by Eric Whollem
pumice from Mt. Shasta, polymer emulsion,
on white clay
PHOTO COPYRIGHT BY THE ARTIST
The Ancient Scourges of the Gods
Harpies sometimes have a 'bad reputation' as being entities
with a malignant disposition. This reputation comes from a
The Harpies are bird women, having traditionally the bodies of
birds but with the heads of women. Ancient Greek lore, especially
the works of the poet, Homer, made these beings well known.
The Harpies are synonymous with the Sirens, the supposed 'mermaids'
that lead Odysseus to his doom. These correlations come from the
play of Aeschylus: The Eumenides.
The Sirens are not vile sedeucers, if one reads archaic lore right.
Odysseus was a black pirate, and a blasphemer of Athena and
Poseidon. The Harpies or Sirens served as the police of the Gods
in ancient Greece. Their designation was that of 'scourges' or
The Sirens also served in the Mysteries, having their place in the
Abyssos, along the River Styx, where they served as the Chorus
of the Naiads.
The Sirens were Naiads, or river mermaids, being the daughters
of Achelous, the River God. The Nereids, the daughters of Doris
and Nereus, were the benign oceanic mermaids of the Greeks.
Hesiod posits the parents of the Harpies as Thaumas and Electra.
Archaic mythology has contradictions, as mythology is a general
consensus of poets. And poets of various ages utilize mythic beings
in varying contexts.
The Bird Women of preshistoric Europe are very ancient prototypes
that may be ancestral to the development of Greek mythological
notions about Sirens and Harpies. Marija Gimbutas and other
feminist writers popularized Bird Woman in the 1980's.
Today the Harpy is an archetype that many Jungian psychologists
utilize in their observations on human nature.
See my posts on the NAIADS:
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See my posts on MYTHOGRAPHIC ART:
Readers may be interested in my articles on MYTHOLOGY:
See WIKIPEDIA'S listing on the HARPY: