The mermaid is a mythological water spirit that legends say are half human and half fish. The name comes form the word mer meaning sea. Male mermaids are called mermen. Mermaids are often depicted with long flowing hair and holding a mirror and comb grooming their long tresses. They were often said to appear at the sites of tragic events such as violent storms, drownings, floods, tidal waves and shipwrecks. Sometimes the mermaid was benevolent and fell in love with a human or saved them and bestowed gifts. The history of the mermaid legend goes back to Assyria thousands of years before christ where the ancient Syrian goddess Atargatis took to the ocean to become a fish and the powers within it would not allow her to relinquish her great beauty so only the bottom half of her became fish like. Atargatis then became mixed with myths about Ashtarte who is considered the counterpart to Greek mythology's Aphrodite. Aphrodite's role in the mythology of Pisces obviously has links to ancient Syrian mythology. In ancient mythology mermaids were often seen as dangerous as they would captivate and hypnotise seaman with their incredible beauty and sweet song thus leading them into peril. This is rarely the case with the modern mythology of the mermaid. They are rather in modern times seen as innocent sweet and also helpful. The interpretation of a mermaid in modern times can be attributed to the imaginative mind of Hans Christian Anderson in his novel 'The Little Mermaid' as well as Walt Disney characterisation of 'Ariel' in cartoon drawings and animated movies. Many cultures see the mermaid as immortal with powers to cure disease and grant wishes. It is interesting that in Europe the mythology of the mermaid seems to tend to take a more negative view whereas the Pacific Isles have them as bringing good fortune or better. Stories come from all over the world and it is interesting considering they not supposed to exist. It is considered that healing powers can been given to ancestors from a mermaid.