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Atargatis the First Mermaid
Goddess of the moon, femininity 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 areas.
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. Greek 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 presents two fishes.
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.