history

The Mermaid On Your Starbucks Cup Is Actually Hiding A Fascinating History

by Ileana Paules-Bronet
Ileana is the Editor of Original Content at LittleThings. She grew up in upstate New York and Oregon and now lives in Queens, NY. Ileana graduated from Skidmore College with a degree in sociology. After graduating, she attended the Columbia Publishing Course in New York City, then worked as in marketing at Oxford University Press. Since transitioning to editorial, she has written for sites like BuzzFeed, HuffPost, and Unwritten. She has also worked for local newspapers and magazines in upstate New York. In her free time, you can find Ileana watching Law and Order: SVU, eating ice cream, and spending time with her dog.

Before getting anything done in the day, many people turn to one specific thing to get their day started: coffee.

Lots of people start their coffee maker before even using the bathroom or brushing their teeth. Meanwhile, others rush through their morning routine in order to stop for coffee on the way to work.

For many people, that means a stop at the local coffee shop.

Whether you drink it black, with cream and sugar, as a latte or a cappuccino, the need for caffeine is near-universal.

Lots of people choose to go to Starbucks because of its convenience — but even if you’re the biggest Starbucks fan, there’s probably something you don’t know about the famous cafe: the history of the mermaid in the logo.

The mermaid is its centerpiece — and has been since the coffee shop was founded in Seattle in 1971.

So what’s the story with the mermaid?

Thumbnail: Wikimedia / Pexels

The mermaid we know so well is actually a two-tailed siren.

This mermaid is typically associated with alchemy, the medieval precursor to modern-day chemistry.

According to Symbol Dictionary, this siren, known as Melusine or Melusina, is a creature of medieval legend.

She was a beautiful woman who turned into a serpent from the waist down while she was bathing.

mermaid two tails

There have been many depictions of Melusine throughout history, but usually the story goes something like this:

The Duke of Aquitaine, Raymond, discovers the cursed maiden in the forest, then begs her to be his wife.

 

melusine bathing

She agrees, but tells him he must never bother her on Saturdays, because that is when she bathes.

While Raymond initially agrees to his wife’s strange request, he wonders why she’s so secretive about bathing.

melusine dragon

Eventually, he becomes suspicious and spies on her while she’s bathing.

Raymond is shocked at what he sees, and Melusine catches him spying — then she flies into a rage and turns herself into a dragon, leaving her husband.

melusine caught

The story of Melusine was thought to show the dual-nature of female sexuality in medieval times.

That same duality is at play in alchemy — in alchemy, the two tails of the siren represent unity of earth, water, body, and soul.

Melusine was known to draw people to her — and in alchemy, philosophers yearned for her because of her promise of unity.

The Starbucks blog explains why they chose this two-tailed mermaid for the logo:

Let’s go all the way back to 1971, to when Starbucks was first coming to be.

In a search for a way to capture the seafaring history of coffee and Seattle’s strong seaport roots, there was a lot of poring over old marine books going on.

Suddenly, there she was: a 16th century Norse woodcut of a twin-tailed mermaid, or Siren. There was something about her – a seductive mystery mixed with a nautical theme that was exactly what the founders were looking for.

A logo was designed around her, and our long relationship with the Siren began.

new starbucks mermaid

And just as nobody could resist Melusine, it seems Starbucks hopes its customers will be equally drawn to their coffee!

If you love history, please SHARE this article with your friends and family!