Tuesday, September 1, 2015

FISH-TAILS. part one

There are projects that you begin "for no good reason" and this is probably one of them. I'll just jump in the Deep End and see where this goes.

I don't recall in the chaos of a week or so ago why I started to "make a list" of Mermaid Encounter sightings, but I did --- something from Sanderson? [there are a few mentions in PURSUIT] --- some random info-bit coming over the web? Whatever the reason I was confronted with Internet statements like "due to the massive amount of evidence, etc" and said "really?" So, off I've gone [some would say that I've "gone off" long ago --- a topic for another day] to try to find this "massive amount." As a spoiler, I've not found it. Instead I've found a little over 100 cases from Pliny's time to our 21st century. I'm going to list them here with a small amount of amateur commentary, and then you and I can judge whether they are "enough" to lead us to any worthy views of Merbeing reality.

I also found, in my opinion, two useful further things: if you want to lay a foundation for your own understanding of this topic, you should read Jerry Clark's review chapters in the 1993 and 2013 editions of his UNEXPLAINED! [they are sufficiently different to be worth reading both] and Benwell and Waugh's SEA ENCHANTRESS. Jerry will give you the best overview of encounter evidence, while Benwell and Waugh will give you a deep amount of information on the cultural setting of the beliefs.

 One thing that I think that I know about Jerry's interest in this topic [since we've discussed it at least a little], is that IF there is good reason to buy into the reality of Merbeings, then one is forced [well almost --- it is the simplest hypothesis] to see reality as having within it things which are not candidates [ever] for inclusion in "physics/biology" textbooks. Such things would constitute aspects of reality beyond the boundaries of physical law and its constraints. {Jerry refers to such realities as being the source of what he calls "experience anomalies", which, not being physical textbook in nature, will always resist being "taken to the laboratory or the dissection table" or any such physical handling and testing of the "things themselves". They are not physical textbook pieces of the Universe, and will not behave in those ways.}

Such things would indicate that there is a need for a larger concept of reality than materialistic science approaches can produce [I'm a scientist by training, by the way, and a History of Science PhD, so I have GREAT respect for what the approach of the Scientific Method has accomplished. My remarks aren't "prejudiced" against science as a real contributor to humanity. But it's one tool in the shed.]

Ceasing to speak for Jerry, my own interest in topics such as these "folkloric entity" possibilities has been [as readers of the blog know], an attempt to discover whether [no matter how hard] there is any evidence in their favor --- with NO presumption that there is going to be any "scientific proof" of that. Blog-wise, we've explored three such folkloric "claims" somewhat thoroughly: "Little People", "The Fairy Dog", and "Dragons." We, I attest, found a whole forest-world-full of Little People encounters, a fair number of impressive "Fairy Dog" encounters, and, hard as I tried, almost nothing looking like an iconic "Dragon" encounter. The Dragonworld, therefore looks as if it does not exist [particularly in anything like recent times --- maybe WAY back in the Age of Legends] --- and the Fairy Dog appears to be a legitimate Apparitional phenomenon. The Little People however can be viewed as pointing to this third sort of reality.

The claims of Merbeings are potentially significant in this quest because the Merbeings represent a type of living entity which is biologically impossible. Little people are not obviously biologically impossible; it is their behavior and paranormal tricks which give them their wholly anomalous nature. But Merbeings start right off ["Weird at first sight" one might say] as impossible. Maybe that's not obvious to everyone who might not have an education in biological evolution and genetics, but a truly human-top with truly dolphin bottom in a nice sharp differential line is "naturally" biologically impossible. If you insist on trying to force whacko alien biotech engineers into this story, well, that's your problem, not mine.

So... finding evidence that such things might be real pushes me strongly towards this third sort of reality --- I'm trying NOT to allude to Middle Earth and it's imagery of a mixed together "physical-force-based" vs "paranormal-force-based"entity world, but it's sort of entrancing ... rather like a Siren Song.

On to it: today I'll list the earlier cases --- mainly just a list --- which constitutes 35 in number. There ought to be two or two-plus more such lists, and consequent blog entries. The uncertainty here is because this has been WAY more labor finding original references for the entries than I thought. Since I'm starting from scratch, some more expert person should be doing this, but I haven't seen long lists.

The first seven in the list don't offer much in evidentiary quality, but since they are the oldest that's expected. I DO draw something from such cases however, and that is the simple knowledge that this idea/belief has an extremely long past, which is not only within the province of legend or fairy tales, but had a powerful hold on the "common" person's mind as well.

As to legend and fairy tale: I like them [very charming usually] but I believe them to be useless for searching for real truth in any but social-psychological-religious meanings. Therefore I've tried to NOT pick any of these sorts of stories --- I perhaps cross the line in this first seven with the "St. Muirgen" case as illustrated by her carving to the left, and the "Melusina" case as in number seven above [and probably illustrated by the "peeping Tom" painting below], but these two are mentioned all over the place, so I left them in.

The St. Muirgen [or Liban] case is for me easily the most bizarre thing in mermaidom. As a Catholic, I know that the Church had some weird alleged ancient saints, and some of them were basically made up fictions, but how a mermaid got to be a saint boggles even me. I include the watery lady not because of her saintly story [which is fairytale-ish] but because it is my feeling that even the made-up saints were based on somebody --- i.e. there is SOME kind of basis from which such tales begin. Liban is therefore an echo of something quite old in "Old Ireland" which could have involved real folkloric entities.

The illustrations at the right are of King Olaf The Holy and of the Viking Sea Troll RAN, a very dangerous lady. She and her minions didn't get along with Olaf very well as he was "The controller of Giants and Trolls". The Olaf thing verges on the legendary, but it is completely in synch with the claimed voluminous sightings of merbeings in the Scandinavian-Icelandic area. But not too hot as credible evidence in itself.
The other "sightings" in the first seven only serve to allow me to mention another of my sifting prejudices: I'm not going to include the panoply of cases which allege that a mermaid has been captured and killed on the beach or in a net and subsequently cut up, eaten, buried, or put on display. If any of that was true, it would mean that the thing was a physical-biological entity and "that just isn't on." The idea that it isn't on is defensible by the history that all these things, which have any detail, prove to be misidentifications or rather disgusting fakery.

The second seven have a bit more hope.

The fellow at the left is George of Trebizond, a fairly well-known scholar of his age. In his writings/notes he gives a couple of good-old witness reports, although they have almost no detail. Nevertheless, he states that while a young man [he lived in Crete as a youth] he saw by the seaside Mermaids appear several times. This is almost like reporting in UFOlogy --- high credibility fellow who is seeing something of high strangeness, but who is making no big revelatory story out of it --- just a strange thing which happened "in the life."

This is to me as a folklore amateur the sort of story that I want with no "fairytale" aspect about it which goes on in detail to make some religious, social, or practical point for children and youth to remember --- "don't walk alone in the deep woods", "don't go off with strangers", "don't get drunk", "don't be greedy", "keep your promises". Etc.
The story which has evidentiary possibilities for me is not the fairytale but the simple slice-of-life. I believe that "Georgius Trapanzantius" has given us one personal one and one second-hand one.

I don't know what to make of the one illustrated below: Aldrovandi's Mermen and Mermaids of the Nile Delta. He just says that these creatures have been seen often there. They are fairly classic merbeings, so worth being included. I believe that Athanasius Kircher also refers to and pictures these beings.

This seven also has some promise, though the drawing of case #15 [to the left] isn't its strongest point. I have my usual problem with the captured Merman story, especially if there is no statement that the being somehow rapidly regained the sea. I suppose that I could just barely tolerate an incident where a paranormal being allowed its capture, went off somewhere, and did something followed by mysterious escape, but I have no detail in this story indicating any of that.

A peculiar story comes from a five-page broadsheet related to case #17, and illustrated in that broadsheet as below. The actual description in the narrative is pretty good, but does not include the doggy-looking face, which may have been added dramatically by whomever did the sketch. Without the dogface, this tale of a long multi-witnessed swimming mermaid swimming off Wales is not a bad report. The reason that I comment about the dogface is that it is not in the narrative [long doggish ears are] and the detail doesn't cohere with the majority of alleged sightings.

Elsewise the list contains several "keeper" reports, in fact all the others. I particularly like #18 {Nova Zemlya} and number #19 St. Johns Newfoundland. Both were very "close encounters" with iconic female merbeings. If I had fifty of these sorts of reports I'd think that I knew something.

This is a weak section --- way too much capturing or slashing blood out of merpeople for my tastes --- at least the Merman in case #22 threatened the sailors and they let him go. The references to the Faroe Islands [#26 my library doesn't include Baring-Gould] and the Danish coast [#25] are undetailed, but appear to be iconic mermaid sightings which reinforce the history that these two locations are full of merbeing reports.  I like the detail in #26 where the mermaid is seen holding fish, which is an iconic detail.

For fun purposes, by far the best report is #28, wherein our intrepid deep diver goes beyond the realms of the fishes off the Isle of Man [a great place for weird paranormal things to happen] and enters into an undersea fairy realm, complete with lots of beautiful merpeople, buildings and towers, jewel-like stones and shells --- sort of an undersea Tir-na-Og --- only to be hauled back up by his surface crew due to some safety concern. Needless to say, he was never able to return, nor to be believed.

Ah! It would be nice to believe in that ....... but we're supposed to be reasonable, at least a little bit, so onwards we go with a wistful look behind.

All of these except the last are incidents of simple reporting of iconic merbeings. The #33 case [honored by my using the Faroe Island stamp] might be the best as it COULD indicate both the incident that inspired the Danish Commission to look into this, and the Danish Commission's own sighting of confirmation. Without the original Danish materials [and I couldn't read them anyway] not a lot more, however, can be said.

The reports of the clergyman Pontoppidan are very intriguing to me. It would be nice if someone would grab the material and translate it all for us english language only dolts. Bishop Pontoppidan had such VERY strong opinions about the COMMON reality of these creatures off the Scandinavian shores that one is a bit stunned by his level of insistence. Makes one wonder what all was motivating this enthusiasm. At the least one can say that reports of iconic merbeing sightings were abundant in those waters.

Another sighting that it would be good to read the details of was the 1730 sighting off Newfoundland. This thing was supposedly signed off on by an entire crew of the French vessel, swearing to its authenticity in a document to a French Count. Seems to be a LEGAL swearing to it, in fact. These sightings constitute, for me, buttressing for things like the Henry Hudson crew and the St. Johns sighting in the third list.

So, the first stage of this is done, for better or worse. I haven't been blown away, but there seems to be some real substance here.

I have [maybe] two or two-plus "sets" of 35 to go that I've scribbled down. As I said above: the organizing of the list-bits is tougher than I'd reckoned, so the next one will take a few days, even if I get a little excited to do it. So, patience .....

.... and peace.


  1. Possibly the true history of "dragons" may be someday "taken to the laboratory" if the plasma scientists have anything going for their theories.

    A few modest examples:


  2. In Albert Rosales' excellent compendium of humanoid sightings (http://www.ufoinfo.com/humanoid/ ) he has a second entitled "Aquatic Encounters" which contains some very interesting merfolk encounters from recent years.

  3. I don't know if you cover this author in other threads, but after reading this page my memory was jogged and I went to my bookshelf to fetch the book I wanted to share. "The Sirius Mystery" by Robert Temple has a lot of material on fish tailed gods. Might you have read this book?

  4. I have read it. Although friends of mine feel that it has merit, I, generally, do not. As far as the Dogon astronomical mysteries are concerned, my view is that the anthropological field researchers have answered those adequately. This is particularly true for the coincidence which deals with the Sirius B companion star [due to the Dogon religious cosmology which sees all in nature as having "Light" and "Dark" twinning.] The book is therefore useful only in that it can be a source of personal exploration and meditation on other paths.