The Greek Sirens: Beautiful Yet Dangerous Mythical Creatures

Ulysses and the Three Sirens.
Ulysses and the Three Sirens. | Source
Odysseus being tempted by the Sirens.
Odysseus being tempted by the Sirens.
Odysseus on a vase from the 5th century.
Odysseus on a vase from the 5th century.

The Seductive and Feared LadyBirds (aka Sirens)

Sirens are mythological creatures originating in Greece. The sirens were once thought to have been considered deities at some point, but may have fallen from their position amongst the Greek gods. Sirens are known to have lived on an Island off of the coast of Greece, or possibly Italy, and they produced such a beautifully seductive song that they would lure weary sailors into dangerous waters and onto jagged rocks...inevitably causing the sailors' untimely deaths. In the older writings, the sirens were said to have the head of a woman and the body of a bird. This belief in the sirens' appearance is demonstrated in the painting to the upper right.

Some of the Greek mythology states that the Sirens were punished by the Goddess Demeter, after they were unable to find and rescue Demeter's kidnapped daughter, Persephone. The sirens were turned into half-bird creatures and banished to an uninhabited island in the Mediterranean. No one is sure exactly which island this is, or if it ever really existed.

The main discrepancy in these sirens myths is how many Sirens there actually were...some say two, some say three, and others say up to five Sirens total lived on this island and lured men to meet their doom. The most famous of the sirens were Pisinoe, Aglaope and Thelxiepi...and they were said to be daughters of a river god named Achelous. Each of these particular sirens played a specific instrument...one played a lyre, another the harp and the third would sing the infamous, bewitching sirens' songs.

Throughout mythological history, there has only been two tales in which lucky men have escaped their rocky deaths from the enchanting Sirens' songs. One of those sirens tales was that of Odysseus in Homer's Odyssey. Odysseus was smart enough to demand his men to stuff balls of wax into their ears while approaching and passing the Sirens' island; however, Odysseus was also a very adventurous man...and a man nonetheless, so he had himself tied to the mast in order to hear the Sirens' music. Why would he have to be tied down? Well, if the ship wasn't going to be sucked into the rocky waters of the Sirens' island, there were tales that men would dive off of their ships to get to the Sirens...still leading to their deaths by way of the sharp rocks off the coast of the island. Or maybe he liked that sort of thing...

Another one of the "escape the sirens" tales was that of Jason and the Argonauts. The men's brush with death came very swiftly, but they were blessed enough to have a very talented and intelligent musician on board their ship...Orpheus. Orpheus bravely and effortlessly played an undulating song loud and beautifully enough that it drowned out the sounds of the Sirens' instruments of destruction. I would have given Orpheus a pay raise for sure and a free spot on every one of my voyages thereafter!

The Mediterranean Sea

A markermediterranean sea -
Mediterranean Sea
[get directions]

The Changing Image of Sirens

Although the original tales consisted of Sirens being ladybirds of sorts, today's image of the Sirens have changed quite a bit. Sirens are depicted as mere mermaids in modern times. Although mermaids have very similar characteristics as Sirens what with the seductive qualities and musical ability to enchant the strongest of men, they do not share the same form of body.

This mermaid-type of Siren makes an appearance in one of the Harry Potter books and the movie...although, the Sirens that debut in the movie are nothing like one would expect. The Harry Potter Sirens are scaly and downright hideous! I have one of the movie's pictures of the Sirens posted to the right. This break in the traditional beauty of the Sirens is almost blasphemous. Maybe these sirens are the sea-sisters or cousins of the original Sirens? Maybe they are the same Sirens that were punished by Demeter, but later endured more punishment by Demeter? I prefer the sexier and illustriously gorgeous image of Odysseus' Sirens compared to this horrific fishy version.

If you ever have a chance to read Homer's Odyssey, it is a great and classic read with intriguing illustrations of the Sirens. Or if you do not have the time to read this epic story, check out the movie Oh Brother Where Art Thou. George Clooney is the star of this Depression-era flick that is a loose take on Homer's Odyssey. The Sirens mentioned in Homer's tale make an appearance in this movie...and the Sirens' singing is almost breathtaking...although they have a very country-American vibe. Check out the clip with these Sirens below.

No matter how the Sirens' image may change, one thing is for sure...they were some sexy bad b*tches! If you are ever sailing the Mediterranean...you better be sure to take a loud soundsystem or some ear plugs.

Written and copyrighted © by Kitty the Dreamer (May Canfield), 2012. All Rights Reserved.

Shapeshifting mermaids gathering in a grove.
Shapeshifting mermaids gathering in a grove. | Source

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Comments 17 comments

eaglecreek profile image

eaglecreek 3 years ago from Vilonia , Arkansas

From what I remember the island / islands would have been located off the coast of SE Italy north of Sicily. All we really know is the area Odysseus was sailing when he encountered them. Doubtful he encountered them at Atlantis as his journey began just after the war in Troy ended which was around 1100 BC and Atlantis fell many years before that probably around 9,000 BC and that date is debatable. I am just going by what the experts say and I am no expert by far.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 3 years ago from the Ether Author

eaglecreek - LOL. Hilarious.


eaglecreek profile image

eaglecreek 3 years ago from Vilonia , Arkansas

You bet your little booty I am! I met a guy at work named Homer Stokes a few days ago, then I get home, check my email and see the new comment alert for this article so I had the movie on my mind when I wrote the goofy comment.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 3 years ago from the Ether Author

Eaglecreek - Can I ask, are you a Dapper Dan Man?


eaglecreek profile image

eaglecreek 3 years ago from Vilonia , Arkansas

Me and my 2 cousins Jimmy Joe and Willy Joe seen some sirens years back when we were frog giggin out on grassy bayou. They turned Jimmy Joe into a horny toad, and Willy Joe, well we never seen him again. Sometimes I feel lucky to be alive!


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 3 years ago from the Ether Author

Okay, thanks.


Jon E. Royeca profile image

Jon E. Royeca 3 years ago from Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines

"No one is sure exactly which island this is, or if it ever really existed."

I think it's Crete, if not Atlantis.


Random thoughts 4 years ago

Have the sirens made there way from sky to water and now maybe even land.....hmm!!


eaglecreek profile image

eaglecreek 4 years ago from Vilonia , Arkansas

We were just talking about this a while back. What I think is interesting is while there may be no proof of these creatures, to the ancient Greeks they were real. The Greeks were not dummies, they possessed a great level of intellect, so there must be something there that made them believe in them.


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

eaglecreek - of course it's possible that these creatures could have existed! Anything is possible and much hasn't been explained by science and probably never will. So I don't see why mermaids or fairies couldn't have been real or don't still exist today somewhere hidden. :)


eaglecreek profile image

eaglecreek 4 years ago from Vilonia , Arkansas

Great article, very well written. Do you think its possible any of these creatures from ancient Greek folklore may have been real?


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 4 years ago from the Ether Author

Little boys and little girls.

Just kidding!


A.C 4 years ago

What do they eat?


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

mythicalstorm - Sounds good to me, I love backlinks! Thanks for enjoying. :)


mythicalstorm273 profile image

mythicalstorm273 5 years ago

I love mythology and rather enjoyed reading this. I found it because I was looking for some articles about dangerous creatures to link to my newest hub. I hope you don't mind but I really wanted to add this to the link. If you don't want it linked just let me know! Thanks :-)


kittythedreamer profile image

kittythedreamer 5 years ago from the Ether Author

i'm very glad you enjoyed it! greek mythology has to be my ultimate favorite mythology...next to celtic mythology! have you ever heard the tales of cuchulainn of ireland? it is quite an interesting story.


PaperNotes profile image

PaperNotes 5 years ago

Thanks for these. I enjoy and love to read about mythological and unusual creatures.

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