The Sea-Mother Goddess
Now let us slip into the depths of the maternal sea and dive into the grotto of the sea-mother goddess — the mother of love, water, and life itself. Viewed as an archetypal figure, the mermaid represents both the loving maternal womb and threatening sunken abyss, both the warmth of pure intellectual beauty and the irrational danger of the beast within our lower nature.
There is a distinct need for the Goddess into the major spiritual movements of the modern world. The “big three” religions are lacking in a female divine form, and prove themselves sterile. The loss of Eros, wisdom, and playfulness in modern life and religion parallels the rape of the earth and sea. To save ourselves, we must save our planet and its life blood, the oceans.
The mermaid, combining voluptuous female and glittering sea, reminds us of our desire for and dependence on her. The earliest religions focused on the love of the Mother, not the domination of the father through conquest and power. The mermaid, in combining both human and non-human bodily elements, reminds us of our primitive origins from which we have our deepest instincts of passion, adventure, and love. It is a patriarchal heresy that results in fascism and right-wing madness. Through the rebirthing of mother’s love within us, we can return to “divine motherhood” — the element that gives life to all true spirituality.
Whether we are male or female, the reawakening of the compassionate Yin or merciful feminine element in each of us is the only way to restore life to Earth, religion, and ourselves. Being a hybrid of Athena’s wisdom and Aphrodite’s sensuality, the mermaid reminds us of the divine gift: life itself originating in the great womb of the sea. The return to the source of true spirituality is deeply maternal. It conjures up the hidden memories of our mother’s womb or of the ocean. The Divine is indeed like a vast ocean, and each one of us is living in the hospitable salty warmth of the living sea. The mermaid would be an archetypal symbol of both ourselves and the great Sea Mother that sustains us at her abundant breasts.
If the sea-goddess is then an archetype of reawakening human spirituality, then metaphorically, fish and fisher become one — the sea and her children merge in a loving embrace. Of course, as in most mermaid myths, the embrace can be both beautiful and dangerous — it can inspire, it can be forbidden (since it seems to suggest incest), and it can even kill.
The words for “sea” and “mother” are related in a number of languages: “mere” and “mer” in French; “mutter” and “meer” in German; “madre” and “mare/mar” in Italian/Spanish. In this way we see even in the primitive origins of languages the clues to the early recognition of the link between the sea-goddess of fertility and the maternal life-giving waters of the sea.
In Sanskrit, the holy mountain of Krishna is called “meru,” meaning “backbone.” In eastern metaphysics, divine enlightenment rises up the spinal cord like a sea serpent swimming up toward the light. The rising of the mermaid or merman from the depths of the sea is a similar image. In Egyptian, the word “mara” also means “spine” or “backbone.” The word sometimes refers to a sacred mountain that some scholars believe is the Great Pyramid of Giza — the sacred connecting place between life, death, and new life — the connecting place between earth and the vast sea of the universe. The pyramid is made of limestone which is formed from the remains of pre-historic sea shells and fish.
In Hebrew, the name “mer” is associated with Mount Sinai, the Holiest of Holies, the place where the Divine visits and touches the earth. This mountain, like the pyramid, is made of the remains of pre-historic sea invertebrates. Phino, a Hebrew contemporary of Jesus, wrote that the name of the one God “Elohim” represents the benevolent male creator and the complementary name of God “yahweh” represents the goddess aspect of God, the nurturing mother. The male aspect was associate with firmness and solid land while the female aspect was connected to the fluidity of water.
The name Jesus is actually a modernized version of “Yeshua” or “Joshua.” The name Joshua is associated in ancient Hebrew stories with someone who performed many miracles. Amazingly, Joshua is sometimes called “Son of Nun” which means “son of the fish.” This seems to connect him with Oannes, the mer-god who taught wisdom in the myths of the Phoenicians who strongly influenced the ancient Hebrews. It is interesting that Jesus said his followers who were fishermen would become fishers of men, and an early symbol for Jesus was a fish. Jesus’ mother, whom we call Mary, was actually Miriam or Mara. The word “mara” brings us back to the words mentioned earlier that connect “mother” with “sea.”
Putting all these ideas together, we see the paradox of enlightenment: we, like sea creatures, must dive into the depths of our inner ocean in order to rise to the heights of illumination. The kingdom of light is founded on the deepest depths of the maternal and eternal sea.
Indeed, the color of the 3rd-eye Chakra is indigo, a deep-sea blue. The 3rd-eye is said to give wisdom and imagination. The human soul dives into the dark blue grotto of thought to be either uplifted and buoyed or dragged down to destruction. Both Athena, goddess of wisdom, and Aphrodite, goddess of the erotic sea, live together awaiting our explorations.