The Mermaid

Great Symbols Series @ Theosophy Trust


Up from Aegean caverns, pool by pool
Of blue salt sea, where feet most beautiful
Of Nereid maidens weave beneath the foam
Their long sea-dances, I their lord, am come,
Poseidon of the Sea.


 Ys was once a golden city floating beneath a benevolent sun on the shores of ancient Brittany. Celtic legend celebrates its beauty and magnitude as it rose up, basking in the protection afforded by several floodgates cleverly engineered to keep out the sea. Grallon, a just and kindly king, ruled this fair place and carried inside his belt the keys to all the gates. Though he himself was good, the citizens of Ys were corruptible, and when they grew rich, indulged in many hedonistic and cruel practices. The king's own daughter, Dahut, encouraged them in this and used her cunning to wrest power and, finally, the keys to the gates from her father. She preyed upon young men, seducing them before ordering that they be destroyed. So great was the evil she contrived and also encouraged in others that the gods became incensed and shattered the gates of the city, letting in the ocean's flood to drown all before it. It is said that very few survived and most were condemned to an endless existence under the sea, where Dahut reigns as a mermaid queen. Her beauty lies mostly hidden from the world above and, caught in the torso of a fish's form, she can only try to lure the unwary seaman who floats near her abode. Sometimes in the moonlit night her glistening form rises and beckons any who can bear to see her. Hair as golden as the ancient walls of Ys spreads out on the black waters that flow around her pearl-white skin and silver scales. She has fallen from the realm of the human, and she is treacherous to sailors who succumb to her song and flashing eye.

 Spenser, in The Faerie Queene, wrote of "their sweet skills in wonted melody, which ever after they abused to ill, to allure weak travellers, whom gotten, they did kill". In many of his cantos he spoke of the mermaid as a dangerous lure to be dreaded by the knight-hero of the story. One is reminded of Homer's Odyssey and of the Sirens whose formidable power of song had lured countless seamen to their destruction before Odysseus managed to outwit them. These cunning and rapacious sirens are very different in character from the forlorn and often very sweet mermaid such as the one immortalized by Hans Christian Andersen. Are Dahut and Spenser's ladies of the sea, along with many other treacherous water-nymphs, really Sirens, to be distinguished from the gentler and benevolent mermaid? One is struck by the poignancy of the mermaid of story and song who sacrifices all for love and gives her life m the hope of winning an immortal soul. This is in sharp contrast to the Siren of old who wasted no time hankering after a soul which she cared nothing about. It would be tidy and convenient if the two names depicted quite opposite aspects of a common nature, but they simply do not. The terms have been used interchangeably for a very long time, and there are many more frightening tales about mermaids and their habits than there are stories which portray creatures like the Little Mermaid, whose likeness overlooks the harbour at Copenhagen.

 The Sirens of Greek lore were said to be originally three in number, daughters of Achelous (a name given to several rivers and which means 'any stream') and Terpsichore (meaning 'joy and delight', plus córh, meaning 'maiden', the muse of dance). The word 'siren' is etymologically close to 'sire', which refers to a cord with a noose like a lasso used by Sagartians and Sarmatians to entangle and drag away their enemies. The Three Sirens were Parthenope (meaning 'maiden'), Leucosia (meaning 'light, bright and fair') and Ligia (meaning 'clear, sweet-toned'), names indicating more positive features than that suggested by an entangling cord or 'a deceitful woman' referred to elsewhere by Euripides. Their father, Achelous, was one of the more than three thousand riverine offspring of the Titans, Oceanus and Tethys. According to Hesiod's Theogony, Gaea (offspring of Chaos) was both mother and wife of Uranus (Heaven), by whom she gave birth to the twelve Titans, including Oceanus and Tethys. As their first offspring, Achelous was the Ruler of all Rivers and the possessor of large horns, one of which he lost in a contest with Herakles. It is this horn which became the cornucopia - symbol of fertility and overflow to later ages, suggesting the role of the river in the development of civilization. Indeed, to the ancient Hellenes, Achelous was the symbol of the strength and fertility of Hellas, and they gave his name to the longest river in their land.

  In late classical times it was believed that the dead body of Parthenope was found washed up on the shores of Campania, Her name was given to the city that arose there, now known as Naples, and Strabo wrote of visiting her grave and witnessing the games periodically held in her honour. The Sirens were believed to inhabit an island near that of Circe (Isle of Aeaea) or near Cape Pelorus in Sicily, depending on the literary source. Homer, who never tells us what they look like, conveys their danger in the words of Circe as she warns Odysseus:

Your next encounter will be with the Sirens, who bewitch everybody that approaches them. There is no homecoming for the man who draws near them unaware and hears the Sirens' voices; no welcome from his wife, no little children brightening their father's return. For with the music of their song, the Sirens cast their spell upon him, as they sit there in a meadow piled high with the mouldering skeletons of men, whose withered skin still hangs on their bones. Drive your ship past the spot and, to prevent any of your crew from hearing, soften some beeswax and plug their ears with it. But, if you wish to listen yourself, make them bind you hand and foot on board and stand you up by the step of the mast, with the rope's end lashed to the mast itself. This will allow you to listen with enjoyment to the twin Sirens' voices. But if you start begging your men to release you, they must add to the bonds that already hold you fast.

OdysseyBook XII

 Odysseus later reported that "the lovely voices came to me across the water, and my heart was filled with such a longing to listen that with nod and frown I signed my men to set me free. But they swung forward to their oars and rowed ahead, while Perimedes and Eurylochus jumped up, tightened my bonds and added more." A vase painted in the fifth century B.C. illustrates this scene and depicts the Sirens as woman-faced birds dashing into the sea. Later, Apollonius of Rhodes described them as creatures who were women to the waist and sea-birds below. It was only in the latter part of the Classical Age that the Siren dons the tail of a fish and becomes what we call a mermaid.

 In the tenth book of the Republic, Plato divulges the remarkable tale of the warrior Er as it is told by Socrates to Glaucon. In speaking of the eight concentric worlds turning through the "Spindle of Necessity", he shows that they are within one another "showing their rims as circles from above and forming the continuous back of a single whorl about the shaft, which is driven home through the middle of the eighth". On each of the rims of the circles formed by the rotating whorls stood a Siren, "borne around on its revolution and uttering one sound, one note, and from all eight there was the concord of a single harmony". The "Daughters of Necessity" (Lachesis or 'past', Clotho or 'present' and Atropos or 'future') sang in unison with the Sirens' music, each singing respectively of things that were, that are and that will be. Though elsewhere in the Dialogues the Siren is referred to in connection with the ability of Socrates to cast a spell through his speech or slumbering bewitchment, it is clear that Plato cast the Sirens in a very definite and even positive role in the Myth of Er. Such seeming contradictions encourage us to plunge deeper into their mystery and attempt to ferret out the idea that lies behind these variegated expressions.

 In Cratylus Socrates explains to Hermogenes that the names of the gods reveal their essential nature owing to the fact that the first imposers of names must surely have been philosophers. The ideas behind the names 'Oceanus' and 'Tethys' suggest the motion of a never-ceasing stream and that which is 'strained' through the filter of a spring. The union of these titanic qualities produced Achelous who, together with the Muse of Dance, produced the "light, bright, fair, clear-toned maidens" whose nature turns out to be so double-edged. It is significant that it was the brother of OceanusOceanus and Tethys, the Titan Kronos, who gave birth to Poseidon, God of the Sea and a superior force to that of the Sirens. Cosmogonically, Poseidon would be their cousin, but Greek cosmogony shifts through space and time so as to render such a taxonomy futile. In an age of time and material substance Poseidon is more powerful than Achelous, his uncle, and the Sirens to whom he may dictate circumstances. But the name of Poseidon is still reminiscent of certain ideas associated with the Sirens, referring as it does to 'the chain of the feet' or the watery element which can impede one's passage. Like a cord that ensnares, Poseidon continually strove to impede the passage of Odysseus as he strove to return home. This suggests something deeper about the nature of the watery element, which both gives life and fertility and ensnares, impedes and drowns the unwary.

 In this complex mythological scheme there are other creatures like the Nereids, whose green sea-grass hair floats along their half-human, half-fish form suggesting that one is dealing with an Amphitrite who became the spouse of Poseidon and turned Scylla into stone. Some writers say they are identical with the Sirens and thus swell the numbers of the enchantresses, whilst others suggest that there is a difference between Nymphs, Nereids, Tritons and Oceanids. Some were completely human in form and others half fish, but there is a very old history of deities conforming to the half-human, half-fish form suggesting that one is dealing with a large class of entities made up of a hierarchy of greater and lesser expressions. Perhaps the earliest fish-tailed deity that we know of was the Babylonian god Cannes, or Ea, as he was earlier known to the Akkadians. Around seven thousand years ago the idea of a great god of the deep (Chaos) took hold in the Middle East. He was believed to be the Bringer of Light and Wisdom, the Teacher of mankind. With his wife, Damkina (the personification of the earth's surface), he produced seven fish-tailed offspring who were the rivers and seas of the earth. Slightly later the Semitic moon-goddess Atagartis became widely worshipped in the form of a fish-tailed deity also known as Derceto. In the fifth century B.C. the Greek historian Ctesias wrote that the goddess became half-fish because of her passion for a handsome votary to whom she gave herself. Out of shame she killed the youth, abandoned her newborn daughter and threw herself into the sea, where she assumed her well-known form. Though abandoned to die, her daughter lived and became the fish-tailed goddess Semiramis.

 In the Hindu tradition the Matsya Avatar of Lord Vishnu is an outstanding example of a fish-tailed deity who played a vital role in preserving the Vedas and the whole world from the flood of oblivion. Guiding an ark (leaf-shaped like the Vedas) across the flood to Mount Meru, the great god preserved the seeds of the next cycle of incarnation and thus kept intact an umbilical cord of true teachings extending from the realm of the Cause of Creation into Creation itself. Perhaps even older than Vishnu is the ancient sea god Varuna, who rides across the waves on a dolphin or a dragon, symbol of Makara. He is the Hindu equivalent of Poseidon, whose vehicle is often the fish-tailed Triton whose counter-emblem is the dolphin. The Nereids, Oceanids and Sea Nymphs are related to these dominant gods and have reputations for being friendly, beautiful, melodious and obedient to Poseidon. Calypso is said to have been an Oceanid reigning over the Isle of Ogygia and, though capable of being vindictive, was ultimately moved to assist Odysseus.

 Like the Hindu Apsaras whose name means 'moving on the (celestial) water', Sirens and mermaids charm with their song and dance. They are also rather promiscuous and irresponsible in their actions. Both seem to revel in capricious actions which carry them to extremes of behaviour quite uncontrolled by ordinary morals or scruples. There are certain characteristics universally shared by merfolk which may be found in almost every corner of the world where they exist. Wherever they are found they are noted for their eternal youth. It is believed that they live several hundred years (three hundred is the figure given in Hans Christian Andersen's story) and that, as they have no immortal soul, their death brings their existence to a permanent close. All mermaids are credited with great powers of allurement and seduction, chiefly generated through their unearthly song and their strange unnatural beauty. They are often associated with the power of prophecy and may even grant wishes or protection. But their vengeance can be cruel, for they can whip the waves and sink ships as readily as lure the unsuspecting youth.

 Haunting tales of the mermaid abound among widely separated people. Their names are many, from Akkriva and Aino of the Lapps and the Finnish Kalevala, Scylla and Sirens of the Greeks, Nykur of Iceland and the Faroe Isles, the Selchie and Morgans of the Celts to Menanna of the Ottawa tribe, Sabawaelnu of the Micmac, Tahbi-yin of Ghana, Olokun of the Yoruba, Olosa of Nigeria and Loro Kidul, who is worshipped in Java. Among these people and many more, the merfolk share strikingly similar characteristics, even including such power as to Jure and lead a whole nation into a new world, as in the case of the Shawano tribe of North America. It was a common belief among the Norsemen and Western Celts that seals were humans under a spell, or the souls of those drowned at sea. There was thought to be a special relationship between them and the mermaids whom they guarded. Often these ideas would intertwine and fuse in the wonderful lore about Selchies, who "change as quickly as a woman" and can take on human form as well as that of the seal.

 There are many clans (O'Sullivans, O'Flaherty of Kerry and the MacNamaras of Clare, to name a few) who claim to be descendants of the seal. The McPhees of Colonsay trace their line back to a drowned maiden whose seal-skin was found on a rock by the chief of their clan, thus introducing another characteristic peculiar to the mermaid. This has to do with the widespread belief that she may endure a sojourn with a human husband as long as he has managed to secure her clothing (skin) or magic cap. Many families of the British Isles and on the Continent used (and still use) the mermaid in their standards, and ancient and modern coins have been struck in her likeness. One of the most ironic of these was that which was actually struck by Napoleon and meant to be proliferated after his (unsuccessful, as it turned out) invasion and conquest of England. On it the words Descendre en Angleterre Frappé à Londres en 1804 were emblazoned. On the reverse side Napoleon was shown as Herakles wrestling to submission the god Achelous, whom the French saw as the sea-monster, the emblem of England.

 Not so easily was the ancient parent of the Sirens overcome, despite the definite limitations of his offspring. It was widely held in the Old World that Sirens outsung shared a fate similar to those described by Virgil, whose spell was overcome by the magic of Orpheus' melody. Sailing with the Argonauts across the dreaming sea, his song broke so sweetly upon their ears that they threw themselves beneath the sea and became rocks. The gift of prophecy widely associated with mermaids has been especially exemplified in the traditions of Northern Europe. Typical is the incident recorded in the chronicle of Frederick II of Denmark in 1576, where a peasant from Samso was said to have told the court that, while working in his field near the seashore, he had been solemnly enjoined by a mermaid to tell the king that, as God had blessed his queen so that she was pregnant with a son, he should take strong measures to banish the many sins that were gaining ground in his kingdom lest he be punished by God, This example places the mermaid in a peculiarly Christian context and indicates how thoroughly the church had appropriated her, along with the other ancient beliefs of people it gathered into its fold. All along the British Isles and the Nordic coasts there are stories of mermaids forewarning friendly fishermen of danger, but quite often the complicated stories that were passed down through early Christian and medieval times bear the stamp of theological contrivance. This appropriation sometimes took an absurd form, such as that involving a sixth-century Siren who is said to have been caught and baptized in Wales. In the old Welsh calendars she was subsequently featured as St. Murgen, which must be related to the name 'Morgan' applied generically to seafolk.

 Medieval bestiaries are believed to be traceable to the work of a Greek monk who, while living in Alexandria, borrowed and embroidered upon ideas from Plato, Aristotle and Pliny as well as others. His work, written sometime around the third or fourth century, was steadily copied and embellished in the centuries that followed. Included in these works were several new or altered ideas about the nature of mermaids, especially regarding their intelligence and desire for an immortal soul. It is only in the Christian era that stories arose such as that recorded in 1403 when one slipped through a crevice in a Dutch dike and lived out her life in Haarlem. There, it was asserted, she was taught to weave and worshipped the cross as if by instinct. Some argued that she was not a fish because she could weave, others that she was not a woman because she was able to live in the water.

 As the mermaid became patronized by the church during the Middle Ages, there was also an increase of seafaring involving awesome and remote encounters with the deep. The church had brought under its sway mostly illiterate folk whose beliefs were firmly rooted in pagan experiences and symbols. The Christianized French continued to speak and write about Sirens as part of their world, whilst the Germanic peoples to the north persisted in recording sightings and encounters with mermaids right up to the twentieth century. The church found it politic to use creatures like the mermaid in their arguments concerning the wages of sin, especially involving the deadly allure of women. The mermaid came to be depicted all over Europe with a comb and mirror, replacing the plectrum and lyre. Personifying vanity and seductive intent, she was often portrayed seated upon rocks or ice floes (to whose coldness she was immune) "sleeking her soft alluring locks" and displaying her uncanny beauty. William Diaper, who published in the early eighteenth century, was one of many poets and literary figures to fall under the spell of this theme. Some used figures of classical myth to elaborate it, as did Diaper himself in his Sea-Eclogues, where the mermaid Cymothoe accuses the human youth Glaucus of preferring another. To this Glaucus placatingly replies:

Cymothoe wrongs her Glaucus, and her self,
To think I languish for that scaly Elf. . . .
Believe not Fair, that I can prove untrue,
Or any Water-Beauty love but you. . . .

Accepting his assurances, Cymothoe entreats him:

Dive, Glaucus, swift, and let us sinking move
Down to the Centre of the World, - and Love,

 Another more recent poet emphasizes the power of the mermaid's entreaty and fateful allure by focussing upon the state of one seduced by her, who, knowing what awaits him in her embrace, yet rushes to his doom:

Girl of green waters, liquid as lies,
Cool as the calloused snow,
From my attic brain and prisoned eyes
Draw me and drown me now.

Laurie Lee

 The church appropriated the mermaid in all her positive aspects of prophecy, granting protection and longing for an immortal soul, but it used her as a fearsome weapon to frighten those whose desires and minds might wander from the straight and narrow path. In its adoption of the mermaid there were even attempts to Christianize the story of Odysseus. In a twelfth-century work by the Abbess of Mont Saint-Odile, Odysseus is depicted in a medieval coat of mail as representative of the Christian people. His boat is made to symbolize the Christian church afloat on the sea of the world, and divine aid is duly received in order to repel and vanquish the Sirens who lure and attack. The text of this remarkable work is lavishly illustrated so that the symbolic intent is clearly impressed upon the contemporary reader, as it was upon those of the Middle Ages who found no problem in converting Homer to Christianity.

 One of the most significant characteristics of the Christianized mermaid was her longing for a human soul. It may well be contended that theologians encouraged this idea in order to emphasize the great good fortune humans enjoyed in possessing a soul and the dangers they faced in losing it. Perhaps this was slanted to suit the peculiarly Christian idea that man possesses a soul which he can lose, instead of being a soul, as was believed by the ancients. Paracelsus, who had a great deal to say on this subject, described beings who were neither animal nor human. He wrote of Nature-Spirits or Elementals (including Sirens) who are not immortal but die like animals, having animal intellects and being incapable of spiritual development. He pointed out that animals receive their clothing from Nature, whilst Nature-Spirits prepare it themselves out of the element in which they exclusively move. He asserted that "the Elementals belonging to the element of water resemble human beings of either sex . . . , but that whilst humans live in the exterior elements [as we know them on the physical plane], Elementals live in the 'interior elements', where they are only sometimes seen".

 H.P. Blavatsky, in a remarkable article on the subject, suggested that from 'Gods' to soulless Elementals all were evolved "by ceaseless motion inherent in the astral light". She proceeded to explain that light is force produced by will which is emanated by the absolute immutable intelligence of the One Life Itself. It evolves the elementary fabric requisite for what subsequently becomes the human races. Thus it is that all humans (of our planet or others) possess earthly bodies evolved out of the bodies of a certain class of these Elemental beings. Elsewhere she states that as atoms progress from rock to plant and eventually to human beings, they give off constant astral emanations, which become part of the astral atmosphere of our planet and wherein they tend to assume concrete forms. Thus the myriad Elemental forms mark Nature's attempts to produce the perfect man through a parallel evolution of spirit and matter, with spirit having the constant tendency to go beyond and escape the bonds of matter. It is when this dual evolution reaches a certain point that the Immortal Spirit enters in, forming a human triad. This is what makes the human being unique in Nature and distinct from merfolk as well as animals, but this does not contradict the assertion that the realms of sylphs, salamanders, undines and gnomes coexist with our own.

  Invisible worlds exist, scattered throughout apparent space, and they are "inhabited as thickly as our own". H.P. Blavatsky wrote of the finny tribes which swarm in our familiar bodies of water as being analogous to the various races of Planetary, Elemental and other Spirits, each of which has its niche to which it is curiously adapted. In the case of the 'Gods' or 'Devas', the niche may be broad, involving elements and matrices in manifest existence. It must not be concluded, however, "that the latent potencies of the human spirit are at all inferior to those of the Devas. Their faculties are more expanded than those of ordinary man, but with the ultimate effect of prescribing a limit to their expansion, to which the human spirit is not subjected." 'Devas' is a term meaning 'the shining Ones', and they may be superior or inferior to man (depending on the state of the latter as well as the potency of the former). Deva-Yonis are Elementals of a lower kind and are subject even to the will of a sorcerer. They are, however, the soul of the elements, acting with undeveloped consciousness under the One Law inherent in the elements themselves. H.P. Blavatsky stated that these beings will eventually, in ages to come, evolve into men and that "they belong to the three lower kingdoms, and pertain to the Mysteries on account of their dangerous nature".

 Nature-Spirits (Elementals) possess astral forms partaking of one element plus ether. "They are a combination of sublimated matter and a rudimental mind. . . . The most solid of their bodies is ordinarily just immaterial enough to escape perception by our own physical eyesight, but not so unsubstantial but that they can be perfectly recognized by the inner or clairvoyant vision." Thus watery Elementals would be found in that element, having 'clothed' themselves out of it and sustained a coherence in its ethereal aspect. One is reminded of Plato's Myth of Er, wherein on each rim of the eight spheres a Siren presides, singing one clear note in harmony with the others. It is an almost universal idea that a body of water (either a sea or river) separates one realm of being from another and this 'water' is etheric, its essence suffused with the Divine Presence while acting as a 'medium' between worlds. Thus the Siren presides over a transitional state wherein many changes can take place, and in this, in part, lies the danger of her nature. The Shawano tribe was led from the Old World to the New by a merman, but they were terrified of him and followed him only out of dire necessity when they had exhausted all other devices and were forced to move on.

 The Greeks spoke of Nature-Spirits as Daimons, lumping them together with higher forms of Divine Intelligences. H.P. Blavatsky wrote that the Daimons of the four elements acted as intermediate agents between the gods and men and that "they are the personified ideas of virtues shed from the heavenly Hyle into the inorganic matter", becoming the soul of that element. According to the aspects of the stars, shoals of Elementals can be poured into the earth's atmosphere, affecting weather and other conditions. Elementals (Nature-Spirits or Daimons) can direct ether to produce physical effects and, in so doing, may be helped by human Elementaries of either a good or evil nature. They can condense to assume tangible bodies in any likeness they choose, borrowing 'portraits' from the minds of participants at seances or giving form to ideas held even long ago. It is interesting to bear this in mind when pondering the possible significance of Sir Thomas Browne's comment made in the seventeenth century: "Few eyes have escaped the picture of mermaids."

 On the subject of Elementals (Daimons) Psellus wrote: "It becomes you not to behold them before your body is initiated, since, by always alluring, they seduce the souls of the uninitiated." lamblichus warned that it is extremely difficult to distinguish a good from a bad Daimon, one of the few ways possibly being to ascertain whether they feared light. (It is noteworthy perhaps that most mermaids in story and song do appear in the evening.) Porphyry, in his work Of Sacrifices to Gods and Daimons, warns of the mischief, low cunning and violence that can be wrought by lower Daimons who escape the monitoring of the Higher Ones: "It is a child's play for them to arouse in us vile passions, to impart to societies and nations turbulent doctrines, provoking wars, seditions, and other public calamities, and then tell you 'that all of these are the work of the gods'." An adept who had mastered all of his vestures would have complete monitoring control over such Elementals in and around him.

 One preparing to converse with these 'invisibles' had to know his ritual well and be perfectly acquainted with the conditions required for the perfect equilibrium of the four elements in the astral light so as to prevent the ingress of Elementals into their respective spheres. "But woe to the imprudent enquirer who ignorantly trespasses upon forbidden ground; danger will beset him at every step. He evokes powers that he cannot control; he arouses sentries [like Plato's Sirens in the Myth of Er] which allow only their masters to pass" (as Odysseus just barely managed to do). Disturbed out of their harmony, they can immediately become infested by bhuts and Elementaries of all sorts and influenced to pick up long-forgotten images, nightmare horrors and tantalizing dreams out of the enquirer's memory and give them life and forms which will assail him with desires or terrors and drive him to some fateful act.

  One way that the notion of a mermaid gaining a "spark of soul" through union with a human husband might have some deeper meaning is by treating the idea as an analogy. A mermaid without her human husband dies like an animal, and likewise man will die if he severs his union with the Divine Spirit. Otherwise such relationships could only be the result of sorcery and are fraught with danger. The power of the Siren to lure through song is certainly linked to man's desire to achieve something beyond his physical compass in the intellectual and spiritual worlds, and this is awakened strongly by music which transcends his experience. This illustrates well the arcane teaching concerning atoms giving off constant astral emanations due to the tendency of spirit to go beyond and escape matter as the two evolve parallel to one another. Man's longings evoke forms out of the astral, and the Elemental forms give powerful voice to these and to other influences that may utilize the occasion for their expression.

  From this it is clear that even in one's longings one should proceed with wisdom and care, balancing the imagination with philosophical understanding. Homer indicated that the Siren's song led to death, a view advanced by Christian theologians for their own purposes. But Plato, though acknowledging their entrancing aspect, places them in key positions where they are clearly linked with the music of the spheres. Thus, one could say that their music may have to do with death, but the decisive factor is whether one is pulled helplessly over that threshold or whether one can master the transition. In this symbolic sense a human may beneficially master (husband) a mermaid (Elemental) and raise her up in the evolutionary scheme of things.

 In this the god Poseidon takes precedence over the older god Achelous. Because he is the son of Kronos (Time) and is, therefore, bound up with the expression of self-conscious intelligence in the world, he must, as the old Greek legends suggest, dominate the beings of the watery world. This includes, of course, Elementals of the watery element as well as that in man's nature which corresponds to them. Because of this it is important to remember that Poseidon is the descendant of Titans, whose number includes Oceanus and Tethys (spiritual motion 'of a never ending stream' and its matrix 'strainer'). Combining their watery attributes with the fire of mind reflected through Kronos, he is identified with the Great Dragon of the astral light, and his ministers are the Prachetasas (a name of Varuna is Prachetas), who are the Kumaras identified with the Kabiri and Makara. These five ministers (two are yet hidden) are symbolized by Triton, the merman vehicle of Poseidon, and they are the sons of Amphitrite (the Nereid) who herself is an early form of Venus-Lakshmi.

 Flowing from ancient India to Hellas, these antique ideas reflected a philosophically sound cosmogony which reveals strong links between Vishnu as Narayana and the Matsya Avatar with Cannes, Poseidon himself and his vehicle, Triton. Seen at different levels of interpretation, these gods span the worlds between the Universal Spirit, the human soul in man and the Elementals, which act as intermediate agents between humans and Devas. All of these worlds, including that of the dread Sirens, the evil Dahut and the noble Little Mermaid, are one in reality. Krishna is "at the same time Purusha and Prakriti in its totality, and the seventh principle, the divine spirit in man". In the words of Krishna, "I am the Cause, I am the production and the dissolution of the whole of Nature. . . . On me is all the Universe suspended as pearls upon a string."

 Man, taking his true place as microcosm of the macrocosm, comes at last to see himself as the Logos. Arriving at this state, all the concentric spheres of existence reveal themselves to his gaze and he moulds the Siren's sweet harmony as it expresses itself in and through his vestures. Under the trident of his superior gaze, they each maintain their balanced place, and their melody opens doors of life undreamt of, opening out far beyond death. In the journey to this enlightened harmony may one's vessel be guided by a vigilant heart and a clear eye. May one master by turns all the dangers and mysteries of the great astral sea so that Poseidon's "chain of the feet" can be undone, and one can unite with the Divine Logos within.

Keep us, O Thetis, in our western flight!
Watch, from thy pearly throne,
Our vessel, plunging deeper into night
To reach a land unknown.