Melusine, the Mother

My name is Mélusine (MAY-loo-zeen), and I am the daughter of the water sprite, Pressyne (or Pressina) and Elynas, the king of Albany (Scotland)*. My own marriage would one day echo the broken promise that ended my parents’ marriage, after which my anguished mother fled with my two sisters and me to Avalon.

At the age of fifteen I discovered my father’s past betrayal and I sealed him and all his wealth inside a mountain. When my mother learned of this she condemned me to take the form of a serpent from the waist down every Saturday. If I could find a husband who would promise to never see me on the day of my transformation, then I would maintain my human form for the other six days of the week. But if he were to see me on a Saturday then I would remain in the cursed mermaid form until the end of time.

One day, by a forest spring, I met and rescued a young noble named Raymond. I allowed him the benefit of my glamour through marriage but only on his sworn promise to never see me on a Saturday. For many years Raymond kept this promise, and I bore him ten children.

But then one day, urged by a jealous son of his first marriage, he allowed his doubt to overtake him and he spied on me in my Saturday bath, thus seeing my cursed form. This knowledge he kept to himself until he received news that one of our sons sacked an abbey, murdering monks and his own brother. Before the whole court, he lost control and declared me an “odious serpent” and accused me of contaminating his bloodline with that of the devil.

Knowing him then to be an oath-breaker, I turned into a fifteen-foot winged serpent, circled the castle tower three times, and flew away from him forever. I only returned on rare nights to visit my children, many of whom became kings of several European countries. My husband spent the remainder of his days in lonely regret and misery, just as my father had.

I represent Autonomy, Sexuality & Fertility, Motherhood, Sacrifice, Promises and Truth
My Shadows are Anger, Revenge, Grudges, Mistrust and Exile

Symbols/associations: dragon/serpent, tower/castle, fountain/spring, crown, forests, the Black Forest (where, by some accounts, she first met Raymond), French (and other European) nobility and royalty
Offerings: Apples, wine, fresh water, gold, woodland flowers, truth & honored promises
Triple Goddess Aspect: Mother
Quarter: South
Element: Fire

The arms of the princely house of Lusignan, kings of Cyprus and Jerusalem, “Une sirène dans une cuvé,” were founded on a curious mediæval legend of a mermaid or siren, termed Mélusine, a fairy, condemned by some spell to become on one day of the week only, half woman, half serpent. The Knight Roimoudin de Forez, meeting her in the forest by chance, became enamoured and married her, and she became the mother of several children, but she carefully avoided seeing her husband on the day of her change; one day, however, his curiosity led him to watch her, which led to the spell being broken…”John Vinycomb, Fictitious and Symbolic Creatures in Art 1909

While not the only one of the Three to bear children, she is the one who bore the most by far! Because of this and her lasting love and loyalty to her children even after leaving her traitorous husband, I associate Mélusine with the Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess. Also, several royal and noble European houses literally and proudly trace their bloodline back to her. The main family being the House of Lusignan, which you may be familiar with if you have at least seen the film “The Kingdom of Heaven”, in which the main villain is Guy de Lusignan, an historical figure. Her name can even be seen as a contracted form of “Mère Lusigne”, which means “Mother Lusigne”.

I assign Mélusine to the direction of the South, as her passion, fire and fury, and half-dragon-half-mermaid form are all appropriate to the hot, summery, high-noon quarter of the South.

In addition to Water (again, being the obvious main element of all the Mermaids), I associate Mélusine with Fire, due not only to her temper and raw draconic power, but to the swiftly destructive energy of uncontrolled fire, which is not unlike the damage caused by uncontrolled anger, which she displayed against her father. It reminds me of a quote from the Roman emperor and philosopher Marcus Aurelius…

How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”

This very appropriately summarizes much of Mélusine’s lesson. She was not necessarily wrong to be angry with her father once she found out how he had betrayed her mother, but it was not her place to further punish him; her mother, Pressyne, had already punished him by leaving him and taking his three daughters away from him forever. She had great power and potential, like fire, but she let her flame go beyond warmth and light and allowed it to rage and destroy.

In a way, Mélusine’s story could be considered the most tragic of the Three because she technically brought all or most of her woes on herself. I have heard some say that hardship is easier to bear or accept when we know it was our own doing, but frankly I think that knowing we did something to ourselves can make it much harder to endure.

We often punish ourselves for not having acted differently much more than we punish or blame others, in fact sometimes we end up punishing and hating ourselves far more than we should. It can be a most cruel irony when we directly bring on our own suffering, especially if we had or thought we had good intentions which backfired. All the more reason to be as careful and controlled as we can be.

Mélusine’s more “positive” aspects and energy can be found in her irrefutable self-governance. Being a superior royal faerie, whose power saved Raymond from a dire plight, and setting the conditions of their marriage from the start, we can see that she was very strong-willed and autonomous. This is also reflected in some of her Shadows though, as she pretty boldly and determinedly used her power against her father.

From Mélusine, we learn to be careful with our tempers, the dangers of acting too quickly and seeking revenge, but we also learn the importance of truth, honor, and keeping promises. While she did have a choice, we cannot get away from the fact that it was a broken promise and her love for her mother that led to her anger. While some may view it as a type of “karma” that her own husband ended up betraying her, as her father did her mother, it also can’t be denied that Raymond too had a choice, and that, in the end, lies, betrayal, and broken promises can be some of the most painful challenges to endure.

She herself never lied or betrayed so, regardless of how she treated her father, and considering that she had already endured her mother’s curse, I don’t personally believe that she deserved Raymond’s betrayal. Few betrayals are ever really “deserved”. I strongly empathize with Mélusine, perhaps more so than with any of the other Mermaid goddesses, apart from Sedna, who was also betrayed by someone very close to her (the two then very interestingly mirror each other in my direction assignments, Sedna in the North and Mélusine in the South).

So, there is nothing more valuable to or respected by this passionate Mermaid goddess than honor and truth, and that may be the main thing to remember should you choose to work with her. Like Sedna, she has no time or patience for oath- or taboo-breakers.

On a final note, did you know that you probably see Mélusine all the time? Millions of people see her every day, any time they walk by a Starbucks. She is indeed the crowned, two-tailed mermaid adopted as the company’s logo, though it doesn’t seem to be at all clear what this powerful, cursed goddess has to do with coffee.

* Note – There is a misconception that has been printed in some modern publications (such as “The Penguin Book of Mermaids”) that have Melusine’s father, Elinas, or Elynas, as the king of Albania. This is incorrect and is only due to mistranslations of old European texts. Albania is quite far removed – both geographically and conceptually – from the Melusine legend, all records and traditions of which originated in France, Germany and Luxembourg, which are all much closer to Scotland. Many more records clearly and correctly indicate that King Elinas was from Albany or Albha – old names for Scotland. Another clue is to be found in the fact that Melusine’s mother fled with her daughters to the Lost Isle, aka Avalon, which is also very close to regions like Scotland, France, and the Black Forest – all the traditional homes of this legend.

© 2019-2021 Meredith Everwhite – All Rights Reserved

Additional reading
(be aware that these are the only records or, rather, translations of records that, as aforementioned, misattribute Elinas to Albania. Other than that, this is a reasonable collection of tales regarding Melusine.)