The sea nymphs of Greek mythology whose hypnotically
sweet song lured mariners to their deaths. The island of the sirens
had a meadow strewn with the bones of the victims of these
deadly nymphs. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus has to steer his
vessel past the island and takes the precaution of having his
men fill their ears with wax to avoid hearing the siren song,
while he himself is lashed to the vessel’s mast. Jason and his
band of heroes also had to sail past that island, but Orpheus
sang so sweetly that he drowned out the song of the sirens.
After Orpheus’s song vanquished them, the sirens sprang into
the sea and became rocks.
The sirens, two or three in number, were said to be the offspring
of Phorcys or Achelous, and were part women, part
birds. Some believed they were unhappy souls of the dead, envious
of the living. The modern story of the Lorelei has something
in common with the myths of the sirens.