Leaning against the wall of a museum, formerly the Fethiye Mosque, in the Iç Kale (the inner fortress) of the northern Greek town of Ioannina is a a worn and weathered relief sculpture. It was unlabelled so I don’t know much about it – a mystery artefact. However, it is a good example of local folk art.

It must have once graced the exterior of a building or gateway – like the gateway into the Iç Kale, set into a similar square cavity shown in the photo below. The Fethiye Mosque with its minaret can be seen centred through the gateway.

The relief depicts two water creatures, specifically a mermaid and a merman. Both have split double tails which is not uncommon characteristic in representations of merpeople – just look at the Starbuck’s logo. But, what is unusual is that they also depict legs – with claw-like feet – between the tails. The faces no longer have features and the scales of the fish body and tails are just descernible.

These creatures are a familiar motif found in a number of cultures. In Greece they are known in antiquity and are frequently found later in folk art as well as appearing as characters in folktales and epic songs. They are called gorgona (γοργόνα), serina (σειρήνα) or neraida (νεράιδα) in Greek – referring to the mythological creatures gorgons, sirens and neriads.

Weathered: The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge


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