Mermaids and Water goddesses

The Mizen Mermaid©

In Ireland, mermaids weren't confined to the sea, but were often found in rivers and lochs. They were said to confer the gifts of wisdom and eloquence on a lucky few, although the church suggested, that they would eat you alive, highlighting their views on the dangers of possessing too much knowledge. It was said by many a lighthouse keeper, that if you looked across the water on a moonlit, stormy night, you could see the locks of the mermaids on top of the ragged sea. And looking from mizzen head to the fastnet rock, you might just catch a glimpse of the Mizen Mermaids frolicking in the surf

The water goddesses of Ireland

From the study of ancient Irish texts, it emerges that water was closely related to wisdom, poetry and perceptiveness. The nuts containing the imbas are described falling into the Well of Nechtan and imbuing the river with all encompassing knowledge. A sip from the river in June was believed to give access to sacred knowledge, and Fionn mac Cumhaill gained his mystical inspiration from the Salmon of Knowledge, fished from the Boyne. Similarly, Sinanne is drowned in the river Shannon, after trying to catch the mystical bubbles. The legends of Bóinn and Sinanne illustrate the fact that wisdom isdangerous and is not within anyone’s reach. Because of its life-giving aspect, water has been seen as a sacred natural element since time immemorial. Prehistoric deposits of objects, such as weapons and jewels in lakes rivers and bogs, were votive gifts, offered to water-deities with the aim of earning their benevolence and ensuring the fertility of the land. Some rivers, springs and fountains were called deva, divonna and the later Irish banna, or ‘goddess’, which attest to the sacredness of water and its divinisation. Bhanda the goddess of the river Bandon literally means goddess.The idea of a lady inhabiting and personifying the water is well illustrated in Irish mythology, beautiful divine ladies dwell in aquatic realms. The wavy hair of the Mórrígain shapes the sea; the River Boyne is described as the body of the goddess, and maidens, after drowning, become the river, the lake or the sea they inhabit: Cliona is turned into a wave of the sea at Glandore, Bóinn into the River Boyne, Sinanne into the River Shannon.