Before Russia was Christianized, it didn’t believe in the Garden of Eden. It believed in the Island of Buyan. Buyan was the first stretch of land on the planet and was home to the gods and many mythical creatures. It held a magical stone called the alatyr, beneath which healing rivers flowed. Not surprisingly, this is where Slavic Pagans said the Alkonost and the Sirin came from. Slavic Christians argue that they came from the Garden of Eden, and most lore I’ve found on them is very Christian focused.
The Alkonost and the Sirin are two sides of the same coin. Both are beautiful women with the bodies of birds and both have magical voices of unimaginable beauty. The Alkonost guards good fortune by day and the Sirin by night. You cannot separate the two, because one is simply the alter ego of the other. The Alkonost and the Sirin are the epitomai of “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
The Alkonost – Her Best
The Alkonost is often referred to as the bird of paradise, which is very fitting because they typically have bright feathers. In fact, the older an alkonost is, the brighter her plumage will be. Pagans believed she was a wind spirit capable of bringing on storms. Christians believed she was God’s personal messenger.
Her voice is supposed to be so beautiful that she can make you forget anything that hurts you. She is said to sing about the beauties of paradise for the saints so that they don’t give in to despair and temptation. Other stories claim that wars have actually ended due to her voice.
The Sirin – Her Worst
Some say that this is the sinister side of the Alkonost, but honestly, I think this is the “I have my limits” side. While the Alkonost is known for her ability to bring joy with her voice, the Sirin’s voice has the opposite effect. When she sings, evildoers experience pain and sorrow. She is a harbinger of death. Hearing her song often means that someone has died or that you are approaching your own end.
Birds with black feathers are often attributed as being conduits between this world and the other side, bringing messages from the dead. It is no surprise then that the Sirin has dark plumage like a raven or a crow. Given that she is just the Alkonist’s alter ego, it could be argued that it is her divine duty to punish the wicked and usher the dead to their afterlife. She is, after all, still a guardian of good fortune.
Connection to the Sea and Storms
It is said that the Alkonost and the Sirin frequent the coasts. They lay their eggs by the sea and roll them into the ocean. After seven days, the eggs hatch, bringing powerful storms. This tie to the sea and the storms may have their origins in Greece.
The Alkonost is said to be derived from the myth of Alcyone. She was turned into a kingfisher to rescue her husband King Ceyx. Zeus had struck them down with a thunderbolt when they were sailing across the sea.
The Sirin is said to be derived from the Siren. Often mistaken for a more sinister version of a mermaid, sirens are actually bird women that live on rocky islands. They use their voices to lure sailors to their deaths. They were originally Demeter’s handmaidens and obtained their wings when tasked with finding the kidnapped Persephone. Perhaps Hades’ trickery is what caused them to take joy in killing men.
The Alkonost and the Sirin are terribly inspiring. I personally hope to dress as one for Halloween this year. I’ve collected some of the best artistic interpretations on a Pinterest board called “The Alkonost and the Sirin“.
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Struggling With the Current is the first book in The Telverin Trilogy, a story about an exiled princess who finds herself in a terrifying world with equally frightening powers.
13 thoughts on “The Alkonost and The Sirin”
Thanks so much, Jae!
Awesome post! I love your “her best” and “her worst” approach to writing about the Alkonost and Sirin. And please, please post pictures if you do decide to dress up as one for Halloween
Thanks! I definitely will post pics from Halloween, no matter what I dress up as!
Really lovely story. “Given that she is just the Alkonist’s alter ego, it could be argued that it is her divine duty to punish the wicked and usher the dead to their afterlife. She is, after all, still a guardian of good fortune.” this is beautiful. She could still be doing good… what a concept of the thin lines between “good” and “bad” or maybe really neither.
I hope you’ll share if you dress up 🙂 Cheers.
Thanks for the kind words, Emerald! I will definitely be sharing if I do dress as an alkonost.
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I loved reading this! How did I miss it when I was browsing your site earlier?
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Great blog you havve here