Have you ever been so mesmerized by a song so sweet and powerful it was distracting and captivated you? Or know of an infant that thrived because of the help of music in the nursery? Or a song so wonderful it drew your attention away from a task at hand? Then you’ve heard a siren’s song, one of their many songs that celebrate life, safety, healing, songs to sooth children, songs to call one they love, or songs to tell of magic. These songs are some of the many songs that sirens sing to acknowledge all aspects of life.
A very misunderstood fae being are the sirens. Sirens are described as hybrid, half bird, half human, traditionally female enchantresses with sweet alluring voices that lure sailors to their death.
Some stories claim they were to have been human companions to Persephone. Some that they intentionally brought destruction to sailors. There are tales they are the evil side of mermaids. And only occasionally, has there been claims of bearded male sirens. And when they lived, they chose islands with rocky cliffs and treacherous terrain. Some of these stories are real, while others only partially so.
Though sirens are abundantly mentioned in literature, mythology, art, and in the media, the most remembered tales are those from Greek mythology. Since mermaids are described as half fish/half woman and sirens are half bird/half woman, its not possible for them to be the same type of being. And often their bird likeness is described as having a tail, sharp teeth, and willing to tear people to pieces, with mesmerizing voices that draw sailors to peril.
There are a few different stories of their origin. However, the stories that claim them to be the daughters of a river god and a muse and not human are true. Also true, of course, is their connection to Persephone. Having sweet voices Persephone sought them out and soon befriended them, and easily they became her companions.
In one story, the sirens were cursed when they failed to utter a warning after Persephone was taken. So upset with them, Demeter turned them into bird-like monsters for their failure. However, one more story is that, as the too human-like, companions to Persephone, the sirens themselves asked for wings to help Demeter find her daughter and as well asked for more volume to their voices so as they called to their friend she could easily hear them. They did ask for Demeter’s help. As well true, she was upset because she blamed them for their failure to stop Persephone’s capture. So when she granted the sirens their requests, she gave them wings and ugly faces to punish them. And the power she gave to their voices was to not only have volume but also such power it could distract men and draw them in as punishment for taking her daughter.
It is true these beings asked for wings and more volume to their voice so it could transcend distance and be heard with clarity and strength to find and heal Persephone, to save her from peril. Indeed, their sweet voices had volume and could be sent far and wide. However, their song began as a call to draw their dear companion Persephone back to them. Sadly, since Persephone was in the underworld, she could not hear her friends’ song. It was never the sirens’ intention to lure ships or cause destruction. Rather, the children of the river god and muse have a song for every area and aspect of life, family, healing, friendship, romance, love, children, safety, bringing loved ones home, warnings of peril, and so many more songs, each with its own purpose.
Per Greek mythology, sirens are no more. In mythology, sirens bring destruction to sailors by luring them into rocks, causing destruction, by the allure of their song and voice. Their death was fated if any mortal should hear them sing and live to tell the story. When Odysseus passed them, tied to the mast, unharmed, so disheartened by their humbling defeat, the sirens hurled themselves into the sea and bothered no man ever again. This is not their side of the story.
Sirens’ greatest notoriety comes from Greek mythology. However, there are other times they have been mentioned throughout history, with some of these accounts loosely documented. It is these accounts that shed more favorable light on the intention of sirens.
Their intention has always to have songs that help humans. Since they were unable to help their friend, Persephone, they hoped to help humans with their songs that included songs of health, family, love, peril, and so on. The songs the sailors heard were not to cause them to wreck their ships. Rather the sirens sang a song to warn them of upcoming rocks. Although it is also true, they had songs intended to bring destruction when they believed the cargo or voyage brought harm to humans. To a siren, death at sea was better than harmful substances delivered to dangerous people and also preferable to living in slavery. Though not all sea disasters are the result of siren song, some certainly are.
Another truth is sirens continued to call to Persephone for many years. Their sweet voices attempted to call their dear friend back to them. These voices attracted the attention of lonely sailors, who were drawn to follow the mesmerizing, melodious song and became distracted from the task at hand. Instead, the sailors, not listening to the words of the song that warned them of upcoming peril, only moved toward the sweet melody and directly into the peril.
Perhaps had the crew of the Titanic known to listen for the song of the sirens and heed their warning, they might have been able to avoid destruction. There are several accounts by Titanic survivors of hearing what they thought were eerily sung songs a few hours before the crash into the iceberg. Though there were several who mentioned hearing what they described as song, none saw who was singing. And in all the accounts, footnotes included explanations of waves, winds, or reverberating music from the grand hall.
Another story is of the Isle of Kilpatrick in 785 CE, when Christianity sanctioned, acknowledged, and taught all known mystical things. A fractured account was written by a young priest who traveled to the fishing village on the isle to become the village priest. This story was pieced together from Viking lore and that of the priest, who wrote his account in four different languages, broken sentences, and was more obscure and haltingly documented. The pieced together story came from Viking lore when Viking women wore knotted rope belts. Each knot represented a man in that family. The belts were burned when the last man died. These belts had great significance to the women as they believed the knots tied their men to the land. This meant the men would always be able to return home at the completion of each voyage. The knotted rope belts became an alliance between the Viking women and the Sirens. With each knot the women sent out a plea to the sea’s dragons and sea’s songstresses to watch over their men. The sirens heard their plea and formed an alliance with the women to guard the voyagers. The sirens sang songs of caution when the Viking voyagers came too close to peril. With these warnings most men were able to come home safely. The women revered their connections to the sea’s songstresses, whom we call sirens, and began to wear a knot of appreciation for them.
As a part of their alliance, women were allowed by the songstresses to swim in the harbor’s underwater caves. Each considered the other kin. Young girls could walk to the water and transform into dragons and slide into the waves. They then joined those who minded the seas and kept them safe.
When the priest first came to the village, he became both intrigued and appalled by the women’s strange devotion to an unknown thing, even though Christianity acknowledged and supported the belief in dragons, sea songstresses, and other now disavowed beliefs and practices. He felt it placed a belief on an unknown rather than the men’s skill as voyagers. He believed that by the men not being given enough credit, they were not honored for their skill and position as the village providers. The priest proposed that men also wear knotted belts or bracelets to honor their own power. By their having the power, of course, it would prove they were the ones with the skill to navigate the seas and return home. The priest believed if the men had the power, then the women no longer needed to wear their knotted belts. All too soon, at the priest’s insistence, most women were no longer allowed to wear their belts. The men were still returning home. The priest believed it proved the men’s skill and not the knotted belts or bracelets that brought them home.
Men then began to tell the priest of their concern that women had been able to slide into the waters and live within the caves. He told them tying a knot around a woman in secret would keep her tied to the land. All to soon the priest was asked by the men to design knots for every life situation. In short time, no more bright eyes played in the water. No songs were sung to bring the men home or keep the boats safe. The ships became unguarded.
When the women stopped tying the knots, the sea’s songstresses lost their connection with the Viking women. The knots were a sign to both the women and the songstresses, a mutual connected that honored one another. The women no longer felt any power in tying their men to their land and stopped hearing the sea’s songs. Hence, the women lost belief in any connection with their power to help their men to return home. The songstresses were drawn to help the Viking women because it was the women who heard and believed in the sea’s songs.
The knots were to tie the men to the land. When the voyagers began wearing the knots they were no longer tied to the land, but the sea. Before long the seas began to claim the men; more and more men were not returning home. Women tried to quickly tie knots on belts again, but the connection with the sea’s songstresses was lost. The songstresses had moved on once their connection to the women was severed. No longer could the women hear the sirens’ songs, nor were they safe in the water’s caves. The sirens had left.
The village was burned. Nearly all souls were lost. The priest in his last entry says is was hubris to think that he could have the power to alter the good will of the sea’s dragon and the sea’s songstress and still her song. To bind that which is not to be bound or take away the power of another and their connection with the sea’s songstress had cursed them. To change that which should not be changed and change that which demonstrated good was wrong. The priest declared his sorrow on his death bed, and believed he wronged the village and suffered from the terrible audacity of men.
It’s been said that the original Gregorian Monks received the siren’s blessing by being given carefully tuned voices that could honor and heal in perfectly harmonious 528HZ.
By some it is well known that sirens still exist. Again, think of times, when listening to a song that mesmerized you or you were drawn in by the melody, words, or combination or the voice that captivates the attention of one or a crowd. This shows us sirens are real, alive, and well and continue to influence withtheir song. Each day and for centuries they will use their loving healing powers through song. When the first Gregorian monks chanted during healing sound baths and each day we hear music on the winds and from the seas, we know the sirens are blessing us with their song.