The mermaids who sailed the Atlantic

Andréa Caselli



The myth of mermaids, present in many cultures, remains fascinating. Aesthetically represented in Classical Antiquity with bodies of birds and serpents, they are transfigured in the Middle Ages also with body of fish. Hybrid creatures, their mutation also caused changes in their symbology. This article systematizes and analyzes the image of the mermaid as a recipient of cult, folk character and historical element in the relations between Portugal and Brazil. Interest in the topic was caused by the fact that Brazilian mythical legends and narratives about enchanted women originated in Portuguese literature and medieval art. To reach this goal, we examined medieval texts such as St. Anthony’s sermons, bestiaries, and noble books. A theoretical framework from authors of history and folklore such as Leite de Vasconcellos and Gilberto Freyre was also used.


Enchanted moors, Portuguese folklore, Brazilian legends, religion, literature.

Citation reference:

Andréa Caselli. “As sereias que singraram o Atlântico”. Práticas da História, Journal on Theory, Historiography and Uses of the Past, n.º 10 (2020): 219-248.



< Práticas da História, nº 10 (2020)