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MCotD: Harpie or Harpy / Sirin / Siren

Today we delve into the surprisingly wide world of woman/bird hybrids.
First some pictures so we know what we're talking about.

So the harpy was Greek, and a "winged death-spirit," who is most well known for eternally tearing food away from Phineas, the king of Thrace, because he pissed off Zeus. [ed. Note: Don't piss off Zeus.] They also appear in Dante's Inferno, hounding the spirits of the suicided. Early on in their development as a myth they were fairly nasty, brutish human/bird creatures, but as the Athenian ideals took hold of Greek mythology they softened into more of a sorrowful death angel, than ravaging demon.
Modern incarnations of harpies vary from evil bat-winged demons to temptress bird women, frequently wearing leather and/or metal bikinis or simply straps.

Symbolism: Early on they were personifications of the destructive nature of wind. Later symbols of greed, death, and punishment.

The "Sirin is a mythological creature of Russian legends, with the head and chest of a beautiful woman and the body of a bird (usually an owl). According to the myth, they lived "in Indian lands" near Eden or around the Euphrates River." -Wikipedia
Where the Harpy was an agent of punishment and death, the Sirin of Russian lore "sang beautiful songs to the saints, foretelling future joys. For mortals, however, the birds were dangerous. Men who heard them would forget everything on earth, follow them, and ultimately die." There's still the association with death, but it's in more of a 'so good it's bad' kind of way, and existed in a christian religious context associated with Saint Ephram the Syrain.

The Siren "were two or three dangerous bird-women, portrayed as seductresses, who lived on an island called Sirenum scopuli." -Wikipedia
They would lure men in passing ships to their deaths by their seductive music, which would cause them to forget themselves and smash their ships on the dangerous rocks around the island. They've become very misrepresented however, as they originally had nothing to do with the sea apart from living on an island. They were bird-women in their original incarnation, but the Romans started to alter their representation into something of a mermaid.
Also, does this image look at all familiar? No? Think coffee... That's right. The Starbucks logo was originally a somewhat lewd image of a Siren from the 15th century.

I hope this has cleared up any confusion in your minds regarding these three beings.



( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 6th, 2008 10:06 pm (UTC)
i was hoping you were going to use this image
Mar. 6th, 2008 10:36 pm (UTC)
Re: i was hoping you were going to use this image
I thought about it, but it's HUGE and shrinking it lost the loveliness.
But thanks for adding it! ^_^
Mar. 6th, 2008 10:59 pm (UTC)
You can add two more woman-birds of Slavic mythology: Alkonost and Gamayun. Both, like Sirin, were depicted as big birds with female heads.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )