Saturday, April 12, 2008

Secrets of the Starbucks Mermaid

I swear I’m not fixating on mythological creatures, previous posts being evidence to the contrary. That being said, this post chiefly concerns mermaids and coffee.

During my aimless Wikipedia browsing, I stumbled upon the page for a concept known as “The Mermaid Problem,” which is basically an examination of the paradox of mermaids being sexually attractive but sexually unviable by virtue of the apparent lack of genitalia. Take a look: Those girls are mackerel from the waist down. It's a problem that Fry encountered with no small amount of distress in the "Lost City of Atlanta" episode of Futurama. Wikipedia poses a few solutions, however, among them the notion that some mermaids were depicted having a split or split-able tail that would theoretically allow for lovemaking and subsequent creation of babies that were one-quarter fish.

As this insightful article discusses, mermaids make for some fun speculation, as far as symbols go. They are simultaneously sexpots and permavirgns — a dualism that should bring to mind the Madonna-whore complex associated with Christianity’s supreme mystical female, Mary. (The article also astutely mentions that “Star of the Sea” is one of Mary’s many names despite the fact that the woman wasn’t exactly a beach bum during her time on earth.) After all, the very name of these often naked female creatures can be literally read as “sea-maiden.” All this happens to be encapsulated nicely in the Starbucks logo, which, in its original form, also happens to be a good visual example of what these imminently sexable split-tailed mermaids look like.

Here’s the Starbucks logo as it looks now:

And here it is before the mermaid mascot was cropped.

And here’s what she looked like in her initial incarnation, before Starbucks higher-ups decided she might look a little too provocative.

And this fourth image — a purported 15th-century drawing of a figure known as the “baubo siren” inspired the original logo.

Talk about a familiar company logo that’s showing more than you thought.

Similar to how the Disney’s The Little Mermaid — mermaid text with which most Americans are now familiar — managed to hide any hint of the dangerous sexuality associated with this mythological creature, so too has the Starbucks mermaid been gradually de-sexed. It’s still there, if ever so slightly: on either side of her head in the current logo, you can still see the halves of her split tail held to the sides of her head. You wouldn’t know what you’re looking at, necessarily, unless somebody explained it, but it does hint at concealed sexuality. And for God’s sake, don’t think that pose isn’t supposed to be overtly sexual. Were Miss Starbucks a full-on woman and not a half-woman, her pose would be downright pornographic.

Thought I don’t recall ever seeing this figure before I started looking into material for this post, the split-tailed mermaid is not an infrequent subject in art from various periods, the following samples being proof.

In my opinion, this revelation is easily twice as shocking as the hidden phallus on the old VHS cover for The Little Mermaid. May you never look at the Starbucks logo the same way again.

EDIT: In case you’re curious — and the remarkable influx of traffic I’ve gotten from people Googling “baubo siren” would lead me to believe that some of you are, in fact, curious — I have newer mermaid-related and baubo-related posts.


  1. A few observations:

    Note that as we get closer to Starbuck's mermaid she gets less sexual.

    Perhaps they should have different versions depending upon whether you get decaf or not?

    “Star of the Sea” is one of Mary’s many names despite the fact that the woman wasn’t exactly a beach bum

    She might have hung out at the Sea of Galilee, you know.

  2. Responses (or, if you will, mer-sponses):

    1) Clearly, she’s shy.

    2) I think they should design special heat-sensitive coffee cup sleeves that gradually fade into something more provocative as your drink warms them.

    3) I admit I didn’t think about the Sea of Galilee, nor did I realize how close it was to Nazareth. And though I’m amused by the thought of Mary in a powder blue bikini, starring in a late B.C. version of a beach party movie, I also would bet that “star of the sea” didn’t originate as a result of a connection to any actual body of water. I’m only basing my this on other people’s theories, of course, but the name “Mary” seems to be a fairly tricky one, at least in terms of etymology. In short, no one seems to be completely sure what it means. I’d initially thought it was Egyptian — “Mary” is the same name as “Miriam” in Hebrew, and siblings Moses, Miriam and Aaron all seem to have Egyptian names — but this Catholic Encyclopedia article deems that theory barely probable at best.

    What would seem to be more correct is that “Mary” resulted from a combination of the Hebrew words mar (meaning “bitter,” like our word myrrh) and yam (“drop of the sea”). What that drop is, exactly, isn’t clear to me. A pearl? A drop of water? A small body of water? In any case, “star of the sea” would seem to result from the similarity of a translation of yam as “stilla,” which is correct. A trend among uneducated Latin speakers resulted in many an “i” being substituted with an “e,” and “stilla” became “stella.” Thus, “star of the sea.” Then again, the article deems even this possibility as “philologically inadmissible.”

    …So maybe it just means “starfish”?

  3. 1. I don't know how I missed this post, but I do have some interesting information for you. I know it's really sad I don't remember the name of the island (it could have been Cyprus, but I'm not positive), but when I was in Europe 5 years ago, I saw the double tailed mermaid all over this particular island and it is associated with the perfume that is made there at an old monastery. I've looked all over the internet and couldn't figure out where it's from. Somewhere, I have a picture of her painted on a wall near the lift from the harbor. Anyway the whole time I was there I was thinking about how much Starbucks ripped off this cool image and about how much more badass she looked in the paints.

    2. For more information as to why Mary is seen as both a virgin and a harlot look up the Kabbalistic sefirot of Binah to which both Mary Magdalene and the Virgin Mary are associated with (of course nether as a harlot). This sefirot represents the Heavenly Mother or the female derivation of Keter. She is all loving and is therefore identified with the Whore of Babylon (hence why the Christian God will take anyone "just as you are") but she is also seen as the Virgin Mother. Also as an interesting note to Mary being related to the name Miriam: Mary (Jesus' mom) was also known as Miriam's Well.

  4. Anonymous3:15 PM

    In Italy 2008, the split tailed mermaid was seen on the outside of a cathedral along with many other pagan symbols.

  5. Euphoria,

    The siren you're thinking of is likely this one, from the island of Capri.

    Capri Siren on Flickr

    And you're right, she's more interesting than the Starbucks siren.

  6. Anonymous4:02 AM


  7. Anonymous10:56 AM

    It is representative of the cult of Isis, otherwise hidden as the cult of Mary. One of Isis' names is Stella Maris, Marine Star or Star of the Sea and if you look in fact the Starbucks mermaid has a star right on top of her head. You will find it in Italy and in a lot of Catholic Churches because it is one of their secret symbols of dedication and devotion and practice of the cult of Isis, who is a whore and they are obsessed with the phallus and her vagina and the two coming together. Isis was the alchemist and through this magic did she bring back Osiris from the dead. However, alchemy requires like for like and what they do not tell us is that blood sacrifices are required to perform acts of invocation of this necromancer goddess/demon. In this creed, enlightenment is achieved at the 8th house or grade, which is that act of sex. The star of the 8 spokes was the sign of Ishtar of antiquity, otherwise recognized as Isis. St. Peter's square in Rome is a spoke wheel counting 8 sections and right in the middle of it, the obelisk, the phallus of Osiris, stands "proud" in the most obvious act of sex magic. They are alchemists necromancers practicing human/child sacrifice and sexual immorality and it is no coincidence we hear of so many abuse stories of late as carried out by priests. Look into how many children go missing every year. Look into the bible history of child sacrifice and to give you more insight, Isis' other names are Rose and White Dove, but she is not benevolent nor is her following, that is just a disguise for common acceptance and think of the film "The name of the Rose", the secret of which was so guarded and brought death upon those who tried to reveal it.
    Mythology in our culture is no incident, it is the secret language of those belonging to those secret cults who practice such things and really by drinking Starbucks, that is what you are unknowingly supporting. Also, to "drink from her cup" is to take part in her necromancer communion and these people have thought all possible ways through which to enlarge her worship upon those unbeknown through no apparent violation of freewill, as "you" choose to drink coffee from that cup, it is not imposed on you!
    From this point onward you will notice stars everywhere, red everywhere, eye of Ra everywhere, water elements everywhere and so that you know, a new concept called Isis is being launched in the States which operates all transactions and all everyday uses passes such as travel cards, through a single phone use as a complete payment getaway - they want total control of everyone's lives, my advice, don't embark on those things with blatant indications of belonging to these cults, they have no underlying good intentions for anyone.
    Well spotted!

    1. Anonymous10:50 AM

      We all know that throughout history since the beginning satan has corrupted the very name of Jesus & the Blessed Mother by associating them with their evilness with deception of every sort by distorting the truth Every Christian symbol has been used in a corrupt way to fool you Evil has stolen many of our symbols & biblical scripture so to confuse you That doesn't make the christian faith any less holy it just makes us have to sort through the dirt & pray pray pray

  8. Anonymous10:34 PM

    All I can think of is 'I want some starbucks..mmmm' I am not at all concerned about the hidden meaning or drinking from her cup, so long as it tastes as good as that last one. I dare to dream that my soul is my own and that any higher power that may be knows the ins and outs and nothing is hidden. The only thing this could be is of human design, and that does not concern me at all, not anymore than the bloody human sacrifice on the cross worn by so many nor the star of David. I love the tale (no pun intended) that you have here, thanks! We are such interesting creatures and it is so good to know we have some small belief in magic in a world lost to things and consumerism. That magic is a part of ourselves, however much we attribute it to something else. An actual GIFT from the GODS.