Melusine, the Celtic mermaid or serpent-woman, was one of the daughters of Pressyne, another water-nymph, and Elynas, the king of Albany (Scotland). When Elynas came upon Pressyne in a forest by a sacred well one day he fell immediately in love with her. The fairy agreed to become his wife on condition that he promised not to see her while she was giving birth. However, the king broke his promise and entered his fay wife’s chamber while she was in labour with triplets. Broken hearted, Pressyne left the king and fled with her newborn daughters to the mystical Isle of Avalon (‘Island of Apples’).
On her fifteenth birthday Melusine, the eldest of the triplets, learned of her father’s betrayal and swore to take revenge against him. Together with her sisters she captured him and imprisoned him inside a mountain. Her mother, hearing what her daughters had done, was enraged. As a punishment, Melusine was condemned to take the form of a serpent (or, in some versions, a fish, either with one or two tails) from the waist down every Saturday. She would only be released from this curse if she found a husband who would, in turn, respect the taboo of not seeing her on Saturday, when she bathed. If this taboo were broken, Melusine would remain in the form of a serpent.
Like her mother, Melusine also met her future husband, Raymond of Poitou, by a sacred well known as the Fountain of the Fays, in the forest of Colombiers, France. Bound by her mother’s curse, she set the condition that her husband must never see her on Saturday. Needless to say, as her own father had done at her birth, so her husband also broke the pact and spied on her as she bathed one Saturday, revealing herself as being half-snake (or half-fish). Nevertheless, Melusine forgave her husband, who loved her enough to overlook her strange nature. However, one day in a fit of anger he rebuked her in public, saying “”Out of my sight, thou pernicious snake and odious serpent! thou contaminator of my race.” Melusine immediately turned into a dragon and flew away.
The two-tailed mermaid was an alchemical symbol of the unity of earth, body and water. She is also, like Sheela-na-Gig, a symbol of fertility, life and feminine power.