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9 Mermaid Legends From Around the World

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Illustration by Chloe Effron

Not all mermaids are the shimmering versions of femininity often seen in pop culture. In fact, those mermaids—which seem to be a combination of the Melusine and Greek mythology—barely skim the surface of this fish-human legend. Many countries and culture have their own versions of mermaids, from a snake water goddess to a fish with a monkey mouth. Some are benevolent, some ambivalent, and many are openly hostile to the poor humans who cross their paths.

1. JAPAN // NINGYO

Vastly different than the Western version of a beautiful mermaid, this monster found in Japanese folklore is described as a giant fish with a human face and a monkey's mouth, and sometimes even horns and fangs. In a serious conflict of interest, anyone who eats the Ningyo will have eternal youth and beauty—but catching one often brings terrible storms and misfortune to entire villages.

2. SCOTLAND AND ORKNEY ISLANDS // SELKIE

Selkies are gentle creatures who live their lives as seals while in the water and shed their skin to become human on land, but they're frequently equated with mermaids because in Gaelic stories they are associated with maighdeann-mhara, or "maid of the sea." Selkie legends usually end in tragedy; the folktales almost inevitably feature a selkie's sealskin getting stolen and the selkie getting married and having children with a human, only to later find its old sealskin and get called back to the sea.

3. AFRICA // MAMI WATA

The "water spirit" Mami Wata is sometimes described as a mermaid, sometimes as a snake charmer, and occasionally as a combination of both. Found in many African folk stories, the legend of Mami Wata made its way to the Americas during the Atlantic slave trade. Although she can sometimes take human form, she is never fully human. She is closely associated with healing, fertility, and sex.

4. BRAZIL // IARA

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The idea of mermaids in Brazil comes from the tale of Iara, the "Lady of the Waters." Iara was originally known as a water snake, but through folklore became an immortal woman with green eyes and brown skin who was known lure sailors to her underwater palace, where they became her lovers. Iara is blamed for many accidents in the Amazon, especially those where men disappear.

5. NEW ZEALAND // MARAKIHAU

Most tales of mermaids are passed down through spoken tales and pictures—and in New Zealand's Maori folklore, they are also seen in carvings. A little more intense than a mermaid, the Marakihau is a taniwha (guardian) of the sea. It has a human head and the body of a very long fish, as well as a long, tubular tongue that is often blamed for destroying canoes and swallowing large quantities of fish.

6. FRANCE // MELUSINE

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A feminine spirit found in many medieval European folk stories, the Melusine has a serpentine tail and occasionally sports wings. France, Germany, Luxembourg and Albania all have varying tales of Melusine, but the general legend describes her as a willful maiden who attempts revenge on her father on behalf of her mother, only to be punished by her mother with a serpent's tail. Melusine is especially connected with France as the royal French house of Lusignan claimed to be decedents of her. Images of this sea fairy can be seen over the world—especially on the coffee cups of Starbucks, which has a Melusine-like mermaid as its logo.

7. IRELAND // MERROW

A magical cap called a cohuleen druith enables merrows to live under the water. Female merrows, with their long green hair, are similar to traditional sirens—the beautiful, half-human fish of mythology. Male merrows, however, are considered hideous and frightening, more fish than man. And they're cruel—so cruel that merrow women were said to often have relationships with human men. Their offspring might have scales and webbing between their fingers. Merrows frequently become tired of the land and try to find a way to return to the sea—with or without their human family.

8. RUSSIA // RUSALKA

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Often translated as “mermaid,” these water nymphs of Slavic myth were originally considered benevolent because they came out of the water in the spring to water crops. But the mythology also has a darker side: Rusalka are thought to be the spirits of girls who died violently, and thus they frequently lure men and children to their own watery deaths. Their translucent skin gives them a ghost-like appearance, and they'll sometimes use their long hair to trap and entangle their victims.

9. NORWAY AND ORKNEY ISLANDS // FINFOLK

Probably the least like a traditional version of a mermaid, finfolk are shape-shifters of the sea. Considered nomads who can alternate between living on land and at their ancestral home—Finfolkaheem—finfolk tend to have an antagonistic relationship with humans. They often abduct humans for their spouses, making them more servant than partner. Finfolk also have an affinity for silver, and one might be able to escape their grasp by throwing a silver coin their way.

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There’s a $1 Million Bounty on Bigfoot
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If you’re a Pennsylvania resident with evidence of giant ape-men trespassing in your backyard, Tom Biscardi wants to hear from you. The self-described “Godfather of Bigfoot” and his team of trackers are offering a $1 million bounty for "information leading to the capture or delivery of a bona fide Bigfoot," the Associated Press reports.

Biscardi has been searching for Bigfoot for 50 years. He was inspired to start the lifelong quest in 1967 after watching the Patterson-Gimlin film, a 59-second clip of what appears to be a large, furry creature striding around Bluff Creek in California.

In the time since, Biscardi has produced Bigfoot documentaries, launched a Bigfoot-hunting podcast, and founded Searching for Bigfoot, Inc., an organization dedicated to locating the legendary creature. Now he’s calling on the public to share any leads they may have on the cryptid’s whereabouts.

The hefty reward means the Searching for Bigfoot team is investigating up to 30 tips a day, most of which end up going nowhere. Most recently, Biscardi and his team, which includes his son T.J. and his grandson Tommy, were lured to the woods of Crawford County, Pennsylvania in search of hard evidence. They found one eroded heel print and sticks in unnatural arrangements, but Sasquatch himself was a no-show. "I want a creature," T.J. Biscardi told AP. "I'm done with pictures, done with prints, done with hair samples, done with fecal matter."

Even if they are able to capture a specimen of an animal most scientists agree doesn’t exist, convincing the public of its authenticity will be a challenge. Tom Biscardi has been involved with a few hoaxes in his career, including the discovery of a frozen Bigfoot “body” that turned out to be a rubber suit. Then there’s the legal complications involved with hunting a Bigfoot: Shooting the hypothetical beast for sport is against the law in some states, so Pennsylvania citizens might want to check with their wildlife department before setting off to claim the $1 million trophy.

[h/t WPXI]

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Food
7 Myths About Eggs, Debunked
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Brown eggs or white eggs, cage-free or free-range—what does it all mean? We've cracked down on seven myths that still abound regarding these incredible edibles.

1. EGG YOLKS ARE UNHEALTHY.

If you’ve been restricting your breakfast options to an egg-white omelet, you may be suffering needlessly. Egg yolks do contain more fat and cholesterol than egg whites, but studies over the last few decades have shown that a) not all fat is bad for you; and b) consuming foods high in cholesterol does not necessarily translate to having higher blood cholesterol, although there are still groups, especially diabetics and those with heart disease, who are recommended to abstain. Still not sure if yolks are safe for you? Talk to your doctor.

2. ALL EGGS NEED TO BE REFRIGERATED.

Refrigeration requirements depend on one surprising factor: where you are in the world. American eggs should all be kept cold, while eggs in other countries can sit out on the counter for days. That’s because U.S. egg producers—and producers in Japan, Scandinavia, and Australia—are required to wash their eggs to prevent salmonella. This washing process strips the eggs of their natural protection, making it essential to keep them chilled to fend off pathogens and spoilage.

3. "CAGE-FREE" FARMING IS MORE HUMANE.

"Cage-free," "free-range," and "humanely raised" are not the same thing. Chickens on so-called "cage-free" farms are usually crowded into pens, which are essentially just big cages. To keep the crowded birds from hurting each other, many producers cut or burn off the sharper parts of the hens’ beaks when they’re still young. And most kill male chicks as soon as they’re born, since they have no commercial value. If you want to be sure that your eggs come from happy chickens, look for the Certified Humane label or buy your eggs from small, local farms.

4. BROWN CHICKENS LAY BROWN EGGS.

The color of the egg is related to the color of the chicken—just not its feathers. Brown eggs tend to come from chickens with red earlobes (yes! Earlobes!). White eggs generally come from chickens with white earlobes. The next time you see a hen, take a look and see if you can guess what color her eggs will be (although there are always exceptions to this rule, so perhaps don't bet any money on it).

5. BROWN EGGS ARE HEALTHIER AND MORE NATURAL.

We understand where this might come from—we’ve been told that brown bread is healthier than white bread, and brown rice is better than white. Why would eggs be different? Because, unlike rice and wheat flour, white eggs are naturally white. Their nutritional composition is no better or worse than those of brown eggs.

6. EVERY EGG IS A BABY CHICKEN.

An egg is an egg, whether it’s been fertilized or not. This is as true for chickens as it is for people. Women ovulate, and hens lay eggs. The majority of eggs for sale today are unfertilized and couldn’t become chickens even if you wanted them to.

7. FERTILIZED EGGS PACK EXTRA PROTEIN.

Does the idea of eating a fertilized egg horrify you? Relax. It’s a rare, rare egg indeed that actually contains a chicken fetus. The majority of fertilized eggs contain cells that could potentially develop into a chick—if they hadn’t been refrigerated and then scrambled for your omelet. These eggs are not better for you than unfertilized eggs, nor are they any worse.

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