Feb 28, 2011
The Legend of the Mermaid
Liban was the daughter of a man named Eochaidh, who along with the rest of his family was drowned--probably a judgment for running off with his stepmother. Liban and her dog survived by the grace of God, but could not leave the water (Loch Neagh.) After a year she told God she wished to be like a salmon, and God granted her wish and turned her dog into the form of an otter. She roamed the water like that for 300 years, saying, "The wave is my roof and the shore my wall." Then she happened upon the boat of Beoan mac Innle, a follower of St. Comgall. He heard her singing, and she appeared to him. She explained her situation and her desire to be brought to the saints. They caught her in a net, where, as you can imagine, she became a spectacle. There was disagreement over to whom she belonged. Comgall thought that because she was caught in his country, she should be his charge. Fergus, a fisherman it is assumed, thought that because he caught her in his net, she should be his. But Beoan said she was his because of his initial conversation with her. These men decided to let God make the decision and fasted and prayed. An angel appeared and said the matter would be settled this way: two stags would appear and they should hitch them to the chariot where Liban's makeshift water tank was. They should let the deer pull her wherever she should go. The animals brought her to tech Dabheoc (a church.) There the clergy gave her a choice: she could be baptized and go immediately to heaven, or she could continue to live on for 300 more years and then go to heaven. She chose the first option and when she baptized she was named Muirghein or "sea birth." In that place many miracles occurred because of her.
That's the story. Kind of sad. It's as though she'd had a curse on her and had to somehow get on dry land to reach the clergy where they could take it off so that she could finally die. I'm not sure what we're supposed to learn from it. What do you think?