Summer is finally here, which means one thing: BEACH BABES TIME! We’re celebrating with a roundup of the best mermaids and fish folk the world has to offer. From buff mermaid moms to outcast mermaid communities to the types of mermaids that prevent disease and bring long life, we’ve got it all! Also featuring reflections on human sacrifice, crushing on wrestlers, and our favorite moments from Alan Menken movies.
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Spirits was created by Julia Schifini, Amanda McLoughlin and Eric Schneider. We are founding members of Multitude, a production collective of indie audio professionals. Our music is "Danger Storm" by Kevin MacLeod (http://incompetech.com), licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0.
Amanda: Welcome to Spirits Podcast, a boozy dive into mythology, legends, and folklore. Every week, we pour a drink and learn about a new story from around the world. I'm Amanda.
Julia: And I'm Julia.
Amanda: And this is episode 83: Mermaids. Plain and simple. Just mermaid's, y'all.
Julia: Plain and simple. I love a good mermaid, I love a good roundup. It is the perfect way to start the summer.
Amanda: Easy, breezy, beautiful, mermaids that might tear your flesh off.
Julia: That's my new slogan for just life in general, thank you. Thank you for that.
Amanda: You're very welcome. People who also have super strong life slogans are our newest patrons. Heather, Corey, Elaine, Mimi, Christie, and Paul, as well as our supporting producer-level patrons Philip, Julie, Christina, Josh, Eeyore, Neil, Jessica, Maria, Ryan, Philfresh, and Debra.
Julia: You all can join the mermaid girl gang that we started in this episode.
Amanda: I'm very serious about it. I want bomber jackets.
Julia: I want them so bad. At least a patch.
Julia: At least a good patch to go on our leather/jean jackets.
Amanda: Yeah. We may or may not have some things in the works for our patrons, so keep an ear out.
Julia: We'll see.
Amanda: And the first people to receive any patches that we may or may not be planning, would be our legend-level patrons Sandra, Audra, Mercedes, Jack, Marie, Arsley Marie, Leann, and Cassie.
Julia: Our legend-level patrons always have little tiny tiki drink umbrellas in their hair, the little paper ones. You know what I'm talking about.
Amanda: That coordinate perfectly with their outfits.
Julia: Yes, always. Every time. And that coordinates perfectly with our drinks for this episode. I made us tiki drinks.
Amanda: Oh yeah. Tiki drinks. I only had ceramic mugs to serve them in, but I like a good ceramic mug with my tiki drink.
Julia: I have a good tiki drink story, if our listeners and you will indulge me, Amanda.
Julia: So this past weekend, I was in LA doing podcaster things, which I like that I can say that as a thing that I can actually do.
Amanda: Oh my god, so official.
Julia: And I went to a podcaster meetup on Wednesday night. And at the bar we were at, we discovered a secret tiki bar, and I might have actually cried when I found it, when I went up the stairs and turned a corner and saw a giant tiki bar, I might have sobbed a bit.
Amanda: That's so beautiful. I don't know who does these things except for you, but I am glad that I get to hear the stories about it.
Julia: It was wonderful.
Amanda: And finally, we are creeping ever closer to our next goal on Patreon, which is to visit Akron, Ohio and the famed haunted spaghetti warehouse.
Amanda: We may or may not be finding secret bars in Cleveland and Akron. I'm willing to try, and I'm willing to document it and stream/photograph a whole heck of a lot.
Julia: Yeah. And we are only 35 people away from our Patreon goal. So if you are not donating, and you would like to do just $1 an episode, that gets us closer to our goal!
Amanda: Heck yes. And then everybody can benefit from our pilgrimage, shall we say, to Ohio.
Julia: Yes. Someone has to. We might get haunted by spaghetti ghosts, so someone has to.
Amanda: Someone has to. Well, without further ado, happy summer, and enjoy Spirits Podcast episode 83: Mermaids.
Julia: Amanda, do you know what time it is?
Amanda: 5:13 pm.
Julia: Okay, time of year?
Amanda: It's ... it's almost summer.
Julia: It is almost summer. You know that's my favorite time of the year. Oh, I'm so excited. I went to the beach a week ago and it was the ... I was just so excited to have vitamin D in my system again.
Amanda: I know. You know what we should do? We should do some Instagram stories from the beach this summer for people to hang out with us.
Julia: Yes. 100%.
Amanda: There's a cute photo on our Instagram ... early on in our Instagram with the two of us hanging out on the beach.
Julia: That's actually one of my favorite photos of us.
Amanda: Me too. We don't take a ton of photos together, but I like that one a lot.
Julia: No, we should do that more often.
Amanda: I know.
Julia: What's wrong with us?
Amanda: I don't know. I don't know.
Julia: So, we ... we're beach girls.
Amanda: We are. Grew up on the beach.
Julia: Mm-hmm (affirmative). We ... we totally rock out on the beach. We love the sand and the surf and the beers in the sand and surf.
Amanda: Who says you can't be an indoor kid and also a beach kid? You can be both. You can read under the umbrella for the entirety of the trip to the beach, with Julia's family has her grandma looks at you from the full sun and is like, "Honey, are you okay? Do you need sunblock?" "Yes grandma, I have sunblock and also I need to be in the shade."
Julia: Oh, Joyce.
Amanda: Love her. Love her.
Julia: So, I ... I am ready to spend all of my free time at the beach.
Amanda: Hell yeah.
Julia: So, with that in mind I want to do a roundup one of my favorite things in the world and one of the things that I know people love as well and that's-
Amanda: Water spirit?
Julia: It's gonna be water spirits and mermaids, but mermaids.
Julia: Mermaids. I don't wanna just talk about the traditional mermaid that we see in the media all the time.
Amanda: Sure, I mean if previous episodes are anything to go by, it is probably sanitized and less gory and also less awesome version of an actual myth.
Julia: That's true. I want to talk about all the mermaids.
Amanda: All of them?
Julia: All of them.
Julia: I mean, maybe not all of them, but the ones I like the best.
Amanda: We have about 45 minutes, so yeah let's do it.
Julia: And you know, I get to do the ones that I wanna talk about because this is my show and I do the research. So, yay.
Amanda: I wouldn't know any different.
Julia: So we, Amanda, are going to start in the British Isles first.
Amanda: Okay. Alright. Warming up, warming up.
Julia: And the first on my list are the finfolk.
Julia: Because that's a dope ass name. The finfolk aren't really your typical mermaids, but rather they're a race of like sorcerer shape shifters.
Julia: They live beneath the sea in a place called Finfolkaheim.
Amanda: That sounds about right.
Julia: It is a massive underwater palace with crystal halls, ornate gardens of multi-colored sea weed and is constantly lit by phosphorescent tiny glowing sea creatures.
Amanda: That's freaking adorable and pretty accurate. That takes into account where it actually is and why.
Amanda: In a way that makes it really easy for me to picture.
Julia: I know, it's ... it's really pretty. I wanna live there.
Amanda: I love glowing fish. They're my friends.
Julia: I mean, I don't wanna live there. You'll see why, but ... So, the finfolk will either swim, wade, or sometimes even row boats up to the northern isles of Scotland during the spring and summer.
Julia: The purpose of this is to search for human captives and they've been known to kidnap fisherman, children, and others who are careless enough to wander the shores and force them into a living of servitude or as a spouse to one of the finfolk.
Amanda: I was going to ask why, but you got there before me.
Julia: I did. I gotcha. I gotcha covered and I ... I know your questions before you even ask them. That's what friendship is.
Amanda: It's true.
Julia: So, they'll often disguise themselves as other sea animals, plants, or even floating clothes in the water. The fin wives usually prefer the appearance of traditional mermaids: golden hair, snow white skin, beauty, and a long fishtail.
Amanda: Interesting. I don't ever picture blonde hair when I think of mermaids.
Julia: Really? I tend to.
Amanda: Yeah, I think of red and brunette hair, but not-
Julia: You're probably goin ... you're goin full Little Mermaid. I almost didn't remember the name of the one mermaid movie that we watched as children. That's bad. The finfolks were considered territorial and greedy and they have a weakness for silver, especially silver coins and jewelry.
Julia: Humans captured and married to a finfolk spend their time on the island of Heidiland where they spend their days performing rigorous duties and housework.
Julia: Yeah, not great. Don't want ... don't wanna marry one.
Amanda: I love how ... I love how marriage is just code for assault and kidnapping in so many stories.
Julia: Indentured servitude.
Amanda: Yeah, for real. Not in real life, I'm clear. Most of the time marriage is consensual and lovely.
Julia: You say it across the couch from your friend who is going to be married in like the next year.
Amanda: Listen, I mean in fairytales. You said they're ... I just ... I just found a spouse. I just brought them back. Don't worry.
Julia: It's fine. Don't worry about it.
Amanda: That's not what that is.
Julia: So, another Scottish mermaid is the Sea Mither and she is a bit nicer than the finfolk. She lives in the seas north of Scotland during the summer where she confines this demonic being known as the nuckelavee.
Amanda: Hey. Hey Scotland? You okay? What's going on up there?
Julia: During the spring she fights with her arch nemesis Teran who is another ocean spirit that causes severe winter storms.
Amanda: Only ... only in the spring is when they fight. Or I guess after the storms are over?
Julia: So, they fight in the spring and the fall. You'll see why.
Julia: So, this battle determines who will control the seas and weather. The Sea Mither wins every spring, but during the summer her benevolent acts and weather ... like keeping the weather nice exhausts her and Teran is able to defeat her in the autumn.
Amanda: Wow. I mean, thank you and also I'm sorry.
Julia: She gives during her reign, during the summer, the aquatic creatures the ability to reproduce, warms and calms the sea, and instills a "softer song like quality to the gentle summer breeze."
Julia: I know. It's really cute.
Amanda: I ... I ... and we talk so often about myths that correlate to or explain the seasons, but every time it gets me. Every time it's like wow, thinking about people who looked at the world around them, observe this change happening over several years, and were like rationalizing that into a story that's really relatable. We all have cyclical struggles and if I could make the world more hospitable and temperate for everybody in a way that did not disrupt the ecosystem, I super would.
Julia: Amanda, you're the mother goddess that I want to see in the world.
Amanda: Aw thanks, babe. You're the vengeance spirit I would call for any slight.
Julia: The nicest thing anyone's ever said to me. I love you. Okay so, one more Scottish mermaid. This is called the ceasg.
Julia: I'm probably not pronouncing that right. It's called-
Amanda: The Scots don't yell at us on Twitter like ... like the Irish do.
Julia: That's true.
Amanda: Love you fam.
Julia: It's spelled C-E-A-S-G.
Amanda: Well, I don't know.
Julia: Figure it out. So, it's often also known as the maid of the wave, or the maid of the sea.
Julia: So, interestingly they can live in both fresh and salt water and it is said to have the tail of a young salmon. I love salmon myths. I love salmon myths. Every since the salmon of knowledge, I've just been obsessed with the idea of salmon in all of the mythology.
Amanda: I know. I love the salmon of knowledge. If you didn't listen to our 30 myths in 30 minutes episode, that one is full of bangers, like every story in that episode is ... I still remember, but in the Delancey Essex Subway stop in New York City the JMZ and the BDFM, I think, cross over.
Amanda: There is just a salmon in the ... in the like mosaic that lines the stairway, just a salmon on its own. Nothing else around that salmon and every time I pass by I go, "Hello salmon of knowledge."
Julia: Maybe there was a fishery in that area or something like that?
Amanda: It's like on the border of Chinatown, so there are lots of fish markets and produce markets, so probably there's imagery elsewhere in the station that is like that, but I just look at the salmon of knowledge every time.
Julia: You always do the salmon.
Amanda: Hi friend.
Julia: So, the maid of the waves is said to grant three wishes to anyone who's able to capture her. And there are several stories about marriages between humans and these mermaids. Even if they return to the seas during their marriage and the marriage ends, 'cause you know, she went back to the sea, they-
Amanda: That happens with every successful marriage.
Julia: So, the mermaids will still take an interest in their human descendants and protect them from storms. They'll help them find the best fishing grounds, et cetera.
Julia: Especially in some stories they are slightly more monstrous, though. So, they'll swallow heroes and what not and there's actually a really interesting story about how the mermaids life force resides inside an egg and this has some speculation that has to do with the original stories featuring the ceasg as a sea goddess who may or may not have demanded human sacrifice?
Amanda: Huh. I mean, to me the kind of red flags of cooler more brutal myth incoming are power concentrated and a thing outside your body that you would therefore protect at all costs.
Amanda: And some kind of dominion or power over bounty and harvest and food, like we would obviously do anything to ... to sane ourselves in that way. And so, we often hear about agricultural or seasonal spirits and gods needing sacrifice, whether its human, animal, or otherwise.
Julia: Yeah. For sure. And I ... it's kind of like when we talked about the kelpie.
Julia: And we were talking about how earlier stories of the kelpie were most likely ... the human victim part of the kelpie is most likely has to do with the fact that humans were being sacrificed to this weird horse god or whatever.
Julia: And then that transitioned into, "Nah, it just steals people and eats them."
Amanda: Right. Imagine ... imagine that transition if a kid asks you, "Oh, what happened to this person?" Or, "Oh, why did people used to do that?" As a parent, isn't it easier to say like, "They just got taken and also they're safe."
Julia: And not be-
Amanda: Right. And not like we all rationalize the ... the sacrificing of people.
Julia: "We pulled the lottery on them." Okay so, next we are heading a bit west to Ireland to assess the merrow.
Amanda: I bet it's gonna get sad.
Julia: Maybe. So, interestingly the merrow is supposed to come from a word meaning sea singer or siren, which other etimologists say that the name might be derived from either sea maid or sea hog, which is interesting to me. Most stories of the merrow come from the 19th century. She is usually described as a typical mermaid: half human, gorgeous woman from the waist up, fish like waist down.
Amanda: Yep. The least disturbing human animal hybrid.
Julia: Her lower extremities are covered with greenish tinted scaled. She's also said to have a slight webbing between her fingers, similar to the skin between an egg and a shell. Which I like ... I like that. That's a very specific kind of imagery.
Amanda: I know, but once you picture it you're like, "Oh yeah, for sure. That makes sense."
Julia: So, they are "modest, affectionate, gentle, and have a benevolent disposition and are capable of having attachment to human beings with many stories about marriages between humans and merrow."
Amanda: I mean, adorable. I love it.
Julia: Children that result from these unions are often reported to have scaly skin and webbed fingers and toes.
Julia: The merrow, much like the selkies, will inevitably want to return to the sea no matter how much they love their partner. The way of preventing a merrow from doing this is to conceal her "little magic cap."
Amanda: Aw, what is that?
Julia: Which is a special hat that allows them to dive beneath the waves and breathe underwater.
Amanda: Special amphibious hats.
Julia: There's like some sort of Irish term for it that I skipped over 'cause I didn't want to try and guess-
Amanda: You know. You call your shots. You know when to hold them and when to fold them.
Julia: So, while merrow women are considered very beautiful, merrow men are described as having green hair and teeth, like green teeth, pig like eyes, a red nose, and a tail between his scaly legs and stubby fin-like arms. Which I kind of find adorable that they were so ugly.
Amanda: Yeah, that sounds like a ... like on the scale mermaid to manatee, closer to manatee.
Julia: Yes it is almost ... the fin-like scale on the arms. I think kind of does it for me. So, they are said to capture the souls of drown ... this is the male version of the merrow.
Julia: They are said to capture the souls of drowned sailors and lock them in lobster pot-like cages under the sea.
Amanda: This is so specific.
Julia: It's really, really cute.
Amanda: On a less fun note because it was gonna get sad, that was also the peak of the famine in Ireland and lots of people died. Lots of people immigrated across the sea to America, and so a lot of the time when you have these kind of Irish songs about looking over the sea and missing your love or wondering where they went, not only is it obviously talking about death, but also people literally left over the sea and were never seen again because they had to leave. So, I wonder if this kind of finding love and their leaving and the ... the idea of the sea as holding beauty and ugliness and fortune and sadness, that's kind of all wrapped up.
Julia: I do like the idea of having the excuse when your marriage fails, be like, "She was a merrow. She went back to the ocean. I married a mermaid. That shit just happens."
Amanda: Yeah. "You know, got a few good years then goodbye and onto the next thing." Which honestly, pretty well adjusted way to think about relationships and kind of phases of your life.
Julia: Yeah, unless you're in denial and you're like, "She's a mermaid, I swear. She definitely didn't move in with a blacksmith."
Amanda: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
Julia: Moving on we are going to talk about the ben varee, which is from the Isle of Man.
Julia: And again, they're pretty similar to a traditional mermaid. This variety is considered more favorable to other humans and there are many stories about them giving assistance, gifts, rewards to humans, which is kind of cool.
Julia: One story about the ben varee tells a story about how a fisherman who carried a stranded mermaid back into the ocean was given the location for treasure that made him rich.
Julia: Here's another one. A baby mermaid once stole a doll from a little human girl, but the ben varee mother rebuked her child and sent the little girl a pearl of necklace to apologize for the theft. A fishing family that gave regular gifts of apples to the mermaid were rewarded with prosperity for the rest of their lives. So like, basically be nice to-
Julia: To mermaids and you get stuff. They're like ... they're like the bravens of the ocean.
Amanda: I remember my ... that's very good. I remember my ... my parents as a kid trying to teach me to do nice things for people and sometimes they'll thank you, but don't do it because of that. It was ... it was very much like a ... a line that they were writing. I love too that we're talking about an area that's only several hundred miles in diameter, you know, between Scotland, Ireland, Isle of Man, and other parts of the UK and yet, there's so much variety in all these different water spirit mermaid esque figures.
Julia: I know. I love ... I love that you can stay within a certain area and still get a lot of different myths from it.
Amanda: Yeah, and did you know that the Isle of Man is a self governing British crowned dependency?
Julia: I didn't know that.
Amanda: Me neither.
Julia: That's kind of cool.
Amanda: There you go.
Julia: So, off the continent, here is a French keltic inspired female spirit known as the Melusine.
Amanda: I'm sorry, just one second, I pictured you there in like a ... like a beige linen travel suit.
Julia: Off to the continent.
Amanda: And a straw hat.
Julia: Very cute. It's a good look. So, the Melusine is a fresh water spirit who is usually found in sacred springs or rivers.
Julia: Okay. So, unlike the rest of the mermaids, she can either be depicted as a fish or having a serpent tail from the waist down, and additionally she is often depicted with wings, two tails, or both.
Amanda: Yikes. We're getting into like hierarchy of angels type shit right here. I love it.
Julia: In some stories she is the daughter of a fairy named Prisine, and King Lioness of Albany. Like not our Albany, like the first Albany.
Amanda: Yeah, the first Albany. That is very specific and I love it.
Julia: Yeah, Prisine and Melusine go to the Isle of Avalon after the king breaks an oath that he would never look at his wife and daughter in their bath just outing them as mermaid-like creatures.
Amanda: That is kind of a cross between the Avalon stuff that we heard about in the King Arthur episode and what was that ... the child birth god where if you looked at the woman while she's having ... in child birth, it would be bad?
Julia: Oh, Toyotama-Hime.
Amanda: Yes, yes, yes.
Julia: Yeah, who like gave birth to her basically crocodile child.
Julia: Dragon child.
Julia: And got peeked on by her husband-
Amanda: Right, the privacy while ... the privacy during birth is really important to her and he violated that. Yeah.
Julia: But yeah, we're actually going to head east from there into Russia and the rusalka. So she is a female spirit from Slovak mythology and her name in most Slovak languages actually is a direct translation to mermaid.
Julia: Which is interesting because before the 19th century she was considered a spirit associated with fertility and spring. Basically transferring life giving moisture into the fields and helping nurture the crops, which is really cool. I like that a lot, but after the 18th century she begins to appear as this sort of dangerous creature. She's no longer alive. She's associated with unclean spirits. In some stories, rusalkas are the result of women who are in unhappy marriages that commit suicide by drowning or else are violently drowned against their own will.
Amanda: I mean, probably very real.
Julia: Yeah, probably pretty legit, which is very sad. I'm not a fan.
Amanda: I know. I wonder if there is something around narratives of nation building and nationalization as they move toward a more socialistic model of government. I don't know if agricultural production was maybe made to be more like mechanized and more like the product of work and not the product of seasonal and kinda unpredictable happenings.
Julia: Wow, that's a really good point.
Amanda: That's a completely thought out of nowhere. I don't know if it's right-
Julia: No, that's a really cool point, though. I really like that.
Amanda: Yeah, it came to mind.
Julia: That's really interesting because all of a sudden you're not relying on nature itself. You're relying on your own personal work as human beings and usually a lot of that time most of those countries are becoming much more secular.
Amanda: Yeah, and the state is saying like, "No, no, no. We govern this. We can do this if everyone buys in, then we can have more control over the production."
Julia: Yeah, it downplays the role of the environment.
Amanda: The unpredictable and the kind of personal ritual involved.
Julia: Wow, that's really cool. That was a really good thought. Good job.
Amanda: Thanks. I learn some things. Eighty episodes what?
Julia: In this kind of version where she's evil and unclean and whatnot, she said to lure young men into the depths of waters that she drowned in herself.
Julia: Entangle them with her long hair and then submerge them.
Amanda: I mean, kind of badass.
Julia: Yeah, and so she will drown them, or in some cases tickle them to death. Russia likes the tickle to death. Really ... like this ... there are multiple creatures that will tickle you to death in Russia folklore. That is a legit thing.
Amanda: Russians get at us.
Julia: Tell me more about your tickle death. I will do a whole episode on tickle death.
Amanda: I know there's at least two of you listening. Come on.
Julia: Okay, Chile. We are going to talk about la sirena chilota and that is ... it's similar to the European mermaid.
Julia: The usual half fish half woman body. She has blonde hair. Again, kinda going against what you thought with the-
Amanda: Interesting, yeah.
Julia: And she has golden scales and her human side is said to look like a beautiful teen, which is a little problematic, but we're gonna move past it. In these stories she is said to be the daughter of Millalobo, who is the king of the sea and a woman who is named Huenchula. She is in charge of caring for all the fish. Like all the fish in the world, she takes care of them.
Amanda: Yay. Fish mom.
Julia: Her siblings are two water spirits known as Pincoya and Pincoy. They carry the bodies of drowned sailors to her so that she can revive them.
Julia: It's very ... she's very sweet. I like her a lot.
Amanda: Fish mom.
Julia: So she's said to be an extremely strong swimmer carrying victims of tragedies back to shores on her back.
Amanda: Yes, berley mermaid.
Julia: And her tears are said to be magical/healing and are very delicate.
Amanda: I don't know why she isn't the ... the goddess of everything.
Julia: I love her so much.
Amanda: I love her, too.
Julia: She's great. I love my mom. I love my berley mermaid mom.
Amanda: Seriously. I ... I just read an article today about how Sailor J, the YouTuber, does wrestling. She took it up when her boyfriend started studying it. Yeah, so A, she's in the air force and B, she wrestles for fun and exercise. She's the most badass person I've ever seen.
Julia: I really wanna do that. We've talked about this multiple times, but I really wanna get into wrestling. Anyway, we're going to go for another really sweet story. We're going north and this is the home of Aycayia, the Caribbean mermaid. There are said to be young men and women who are disowned from their native communities and went to live by the sea, but were instead welcomed into it.
Julia: Aycayia will seek out individuals that are shunned by their communities, turning them into Aycayia as well so that they never feel rejected or alone again. And I love them.
Amanda: Stop, I'm crying.
Julia: It's really cute. I just like the idea of a community of probably gay mermaids.
Amanda: Yeah, absolutely. These are definitely queer and non-binary youth who go out to ... or otherwise alienated to find people of their own and you know that found families are my jam.
Julia: I know.
Amanda: You know that ocean spirits are my jam.
Julia: I know.
Amanda: This is pretty much the combination of everything I could possibly want.
Julia: I want a ... you know the girl gang, leather jackets or jean jackets? I want that, but like Aycayia queer mermaid gang.
Amanda: Oh my god. I love it.
Julia: Someone design that for us, please.
Amanda: I love it.
Julia: We're going to be hopping over the Pacific with a couple of Japanese myths.
Amanda: Alright, alright.
Julia: The first is the ... is kind of more of a modern thing. It's called the Cecelia, which is a mythological creature that appears in art and combines the head, torso, and arms of a woman with the bottom half of an octopus or squid, much like a mermaid does with a fish.
Amanda: I was so worried there for a second as you were naming appendages, like what creature are they? But that ... that is pretty cool. Ever since Ursula I ... I really don't mind the octopus thing. I think it's pretty badass.
Julia: So, this is actually a pretty recent version of the mermaid with some pointing out that the combination didn't seem to exist in the world until a comic in Vampirella magazine, which came out in like the 1970s, and they're usually referred to as well as sea witches, which you'll see in the Little Mermaid with Ursula.
Amanda: Yay. Oh, I see now why Ursula was bad. I never actually put together that ... the multiple appendaged sea creature was evil and everyone with one tail was coated as good, but makes sense.
Julia: That's some bullshit. I don't like it.
Amanda: I know. It is bullshit. Also, I read a ... I think it was probably on Tumblr or maybe it was a think piece about how Ursula was this ... the writer's first example of a woman who just unapologetically took up space and these days we have more vocabulary for body positivity and the ... the agency and kind of right to exist and right to take up space, but Ursula was an early example for the writer about how just freakin' live your life and you're beautiful and you know that you are and you can do whatever you want.
Julia: Yeah, and I ... I also ... if I remember correctly, she was based off of a really prominent drag queen at the time.
Julia: Yeah, I have to double check that and I will link to the article for our patron notes, but-
Amanda: Hell yeah.
Julia: But I'm 90% sure that's the case.
Amanda: That's awesome.
Julia: So, there's also a yokai known as the Amabie, which is also sometimes known as the Amabiko. The Amabie have long hair, a scaly body, and surprisingly a beak like mouth and three legs.
Julia: It glows with a bright light that can be seen from shore if they're out in the ocean. Despite their kind of horrifying appearance, I ... I understand your no there, seeing what is actually said to protect you from disease.
Amanda: Okay, it seems like somebody just looked out at the ocean just like named things and then somebody on shore was like, "It's a person." I gotchu, though.
Julia: So, the only recorded sighting of an Amabie comes from the Hego Province, which is present day Kumamoto, pref ... prefecture. And it was seen in April of 1846.
Amanda: Pretty longstanding then.
Julia: Yeah. So, for I think it was like three or four nights in a row, this bright light could be seen in the waters offshore. One night a government official went out to see what it was, "Let's investigate what this light is."
Julia: He goes out. He approaches the thing and the strange creature appears to him and the creature itself was an Amabie. It told the government official that a six year bumper crop was coming.
Amanda: Oh boy. Good.
Julia: It also said that should there be an outbreak of disease, he should immediately show the Amabie's picture to people everywhere as it would protect them from harm.
Amanda: I mean, that's a pretty good way to probably get your own image, huh?
Julia: Yeah, I guess. Of the ... of the Amabie, but not the government official.
Amanda: No, I know, like on the Amabie's part.
Julia: It would be funny if the government-
Amanda: Just put me up in everybody's house.
Julia: It would be funny if the Amabie was like, "Here's a picture of you. Show it to everyone. It's probably fine."
Amanda: I don't know.
Julia: You'd question that a little bit of that official.
Amanda: I think it's funny. It's like when you go to government buildings just like President Obama is in every building that you visit.
Julia: After that the creature returned to the sea cause why not? Shortly after that the Amabie's story, along with this like woodblock print image of it was featured in the newspaper that was distributed to as many people as possible.
Amanda: Yay technology.
Julia: So, if there was an outbreak of disease people had the image and wouldn't get sick.
Amanda: Worst case scenario, you give them some cool woodcutting ... that's a pretty low stakes way to test out a ... a theory given to you by a creature.
Julia: It's ... it's not as good as vaccines, but it's pretty good.
Amanda: Or I don't know, fluoridating water or iodizing salt.
Julia: Yep. Yep. Agreed.
Amanda: These are good things and not conspiracies.
Julia: These are good. Don't ... don't question it. Okay, so stranger than that, which is saying something.
Julia: Is probably the Ningyo, which is probably the least human mermaid on the list that I have.
Julia: They were often described as having a monkey's mouth with the small teeth of a fish, shining golden scales, and a voice like a flute.
Amanda: Okay. I mean, golden fish friend giving me nice flute music, I'm okay with that.
Julia: Its flesh was said to be extremely tasty.
Amanda: Oh no.
Julia: And eating it would lead to a long life.
Amanda: Sounds like a good way to eradicate a rare species.
Julia: They are said to bring storms and misfortune and so fishermen are weary to catch them and always throw them back into the sea.
Julia: Here's a good story of a Ningyo called Yaobikuni. A fisherman catches an unusual fish. He has never-
Amanda: This fish, it's so unusual.
Julia: It's so weird. It ... basically, this fisherman was all of the people who come into the shop in Little Shop of Horrors and they're just like, "I've never seen anything like it. Look Marge." I love that scene.
Amanda: "Look at its hands".
Julia: So, the fisherman catches this unusual fish. He's never seen anything like it before so he brings it home and invites all his friends to come to his home to try it for dinner ... to try it for dinner.
Amanda: I mean, I hope it's not poisonous.
Julia: But one of the guests looks at the fish, like while he's preparing it, and notices that it has a human face and warns all the other guests, "Don't eat it." "Yeah, bud." So, the fisherman cooks up the fish and he serves it to his guests, but they all secretly wrap it into paper and hide it so that they can discard it later.
Amanda: Okay, good. Yeah.
Julia: But one of the men gets just super drunk on saki and forgets to throw out his serving of fish away.
Julia: So, he heads home and his little daughter is super hungry when he gets home.
Amanda: It happens.
Julia: And so he, not thinking, just hands her over this fish that he-
Amanda: "Here, have my pocket fish."
Julia: "Here, have my pocket fish." So, he sobers up the moment that he hands it to her and tries to get it back, but she is already eaten it.
Amanda: Oh no.
Julia: Nothing bad happens.
Julia: Or like nothing bad that he notices happens. So, he's just like, "Eh, I'm not gonna worry about it. It's probably fine."
Amanda: "I'm drunk. I'm gonna sleep."
Julia: Yeah, the girl grows up. She gets married. She doesn't age at all.
Julia: So, in fact her husband grows old, but she keeps her youthful appearance.
Julia: She lives a long, long life. She gets widowed over and over and over again, until she finally becomes a nun and starts traveling to various countries and she dies the ripe old age of 800.
Amanda: That is ... that is a commitment to a story.
Julia: I love her.
Amanda: I thought you were gonna say like 150. I'd be like, "Yeah, dope, great."
Julia: Nope. 800.
Julia: For each ounce of fish, probably, that she ate.
Amanda: That is a very smart way to use a very long life.
Amanda: 'Cause, like especially if we're talking early kind of societies where women were perhaps not as empowered or have access to resources like we do almost now. But being a nun is a great way to get educated, do service work, travel, have an interesting and nice life, learn vocations. That's awesome.
Julia: I like it. I like her life and I ... if I was 800 I'd get married a bunch of times, pop out a bunch of kids, be like, "I'm gonna travel. I'm gonna probably teach myself some stuff."
Julia: Okay so, last place we are going to stop is of course the Philippines.
Amanda: Oh my gosh. Good. We can't do a roundup without going to the Philippines.
Julia: So, we are going to talk about the Sirena, also known as the Siyokoy. So, in Bicol, or the ... and Visayas, Sirena's are also known as Magindara, AKA vicious mermaids.
Julia: So, she looks like a typical mermaid and is considered a mythical guardian of the water. So much like sirens, they use their voice to attract and hypnotize fishermen and sailors causing shipwrecks and drownings, or else abducting sailors away before they can drown.
Amanda: Yeah, I was just like reckoning for the first time with the idea of like what do they do if they don't kidnap them? And the idea that they would just like ... just drown them, and was like, "Oh god."
Julia: They're like, "We're just gonna leave you alone." It's the opposite of the adorable Chilean mermaid.
Amanda: Yes. Yes it is.
Julia: They are said to carry their victims under the water and then sacrifice them to the water gods, which is-
Amanda: I mean, if you're gonna make sacrifices you might as well outsource to two different species. That I understand, but ew.
Julia: Sometimes they'll pretend to be drowning, luring men into the sea to save them, and then they squeeze the life out of their would be rescuers. That's pretty good. I like that a lot.
Amanda: If we get past the murder, that's a pretty good ... that's a pretty good gamete.
Julia: They're usually accompanied by Dugongs, sea turtles and dolphins.
Julia: I loved ... I love a Dugong.
Amanda: All our sea friends.
Julia: It was said that the embodiment of the moon would come down at a full moon and swim with the Serina's, and they would protect them from sea monsters.
Amanda: Hell yeah.
Julia: I'm thinking that this is probably an instance which we talked about in the Bathala episode.
Julia: Where there is a pre-Spanish mythology and then a post-Spanish mythology version of both of these stories, and the ... the protecting the moon embodiment sounds like a pre whereas the, "We're gonna murder all these ... all these sailors-"
Amanda: It's not Christian, so it's evil. Right.
Julia: I'm thinking that's probably the case in this situation.
Julia: One of the more popular embodiments of the Sirena and the reason why I picked this one is, Isabel who is a comic book mermaid character from the Philippines that was created in 1952.
Julia: And I will link to one of the comics in that.
Amanda: That's awesome.
Julia: But that's our mermaids from across the world, Amanda.
Amanda: So many. There's really nice ones. There's really mean ones. There's one tail. There's snake tail. There's octopus tail.
Julia: Yeah, South America and the Caribbean really killed it with some good, nice mermaids.
Julia: I was very happy with that section.
Amanda: Especially the idea of people who are misfits and leave home and try to strike out on their own. So often it's like just leaving a community that's bad for you and not actively seeking one that you think will be good because that's hard and do you know where it is? Who knows? But the idea that all of these outcasts come together to make like a ... a paradise for themselves. That's really beautiful.
Julia: I really like that and I do really want that jacket.
Amanda: Yeah, I really want that jacket as well in a nonappropriative and respectful way.
Julia: Mm-hmm (affirmative). For sure.
Amanda: It reminds of the other night I found myself at drinks for one of my friends from YouTube. We looked around the table and it was like six queer, bisexual, and gay women sitting at the table together and we were all just like home, finally, be like so much better. Yes, at a pinball bar in Brooklyn with a bunch of dogs around drinking local beers, like finally, somehow the universe has conspired to let us have this moment and it was a ... it was really beautiful.
Julia: I think with that, Amanda, the Aycaiya's would think that you're living your best life.
Amanda: Aw, thank you. I hope so, too.
Julia: I also really like the idea that, "Hey, we like to see pretty ladies in water a lot just like as ... as a like global human being thing."
Amanda: Right. Right.
Julia: "We just love a hot lady came out of nowhere and is just either going to murder me or marry me." It's a very common practice across the world.
Amanda: I'm gonna say, Julia, boobs float.
Julia: Boobs do float.
Amanda: Boobs look good. Boobs look good in water.
Julia: That's true.
Amanda: Also, it's like you see a woman rising out of the water, okay? Okay, pretty face. Okay, oh and long hair. Okay, oh boobs, those are nice. And then, you ... and then she stops at her belly button and you're like, "Welp, it's gonna be the best day ever or the worst day ever. It's gonna be a woman or it's gonna be fish."
Julia: I mean, it could be ... there's a reason why people like think that mermaids are hot, which-
Amanda: Listen, live your bliss.
Amanda: Live your truth.
Julia: I'm not gonna tell you not to do it.
Amanda: Okay, so in that case either it will be a weird day where there's a naked person coming at you or it's gonna be the best day ever, or it's gonna be pretty much a weird day or like the worst day in your life, but-
Julia: Depending on your-
Amanda: It's such a ... it's such a moment of decision, like something's ... the mood of the room is gonna change when we get below the belly button.
Julia: That deciding factor. Oh man, that's funny. There is the great mermaid parade in Brooklyn at Coney Island every year.
Amanda: Absolutely, this is gonna be the first year in years and years and years that I'm gonna be home for that. So, I am absolutely planning on attending.
Julia: I have to work that day, but I am mad.
Amanda: Aw, no.
Julia: But one of our listeners and a audio drama creator, Jay V who does Red Wing. You also might know his as, I think, Mister Hyde, is his handle on Twitter.
Julia: He has been a professional mermaid since he was 14.
Julia: And we were chatting the other day about how cool that is.
Julia: And it just sounds fascinating and I ... I super love all of our listeners like cool, cool hobbies and like lifestyles and shit like that.
Amanda: I know.
Julia: That's amazing.
Amanda: It's incredible. If you think we would find your job cool, please tweet us and tell us what your job is.
Julia: Yes, please. That'll be awesome. That's amazing.
Amanda: So, yeah. Go ... go mermaids. Go body positivity and cosplaying and costuming and living your life. And I guess be careful when you see naked figures rising out of the water. Just prepare yourself.
Julia: I do have a question for you.
Julia: If you could date any of the mermaids that were on our list ...
Amanda: Oh, ocean mom, fish mom.
Julia: Oh, the Sea Mither.
Amanda: Yes, yes, yes.
Julia: I should mention that in the ... the mythology she is giant.
Julia: She a big woman.
Amanda: Listen, I can get down with a giant. I don't mind.
Julia: Yeah, I'm just ... I'm just picturing her glancing into the apartment, like her big face 'cause she could reach the top of that.
Amanda: Yeah, here on the sixth floor just looking into my window. I'll be like, "Hi, wife." Listen though, you'd never have to lift a heavy object again.
Julia: That's true.
Julia: And ... and you'll probably just have to deal with the fact that during the winter she's just not around. She's just taking a nap for the winter.
Amanda: Yeah, given the choice between a partner that I cannot hang out with during all seasons or cuddle effectively, I ... I will choose one that ... that I can hold. Yeah, no. She sounds awesome. I'd love for her to be my auntie.
Amanda: You know? To be able to go and stay with her.
Julia: That's good. I think I'd go with the ... the Chile one. She sounds good.
Amanda: She does sound very cool and very intentional.
Julia: Yes. I ... I appreciate ... she sounds like the ... like the woman who's a nurse on the battlefield.
Julia: And I appreciate that, like she take no shit, gonna help everyone, she has a lot of empathy.
Amanda: And alright, like we see mermaids lying around on rocks sometimes, but it's like when you see a ... a amphibious creature on the bank sunning themselves and you forget that even though they move very slowly on land, that mother fucker goes real fast in water. And so, mermaids, that whole tail is muscle. That whole thing can be moved very fast.
Julia: Yeah, and like you pointed out, she's buff probably.
Amanda: Exactly, yeah. So, seeing her in action is much cooler than a window dressing type spirit, you know?
Julia: Now I'm just picturing the wrestler China, but as a mermaid.
Amanda: Oh, so did I. Don't worry.
Julia: Okay, cool cool cool. I'm glad we're on the same page then.
Amanda: Yeah, or the ... the woman who is the werewolf wrestler.
Julia: Amber Moon.
Julia: My girl. Or ooh, even Charlotte Flare, 'cause in this ... La Sirena Chilota is portrayed as blonde.
Julia: So, a Charlotte Flare who is my buff, buff queen. I love her. She's great.
Amanda: We love wrestling. We love wrestling so much.
Julia: Let's talk about my pro-wrestling podcast if my wrestlers were mermaids. That's the name of my new wrestling podcast.
Amanda: Aw. I would watch way more if all wrestlers were mermaids.
Julia: It can be half sea half land arena. Get at me, like one of those ... like an aquarium where the ... half of the thing is like plexiglass and you can see them fight in the water and half it's above. And then at the end they kiss instead of punch.
Amanda: Yes, like they finish and they're like, "Good job, babe." And then like forehead kisses. I think it would be very cute.
Julia: I'm into it. Very cool.
Amanda: Alright, well when it comes to dealing with sea creatures, remember listeners
Julia: Stay creepy.
Amanda: Stay cool.
Amanda: Spirits was created by Amanda McLoughlin, Julia Schifini, and Eric Schneider, with music by Kevin MacLeod and visual design by Allyson Wakeman.
Julia: Keep up with all things creepy and cool by following us @spiritspodcast on Twitter, instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr. We also have all our episode transcripts, guest appearances, and merch on our website, as well as a form to send us your urban legends, at spiritspodcast.com.
Amanda: Join our member community on Patreon, patreon.com/spiritspodcast, for all kinds of behind-the-scenes stuff. Just $1 gets you access to audio extras, with so much more available too: recipe cards, director’s commentaries, exclusive merch, and real physical gifts.
Julia: We are a founding member of Multitude, a collective of independent audio professionals. If you like Spirits you will love the other shows that live on our website, at multitude.productions.
Amanda: And above all else, if you liked what you heard today, share us with your friends! That is the very best way to help us keep on growing.
Julia: Thank you so much for listening. Til next time.