information.

They have the same skeletal structure of a human’s torso and would also have the same organs and internal functions. However, mermaids have the lower half of a fish, so they likely means their reproductive system would be that of a fish.

mermaid skeleton anatomy organs muscles

11. How do mermaids reproduce?

Having the lower anatomy of a fish, it is likely that mermaids reproduce in the same way as fish. Fish, and therefore mermaids, do not have external parts. Fish reproduce in a number of ways, depending on the species. Fish have similar reproductive organs as humans, except they are not external.

The female will lay the eggs and they will be dispersed through the water where the male will fertilize them. But some fish engage in a form of intercourse or a mating ritual. There are also types of fish that can fertilize themselves.

The best hypothesis for mermaid reproduction is that they mate in the same fashion. I imagine mermaids likely have some sort of intimacy, in a more human-like process.

Mermaids also are known to be polyamorous. In other words polyamory is the practice of, or desire for, intimate relationships with more than one partner, with the informed consent of all partners involved. It has been described as "consensual, ethical, and responsible non-monogamy".

Another plausible option would be that mermaids are mammals and reproduce like dolphins. They would keep their baby in their belly until it is ready to be born. For the birth the scales of their lower abdomen you stretch in a vertical line to let the baby pass outside. 

pregnant mermaid drawing

12. How are mermaids born?

Once again, assuming mermaids reproduce the way fish do, mermaid babies would be born by hatching from eggs.  Though it is possible for mermaids to get pregnant and give live birth like dolphins.

Watch this amazing video of a dolphin birth.

13. What is mermaiding?

Mermaids have enchanted humans for years. As kids we all imagine being mermaids while we go swimming. Now, we can engage in an activity that actually transforms us into mermaids. “Mermaiding” emerged around 2004, with the appearance of professional mermaids such as Hannah Fraser, Linden Wolbert, Melissa Dawn and Mermaid Kariel. (Most of them giving a magical twist to the sport of freediving)

Currently there are thousands of mermaid performers and enthusiasts around the world. What they all have in common is that they love to put on a mermaid tail and swim in the water, gliding gracefully and powerfully with their monofin propelling them. To learn more about mermaiding, check out this article.

Conventions and competitions take place around many different regions. It is easier than ever to meet and engage with other mermaids, through these events and through social media, and websites like Mernetwork.com.

Mermaiding

14. How to become a mermaid

Becoming a mermaid is something many dream of, and we want to help you accomplish that dream. The internet makes it easy to access resources on how to become a mermaid and how to swim like a mermaid.

Aquamermaid is a company that provides swim lessons and educational content on Youtube and through blog articles. We teach kids and adults how they can become a mermaid, and we even sell tails.

In a nutshell, to become a mermaid, first you need to be able to swim. Secondly you want to buy or make a mermaid tail with a monofin inside so you can swim properly. Then you use a swim stroke called the dolphin kick.

If you get really good at swimming like a mermaid, you may consider becoming a professional mermaid. Professional mermaids make money by performing as mermaids either in a tank or for pool parties and events.

How to become a mermaid

15. Why become a mermaid?

There are many reasons to join in on mermaiding. It is a hobby that anyone can join, regardless of age, gender, or size. It is a growing trend that many partake in. They can all attest to the benefits of mermaiding. There are definitely some downsides to mermaiding, but we think the pros vastly outweigh the cons.

Pros of mermaiding:

  •         It is good exercise especially for your core muscles.
  •         It is a fun activity
  •         It helps with mental health, with the calm and quietness underwater
  •         It gives you confidence, you because a center of attention and feel pretty being a magical creature
  •         It is a sport
  •         You can compete as a mermaid
  •         You can attend fun events
  •         You can become a professional mermaid and make money at it

Cons of mermaiding:

  •         Some people may judge you that is is childish
  •         Can be expensive if you want to purchase a realistic tail made of silicone.
  •         You can get blisters on your feet and cramps 

Luckily there are solutions to all of those problems. To find out how to solve all those mermaid problems, you’ll have to read our article about them.

mermaid life on beach

16. How do you swim like a mermaid?

Mermaids would swim similar to a dolphin, kicking up and down instead of side to side like a fish. Mermaids glide aerodynamically through the water with a powerful kick. Real mermaids would likely be able to swim between 6 and 10 miles per hour. 

To swim like a mermaid, you need a monofin. This is a piece of sports equipment that is used for swimming and freediving. It is like a pair of flippers that are sealed together into one big flipper.

This is what mermaids use to move efficiently through the water. You kick with your legs together, which is called the dolphin kick.

To swim like a mermaid, you want to move in a wave-like motion that runs through your whole body. It’s kind of like doing the worm. You want to make sure to kick with your hips and your core, not with your knees. You want to try to keep your knees as straight as you can.

It is popular to swim as a mermaid with your arms in a streamline position. This means they are straight out above your head, squeezing your ears. One hand gets placed on top of the other.

When you swim on your stomach you want to have your face in the water so swim smoothly. You can also swim while on your back, or side. There are many skills and tricks you can do as a mermaid.

Typically, those of us who do this are obsessed with mermaids. We don’t just swim as mermaids, but we consume mermaid media all the time. This means we love to watch videos and shows on mermaids and read books about mermaids.

17. What are the best mermaid TV shows

Siren- This epic drama series takes place in a coastal town called Bristol Cove. The town is known for stories about mermaids. A mysterious woman appears in town, who happens to be a siren in human form. She is looking for her sister, who was captured by the military.

Mako Mermaids- When three mermaid pod sisters get distracted from their job of watching the mermaid’s home (a pool in a cave with magical properties) a human wanders in and falls into the pool. This gives him the ability to transform into a merman when he touches water. The three mermaids get exiled from the pod, who must leave the area for fear of getting discovered. The mermaids must strip the man of his powers in order to rejoin the pod, but they end up becoming friends with him instead.

H2O­- Three Australian teens get stranded on an island and end up in the magical pool inside the cave of a dormant volcano, where they bathe in the light of the full moon and magic takes place. After being rescued, they find their worlds turned upside down discovering that they turn into mermaids when they come into contact with water.

Mermaid TV show Siren mako H2O

18. What are the best mermaid Movies

The most common trope for mermaid movies is the mermaid who turns into a human to win the heart of a man. This plot is based on the book The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson, published in 1837. There have been many film adaptations based on this story.

Splash- In the 1984 movie, Daryl Hannah plays a mermaid named Madison. She becomes a human, curious and clueless of the human world, until she meets Tom Hank’s character, Allen. Their romantic adventures are thwarted by a scientist who poses a threat to Madison.

Little Mermaid- The 1989 animated Disney movie features one young, fearless, and rebellious mermaid princess, who denies her father and becomes a human to chase after love. But she only has three days to win his heart or else have to become the servant to an evil sea witch.

Aquamarine­­- This teen drama follows the adventures of two friends living in a coastal town who discover a mermaid in their swimming pool after a hurricane. The mermaid, in Little Mermaid fashion, needs to fall in love with a human in order to prove to her father that true love exists, so she can get out of marrying a merman chosen by her father, whom she does not love.

Mermaid movies splash little mermaid ariel aquamarine

19. What are the mermaid mythology from around the world

Did you know there are mermaid myths from all around the world? Tales of aquatic humanoid creatures are prevalent around the world and spanning back thousands of years.

Folklore

There are numerous aquatic creatures from folklore around the world that could be classified with mermaids.

Sirens: Sirens were popularized by Homer’s the Odyssey. In the epic poem, sirens are vicious creatures who lure sailors to their death. They sing a bewitching melody that causes sailors to jump to their death. They are often depicted as spooky looking creatures, such as the mermaids in the show Siren, who resemble wild creatures with spikes and sharp, jagged teeth.

Selkies: Selkies are similar to mermaids. They are shapeshifters who change from seal to human. Selkies are popular in Celtic and Norse mythology.

Selkies seal women mermaid

Finfolk: From the Orkney Islands, northeast of Scotland, comes the tail of mysterious water-dwelling shapeshifters called finfolk, or finnfolk. You may recognize the name from the tail making company Finfolk Productions. Finfolkaheem is the name of the underwater home of finfolk. Female finfolk are born as mermaids and remain that way into their maidenhood.

Pincoy/pincoya- In Chiloean mythology, Pincoya is a female water spirit, and her husband is Pincoy. Pincoya represents fertility and is portrayed as a naked woman. She is the daughter of a sea king named Millalobo. Her sister is a mermaid named Sirena Chilota. Pincoy is a handsome merman who resembles a large lionfish.

pincoya Pincoy  female water spirit

CeasgThis creature is a mermaid in Scottish folklore. She is known to be beautiful and possess the tail of a salmon. She lives in the sea, but also can live in streams and rivers. She is said to grant three wishes to whoever captures her. In some stories she is more monstrous.

Ceasg Salmon tail mermaid Scottish folklore

Nereids- Nereids are good-spirited sea nymphs who are the fifty daughters of a sea god named Nereus. They often came to the aid of those in distress and were protectors of sailors and fishermen.

Nereids sea nymphs mermaid

Rusalka- Slavic stories of this aquatic entity date back to the eighth century. Rusalki are water nymphs who were once human women that died. They were not always considered malevolent, but the myths changed through the years to portray the Rusalka as a sinister creature.

Rusalka Slavic aquatic entity

20. What are the water deities:

Atargatis- Atargatis is the oldest mermaid legend. She is the Assyrian goddess of the moon, water, and femininity. She was worshipped some 3000 or 4000 years ago. Atargatis was depicted as a mermaid and is among the earliest told stories of mermaids. Her story is that when her mortal lover died, she drowned herself in the sea out of sorrow after giving birth to his child on the shore. The gods decided not to let her die and turned her into a mermaid.

Mami Wata- Mami Wata means “mother of water.” She is an African water goddess who is often portrayed as taking a form similar to a mermaid, with a fish tail or snake tail. She is also said to appear human.

Triton- You probably know of King Triton, from The Little Mermaid. Did you know the character is based on a god of the sea in Greek mythology? He is the son of Poseidon and Amphitrite, who were also ocean deities. Triton is depicted as a merman.

Yemaya, also known as Yemoja, who is an African sea goddess. She is frequently depicted as a mermaid and is considered the Ocean Mother Goddess in Santería, which is an Afro-Caribbean religion. She is now worshipped throughout the world.

Sabrina- In British folklore Sabrina is a nymph of the river of Severn. Her story is that she was the daughter of King Locrinus, who left his wife Gwendolen and had Sabrina with another woman. Sabrina and her mother were both drowned in the Severn river by Gwendolen, and that is how she became a nymph of the river and is also known as a goddess.

Salacia- In ancient Roman mythology there was a goddess of salt water named Salacia, who was also a wife of Neptune.

Neptune- If you watched Spongebob Squarepants as a kid (or as an adult, that’s fine too) you’ll recognize Neptune, the merman and god of the sea in the show. This is based on an actual Roman god. He is the god of the sea, storms, earthquakes, and horses and is also identified as Poseidon in Greek tradition. He is known for having a trident that controls the sea.

Thalia- Thalia was a type of Greek sea nymph, known as a nereid. Nereids are embodiments of the ocean’s beauty and were supposed to be the most beautiful and mystifying of sea nymphs. Thalia was one of fifty daughters of Nereus, ‘old man of the sea.’ She was known as the nereid of the ‘blooming sea.’

21. Do you believe in mermaids?

Whether or not mermaids really exist, we absolutely love the concept of them! What could be more beautiful and magical?

It would be interesting to one day discover mermaids do exist, but for now we’ll just use our imaginations, all the while pretending to be them ourselves.


So, what do you think? Are mermaids real?

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