"I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think that they will sing to me." T.S. Eliot
To understand what the mer creature appearing in your dream, it is important to understand their origin in mythology.
The half human, half otherworldy mermaid appears in almost all mythologies. In fact, the first merperson recorded was not a maid at all. It was a merman known as Oannes, a Babylonian god worshipped as early as 5,000 BCE. After Oannes, we find Atargatis, the first mermaid. Atargatis was a goddess associated not only with the sea, but also of the hidden forces, intuition, and the power of destruction. Her association with the sea led to her being more or less taken over by Aphrodite who was, according to legend, created from sea foam. The gods and goddesses eventually gave birth to entire races of sea dwelling creatures, both male and female.
Common recently examples of female mermaids in our culture are those of Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Little Mermaid' and the mermaid who appears on Starbucks' logo. The Starbucks' logo has undergone several transformations in order to eliminate what was considered a too sexually provocative mermaid emblem who, in earlier incarnations resembled the Celtic sheela-na-gig. See http://www.deadprogrammer.com/?p=1684 for more info and images.
It is important to note, especially when interpreting this symbol, that mermaids and sirens are not synonymous. Sirens were originally creatures that were half-bird--not half-fish. The sirens were soul-eaters who lured fishermen to them in order that they might steal their souls.
Mermaids, on the other hand, were actually quite protective of sea-farers and used their voices to calm their jangled nerves. Thanks to the Medieval church who used mermaids as symbols of sexual temptation, they became associated with the sirens--dangerous creatures who brought destruction and death. It was even rumoured that St. Patrick turned pagan women into mermaids. This was a most horrible punishment as by this time mermaids were struck with another of the sirens' stigma: the lack of a soul.
When interpreting your mer-creature dream, ask a few questions.
Was the creature in your dreams opposite your own sex? If so, it is probably serving as an anima/animus figure--the unconscious aspect of your self. These figures can appear in positive and negative roles and your feelings about the creature and its actions in the dream will give you clues as to what it is saying to you.
If the creature was benevolent and the feelings in the dream were pleasant, the mer creature may be standing in a Christ symbol, as the half-fish god Oannes was a precursor to Christ, who is often symbolized by what today has become known as the 'Jesus Fish'. Therefore, dreaming of a mer creatures may indicate higher consciousness or wholeness as the 'Jesus Fish' is actually a vesica piscis, a potent symbol of individuation.
If the creature was malevolent or the feelings in the dream were less than pleasant, the mer symbol may indicate feelings of being 'drowned' by emotions. It may also be a negative animus/anima figure, and can indicate self-sabotage or self-deception. It may also indicate feelings of feeling like you have 'lost your soul'--meaning that you have suffered a great loss but have repressed the feelings surrounding the loss.
Mer-creatures also convey a sense of longing, of a great desire to be understood. The merperson wants nothing more than to belong. They can, therefore also symbolize a need to speak up and use your voice to express your feelings, to be heard and comprehended.
Mer-creatures may also point to feelings of vulnerability. The mermaid, remember, was not a siren, but a creature who took care of those who were lost at sea. Your mer-creature may be saying that is is you who needs to be nurtured and protected.
Remember, these creatures, the mermaid in particular, have been associated with love, intuition, hope, the power of the voice, and sex, but also with loss of soul, treachery, and deceit. About the only thing that is consistent with merfolk is that they live in the water realm which is the realm of the intuition, feeling, and the unconscious. Therefore, when dreaming of merpeople, it means that you are dealing with something that comes from deep within yourself. Listen to the mermaids singing--because they are, in fact, singing to you!
As always, sleep well and dream out loud!
*~Aisling Ireland~* is an ordained Spiritual Counselor providing dream interpretation and Tarot readings. To make an appointment check out her website at:
One of my favorite reference books is the one below by Barbara Walker. Interesting information about mythology and symbols. I it frequently to help interpret symbols in my own dreams!
Another beautiful goddess related book is the Goddess Oracle Set illustrated by Hrana Janto. Janto has a website where you can see the images in this beautiful deck/book set.