The Mermaid Altar

by Jo Mooy

The Wall juts out into the Gulf at the north end of the beach on Siesta Key Beach, FL. It’s the endpoint of a mile or more beach walk. There’s no way around it other than to swim at high tide, or wade through the crisscrossing currents at low tide. The Wall—which was built at six feet high and two feet thick—is a concrete bulkhead to hold the tides back from swallowing the expensive home that sits hidden on the ridge away from the water. It’s also a barrier to the beach walkers who might infringe on the property rights of the owners.

The Wall is plain. The concrete is dun-colored. It stood there for many years with nothing to distinguish it other than two sets of large black stenciled “Private Property—No Trespassing” letters prominent on the beach side. But no matter the intentions of the owners, time has taken its measure. With the rising sea level, the higher tides have brought in sand, raising the beach and reducing the height of the wall to just under five feet. This made it more approachable to the walkers who considered The Wall the end of their beach walk—the place where they had to turn around and walk back.

Then one day something happened. The walkers began to see The Wall, not as an obstacle to overcome, but as a landmark to embrace. And the changes started spontaneously. Now that the top was reachable, one or two walkers brought a shell, (or several) leaving it on the top of the wall. Other walkers, seeing the shells, began to add their own.

Then the biggest change came. No one knew who did it, or when it was done, but one day an artist decided to paint The Wall. She began by painting two wild-hair mermaids. The blue one with big eyes waved to the walkers. The lime green one was positioned swimming towards the sea. Eight blue fish swimming in different directions accompanied the mermaids. A thin green palm tree, along with a couple of pink jellyfish floating off behind the swimming mermaid, completed the mural.

As soon as The Mermaids arrived, the intention of The Wall as a barrier dissolved. While the Mermaids didn’t obscure the “Private Property—No Trespassing” signs, their appearance made them appear “less in your face.” The Mermaids were whimsical and invited interaction with the walkers. Soon the walkers responded in kind, and The Wall became known as The Mermaid Altar. Beautiful shell offerings were left on top of the wall. Then came the symbols, reflecting the different religions—Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism—of the walkers. It is not unusual to see the OM symbol made out of seaweed on top of the wall next to a shell-shaped peace symbol, or a Christian cross made out of sea beans.

Many religions have houses of worship where the faithful can go on a Sunday morning. The original teachers of those religions taught about the majesty of the outdoors, and suggested there was much to learn about life by being in nature. The beach calls to many and, in this area, it can be its own place of worship. That’s evidenced by the many walkers who head out early on any given Sunday morning to commune with sand, sea and wildlife on Siesta Key. They walk north on the beach toward The Wall. They stop en route, picking up shells or beach glass that will become an offering at The Mermaid Altar. When they reach The Wall, they place the offering on top. Sometimes they stop, bow their heads, and offer a prayer. Occasionally they bring a child, explain about the altar and lift him or her to place a shell on the top.

It’s suggested that when given a lemon, we make lemonade. So was the result when the owners put up a wall hoping to detract others from their expensive beach property. The beach walkers and the artist took that lemon and made lemonade! The “Private Property—No Trespassing” concrete bulkhead was transformed with a lovely mural.  It’s now a destination for Sunday morning walkers that they call The Wall or The Mermaid Altar!


Jo Mooy has studied with many spiritual traditions over the past 40 years. The wide diversity of this training allows her to develop spiritual seminars and retreats that explore inspirational concepts, give purpose and guidance to students, and present esoteric teachings in an understandable manner. Along with Patricia Cockerill, she has guided the Women’s Meditation Circle since January 2006 where it has been honored for five years in a row as the “Favorite Meditation” group in Sarasota, FL, by Natural Awakenings Magazine. Teaching and using Sound as a retreat healing practice, Jo was certified as a Sound Healer through Jonathan Goldman’s Sound Healing Association. She writes and publishes a monthly internationally distributed e-newsletter called Spiritual Connections and is a staff writer for Spirit of Maat magazine in Sedona. For more information go to or email



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