Matsya. nd. Artist unknown.
. . . Long ago, when life first appeared on the earth, a terrible demon terrorized the earth. He prevented sages from performing their rituals and stole the Holy Vedas, taking refuge in a conch shell in the depths of the ocean. Brahma, the creator of the world approached Vishnu for help and the latter immediately assumed the form of a fish and plunged into the ocean. He killed the demon by ripping open his stomach and retrieved the Vedas. Four forms emerged from the demon's stomach representing the four Vedas: Rig Veda, Sama Veda, Atharva Veda, and Yajur Veda.
MANU AND THE GREAT FLOOD, HINDU
One of the king's ministers was a man named Manu. While Manu was washing in a river, a little fish swam into his hands and asked him to save his life. Manu rescued the fish by placing it in a jar but the fish grew too large for the jar. Manu moved the fish to a tank but the tank was soon too small as well. Manu then moved the fish to a river and when that was not large enough, he moved the fish to the ocean.
This fish, which Manu "saved" so many times was actually an incarnation of the Lord Vishnu. Vishnu warned Manu of a great deluge which would soon cover the earth. So Manu build a large boat and took his family and the seeds of life on board. When the flood waters came, the divine fish towed the boat to a mountaintop and there it rested until the flood waters receded.
THE ORIGINS OF MERMAIDS
Illustration for "The little mermaid" by Hans Christian Andersen. Edmund Dulac.
I sat upon a promontory,
And heard a mermaid, on a dolphin's back,
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath,
That the rude sea grew civil at her song;
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,
To hear the sea-maid's music. William Shakespeare
A mermaid is a mythological creature which has the head and upper torso of a female and the tail of a fish. The first known mermaid stories appeared in Assyria in 1000 BCE. They are referenced throughout world mythology, variously known as sirens, water fairies, water nymphs and selkies. However, the African goddess, Mama Wati, is one of the most ancient traditions of this creature. Her mythic roots might be explained by imaginative interpretations of manatee sightings. There is the possibility that she represents the original mermaid archetype which was later assimilated by the West when African and European cultures crossed.