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A mermaid is a legendary creature with a female human head and torso and the tail of a fish, which inhabits the water. The male version of a mermaid is called a merman.

One freshwater mermaid-like creature (sometimes having two fish tails, other times having the body of a dragon or serpent) is the character Melusine. Sirens in folklore are similar creatures to mermaids. Other related types of mythical or legendary creature are water nymphs and selkies.

Tales of mermaids are nearly universal. The first known mermaid stories appeared in Assyria, ca. 1000 BCE. Atargatis, the mother of legendary Assyrian queen Semiramis, was a goddess who loved a mortal shepherd and in the process killed him. Ashamed, she jumped into a lake to take the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine nature. Thereafter, she took the form of a mermaid - human above the waist, fish below, though the earliest representations of Atargatis showed her as being a fish with a human head and legs, similar to the Babylonian Ea. The Greeks recognized Atargatis under the name Derketo, where she was often conflated with Aphrodite. littlewitches_1.jpg

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