What Song Did the Sirens Sing?

What Song Did the Sirens Sing?1
The question? The question concerning the song that the Sirens sang is not of the same class of mystery as the previous two questions, for this problem, on the face of it, was answered by Homer himself in the Odyssey (Bk XII 184-191) where Odysseus, tied to the mast of his ship, hears the song2. Therefore, it is not readily seen what it is that Tiberius meant when he asked: "quid Sirenes cantare sint solitæ?" We have to assume, after all, that Tiberius, like every educated man of the period, knew the Homeric verses by heart, and that he would not have asked learned guests merely for a recitative of that that was known by rote by all in attendance. This leads us to believe that the query, more than even the others, was meant to trip up the notoriously smug grammarians to whom it was directed, was, in fact, a "trick question". What, then, did Tiberius mean?

If the ancients were in the habit of considering the stories of the heroes as historical, then the recorded reminiscences of Odysseus ought to have afforded the best and most trustworthy evidence on the point. Not all ancient writers (or the general public, for that matter) were of a mind on the authenticity of the Homeric stories or of the Greek myths, of course, but even the sceptics such as Diodorus Siculus, who would rationalize the fantastic accounts, were apt to accept the principle that there was a basis of historical truth beneath the poetic efflorescences. In that vein it is interesting to note, therefore, that Tiberius had qualified his question with the word "solitæ", so that the more correct translation of the sentence runs : "What were the Sirens accustomed to sing?" In other words, Tiberius was suggesting that the song that the Sirens are represented as having sung in the the account given by Odysseus and transcribed by Homer might have been atypical of their usual performance, and that their accustomed song could have consisted of somewhat other altogether. While this is a quibble, why else the qualification? Tiberius could just as well have asked the simpler question, and there would have been an end to it.

What evidence could Tiberius have had in mind to make that distinction? The epic of Apollonius, The Argonautica, mentions the Sirens and their seductive voices, which only the playing of Orpheus could overmatch. (Butes, alone of the Argonauts, was driven to leap overboard and swim ashore, where he would have perished but for a timely rescue by Aphrodite.) The work had been translated into Latin by Varro3, but Tiberius would have known the original, having passed his exile on Rhodes, of which Apollonius had been made an honorary citizen in recognition of his popular poem. But Apollonius does not render the actual song of the Sirens, contenting himself with describing the effects of their singing. Indeed, it is clear from that description that the voices alone of the Sirens were sufficient to enrapture the listener. The music, therefore, must have been the method by which the passers-by were bewitched.

The magical nature of the song That music alone, devoid of words, can be transporting is not to be argued, and the ancients acknowledged as much in the stories of Orpheus, Apollo, Dionysus, and even those of Pan, of whose playing not even inanimate nature was insensible. But it seems unlikely that Tiberius would have been asking that his guests whistle a happy tune. If that were the case, then we would be at an impasse, since the surviving musical canon from Homeric times is meager. However, it must be understood that Tiberius was speaking of something other than a simple song. He was speaking of an incantation, a very special type of song, a magical spell, and there is more to a spell than just the music.

The action of a magical spell may be divided into two parts, the rapture, by which the subject of the spell is taken hold of or transported, and the compulsion, by which the subject is commanded to perform some task. We can assume that the music of the Sirens produced the first action of the spell, but that the second action, the compulsion, was achieved by the words. It is a quality of an enchantment that a precise formula must be followed if the desired effect is to be accomplished, and we may infer that there was such a formula in the lyric portion of the Siren song. No doubt, it was this verbal formula that Tiberius had in mind when he propounded his question. That being the case, the lines cited by Homer could be taken as but the overture, the personalized prelude of the spell by which the Sirens fixed the attention of their victim, and that the actual incantation by which he was to be compelled to run his ship aground on their island was to follow. We are somewhat farther along than we were, but we are again arrived at an impasse, for the actual spell itself, the "song" so-called, would have been a a conjecture even in the time of Tiberius and can now be reconstructed only in outline. Where would Tiberius have found this spell that was purported to be the song of the Sirens?

Sources: Egypt and Near East It was known throughout the empire that Tiberius was an antiquarian who had a refined taste for ancient and peculiar texts. No doubt, he had seen or acquired many curious documents during his residence in Rhodes, and when he ascended to the Imperium the entire contents of the Roman state would have been open to his perusal, so we are presented with a various and largely lost resource from which to surmise. It is probable in that era, that any magical text would have some Egyptian connection. Not even the Thessalians had a greater reputation for magic, and the proximity of Rhodes to Egypt would have made the acquisition of papyri easy for Tiberius. It will be recalled that Lycurgus, the law-giver of Sparta, was told by the Egyptians that the Greeks had taken over to themselves the gods of Egypt, and the great age and continuity of the Egyptian civilization, along with its hieroglyphs and bi-formed gods, were highly impressive to their neighbors, who had only an imperfect and superstitious understanding of Egypt. Therefore, we can conclude that Tiberius must have seen or owned a papyrus that commented on the Odyssey of Homer and that it contained the "song" or spell of the Sirens. Its Egyptian origination would have been especially convincing as to the truth of the commentary.

There are extant magical texts and fragments of texts by which we can perceive the general shape and function of the spell of the Sirens, for the magical or arcane lore tended to retain its forms intact through many generations as practitioners handed on their knowledge with great care. The precise recitation of a spell and the exact performance of its attendant ceremonial activities were paramount to the success of the spell. Thus, each generation of mages would rigorously school its successor initiates in the forms and exercise of its magical lore. And, because the common magical practise was orally transmitted, when Christianity drove the magic underground, the knowledge was not lost, and spells from Medieval and Renaissance sources tend to have very clear connections to their antique precedents.4 The written texts, of course, were for use by the educated men and women, but the greater number of conjurers would have been illiterates who had obtained their science through direct instruction and experience rather than from books.

It is a curious and telling psychological point that foreign-ness has always played a central factor in the supposed efficacy of any magical operation: the more in the magic that was thought to be, or actually was, derived from some foreign language and culture, the greater was the potency of the magic believed to be. Thus, the rite of exorcism, as some or other modern devil was supposed to have remarked, sounds so much more impressive in Latin. Just so was it with the ancient peoples.

necque est facile dictu externa verba atque ineffabilia abrogent fidem validus an Latina inopinata et quae inridicula videri cogit animus semper aliquid immo vero quod numini imperet. (Pliny, Nat. Hist. XXXVIII.20)

It isn't easy to say which disturbs us more, the foreign unspeakable words or the familiar Latin ones used incorrectly, which we think nonsense; for we are always looking for something grandiose, something appropriate to the dignity of a god to move him or overpower his will.

In the time of Tiberius, when Latin was the language of daily intercourse and Greek the language of intellectual discourse5, the foreign languages from which the aura of strangeness and mystery radiated were those of the Semitic East Mediterranean and Egypt. Thus, spells from the Hellenistic and Roman era are laden with terms from Egyptian, Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, and other languages from the Near East, as well as with words and phrases that appear to be mere nonsense but which must have sounded to the average speaker of Latin or Greek authentically "Egyptian" or "Semitic", a kind of "Near East Pig-Latin" as it were. Many of these voces magicæ continued unchanged into fairly modern times, attesting to the thoroughness that the instructors demanded of their pupils and to the hold that the "strange-sounding names" had upon the imaginations both of those who were the users and those who were the subjects of the magic.

Magic words, talismans, and amulets Magic words could have real meaning in their native languages, but their relevance to the particular context might be questioned. The farther that those words became separated from their times and places of origin, the more questionable their correct usage  likely became. Further, not all words were meant to be comprehensible. Individual magicians sometimes devised personal encryption schemes with which to record their spells, both to keep the magic from being stolen by competitors or prying amateurs and to confuse the daimoniac entities who might be the objects of them, who, learning the secrets of the mages could then find the counter spells by which to foil them. Because the words themselves were thought to possess power, simply writing them on a piece of paper and carrying the text with one was believed to be efficacious. Such a text was a talisman6.

A talisman was usually protective, i.e. intended to ward off some ill from the bearer. Texts were usually rolled or folded and placed in small receptacle that could be worn from a chain like a necklace. Texts inscribed on metal or gems were often thought to gain in power from the material of which they were made: steel was thought to be especially potent against supernatural beings. Lapis lazuli and carnelian were apparently associated with heath or protection from evil, for they were used frequently. (Carnelian appears to have had a general power to avert evil of all types. The so-called Toad-Stone, which was supposed to lie in the head of a toad, was to be worn in a ring and to act as a kind of environmental mood ring, changing colors if evil approached the wearer.) Metallic or gemstone talismans were called amulets, and were usually engraved with some design or image with magical properties. The Egyptian dead were buried with numerous amulets, each signifying some organ of the body or life-bearing power that was necessary to restore the dead body to its bereaved spirit. The scarab amulet, usually placed over the heart, which it was designed to replace, is the best known of these, but there were many others. The Eye of Horus amulet was supposed to be made of lapis lazuli, but other materials were substituted. In Classical times, the amulets that were in Egypt part of the religious paraphernalia of the dead passed into the service of the living of other nations and thus into European magical lore. The old gods of Egypt were frequently portrayed, as were beings seemingly modelled on them although not directly traceable to any known image. As a rule, bi-formed beings, those with animal heads or appendages and human torsos were inspired by, if not actually taken from, Egyptian hieroglyphs. Serpents, which were thought to have many magical connections, were often used in such combinations. Thus, images of creatures with snakes for heads or legs were quite common7.

Religious magics The magicians of Egypt had more than three millennia of tradition upon which to draw by the time of Tiberius, and they were regarded the most powerful conjurers, both for good and ill, in the world. It will be recalled that Moses had to face formidable opposition from the court mages of Pharoah in order to prove the superiority of his God to those of the Egyptians. It would seem to have been one of the few instances when the Egyptian magicians failed to uphold the honor of their profession. It is told that they, too, at least in the distant past, had been able to roll back waters and to walk in the dry land at the bottom of a lake. The Jews also enjoyed, if that word can be used in this instance, a reputation for mastery of magic, and the story of the miracles of Moses no doubt contributed to it. Like that of the Egyptians, this reputation was based in large part on misunderstanding of the basic tenets of their religion. In most cases, magic is what an outsider calls the religion of another. The prayers of the ancients to their gods are to us virtually indistinguishable from conjurations. In the Fasti (IV.747-776), Ovid records a prayer to Pales, a rustic deity whose feast was celebrated as the birthday of Rome, stipulating that it must be recited four times, facing east, and that libations of milk must be poured prior to the prayer and millet and millet cakes be offered. The religion of the Egyptians undoubtedly appeared as magical to the Romans and Greeks as do the religions of the those peoples to us.

Unlike the Jews, who were unfairly labelled as adepts of magic, the Egyptians placed a genuine faith in the magic that was part of their religion, and the misunderstandings of outsiders probably did not concern them greatly. The Jews had also to struggle against the general perception that could not differentiate them from their Canaanite neighbors, who had a long history of magical proceedings. In any case, whether deserved or not, both the religions and cultures of the Semitic and Egyptian peoples contributed to the magic of the Greeks and Romans, and we can feel comfortable in looking at Egyptian models for guidance. There is one surviving formulary, old in the time of Tiberius, that has passed down into our time the secrets of the most powerful Egyptian magic wherein we might find some hint of the Syrenical Song, the Egyptian Book of the Dead. It cannot be emphasized too strongly, however, that the magic exemplified by the Book of the Dead was the good or White variety, intended to help the dead through the various trials of their passage through the underworld to everlasting life in the Kingdom of Osiris, while the magic of the Sirens was the evil or Black kind, intended to mislead and harm the voyager.8 Upon this criterion of help or hindrance the distinction between White and Black magic was drawn, despite that the methods and instruments of both were the same or similar.

Structure The Sirens' spell would probably have begun with an identification of the conjurer. The mage or witch casting a spell normally would use an alias or pseudonym for this identity, most often the name of some person reputed to possess great power over supernatural beings, a person from a foreign race rumored to be skilled in magic. Solomon9 was a favorite character for such impersonations, but the name chosen might just as well have been Gilgamesh or Ahmose. This false identification would serve two purposes: it would impress upon the supernatural beings who were being summoned to perform the action of the spell that the conjurer was strong and not to be trifled with; and it would conceal from the beings summoned the true name of the conjurer, which must not be disclosed lest the powers of the summoned entities be turn against the conjurer. Thus, even Ra, the most powerful of the Egyptian gods, could be compelled to obey anyone who knew his real name10, the knowledge of which gave the god his power. It was conceived that supernatural beings were unwilling servants and would, if they could, destroy those would presumed to command them, but that the use of a nom de guerre permitted the conjurer to act with the impunity of anonymity.

Next, the spell would have invoked the gods or other beings who were to do the bidding of the mage or witch. The names were usually rendered in some foreign tongue, and all of the titles of the beings, or as many of them as were known or applicable to the task would be strung together in the invocation to ensure that the beings brought their full array of powers11 to bear on the task. The invocation might include a series of threats against the summoned entities that were intended to convince them that the consequences of misfeasance or malfeasance were great, thereby ensuring their cöoperation. Even a neophyte could subject a great god to such abuse. (Of course, if the conjurer were not up to the mark and could not actually muster the realization of the threats, the result could be annihilation of the mage.)

After the identification and the invocation, the actual business of the spell would commence, with the conjurer announcing what was to be done and to or for whom. This object of the spell could be the conjurer or some other person, mortal or immortal. The spell might require that the object be protected from or suffer some misfortune or illness, or that some spell already in place be broken or reinforced, or that some transaction of business or the heart be forwarded successfully or brought to naught.

The conjurer would perform some physical action, perhaps of sympathetic magic, by which the action of the spell would be bound to the beings summoned and to the object of the spell, and then would repeat some magical words thought to have the power to seal the deal, as it were. These words might include further magical names of powers even greater than those being summoned, by which the summoned entities were made aware that the conjurer had might on his or her side.

All of these verbal rituals would be combined with physical rituals, a purification, a sacrifice or libation, a mock sacrament. The rituals were also accompanied by the burning of incense and inscribing of magical symbols, some of which were designed to confine the beings summoned and protect the conjurer.

The poet Tibullus (ca. 55 B.C.- 19 B.C.) has left us a good idea of the shape and process of the mundane conjuration. Actual spells of the types that he described have been preserved in the grimoires.

I.1.43-66 He speaks first of the powers of the witch, who can call down the stars from the sky, divert the waters of a swift stream, call ghosts from the grave and infernal spirits from beneath the earth, dismissing them with a libation of milk, chase the clouds from the skies or draw down snow on a summer day, who can use all of Medea's herbs and command Hecaté's hounds. She has given him a spell that will befuddle the wits (Confusion spell) of the husband of his beloved, so that the man will not be able to see or hear Tibullus when he is with her (an Invisibility spell). It must be recited three times, spitting after each recitation. The husband will then credit nothing that he see or hears when Tibullus and his beloved are together, as long as there are no others present, which would break the spell. Why should he believe it? Because, when he first asked for the witch's help, he deceived her, saying that he wanted to be free of the love that he felt, but, when the ceremony was performed, he wished instead that his love would be requited, proving the sorcery (a Love charm). He then describes the ritual that bound his beloved to him, which included a cleansing by fire, a moonlight sacrifice, and his prayer.

nec tamen huic credet coniunx tuus, ut mihi verax

pollicita est magico saga ministerio.

hanc ego de caelo ducentem sidera vidi,

fluminis haec rapidi carmine vertit iter,

haec cantu finditque solum manesque sepulcris

elicit et tepido devocat ossa rogo:

iam tenet infernas magico stridore catervas,

iam iubet aspersas lacte referre pedem.

cum libet, haec tristi depellit nubila caelo:

cum libet, aestiuo conuocat orbe nives.

sola tenere malas Medeae dicitur herbas,

sola feros Hecatae perdomuisse canes.

haec mihi composuit cantus, quis fallere posses:

ter cane, ter dictis despue carminibus.

ille nihil poterit de nobis credere cuiquam,

non sibi, si in molli viderit ipse toro.

tu tamen abstineas aliis: nam cetera cernet

omnia: de me uno sentiet ille nihil.

quid credam? nempe haec eadem se dixit amores

cantibus aut herbis solvere posse meos,

et me lustravit taedis, et nocte serena

concidit ad magicos hostia pulla deos.

non ego totus abesset amor, sed mutuus esset,

orabam, nec te posse carere velim.

Later, in I.5.10-16, he describes how he used magic fumigations with sulfur to cure her of her lassitude and kept away nightmares by sprinkling blessed flour three times to placate them and how he offered to Trivia (Hecaté) nine times for her recovery.

te dicor votis eripuisse meis:

ipseque te circum lustravi sulpure puro,

carmine cum magico praecinuisset anus;

ipse procuravi ne possent saeva nocere

somnia, ter sancta deveneranda mola;

ipse ego velatus filo tunicisque solutis

vota novem Triviae nocte silente dedi.

Each of the spells or acts that he describes survived in one or another form into the present. Spells of Invisibility and Confusion, called works of deceit, are among the most commonly preserved texts, along with those for love and health. One assumes that popularity played a role in their survival. (It is a surprising insight that it is not claimed that a person becomes invisible, for instance, by the action of the enchantment, but that the person enchanted does not believe his eyes and refuses to see what is before him. In the same manner, Pliny noted that even the Augurs said that the auspices meant nothing if the person taking them was of a mind to take no notice of them. The effects of magic were admitted, evidently, to be merely glamorous, relying upon the susceptibility of the persons involved.)

A generic spell A typical or generic spell, that could be adapted to a particular purpose as needed, would look something like this:

"I, (the name of the conjurer), daughter (or son) of (some great personage), do hereby summon (the name and titles of the entity or entities summoned) under pain of (a list of injuries and punishments to be inflicted on the entity for failure or lack of cöoperation) to (grant some boon) (or afflict some ill) upon (the object of the spell), by all the power of (some greater tutelary entity), abracadabra (an actual magical word) and a list of magic words, mostly nonsense in Roman times but probably of significance in their original forms." Repeat three times. (or some such direction.)

By filling in the blanks with the appropriate names or words, and by using the correct utensils and implements, and by making the necessary ablutions and libations and sacrifices in the proper order, by burning the proper herbs that had been collected by the prescribed person under exactly the right conditions of time, place, weather, and astronomical aspects, and by inscribing the names of the objects on a piece of paper and then burning it or placing it under a rock or sinking it in the sea or hanging it on a tree branch by which the wind could carry its message to the heavens or the nether world, the conjurer could produce the desired action. As the practise of magic became more degraded and associated more with malefic powers than beneficent ones, the rituals and accoutrements became more ridiculous. Further confusing the matter, the import and actual articles of many rites were deliberately inverted or mutilated when addressed to the evil counterparts of the good deities, confusion and disorder being the hallmarks of the evil, as clarity and order were the hallmarks of the good.


ing the song

Thus, the song that the Sirens were accustomed to sing would have run something like this:

"The daughters of Achelous do beseech and command thee O Phoebus Apollo, Far-Darter, Master of the Seven-Stringed Lyre, Son of Latona, Lord of Helicon, grant that our song be heard, lest you feel the wrath of Hera the Inhibitor, and let our music enter the ears of the overbold Odysseus and take possession of his heart to make him compliant with our will. Pesesk uaa. And you Great Poseidon, Cronides, Earth-Shaker, King of the Deep, Father of Many-Formed Proteus, hear our plea and grant us our desire, lest you feel the lash of The Foam Born, raise a phantom of Ithaca in the mind of Odysseus son of Laertes, take the tiller from the Hand of Harmarchis and direct his ship to our shores. Pesesk uaa. And you O Boreas Father of Winds, hear our command, lest you be sealed in your cavern by Herakles, blow thy breath upon the waters that a fog might arise to confound the eyes of the oarsmen that they might drive the prow upon our isle. Pesesk uaa. By the Sweet-Voiced Melpomene whose songs enchant the souls of men and the gods, and by the command of Zeus the Aegis-Bearer, who apportions the heavens, the earth, and the sea, let it be done. Odysseus, we compel you, by Hecaté, we compel you. Odysseus, we compel you, by Hecaté, we compel you. Odysseus, we compel you, by Hecaté, we compel you. AEEIOUO12. By Ashteraoth, by Thoth, by Cybele, by Isis, by Ammon, by Ilunquh, by Sebau, by Sabaôth and Anset be you bound."

In this manner the Sirens would have sought to bring to bear upon the unlucky sailor both the power of the gods and the persuasive power of their singing, making it doubly difficult for the intended victim to escape. In the case of Jason and the Argonauts, it was only by the counter-spell that Orpheus raised with his own music that the heroes were saved, excepting Butes. In the case of Odysseus, it was the wax with which he "anointed"13 the ears of his crewmen that saved him and his ship.

Barring some discovery of a manuscript that says, "Here be the song that the Syrens sang", which, given the number of texts that must still lie in the earth, is not impossible, this conjectural reconstruction might be the closest that we shall come to answering Tiberius' last question. But there is nothing hidden that cannot be discovered. It awaits only the right time and circumstances.

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Notes 1 There is no agreement on either the number or the form of the Sirens. Some place their number at two (Homer), others at three or nine. Mr. Robert Graves gives the names of eleven Sirens in his The Greek Myths. Some make them comely women, while others would have them as Harpies, half maiden and half bird. Their place of residence is also not fixed, but, wherever it might have been, the beaches were said to be strewn with the bones and rotting corpses of those sea farers who had fallen prey to their song. It is not clear if the Sirens actually ate the bodies of those whom they destroyed. (As the Argo was the first ship ever to be built, one is moved to ask where the bodies of the dead mariners on the shore in Apollonius' poem were obtained?) Back to Text.

2 In Butler's translation:

"Hither, come hither, renowned Odysseus, great glory of the Achaeans, here stay thy barque, that thou mayst listen to the voice of us twain. For none hath ever driven by this way in his black ship till he hath heard from our lips the voice sweet as the honeycomb, and hath had joy thereof and gone on his way the wiser. For lo, we know all things, all the travail that in wide Troy-land the Argives and Trojans bare by the gods'designs, yea, and we know all that shall hereafter be on the fruitful earth."

Samuel Daniel's famous poem, representing a dialogue between Ulysses and a Siren, is an elaboration of the Homeric verses, with the addition of the notion, also current in Antiquity, that the Siren, unsuccessful in her attempt to seduce Ulysses, in frustration threw herself into the sea, an act that had particular meaning to Tiberius. Back to Text.

3 Apparently the poet and not the grammarian. Back to Text.

4 Grimoires, the "grammars" of magical lore, are the codifications of an oral tradition extending into prehistory. The Key or Clavicle of Solomon, merely the most infamous of the grimoires, is thought to have persisted in much the same form since pre-classical times. Whether any of the book actually can be attributed to Solomon is, of course, impossible to say. One is reluctant to defame the great King of Israel by allowing even the possibility that he could have had some part in the composition of the Key, based merely on the popular tradition which equated his wisdom with magical prowess. Indeed, anciently, the word wisdom seems to have been almost universally a synonym for occult knowledge, the word wicca, from which we derive witch, meaning wise. And it is accepted that the three wise men who visited Bethlehem were mages, Magi, astrologers.  Back to Text.

5 It was the complaint of many Roman authors that even the best work written in the native tongue of the conquerors of the world was considered inferior to even the most mediocre works that had been written in Greek. Back to Text.

6 Talismans are meant to be secret weapons, and, as such, they are concealed, lest by discovery they are defeated. Thus, the talisman is sealed in metal to protect it from the eyes of supernatural beings. Talismans written on lead sheets and folded or wrapped around a chain were designed to be worn but never opened. The name of a being could be its talisman, as is clear in the story of Rumpelstiltskin, the malevolent imp having a perfect immunity until the discovery of his name.

Amulets, unlike talismans, although serving the same ends, were not concealed. Because they combined magical words with images and the material from which they were made, amulets were thought to be very powerful, but very specialized, magic. There were, for instance, two amulets of the heart provided for the deceased in Egypt, one to prevent the heart from being taken from the dead and the other, the scarab, to provide the functions of the living heart to the spiritual body in the afterlife. There were other amulets to perform specific functions, such as to restore warmth to the body or to protect the head (Pillow amulet). There was also a papyrus talisman with the same function to be placed under the head. Back to Text.

7 Serpents had many occult functions and associations. It will be recalled that the brazen figure of a snake was a standard of Moses. A serpent was to be seen coiled behind Athene's shield at the feet of her statue in Athens. In Rome, the serpent was believed to hold the manes or the spirits of the dead, and to find a serpent in the house was considered good luck, for it meant that a departed member of the family had returned. Further, snakes were believed to renew their lives in the sloughing of their skins, shedding age at the same time as the skin. Besides being able to confer prophetic abilities, serpents could also be agents of the gods, as in the story of Hera sending two snakes to strangle the baby Herakles, which he promptly dispatched in his cradle. Snakes also were associated with healing, as the caduceus of Ascelapius reminds us. And, referring again to Athene, her son Ericthonius was said to have had the form of a snake in his infancy (or to have had snakes for legs), whom Pausanias thought might be represented by the figure of the snake with her statue. Echidna was said to be a woman above the waist but with a serpent's body and tail. The figure of the man-bodied creature with a snake for its head can be traced to the Egyptian goddess Nut, who is sometimes depicted with a serpent's head and sometimes with the head of a cat, or to Neheb-Ka or Uatchit. Back to Text.

8 That the Odyssey represents the passage of the dead through the trials of the after life to the promised home of the Kingdom of the Sun or Eternity needs no further notice here. Back to Text.

9 The name of Solomon, whose reputation for sagacity grew through the centuries into a kind of omniscience that bestowed upon him power over the good and bad angels, the latter of whom he was said to have imprisoned under his adamantine seal, appearing in a spell purporting to be of the Sirens would have to be an anachronism, and would render the provenance of the spell suspect, since Solomon was of the post-Trojan era. Back to Text.

10 The Egyptians told the story that Isis had been a mortal, but that she became the greatest of the gods when she deceived Ra into divulging his real name and his power became hers. Back to Text.

11 The same god or supernatural being might have a different title for each aspect of his or her being, each aspect representing a particular field of endeavor or natural phenomenon, a familiar concept that led to the subdivision of deities into divine specialists. Back to Text.

12 The seven Greek vowels became magical in the Near East and Egypt, where the alphabets were all consonantal. The foreign was in this case Hellenic. It should be remembered that the body of Alexander of Macedon lay preserved in his tomb in the city he had founded in Egypt, where he received the honors of a god. Back to Text.

13 The use of the word "anointed" suggests strongly that the wax, produced by Bees, the special creatures of Butes the Argonaut, would have had some magical significance due to the experience of Butes with the Sirens. It is practically a certainty that the Sirens utilized a waxen figure or figures as sympathetic objects upon which to focus their magic, in which case the counteragent would then likewise be wax. The use of a waxen image of the intended victim of their aggressive spell is hinted at by Apollonius, who singles out Butes because of his close association with beeswax. It is Apollonius' commentary on Homer. Since Bees were particularly associated with Artemis,
the introduction of Aphrodite seems inappropriate. However, Butes was the priest of Poseidon, and, as Aphrodite was born of the sea-foam (Poseidon was sometimes shown attending her birth), she could plausibly be brought in as dea ex machina at that point in the story.
It would be expected that Butes should also have been given heroic honors in

Coin of Ephesos, with Bee and Hart, emblemates of Artemis.

Poseidonia (Paestum), as he was in Athens, and there is evidence of an underground shrine there, which would have been of some interest to Tiberius. (For Tiberius' interest with Butes, see the Conclusions.)Waxen images were used in Egypt from very early times. The action of the spell is upon the volition, inciting the wish in the sailor to beach his craft upon the island. Harmarchis at the tiller is the unfailing pilot of the boat of Ra, and it is necessary that the control of the rudder be taken from him for the spell to be effective. Back to Text.