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"Since once I sat upon a promontory
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the seamaid’s music."
~ A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare, 1595/96
On this day, January 9th in 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, saw three “mermaids” which were in reality most likely, sea cows (manatees) or dugongs and disappointedly described them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.” Morddyn is Welsh for 'merman' the male counterpart to the mermaid. In contrast to the beautiful mermaids of folklore, mermen were often described as having green seaweed-like hair, skin, and teeth, together with narrow eyes and a red nose! In Medieval Europe, mermen were sometimes held responsible for causing violent storms and sinking ships! Just like mermaids, however, merman were also thought to be able to lure and attract female humans with their enchantingly beautiful singing voices and seductive tones. In Scottish folklore, the ceasg is a mermaid with the upper body of a beautiful woman merging with the tail of a grilse (a young salmon). She is also known in Scottish Gaelic as maighdean na tuinne ("maid of the wave") or maighdean mhara ("maid of the sea"). The ceasg lives not only in the sea but also in rivers and streams, and can be made to grant three wishes to anyone who captures her. Marriages sometimes occur between ceasg and humans, and famous maritime pilots are often reputed to be descended from such unions! Even when these marriages end and the ceasg returns to the sea, it is said they will continue to take an interest in their human descendants, protecting them in storms or guiding them to the best fishing grounds.🧜♂️🧜♀️
On this day, January 9th in 1493, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, sailing near the Dominican Republic, saw three “mermaids” which were in reality sea cows (manatees) and described them as “not half as beautiful as they are painted.”
Mermaid sightings by sailors, when they weren’t invented for story-telling, were most likely manatees, dugongs or Steller’s sea cows (which became extinct by the 1760s due to over-hunting).
According to the designer:
"This tartan was created as a totemic pattern for fishermen, mariners, sailors, and any person wishing to have a little bit of the magic of the seas and oceans with them. Within its blue green ever moving waters is a small flare of the fire of life the guardian angel gives to those who need it or ask for it. The tartan is named 'morddyn' which means 'merman' in Welsh."
Mermaids appear in the folklore of many cultures worldwide, including the Near East, Europe, Africa and Asia. Mermaids are sometimes associated with perilous events such as floods, storms, shipwrecks and drownings. In other folk traditions (or sometimes within the same tradition), or they can be benevolent or beneficent, bestowing boons or even falling in love with humans.
Mermen are mythical male equivalents and counterparts of mermaids – legendary creatures who have the form of a male human from the waist up and are fish-like from the waist down, having scaly fish tails in place of legs.
For a selection of different mermaid legends from many Scotland, France, Russian, New Zealand, and more, click the medieval illustration of both a merman and mermaid.