Li Ban, the Maiden

My name is Lí Ban (lee-BAHN), which means “Beauty (or Paragon) of Women”, and I am the mermaid of the legendary Lough Neagh (lohk NAY) of Northern Ireland. The lake was formed when my father, Eochaidh (yo-HAY), the son of a king of Munster and one of the Tuatha de Danaan (TOO-ah day DAN-an, sometimes spelled Danann), built our home around a new, enchanted wellspring. Then one day an attendant accidentally left it uncapped and the spring overflowed and flooded the entire village. My faithful dog and I were the only survivors.

We took refuge in a cave beneath the new lake, remaining there for a year. Finally, I cried out to the goddess in envy of the free-wandering salmon, wishing I could be one of them and swim beyond the cave. I was immediately transformed into half a salmon, and my dog into an otter. For three hundred years we ranged the lake and sea until I was captured, allegedly and most presumptuously “baptized” and turned into Saint Muirgen (mWEER-ghen), meaning “sea-birth”, by the Catholic church.

I represent Patience, Courage, Endurance, Survival, Identity and Reclamation
My Shadows are Loss, Fear, Loneliness, Low self-esteem and Suffering for the misdeeds of others

Symbols/associations: Otter, Salmon, Watery caves, Irish faerie royalty
Offerings: fresh water, violets (known to grow by Lough Neagh), lake/river stones & freshwater shells, cider (Magner’s is a good choice, being from Northern Ireland!)
Triple Goddess Aspect: Maiden
Quarter: West
Element: Earth

“The legendary mermaid still retains her place in popular legends of our sea coasts, especially in the remoter parts of our islands. The stories of the Mirrow, or Irish fairy, hold a prominent place among Crofton Croker’s “Fairy Legends of the South of Ireland.” Round the shores of Lough Neagh old people still tell how, in the days of their youth, mermaids were supposed to reside in the water, and with what fear and trepidation they would, on their homeward way in the twilight, approach some lonely and sequestered spot on the shore, expecting every moment to be captured and carried off by the witching mere-maidens.”John Vinycomb, Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art 1909

Lí Ban (often written in modern times as Liban) is, presumably, the most youthful of the Three Mermaids and the only one to never marry or bear children, so I attribute to her the Maiden aspect of the Triple Goddess.

When combining the Trinity with Sedna and placing each in one of the directions, I place Liban in the West. She is literally the westernmost mermaid of the Three and the established energies and associations of the West (water, Autumn, loss and endings) seem to suit her and her story.

Obviously, all of the Mermaids’ primary element is going to be Water, but I also attribute a secondary element to them. Due to water being the element traditionally associated with the West, and the fact that water was the medium which destroyed her whole village and everyone in it, it could easily be both her main and “secondary” element, but I strongly associate Liban with Earth as well. This is due to her connection to the Tuatha de Danaan as well as the fact that she took refuge in a cave, a very Earthy feature which is also representative of the womb.

Her primary, “positive” energies are reflected in her story and the strengths she displays in the wake of tragedy. She possessed courage in her loneliness and patiently endured her plight hiding out in the cave. But what if she had called out to the goddess sooner? Could she have known she should or would she even have felt compelled to if she had not spent a year alone in the cave first?

This is not unlike the famous “year and a day” of magical time passing or training that is well known in Celtic mythology, as in the story of Cerridwen (KARE-id-win)and Gwion, who became the legendary bard Taliesin (tall-ee-ESS-in). Sometimes we have to endure a particular experience or otherwise become acquainted with a lesson or condition for a certain amount of time before we gain the knowledge we need, or even the courage to ask for help. Or simply reach the end of our tether! Often some sort of catalyst is needed to spur us into action and to the growth that we need.

For whatever reason, she was not meant to transform into a mermaid until after this full year of her solitude. Continuing with the analogy of the cave as the womb, it can also be seen as a gestation period before her rebirth.

I find it rather hilariously ironic that the Catholic church decided to not dismiss the existence of something as “unholy” and “unnatural” as a mermaid, but to accept her existence and story, to “baptize” her, thereby turning her human and giving her a mortal soul, and actually make her a saint.

Yet merfolk are not an unusual depiction in Christian imagery. This is a perfect example of the Church claiming & twisting, or even demonizing, anything and everything pagan or magical that existed before its influence spread. It seems exceedingly self-contradicting. Through this action, they decidedly do not deny that a mermaid could exist. They simply sought to make her their own. They seemed to adopt an attitude not so much of “if you can’t beat them, join them”, but rather one of “if you can’t beat them, force them to join you”.

I have therefore reclaimed Liban for Pagans and mages as the faerie royal that she was and is. I have cast off the presumed St. Muirgen, denying the church’s supposition that a mermaid is outside of any idea of holiness and that they should deign to baptize her, give her their idea of a soul that renders her a mortal doomed to die, thus robbing her of her natural, elemental immortality. From this I draw the energies and lessons of Identity, Self-Esteem (not letting another change or demean you for their own purposes, which we do when we don’t have enough self-love) and of Reclamation.

We Pagans, and women especially, have had to reclaim much that has been warped, perverted, erased or otherwise desecrated and disrespected by the Church and by certain men. (Some) modern Pagan men have also done well to reclaim a more authentic and healthy representation of grounded masculinity which, unfortunately, has also suffered wildly from the twisted form of patriarchy that has dominated religion and government for millennia now.

It is from the tragedies and hardships of her story that I draw the Shadows or the “negative” aspects and energies that we can learn from. Without the darkness and pain, we cannot recognize light and joy. These shadows represent the states or experiences which she can aid you in healing, and that she illustrates may be overcome to achieve more positive, enlightened states.

Obviously we are going to be affected by others, and they can be very painful and unfair effects. While we cannot control what others do, as Liban could not control the negligence of the servant who left the well uncapped, we can still control ourselves and our reactions.

Sometimes you do just feel awful through no real fault of your own, but for a time; eventually it gets to a point where it becomes your choice. We often choose to suffer, or to continue suffering. Yet we can choose to rise above it, to make the best of any situation and of ourselves, and to remember that we are never really alone or powerless.

We can regain after loss, we can choose to be brave in a frightening situation, we can choose to honor ourselves and our truth, and we must remember what we always have natural allies and companionship, as Liban was still blessed to keep her canine companion who was even transformed with her into a joyous otter that he could remain by her side in their new watery home.

We can also have faith and, when all else seems lost, simply let go, call out and trust that the Universe, the Goddess, our Higher Self or our fate will steer us right in the end. But we always have a choice.

© 2019-2021 Meredith Everwhite – All Rights Reserved

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