You tell yourself that it’s just a story from men who have been at sea for too long, but they are so insistent about what they saw that you have a hard time completely shaking their descriptions. By now, you’ve heard tales of sea-dwelling half-human creatures, of gargantuan monsters that can drag down entire ships, and of horse-like shapeshifters that lure their victims to a watery death. Still, the sightings your shipmates report stand out as strikingly odd, maybe even sinister.
As you scan the horizon and contemplate the storm clouds gathering overhead, you swear you see a nearly human face staring back at you, bobbing with the growing waves.
Say your prayers, dear adventurer, because you’re about to encounter some sea clergy.
Back in the 16th Century, there was a string of sightings of sea creatures that bore a striking resemblance to Catholic clergy, dubbed the Sea Monk and the Sea Bishop.
The Sea Monk was spotted in the sea surrounding Denmark, and said to be an eight foot long creature that appeared to have a human face complete with the characteristic monk haircut and habit, but covered in scales and with fins instead of human limbs. It was said that these creatures were capable of causing storms, and that like sirens and merpeople before them, they lured sailors to a watery death, with the grisly detail that Sea Monks not only drowned but devoured their victims.
Luckily, Sea Monks have a clear weakness: take them out of the water and their abilities completely evaporate. They are helpless on land, said to die within a few days if they aren’t put back in the water. Reports of the Sea Monk suggest that the creature is intelligent but not capable of human speech, with witnesses describing the Sea Monk attempting to communicate through gestures.
Less is known about the Sea Monk’s higher ranking counterpart, the Sea Bishop. There are two well known encounters with the Sea Bishop. In both cases, this creature is described as humanoid, more human in size and appearance than the Sea Monk with defined arms and legs, fingers that end in claws, a human face, and a head shaped like a bishop’s mitre. It’s said that one Sea Bishop was brought to the king of Poland and introduced to a group of Catholic bishops. Like the Sea Monk, the Sea Bishop was unable to speak but appealed to be released through gestures, and was returned to the sea. The second creature wasn’t so lucky, and refused to eat while on land, dying after three days.
There aren’t any specific consequences described following a run-in with a Sea Bishop, however, its worth noting that there was an underlying element of distrust in these creatures. Sightings occurred in the thick of the Protestant reformation and at a time when the relationship with the Catholic church was growing increasingly adversarial. Stumbling across sea creatures that resembled clergy was an ominous event in and of itself, raising questions about the nature of an institution that was seen as less than benevolent.