I finally finished the Rusalka painting. Rusalka´s are slavic water siren-demons. According to some sources there are spirits of ladies who drowned themselves because of a broken heart.
She is accompanied by Zmei, Slavic dragon.
I was inspired by medieval bestiaries. Back then people believed that many of the mythical creatures existed..in far away lands of course.
I´ve always thought rusalka´s were really cool..and really creepy. Watercolor on acid-free watercolor paper. Posters, cases, t-shirts and other good stuff available in my Redbubble store.
Here are more pictures:
Chatting about mermen myths and folklore from all over the world. If you prefer to read you can read my article on the topic here.
I added some Tote bag designs to my Zazzle store and I must say I think these all-over-print bags look pretty nice.
These ones have some of my favorite mermaid artworks. Click on the images to get to the store.
Fear of Water
Finland is the country of thousand lakes and there are lots of stories told about water spirits. These stories vary in different areas. Our ancestors in all parts of the world had valid reasons to fear water. Thigs like scuba diving and marine research equipments weren´t developed until the 21st century and even today there are many things we don´t know about the depths of the oceans.
In Finnish language is there is an expression vesi vanhin voitehista, water is the oldest medicine. From very early on the healing properties of water have been acknowledged. Water can also be destructive. Storms and floods can cause lots of damage. Finnish water spirits have this dual aspect. They are not entirely bad or good. They are similar to humans.
Vedenemä The Mermaid
Finland being very forestry country, it is no surprise that mermaid sotries and legends are not very common. Mermaids in Finnish folklore are known as merenneito (maiden of the sea) vedenneito (maiden of water) and vedenemä (mother of water). Stories about the mermaids can be mostly found from the coast of southern and western Finland.
Vedenemä was described to be an erotic character who had big breasts, long green hair and green skin. In Finnish folklore mermaids did not have tails. They wore dresses made of sea foam. Image of a mermaid with a tail arrived to Finland as late as in the end of the 19th century together with first children´s book illustrations (especially Hans Christian Andersen´s Little Mermaid).
All over the world mermaids are believed to seduce sailor. Finnish mermaids were not exception. With their beautiful songs and their good looks they could cause shipwrecks but if they that the sailor was particularly good looking they might spare their life. According to the sailors mermaids like to sit on rocks combing their long green hair.
Photo (c) Svante Cullichsen
Mermaids are more common characters in the folkore of western Finland. Vetehinen belongs to the storytelling tradition of eastern Finland. It was a male waterspirit, who´s skin was either green, gray or blue and it looked like an old man. It had a beard made of moss and seaweed and trousers weaved from seaweed. According to some legends Vetehinen was a man who had drowned themself.
Vetehinen is similar to Russin water demon, Vodjanov. In Slavic stories Vodjanov is always malevolent spirit who is eager to drown innocent swimmers. In Finland Vetehinen is not all bad character. In some stories Vetehinen can favor some fishermen and tell them were all the best fishing places are. They live in the bottoms of lakes and ponds.
In Finnish folklore there was a group of ethereal water spirits. Utuneito means the mist maiden. Mist maidens were fairy-like beings who were completely made from morning mist and water steam. During the morning twilight mist maidens gathered above lakes and ponds to sing and dance. They were graceful creatures and their songs were hauntingly beautiful.
Vedenneito means a water maiden. Vedenneito was a humanized water spirit who lived in lakes and ponds and they were the personifications of the water. If the waters would dry out from the lake or the stream vedenneito would vanish and if all the waters would flow in to a river Vedenneito would flow into the river as well. Sometimes vedenneito was believed to be a spirit of a young woman had drowned herself. Another story from Finnish mythology tells that all water spirits were sons and daughters of Finnish sea goddess Vellamo and the sea god Ahti.
(c) Edvard Kittelsen
Näkki is the most well-known water spirit in Finnish mythology. You can find similar character from Sweden where it is called Näck, Nokken in Norway, The Neck in Britain and Nixen in Germany.
In Finnish folklore Näkki was a terrible evil water demon. It lived in the deepest end of lakes, ponds and whirlpools and sometimes it lurked children under the docks. According to some description Näkki was completely made of seaweed and there for it could not never be killed in the water. In Sweden Näck was most often described to be a handsome man. A talented violinist who seduced young women with his music. There were also stories told in Finland where näkki appeared as a young man or a woman but most often in Finnish folklore Näkki was a shapeless demon.
Back in the old days adults told children not to go to swim too deep otherwise Näkki would catch them. Fear was real because people did not know what dangers waters hold inside them. In the past when a drowned person was pulled from the water their body was filled with black dots. These were believed to be finger prints of näkki and proofs that näkki had killed the person.
In both Finnish and Swedish languages there are words derived from Näkki. Old Finnish word for sea shell is näkinkenkä which literally means näkki´s shoe and Swedish word for waterlily is näckrose näck´s rose. There was a spell that person could say before they went swimming which would keep näkki away. Magical words were Näkki maalle minä veteen, älä tule ottamaan (näkki to the land, me into the water, do not dare to take me) and when person rise up from the water they would say minä maalle, näkki veteen (me to the land, näkki back into the water).
Check out my online course on Finnish mythology )O(
Stories about the water spirits of far north.
Check out my Myths & Legends collection from my Society6 store with stickers, prints and posters with my goddess designs. Like Sarahkka from the Saami myths.
Goddess Of The Moon, Feminity and Water
Mermaids can be found from every culture and from all continents. There once was a goddess who is believed to be the inspiration to all the mermaids stories that have been told around the world for thousands and thousands of years. This goddess was Assyrian goddess Atargatis.
Atargatis was goddess of the moon, feminine powers and water. She was worshiped 4000-3000 years ago in ancient Assyria and later on all over Mediterranean.
Myth Of Atargatis
Stories how Atargatis became a mermaid are quite sad. According to the myth Atargatis fell in love to a mortal shepherd called Hadad and they had a daughter called Semiramis. Semiramis later on became queen of Assyria. She was most well -known for creating the famous hanging gardens of Babylonia.
Atargatis accidentally caused the death of Hadad. She could not live with her guilt and drowned herself into a lake near Ascalon. Waters however could not hide her beauty and she was transformed into a mermaid. A woman with a tail of a fish. Story of Atargatis is one of the first mermaid stories ever told.
Atargatis was worshiped in a temple dedicated to her in the ancient city of Ascalon in Israel. It was told that her temple was completely made of gold and there was a giant statue of Atargatis also made from pure gold and diamonds. There was pool in the temple and the worshipers of Atargatis had to swim through the pool to get into the altar. Pool was filled with living fishes that were fed daily and taken care of. Fishes and doves were sacred animals to Atargatis. Dove was an emblem of love and fish a symbol of fertility and bounty.
Cult of Atargatis traveled all the way to Greece and Rome and even British isles with Roman invaders. The greeks called her Derceto and Romans called her Dea Syriae the Assyrian goddess.
In ancient Greece myth of Atargatis was connected to the constellation of Pisces. According to the Greek myth an egg fell from the skies into the Eufratis river. A fish pushed the egg to the shore and goddess Derceto hatched from it. Derceto asked god Zeus to knowledge the help of the fish and Zeus created the constellation of Pisces to the skies. Star formation which represents two fishes.
The Mermaid Goddess
Atargatis is a Semitic word. She was called Athtart by the Phoenician. This might explain why she is often confused with Astarte, Babylonian goddess of sex and war. Atargatis is very different goddess. She is an aspect of the Universal Mother and her life-giving waters.
Story of Atargatis takes us to the roots of mermaid stories and legends. Water is the element of emotions. Atargatis went through a transformation because of a broken heart. Till to this day image of a mermaid contains the same elements which goddess Atargatis possess. Healing powers of water, beauty that can not be hidden, magic of womanhood and connections to the moon, waves and emotions.
Sometimes waters can feel scary and threatening. We don´t know what mysteries lie within the deep. Atargatis is goddess of transformation who guides her followers to face their fears and their darkest selves so that they can love and appreciate all that they are.
Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea, and such.
Please keep the comment section civil, respectful and connected to the topic at hand. Thank you.