Episode 42: Water Fae: Sirens
The folklore of Sirens in a nutshell, how I reimagined them for my writing, and these fae translated into Afrikaans.
Written and narrated by Ronel Janse van Vuuren.
Copyright 2022 Ronel Janse van Vuuren — All rights reserved.
Learn more about Sirens here.
Get the transcript here.
Music: Secrets by David Fesliyan (FesliyanStudios.com) and Dramatic Heartbeat by FesliyanStudios.com
You’re listening to the Faeries and Folklore podcast by Ronel.
I’m dark fantasy author Ronel Janse van Vuuren. With nearly a decade of digging around in dusty folklore books, researching creatures of imagination that ignited my curiosity, I’m here to share the folklore in a nutshell and how I reimagined it for my writing in an origin of the fae.
This is the Faeries and Folklore podcast.
Hi, I’m your host Ronel Janse van Vuuren. You can just call me Ronel. In today’s episode, we’re continuing our exploration of the fae realm.
This episode is brought to you by my book Once… Tales, Myths and Legends of Faerie available in eBook, audiobook and paperback. Learn more at ronelthemythmaker.com/my-books.
We’re continuing our exploration of Water Fae.
Today’s Faery: Sirens
Folklore in a nutshell by Ronel
Sirens from Greek mythology are creatures that are half-bird and half-woman, with incredible singing voices who lure sailors to their death. They do appear in different forms, though: birds with the heads of women, women with bird wings and bird legs, half-woman and half-fish much like a mermaid, and as just women. The commonality among all these forms is that they are incredibly beautiful with an alluring voice that captures/hypnotises any who hears it.
There are different origin stories about sirens.
According to ancient authors, the sirens were either companions to Persephone and given wings by Demeter to help find her, or cursed by Demeter for failing to stop the kidnapping by Hades. They are fated to die if humans are able to sail past, ignoring their songs.
Another account has them entering a singing contest against the Muses at Hera’s prompting. Of course, the Muses won. They then plucked out the Sirens’ feathers and made crowns out of it for themselves. The Sirens, out of anguish for losing the competition and their feathers, fell to the sea and formed islands.
In the Odyssey and the Argonautica, the heroes sail by safely by either drowning out the sound of the sirens’ song with a lyre or stuffing their ears with beeswax.
For the most part, though, they are the daughters of Phorcys (ancient sea god) or of Achelous (river god) and one of the Muses. They hunt the coastline and live in a meadow. And because Circe described them as “lolling there in their meadow, round them heaps of corpses rotting away, rags of skin shrivelling on their bones”, we know that they are cannibals who use their allure to get the food they crave.
And now for my interpretation of the fae in an origin of the fae: sirens
Young Sirens can choose a mortal life – live among humans, age like humans and even have magic like human sorceresses. Only their magic can work on Sirens. But if, at any point, her nails start to glitter silver, she has to return to her own kind (this usually happens if she’d used too much magic).
Sirens only feed on human men. They lure them into the water – either with their seductive appearances or by enthralling them with song – then they drown them, escort their souls to the Otherworld and then return to feast on the flesh before taking the bones to the roots of the tree that gives life to their kind.
Before drowning their victims, they are beauty incarnate dressed in glittering gold or silver. During the drowning, they turn into dark creatures dressed in black with a multi-coloured coiffure. After the drowning, they turn into a barely recognised female form of skinless red oozing around stray feathers and claws. After feasting on the flesh of their victims and placing the bones beneath the tree, they return to their perfect forms.
They sing from the moment they start drowning their victims, through the meal, until they’ve returned to their perfect forms.
The curse upon them is to be half-bird, half woman creatures unless they use enough magic to conceal their true nature. It takes a lot of sacrifice (the men drowned and eaten) to keep their magic strong. The bones at the roots of their tree feeds their magic.
They live in a beautiful ocean with an underwater waterfall. They have a meadow above ground that they sometimes call home. No matter where they live, they always look the same – it’s only during the feeding ceremony that they go to extremes. Most Sirens stay in their perfect form, though some like to stay in the dark creature transformation, multi-colour hair and all, to conserve magic.
Young Sirens of age have to go through a rite of passage: drowning their first victim. They have to perform perfectly or be punished by the older Sirens.
Sirens promise truth and knowledge only to deliver death. But if someone can come away enlightened instead of enthralled by the song of the Siren, the human will go free and the Siren will dissolve into the water she stands in, becoming one with the magic of the world. It is thought that if a Siren died like this during initiation, she’d live in the cool waters that the rest could only dream of.
Sirens really do know all – the past, present and future. They have the gift of telepathy and can read the thoughts of humans. It is this knowledge that got them cursed in the first place…
There is no known way to kill a Siren.
I hope that you’ve enjoyed this episode of the faeries and folklore podcast and that you’ve learned something new about faeries.
Remember that you can get a transcript of this episode in the description. If you’re new to the podcast, why not go and grab your free copy of Unseen, the second book in the Faery Tales series, on my website ronelthemythmaker.com? Loads of folklore, magic and danger await! Take care!
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No-one writes about the fae like Ronel Janse van Vuuren.