Updated: Jun 15, 2021
The awesome power of the sea has inspired many myths and religions and with them gods, goddesses and mythical sea monsters. We’ve compiled a short collection of the most inspiring and interesting female ocean creatures we could find. (cause let’s face it, we always wanted to be mermaids).
The sirens of Greek mythology were known for their enchanting music, which would lure unsuspecting sailors to shipwreck on the rocky coast of their island. In the Odyssey, Ulysses makes his men plug their ears with beeswax so they can safely pass past the sirens' island. However, he terribly wants to hear their song that he makes his men tie him to the mast to experience the spellbinding music and makes them swear they will not release him whatever his pleas. To Ulysses, the sirens appear as beautiful maidens because he is seduced by their bewitching song but to his men deafened to it, they appear as ugly monsters with hooked claws. They were originally depicted as half bird half woman but, in the Christian era, became the fish tailed women we know.
Amphirite, the soothing voice in the storm
Amphirite, greek goddess of calm seas and wife of Poseidon, is the most famous of the water nymphes, the nereids, often represented as riding dolphins or sea horses with perls in their silky watery hair. Poseidon had a bit of temper on him and when he got cross, he created great storms that often ended in many shipwrecks. Amphrite was the only one who could soothe him and make the seas become calm again. She came to represent calm seas and safe passage through the storm. However, she occasionally got a bit angry herself and her great waves sometimes put sailors at risk. She also liked to breed sea monsters, so she is clearly not be messed with. She is mother of Triton, the most famous merman.
Keto, goddess of sea monsters
Greek goddess of the dangers of the sea, sea monsters, whales and sharks, Keto consorted with her brother and, surprise, surprise, the offspring was a little scary. They produced a brood of fearsome monsters including a she-dragon viper, a sailor devouring crab, a hundred headed serpent, and the famous Gorgons , whose hair is made of snakes and whose gaze can turn a man to stone. Medusa, who came to fame for being decapitated by Perseus, was one of the three Gorgon sisters. What a family.
Lamia, the seductress and shark woman
Lamia, in ancient Greek mythology, seduced the sea god Poseidon, which really annoyed his wife Hera. The angered wife destroyed Lamia's children in an act of revenge. To soothe Lamia’s anguish, Poseidon turned her into a shark so she could eat other peoples’ children to make herself feel better (as one does) . Hera, who clearly was quite a bitch, also gave Lamia sleeplessness ( remember sharks never really sleep). Poseidon helped out by giving Lamia the ability to remove her own eyes (remember how (some) sharks’ eyes disappear when they bite) so she could still get some rest as she swam around. Lamia became a type a bogey man to frighten children to sleep and a cautionary tale for wanton women who might want to steal husbands…
Atargatis, a story of the first mermaid and chopped off willies
Atargatis was a great goddess for Northern Syria (ancient Assyria) 4000 years ago and the first mermaid. She fell in love with a shepherd called Hadad and bore him a daughter, who would later become a great queen and build the hanging gardens of Babylone. Unfortunately, Atargatis accidentally caused the death of her beloved and, in her sadness, drowned herself. The gods, however, would not let her great beauty disappear so did not let her die but instead transformed her into the first ever creature with the top half of a woman and the bottom half of a fish. She became the goddess of the moon, feminine power and all water. Men worshipped her so that they castrated themselves in her honour (which is a bit odd, I wonder who started that). By the third century A.D, one of the kings thought that might be a little extreme and counter productive so he banned the self-castration. He commanded that anyone who emasculated himself should have a hand cut off. And from that day on, no one emasculated himself anymore (strangely, no one fancied being a one handed enuch - but just enuch was fine...)
Sedna, from fingers to seals
Sedna is the Inuit goddess of the sea and marine animals. Many versions of the story exist, all of them very gruesome. Sedna usually does something to anger her father like reject a suitor, try to eat her parents, marry a dog, or be generally dissatisfied with men. In every story, her father - or sometimes other men - take her out to sea to drown her, she then tries to cling on to the side of the boat and her angered manfolk chop off her fingers so she lets go( yes, really). Because, despite being very badly abused, Sedna is really really cool, her severed fingers turn into seals, walruses and whales. She then slides into the sea of which she then become the goddess. Seal hunters and fishermen come to depend on her good will for a successful hunt/catch in a bitter twist of fate. She is generally considered a vengeful goddess (why, I cannot fathom) and hunters (men) must placate and pray to her to release the sea animals from the ocean depth for their hunt. She is sometimes represented with a fish tail.