- Special Sections
- Public Notices
For thousands of years, across every civilization, mythology has revolved around water. There are mythical beings in the rivers, the lakes, the swamps, the caves, and of course the ocean. Before our age of scientific discovery, you would look at the spring in your back yard and ask yourself, was that a Naiad swimming in the waters? But wait, what is a Naiad?? And why is it living in your Spring? A Naiad is a Greek water nymph that was attached to flowing water, often depicted as a beautiful, nude woman bathing in the waters of her spring. It was said that a Naiad would die if her spring were to ever dry up.
The Celts believed that the river held mystical black horses called Kelpies, who would peek their eyes out of the water to watch the people on land, much the way our alligators do. One would lure unwary humans, especially children, to ride on it’s back and the Kelpie would take off with the rider into the deepest part of the river to drown it’s victim. Even today we watch our children closely as they approach the waters edge, but now we worry more about the gators than the kelpies.
As the conquistadors first discovered our waters, they would sail down our rivers and look over the rails of the ship to see the shadowy forms of mermaids swimming in the Florida rivers. When a sailor first saw this creature with long green hair undulating under the water as it swam away, he saw similarities to both man and sea. When looking over the rails of our own high dive in Wakulla springs I saw my first mermaid. Her long green hair was strings of algae flowing behind her as she swam, not side to side as other fish, but up and down as a human would with her spine oriented in the same fashion as other mammals. In that statement, I realized that the conquistadors weren’t far off. Mermaids are a marriage of man and the sea, Manatees are a marriage of mammals and the sea. They represent two worlds coming together and creating something straight from legends right in our back yards.
Though the conquistadors found mermaids in Florida, the Irish, Scotts, and Welsh found women (and a few men) living in the sea as well. They were the Selkie, seals who could shed their skins to walk on dry land. It was said that if you stole the skin of a Selkie and hid it from it’s owner, the Selkie would wed you and stay with you. However, they would pine for the sea, and if the Selkie ever found it’s skin, nothing on dry land, not love or money, could keep him/her from returning to the sea.
Today, when you look outside to your own community, you can see the mysterious waters of the Wakulla Springs cave system. In the hay-day of mythology, our springs would have been worshiped as divine. The home to Naiads, kelpie, mermaids, and ruled by it’s own river god. Today, Florida springs are in danger; many have been filled or contaminated by runoff toxins and sewage fields.
To the end of remembering the divinity of our treasure, this is but the first article exploring the myths and legends surrounding the water element