A Siren song

Let's talk about sirens for a moment. Here is what they mean to me:

  • Margaret Atwood. My favorite poem of Peggy's is Siren Song (Alas/it is a boring song/but it works every time)
  • College. I worked on the literary magazine called The Siren. I think fondly of it often.
  • John William Waterhouse. Which, again, makes me think of college.
  • Mythology. Specifically, Greek; the three bird-women who lured sailors with irresistible songs, until they came too close to the coast and wrecked their ships. (How I love these women!)
  • The Odyssey, Homer, etc., etc., etc.
  • Religion and history, and the trends in each. Did you know that belief in literal Sirens was discouraged by the early Christians, though symbols of them were still often used to represent the dangerous temptations of women? But, get this: by the 17th century, some Jesuits began reasserting their literal existence. They were posited to be everything from singers with horrible morals to Sicilian prostitutes. These poor ladies, real or imagined, just couldn't win.
  • The amazing way language connects us, and the history of linguistics. For example: in Spanish, French, Italian, Polish, Romanian and Portuguese, the word for mermaid is Sirena, Sirène, Sirena, Syrena, Sirenă and Sereia, respectively.

Why is this important? Well, K. came back from a trip to Santa Fe, NM and brought me something I fully adore.

It's this little matchbox with a picture of a mermaid on it, all bright blues and pink glitter and orange binding. La Sirena is stamped, almost like an afterthought, below the depicted waves. Inside the matchbox aren't matches. Instead, it's a "magic matchbox shrine," holding worry dolls from Guatemala, healing dirt from New Mexico, turquoise for protection, and an Anasazi bean for purity and wisdom.

There's something about the Southwest that brings me peace. When I was in Sedona, despite being landlocked, I didn't feel breathless and trapped the way I often do in landlocked places (like Quito, Ecuador, where I felt like something was missing the whole time. Turns out that "something" was a body of water.). I carry my La Sirena magic matchbox with me, and it reminds me how much bigger we all are than just the sum of our parts.