The legend of the faerie Melusine has its roots in medieval France. There are also German versions of the tale where she was called Melusina. French tradition links Melusine with noble houses, and some medieval royals and nobles claimed decent from this faerie woman.
The story of Melusine is one of a faerie woman born of a faerie mother and a human father. Melusine was the daughter of the faerie Pressyne and King Elinas of Albany (modern Scotland).
Melusine saved Raymond of Poitou, who was a nobleman, and in he fell in love with her and asked for her hand in marriage. She agreed to marry him, as long as he never came to see her on Saturday. He readily agreed, and they were wed. For many years they were happy and Melusine bore him many children. She also helped build many beautiful castles in his land.
Years into their marriage Raymond’s family began pressuring him more and more about why she needed a day away from him, and about why each of their children had some sort of deformity. So one Saturday he went to spy on her and found her in her bath with a fish (or serpent) tail. In most versions of the legend he was horrified but his love for her won out and he kept the secret for a long time. Until one day one of their sons had done something to cause mayhem and death. During a rage he turned on Melusine and said it was her fault as she was an evil and monstrous serpent.
Melusine left Raymond forever after this, as he had revealed that he had betrayed her trust and done the one thing she asked him never to do. For many years servants at the castles that Raymond and his children resided said that they could hear cries at night each time one member of the family was to die. These of course were the same castles Melusine had built, and the places where she would visit her children (even though she left her husband she would still visit in secret).
The crying before someone is about to die links Melusine with other faerie women, the banshees. It also links her to the Celtic cultures of her foremothers. France after all started as a Celtic land, just as Britain, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland had. Banshees are faerie woman who predict the death of people who live in certain house, and especially deaths of soldiers going into battle. The connection to soldiers dying in battle relate the banshees with their goddess connection the Morrigan. The Morrigan was a Celtic goddess of war, and is seen to be the original banshee. Melusine undoubtedly has banshee characteristics.
Melusine is seen as the faerie mother of the royal house of Lusignan. This means that many royals and nobles can claim descent from this true faerie queen!
Melusine also has unmistakable mermaid connections given that she spent Saturday’s with the tale of a fish or serpent, like common depictions of mermaids. Today we commonly see Melusine on a daily basis. This is because Melusine is the mermaid on the Starbucks logo! So every time you get a delicious coffee or healthy matcha latte, remember that the faerie on the cup is in fact a great faerie queen of legend, and remember her struggles and trials.
I personally find Melusine, as well as most Faerie Queens, to be very inspirational. She was intelligent, powerful, creative, and insisted upon the respect she was deserved. Her tale ends tragically, as many did for woman, real and legendary, who chose to live life by their own morals and rules!
Notes on the Images: The image at the top of this post is the painting Melusine by Julius Hubner. I found the image on Wikipedia, and the original resides at the Poznan Museum. I also found the Starbucks logo on Wikipedia, and it is of course owned and trademarked by Starbucks.
Below are a list of books to delve deeper into the legends of this watery faerie.
- The Fairy Bible by Teresa Moorey
- Curious Myths of the Middle Ages by Sabine Baring-Gould
- Possession by A.S. Byatt (While this amazing novel is not strictly about the tale of Melusine, the faerie woman plays an important role as the subject of a famous poem within the book, so the tale is referenced in depth!)