Mermaids Are Real: Part Five

The Ducking Stool

Modern Enactment of a Woman on a Ducking stool.
Modern Enactment of a Woman on a Ducking stool.

Were Mermaids And Witches The Same People?

In the previous video we mentioned that witches and mermaids might be the same people. There are many reasons for thinking this. Witches and mermaids are both feminine for example

Yes, we do hear of mermen but most stories about mer-people are about female creatures. The same is true of witches. In modern witchcraft or Wicca male witches now exist, but this wasn't true in the past.

Then, all witches were women. It also seems that. like witches, mermaids could weave magic spells. An example of this comes from the Doom Bar, in Padstow Bay, Cornwall, where many ships have been wrecked

Local legend claims that Doom Bar was created by a mermaid’s curse after someone shot at her while she was swimming in the harbour. It seems that in the past people believed in mermaid magic as much as they did that of witches

Nudity is another thing that links them both. In most stories, mermaids are naked, while witches were roundly condemned by priests in the past for dancing naked in the woods. This is also what the nymphs of Ancient Greece were noted for, mythical female creatures associated with both witches and mermaids.

During the witch hunts of the middle ages there was the cruel practise of the ducking stool, which was seen as a foolproof way to establish whether a suspect was a witch. The woman was tied to the stool and immersed in water. If the suspect drowned she wasn't a witch but if she survived the ordeal she must be one.

The only way this cruel logic can make any sense is if the accused Witch is also a breath-holding diver. An ordinary woman tied to the end of a ducking stool and forced underwater for about two or three minutes, is very likely to panic and drown. But if she is a breath-holding diver, she is more than capable of calmly holding her breath. It would be a foolproof method of finding out if the woman was a mermaid

In other times, the stool was dispensed with. The victim's right thumb was bound to her left toe and she was thrown into the water with a rope around her waist. If she floated she was a witch but if she drowned she was deemed innocent. A normal person would find it impossible to swim or keep afloat tied up this way and would probably drown, but a breath-holding diver, even limited in this way, is far more likely to survive. It was often reported that some of the women tied to ducking stools died of the cold after being repetitively dunked in cold water. Again this is something breath-holding divers are more likely to survive, being used to diving in cold water

As far as the Witch hunters were concerned, all breath- holding divers or mermaids were Witches. The fact that the Witch finders didn’t mind if they killed innocent women in the process of finding out who the witches were, suggests that they were not only trying to identify individual witches but their families as well. A woman who died during this ordeal probably saved her extended family from further persecution but a woman who survived would put her whole family under suspicion. A final point is that these ordeals suggest that witches or mermaids lived among the common people. Witch finders arriving in villages didn't know who was who and resorted to torture to discover the truth

The Witch Of Newbury

17th century pamphlet about the witch of  Newbury
17th century pamphlet about the witch of Newbury

The Surfing Witch

It seems that the mermaids or witches might have invented surfing in Europe. The first recorded instance of a board surfer was the witch of Newbury who went surfing on a river back in the 17th century but was killed by troops.

The scholar Barbara G. Walker, in her book "The Women's Encyclopaedia of Myths and Secrets," says.-

The so-called Witch of Newbury was murdered by a group of soldiers because she knew how to go "surfing" on the river. Soldiers of the Earl of Essex saw her doing it, and were "as much astonished as they could be " seeing that "to and fro she fleeted on the board standing firm bolt upright…turning and winding it which way she pleased, making it pastime to her, as little thinking who perceived her tricks, or that she did imagine that they were the last she ever should show." Most of the soldiers were too afraid to touch her, but a few brave souls ambushed the board-rider as she came to shore, slashed her head, beat her, and shot her, leaving her "detested carcass to the worms."

This story only makes sense if we accept that witches were mermaids and breath-holding divers. If this witch was a breath-holding diver she would be at home swimming in the river and perhaps even surfing on it

But how do you surf in a river? If there is a large low- lying rock in any fast-flowing river and the river flows over the rock and not around it, then the flowing water will create what is called a "standing wave". It's then possible for a person on a board to surf this wave. Surfers today utilise standing waves in fast flowing rivers

This evidence suggests that women were surfing long before the 20th century, but if they were then accused of witchcraft for doing this and murdered, like the Witch of Newbury, no doubt they would be discouraged. Knowledge of this, like the true history of mermaids, was written out of history, so now, all the evidence we have of this practice is the strange story of the Witch of Newbury. There are no records of mermaids surfing on the coast, but as female breath-holding divers were also written out of history, this might well have happened.

It seems that the Polynesians were surfing on wooden boards for thousands of years, before the Europeans came to the Pacific. The Christian missionaries banned the practice, but then it was taken up by white people, who started the modern sport of surfing.

Witch-Hunts

The Persecution Of The Witches

So why was the Christian Church so vehemently opposed to witches and mermaids? As we've previously mentioned, mermaids were breadwinners and assertive women. Christian priests didn't like this

We can see this in the way the ducking stool was used not only to find witches but to punish women who were ‘scolds’, women who spoke their minds and disagreed with their husbands. These women were not obeying the oath they took when they married, of honouring and obeying their husbands

It seems that one of the perks of being a witch-finder was that you could confiscate and keep the property of your victims. So Witch-finders had a strong incentive to target anyone who was reasonably wealthy and not bother too much with anyone who was poor. Female breath-holding divers made a good living harvesting valuable marine food from the sea-floor.

We know this from the experiences of the Ama and Haenyo divers of Japan and Korea. Although, breath-holding divers were banned throughout the whole of China, as well as the Korean mainland, they survived on the island of Cheju. The Haenyo divers there were wealthy enough to bribe corrupt officials, on the island, to leave them alone. Because Cheju was a remote island, it was mostly disgraced officials who were sent to it and so they would be easy to bribe

Ama diving continued until recently because it was one of the highest paid jobs women could do in Japan. However, in recent times Japanese women became better educated. Women can now earn far more, without the hardship of being a breath-holding diver, so in recent years fewer young women are taking up the profession. Likewise, the mermaids of Europe were probably also well rewarded for their work. In the past, many witches or mermaids were skilled herbalists and may have been paid as much as doctors are today. Witch hunters would have a strong incentive to accuse these women of witchcraft, and take possession of their property. They also accused many men of witchcraft because men are generally more wealthy than women

Another reason why mermaids were disliked, came from the conflict between farmers and mermaids. Today we tend to think of mermaids living in the sea, but if we go back to the old stories of mermaids, we find them also living in lakes, rivers and swamps.

Herbalists

Female gathers would have a greater knowledge of herbs than farming people.
Female gathers would have a greater knowledge of herbs than farming people.

The Wetlands People

Gathering food in water and wetlands is a very ancient way of life, far older than farming, and goes back millions of years to our earliest ancestors. Unfortunately the picture drawn by scientists about our ancestors, is very heavily biased towards men

They talk about hunter/gatherer societies, where men are the hunters and women the gatherers, but as science is dominated by men they are generally only interested in the hunters, and women are hardly mentioned. But field studies on hunter/gatherer societies that survived until the 20th century, show us that the vast majority of food was gathered by women. Hunting with spears or a bow and arrow has always been a very unreliable way of obtaining food, because most animals can easily outrun human hunters

In contrast, food was always available for gathering in swamps, rivers, lakes and the seashore, like the seeds of wild rice and club rush, floating plants like cresses, water chestnuts and water lilies. Along the coast there is sea parsnip, sea fennel, sea rocket and sea kale, to list but a few. It's been estimated that the ancient gatherers were aware of over a 150 different kinds of plants that they could collect all year around. On the seashore they also found edible seaweed, shellfish and crustaceans

About 10 thousand years ago farming was invented, which allowed larger numbers of people to be fed, thereby creating a population explosion. But not all people wanted to be farmers. Many people preferred the old way of life, of gathering food for free. For a long time this wasn't a problem since farming land was very different from the areas where people gathered food. This changed dramatically when farmers decided to drain swamps by constructing dykes and sea walls to turn swamps or salt marshes into farmland. Conflict was created between the farming people and the gatherers, a conflict that the farming people would always win, because of their greater numbers.

Whenever farmers decided to drain a swamp or salt marsh, there would be people living on it who would object, creating conflict between the two communities. When the farmers built their dykes and started to drain the land, the chances are that the gathering people would come in the night and breach the dykes to re-flood the land. The farmers, angry at having to guard their dykes, might simply decide to wipe out the swamp people as a solution to the problem

History, as we all know, is written by the winners of any conflict, in this case the farmers. Today, we only know history from the farmers’ point of view. Having gone as far as wiping out the people who fed themselves by gathering, they then set about justifying the genocide by condemning their victims as evil people who deserved to be murdered. Stories about their wicked deeds were invented and circulated

It seems that in the gathering communities it was women who were the leaders, in much the same way as men were the leaders in farming communities. The focus of all the vitriolic attacks by the farmers would be centred on the female leaders, who were condemned as evil witches. The witches would not only be seen as evil, but also practitioners of black magic. Where did these ideas come from?

Farmers V Gatherers

When people switched to farming, their diet became more restricted, even though more food was available, because the bulk of their diet consisted of cereal crops. Much of their food was lacking in vital nutrients, which led to deficiency diseases.

The farming communities discovered that the gatherers, with their vast knowledge of plants and herbs, knew of plants that could overcome these dietary deficiencies. So the farmers began using the witches of the gathering communities as doctors. We find much the same in mermaid stories, where mermaids are also described as herbalists

As we see today, people can quickly become dependent on doctors. If we look at Africa, Witch doctors not only dispense herbal medicine but psychological medicine as well, through their magic rituals. But they can also abuse this power by threatening their patients with magic curses. If there was conflict between the farming and gathering communities, when the farmers wanted to drain the swamps, the witches could use the farmers belief in and fear of magic to try to put a stop to this

As a result, if the local lord wanted to drain a swamp and found that the people were too frightened of the witches to do this, he would turn to the priests to reassure the people and condemn the witches. Since the Church itself also owned large areas of land, it might also want to drain swamps and turn the land over to farming. It had an investment in denying the power of the witches. They had to be eradicated

An Ancient Way Of Life

The propaganda war between the Christian priests and the witches for power over the people became very ugly, resulting in widespread witch hunts and the genocide of the gathering people.

It's more than likely that the mermaids and witches living in swamps or salt marshes were the ones who were killed in the Witch-hunts, but some of the mermaids living on the coast may have escaped this persecution as there was no-one wanting to use the land along the beach

As a result, there were still stories and sightings of mermaids as late as the 18th and 19th centuries, long after the witch hunts had finished, The mermaid’s way of life is very, very ancient, going back millions of years, as we will explain in the next hub about the Aquatic Ape Theory. Mermaids-Are-Real-Part-Six.

© 2011 William Bond

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Comments 4 comments

Bard of Ely profile image

Bard of Ely 5 years ago from Lisbon, Portugal

Another really fascinating and awesome hub!


Ariel 4 years ago

That is so intersing


Bree 3 years ago

I really appreciate this hub. It's full of so much info that I've never even heard of. I like how you historically discuss the origins and beginnings of such a mysterious figure being mistaken for women; who were equally mysterious, but a vital part that were left out of history. "HIS-Story"

Thank you!


wabond profile image

wabond 3 years ago from England Author

Thank you Bree for your feedback. Yes, it is all about his-story and not her-story.

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