Sunday, May 1, 2011
Atargatis, Goddess of the Mermaids
All of you who follow this blog love mermaids, right? Well, did you know our favorite fishy-tailed females actually have a goddess? Yep, that's right! Atargatis, or Derceto/Derketo as the Greeks called her, is an ancient Syrian goddess who has also been called the "Lady Goddess of the Sea."
Atargatis supposedly has a fish-bodied appearance, and her followers abstained from eating fish and often mutilated themselves. Atargatis was depicted as having long, flowing hair like the water, and some of her symbols are a lion, a crescent moon, and two fish confronting one another. Her consort was the storm and rain god Hadad. She has also been seen with a veil atop her head. Temples devoted to Atargatis often had ponds on the outside, which were filled with sacred fish that only the priests could touch. Even to this day there are still sacred ponds of fish in Lebanon that are not to be touched. Can you imagine? Despite the legend of Atargatis being thousands of years old, people still worship and honor the mermaid even into modern times!
The legend of Atargatis states that she was once a powerful priestess who fell in love with a beautiful shepherd-boy. and she became impregnanted. Intent on ending this unwanted pregnancy, Atargatis fled into the sea to drown herself, but instead she became a mermaid. Not only did she become a mermaid, but a goddess of the seas.
If you'd be interested in learning more about Atargatis, the mermaids of Devyn Quinn's Dark Tides series worship the Syrian goddess. There are also essays written about the cult of Atargatis and books about myths and legends that tell her story. Who would have known, our mermaid we see in movies, books, and TV used to be a goddess? Maybe that gives the mermaid legend a whole new perspective.