By the Wikipedia definition a mermaid is a mythological aquatic creature with a female human head, arms, and torso and the tail of a fish. A male version of a mermaid is known as a "merman" and in general both males and females are known as "Merfolk" or "Merpeople". Mermaids are represented in the folklore, literature and popular culture of many countries worldwide.

The mermaid folk can be found everywhere From Asia to Africa but the first known mermaid stories appeared in Assyria, ca. 1000 BC. The goddess Atargatis, mother of Assyrian queen Semiramis, loved a mortal shepherd and unintentionally killed him. Ashamed, she jumped into a lake to take the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine beauty. Thereafter, she took the form of a mermaid-human above the waist, fish below—though the earliest representations of Atargatis showed her as a fish with a human head and arm.

Instead of spend our time taking you to all the different cultures definition of mermaids I rather list a couple of sightings.


South Africa - January 12-13, 2008

Herald reporter Aldo Pekeur details the breaking new incident: It may have been a case of too many magic mushrooms in the potjie, but a group of friends enjoying a braai on the banks of the Buffelsjags River at Suurbraak, a village close to Swellendam in the Western Cape, have reported spotting a legendary mermaid-like creature, known locally as the Kaaiman. And the town’s tourism bureau is taking the claims seriously. According to legend, the last sighting of the Kaaiman was about 15 years ago, with it previously being spotted more than 20 years before that.Suurbraak resident Daniel Cupido said he and a group of friends were relaxing next to the river last weekend when, at about 11.30pm, he heard something which sounded like someone “bashing on a wall.”

Cupido walked toward the sound. At a nearby low water bridge, he said he saw a figure, “like that of a white woman with long black hair thrashing about in the water.”Thinking to save her, he waded toward her, but said he stopped in his tracks when he noticed a reddish shine in her eyes. The sight sent “shivers” down his spine, yet he was pulled forward as if hypnotised. He called for his child, Deidrian, 13, and his nephew, Werner Plaatjies, 11, to help him, breaking his trance. He then shouted to his friends to take a look as well. Martin Olckers said he saw a female figure swimming, first on one side of the low water bridge, then on the other, and then standing on the bridge before diving back into the black water.

He said the figure made “the strangest sound”, like a woman crying. His mother, Dina, said the figure sounded so sorrowful “my heart could take it no more”. Her husband Martinus said their parents had warned them about the Kaaiman, but they never believed it existed. The Kaaiman is described as a half human, half fish creature which lives in deep pools. It is white and has long black hair and red eyes. Some people hold the Kaaiman responsible for drownings. Suurbraak tourism officer Maggy Jantjies said she knew the people who saw the Kaaiman well, and that they did not misuse alcohol.

1560, off the coast of Ceylon

An island in the Indian Ocean off the Southeastern Coast of India a group of Jesuits, along with the physician Bosquez  (aide to the Viceroy of Goa) autopsied seven mermaids who had been found deceased earlier, and reported the mermaids were anatomically and spiritually identical to humans (minus the fishtail, I'm sure). 

Alexander Carmichael in his Carmina Gadelica

He reports of a mermaid who at first seemed like a small human-like creature splashing in the sea a few feet away from shore.  The people who spotted her had been harvesting seaweed at Sgeir na Duchadh on the Outer Hebridean island of Benecula in 1830.  Some of the boys began to throw stones at the poor little thing and apparently hit it because no more than a few days later, the little body of the mermaid washed ashore not two miles away. He reports: "The upper portion of the creature was about the size of a well-fed child of three or four years of age, with an abnormally developed breast.  The hair was long, dark, and glossy, while the skin was white, soft, and tender.  The lower part of the body was like a salmon, but without scales."

It is reported the local sheriff ordered a coffin and shroud, and the body was buried above the shore where it was found.  The tale of the mermaid of Benecula may be the truest account of mermaids there is.  If you go to the isle of Benecula (so the locals tell) at the gloaming, you will see a gathering of mermaids.  They are all weeping and many bring seaweed and shells in honor of the lost little mermaid who was killed long ago.

Why such sorrow over this unknown mermaid?  Well, rumour has it, in the Nether; it is believed this little mermaid of Benecula was actually the granddaughter of King Triton.  This is why the ocean is in such turmoil, more often than not, off the shores of this island.

2009 Hafia –Israel

Dozens of people in the Haifa suburb have reported seeing a creature that resembles a young girl leaping out of the water and doing aerial tricks across the waves before disappearing to her home under the sea. The town's local council is offered $1 million to anyone who could prove the creature exists.

In 1990 a creature, which has yet to be categorised, was found in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland (UK) believed by some to be a mermaid.

Isle of Muck, Scotland (UK) 1977

Sandwood, in Sutherland, was once known as the 'Land of Mermaids' because of the number of sightings. The mermaid was described as the top half of the body resembling that of a European woman, whilst the bottom was said to resemble that of a fish.

25th Century Suffolk, England

In the twelfth century it was reported that a merman was caught by fishermen off the east coast near Suffolk, England (UK). He seemed unable to speak when released from the nets. The merman was taken to a church and even tortured but still not utter a sound. Described as 'the appearance of a man in all his parts' the merman quickly escaped when taken to the water supposedly to bath.

A mermaid was said to haunt 'Mermaid Rock', Cornwall (UK). Whenever she was sighted it indicated that there was a shipwreck to be expected and therefore the lifeboats should be prepared. It was said that she lured the ships towards the rocks by her singing.

So Next time you go swimming better take a camera with you…Just in case!