I hit the beach for the first time this year for the 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade. I’ve been going for a few years now, so I was kind of surprised when friends asked me what it is. It’s pretty much what it sounds like. It’s kind of like an all-mermaid version of the Village Halloween Parade. A lot of the outfits are scandalous, but the parade is so much fun!
The Coney Island Mermaid Parade is the world’s largest art parade. It was founded in 1983 by the same not-for-profit arts organization that produces the Coney Island Circus Sideshow. The official website describes the Coney Island Mermaid Parade:
The Mermaid Parade celebrates the sand, the sea, the salt air and the beginning of summer, as well as the history and mythology of Coney Island, Coney Island pride, and artistic self-expression. The Parade is characterized by participants dressed in hand-made costumes as Mermaids, Neptunes, various sea creatures, the occasional wandering lighthouse, Coney Island post card or amusement ride, as well as antique cars, marching bands, drill teams, and the odd yacht pulled on flatbed.
You probably know that Neptune is the Roman version of the Greek god Poseidon, the god of the ocean. (If you’re curious about Poseidon, check out my blog entry “Gripster: Portlandia, Hipsters, and Greek Myth.”) What I was curious about was mermaid Greek mythology. I always think of the sirens that the cunning Odysseus outwitted as mermaids, when in fact they’re actually half woman, half bird. So what does Greek mythology actually say about mermaids?
According to myth, Alexander the Great’s half-sister is a mermaid. Thessalonike was born to King Philip II of Macedon and his concubine, Nicesipolis, in 252 or 345 BC. According to legend, Alexander the Great bathed Thessalonike’s hair in life-giving water that he retrieved on his quest to find the Fountain of Immortality. When her older brother died when she was only nineteen years old, Thessalonike tried to drown herself. In death, Thessalonike transformed into a mermaid, according to legend.
Mermaid Thessalonike lived in the Aegean. She stopped ships, asking, “Ζει ο Βασιλιάς Αλέξανδρος?” (“Is King Alexander alive?”)
If the passing ship answered, “Ζει και βασιλεύει και τον κόσμο κυριεύει” (He lives and rules the world), she calmed the waters.
If the ship answered anything less positive, she caused a severe storm that would spell death to all sailors.
I took some 2011 Coney Island Mermaid Parade pictures.
I hear 2011 is the year of the mermaid trend.