Figure heads on the front or prow of ships were carved from wood. Many were carved in the shape of a woman but some striking examples included Neptune or other mythological characters or animals, such as lions or horses.
The figurehead was often meant to help non-literate people understand the ship’s name. Figureheads were popular until the 20th Century.
Maritime folk tales tell others stories about figureheads. Water spirits or Water faeries inhabit the figurehead. These spirits guide the ship and keep it from danger as well as protect the crew and passengers from sickness and other traveling maladies. If misfortune overtook the ship, the faeries would lead the sailor’s to Heaven. Without the masthead and the fairies, the sailors would be left to haunt the seas.