If we study the first beliefs of men, we notice that all of the people who live by the sea have in common the myth of an ancient man coming out of the sea to educate them. It is the Vinak-Car (the fish-man) of the Guatemalas. It is the Cuculkan of the Mayas. It is Manco-Capac for the Incas and it is Quetzalcoatl who comes out of the Gulf of Mexico. On the Celtic coasts, it is Hue-Gadarn. In India, it is Parascharya. And must we recall the Neptune of the Greeks, and the Venus of Hesiode, who appeared in the waves?
Of course, these are all legends. But what if the legends were really memories?
Two great astronomers, Shklovski and Paul Sagan, have seriously asked themselves questions on the legend of the Akpallus, and they wondered if it does not speak of beings who came from somewhere else, in the early days of humanity, to “launch” civilization on Earth.
The Akpallus are creatures who came from the sea and are remembered by the first Sumerian civilization. Our History begins in Sumeria.
The famous astronomer Sagan gives the following hypothesis: extra-terrestrial visitors, in space-suits, based on a space ship which landed on the sea, came to bring to men the rudiments of knowledge. They appeared on the coast of Sumeria. Hence the legend of the Akpallus, who were creatures that were half-man half-fish (the helmet which imitates a fish head, the breathing apparatus which represents a tail). The sign of Pisces, which would unite the “initiates” of the Near-East, could be connected to this fabulous memory.
We could do away with the hypothesis of the Extra-Terrestrials and consider that the men, on the coast of Sumeria, really saw fish-men, whom they took for gods.
This is the oldest legend of Western Humanity. Or rather, it is the oldest document. Berose, who was a priest in Babylon at the time of Alexander the Great, is supposed to have had access to cuneiform and pictorial testimonies several thousands of years old. And he has left us an account of the earliest times. During the “first year” (that is to say, the first cycle), an animal “endowed with reason”, called Oannes, is supposed to have come out of the sea, coming from the Persian Gulf. Its body was that of a fish and a man at the same time. This creature taught men. At sunset, Oannes dived back into the sea, spending the night “in the deep”. For it was an “amphibian” creature. After that, there were several generations of similar creatures: the Akpallus.
As we can see, all of the religions of the maritime peoples have their origin in the apparition of beings resembling humans, emerging from the sea.
Life has perhaps appeared, developed and disappeared several times on Earth. And the idea of a first humanity living in the oceans should be considered. In this case, the “men of the seas” who were sometimes found, in former centuries, would be the degenerated remains of the first humanity. The leftovers of a first extinct evolution…
The question that Benoit de Maillet asked himself in the XVIIIth Century was “Could there be creatures of human form in the sea?” He dreamed a lot about the Botal Hole.
This is the path of our Naturalist’s reflection. The child, inside its mother’s womb, breathes through two openings which correspond with four vessels, through which the blood coming from the heart is able to circulate without entering the lungs. One of these openings is called the Botal Hole; the other is the arterial canal. The child lives like this, in the liquid environment of its mother’s womb. At the moment of birth, air enters for the first time into his lungs where blood begins to circulate. And the Botal Hole closes. Benoit de Maillet concludes that, for some beings, the Botal Hole does not close completely. They can therefore lead an amphibian existence.
Buffon pursued research in this direction. He cites several experiments performed on little puppies, that he obliged to be born in a tub of lukewarm water. He left them there for half an hour. He removed them for the same length of time. He put them back. Going alternatively from water to air, the little dogs, Buffon tells us, were breathing perfectly in each element. So Buffon concludes:
“It would perhaps be possible, while being careful about it, to prevent the Botal Hole from closing in this way and to create, by this method, excellent divers and amphibious species of animals who could live equally well in either air or water.”
As for mermaids, many illustrious men have studied the problem of monsters. Ambroise Pare said:
“It should not be doubted that, just as we can see several monsters in diverse ways on land, in the same way there are also strange sorts in the sea. Some are men from the waist right to the top, called Mermen; others are women and are called Mermaids.”
Nearer to our time, the admirable Michelet, in his book La Mer, consecrates a chapter to Mermaids. He asks:
“If these beings really existed, why were they so rare?”
“Alas, we don’t have to look far for the answer: it is that they were generally killed. It was a sin to let them live, for they were monsters…”
Perhaps the last Mermaids, the last Mermen, vestiges of an adventure of Life which aborted, did not survive longer than the XVIth and XVIIth Centuries, an epoch still rich in marvels and prodigies of Nature. Perhaps there is still a small number of them in the oceans, hiding in distant abysses, forever far from humans, definitively afraid of our turbulent growth…