The mythical cross of a woman’s upper body and the lower extremities of a fish go back to 1,000 BC. In Assyrian folklore, there was Atargaris, a woman goddess, who later became half fish. It was probably derived from the dugongs (one of 4 species of the order of Sirenia), whose territory included the Gulf of Suez. From sea faring people in trade with others, the stories morphed with respect to other cultures that abutted the oceans and inland seas. Between the West African manatees, seals, and sea lions, mermaids showed up in many myths. When Christopher Columbus returned from his exploratory voyages to the new world, one of the stories that returned was of the mermaids in the warm waters of the Caribbean (North American Manatee or sea cow). Later Portuguese sailors told of similar animals in the Amazonian basin. Mermaids were soon worldwide with taboos imposed on encountering them. “Why was this,” you ask? It seems that the uneducated, lower-class sailors and pirates that spent months at sea built up a huge repository of semen (a pun perhaps?) and needed to unload. Because homosexuality was frowned upon on a small ship with no privacy, shore leave was granted upon any harbor or bay. Corralling young manatees in a shallow river would alleviate the sailor’s testosterone buildup and restore peace and harmony upon their vessel (which one?). Having their way with these docile creatures in a remote lagoon, the sailors’ urges were relinquished, and without an awkward farewell, they were off to explore, pillage, and burn. With enough rum to instill beauty in the beast, the sea farers saw no barriers. Christopher Columbus’s men were observed in their mating rituals with the ‘mermaids’ by the hidden indigenous people. The Algonquin language includes the word Manitou, which is their root word for god. With an Italian sailor having sex with 2 manatees with whiskers on their faces, similar to the women back home, he enjoyed his ménage a’ trois with the manatwos. 

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