Throughout the world, there are many myths regarding humanoid creatures that dwell in watery depths (we’ve even covered some on the blog, like Rusalka and Qalupalik), so it is no surprise Celtic mythology has their own spin on the mermaid myth. Finfolk hail from Orkney and are sorcerers of the sea and fathers of mermaids.
Finfolk, like many sea-dwelling humanoids, generally resemble humans in shapes and forms, and do not have a fishtail like other mythical mermaids. However, their bodies are draped by fins which are said to resemble cloth and clothing, so they can just barely pass as typical humans and can even be difficult to tell apart at a distance. The closer you get, though, the more obvious their fins become.
Finmen were said to be athletically built and have brooding faces with sad eyes. Finmen often made deals with human fishermen and would help them for an exchange of goods, or sometimes even currency. However, one would have to be wary of where one was fishing. Finwomen were known to be haggard and swarthy. However, in their youths they were always beauties. Unlike Finmen, Finwomen began their lives with a fishtail and would live out their maidenhood as mermaids. During this time, many of these young Finwomen/mermaids would feel compelled to marry a human man. If they were to marry a human man, she would remain beautiful. However, if the mermaid married a Finman she would turn into an ugly Finwife.
Although they often haunted the shores of Orkney and even human towns near the sea, the Finfolk did have their own kingdom and town named Finfolkaheem. This was located in the bottom of the sea and was known as an underwater paradise, described similarly to opulent fairyland. The town was centered around a gorgeous coral palace with sprawling gardens and dozens of Finfolk. The houses were often laden with pearls, some rumored to be the size of boulders, and due to the number of pearls said to be around Finfolkaheem many humans attempted to find it.
Certain locations are reserved for Finfolk only and if a human is found fishing in one of these locations, the FInfolk would show no mercy. Finmen would often place a small hole in the boat in a place that would be unnoticeable until the fisherman was out to sea with little hope of saving his boat, or even himself.
Some Finfolk were also said to be sorcerers and were much feared. They were often known to steal away humans, to keep as husband and wives, in their underwater palaces or the magical, unfindable islands they called home. Unexplained disappearances and sudden deaths were often attributed to Finfolk, particularly Finmen who often stole away human women to avoid the fate of marrying a Finwomen.