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By Marc Potts, published by Capall Bann at £10.95. 187pp. ISBN: 186163039-5

Considering that Britain and Ireland are entirely surrounded by the sea, it seems strange that the folklore and mythology of our seas and their inhabitants is so overlooked by pagans who are frequently fixated on the land and spirits of the land. Which makes this new book from Capall Bann very welcome and timely indeed.

Marc Potts, who may be more familiar as a painter of faeries and similar beings, has produced an attractive and very readable account of traditional beliefs, stories and accounts of encounters with not only mermaids of our seas in general, but with the seal people of Scotland and the nacks and nixies of northern Europe and Scandinavia. There is thus a very strong bias towards north western Europe as a whole; however he does not entirely neglect those of other cultures and gives a briefer account of the mermaids and water spirits of India, China, Japan and to a lesser extent of Africa and the Americas.

As well as folklore, the author discusses the role and image of the mermaid in art and literature, the widespread traditions of mermaid-human marriages, and of the means used by the Church throughout the centuries to depict, account for and combat the appeal of the mermaid. She was variously said to be beyond redemption or capable of achieving it; she was a symbol of the forces of nature, especially sexual ones, waiting to lure and ensnare the unwary Christian man (well, what wasn't?) and generally and roundly reviled by saints.

Illustrated with Marc's black and white pencil-style drawings, this is a rewarding book for anyone interested in the folklore of our seas and their inhabitants and would no doubt make someone a very welcome gift.