Double tailed mermaids
Years ago I encountered this double tailed mermaid, sitting in the Renaissance sculpture garden In Bomarzo (Lazio, Italy). For long I kept wondering why she has two tails, and what’s the story she has to tell us.
Until I met her again, this time in the Etruscan Archeological Park in Sovana (Southern Tuscany), about 1500 years older than her sister in Bomarzo. It was a reason to embark on a journey. It resulted in my book The smile of the Sirena (De Glimlach van de sirene, Il sorriso della Sirena).
Memories of the Goddess
The sirena, like she is called in Italian, is an icon of ancient goddesses. In ancient times she was regarded a creatrix, a spirit who creates life from the waters. In that sense she is a Mother goddess, and a founder of dynasties. But she is also a connector between worlds.
You can see that from the Etruscan version in the picture below. It’s sculpted on an urn from about 800 b.C.from Volterra. The tails of this mermaid connect her with the wisdom of the earth, and her wings with the heavenly spheres. But she has also eyes in her wings: a sign of her ability to see what is not visible for the normal eye. Her sword is a symbol spiritual discernment. And then, she has little wings behing her ears, which makes her a female version of Hermes, the famous messenger of the Gods.
We can see her as a messenger of ancient alchemical cultures, who believed in the long journey of the soul, in this life and the hereafter and beyond. The Etruscans had indeed roots in ancient Hermetic wisdom cultures from the Middle East: they transported them to Europe. It’s all returning now…
The double tailed mermaid has survived through the ages, reaching far into Christian times. Sometimes she is compared with the Gnostic Sophia, which confirms her roots in the Hermetic tradition. On early Christian churches she is often in the company of a male partner, who is depicted either as a bull, a fish or a green man. Together they stand for the sacred couple that symbolizes the marriage between heaven and earth.
But sometimes she is also the Mother or partner of Jesus, or she is represented as a symbol of spiritual transformation towards wholeness and unity. And she survived as a symbol for dynasties, like the French Merovingians who claimed to descend from Jesus and Mary Magdalene. She also returned in famous legends, like that of the French Melusine. In the late Middle Ages she often got demonized, and seen as a threatening monster.
Recently modern coffee company Starbucks contributed towards her return all around the world by using her as their logo, but unfortunately without an adequate explanation.
Guide for the soul
The image of the double tailed mermaid is a perfect example of a symbol. The literal meaning of the word ‘symbol’ is ‘bringing together’ or ‘connecting’: a symbol connects the visible with the invisible which is difficult to express in words. And that fits exactly with the role of the sirena as a ‘traveller between worlds’, between the human and the divine realms, or the material world and the ‘mundus imaginalis’. She is a carrier of the archetype of the feminine divine. It all makes her into an ideal guide for
That’s also how she has guided me. After I followed my curiosity she started to appear in my dreams, and guided me on several crucial moments in my life. She awakened a new field of exploration and creativity within me, that supports the return of the feminine divine. While following her traces I found her on more and more ancient sacred places, where she is part of an extended symbolic language, left to us by people who came before us.
Deciphering that language inspired me to bring her story into the world. And that supported in turn many other persons to find their own soul path. Her connecting capabilities make the sirena into a timeless weaver of networks between people.
My relationship with the sirena took a new turn when I discovered her image in the Vatican, above the tomb of Matilda of Canossa, the only woman who is buried in in the Basilica of St. Peter. Again, I followed my curiosity, and travelled along the places of her life time. It resulted in a book about her life story, that also contains a part of my own soul journey. It was all meant to be…
My journey with the sirena continues.
You can meet her when you travel with me.
And I give lectures about her, that are meant to grow into a new book.
“The repression of the feminine has led to a planet on the edge of collapse. The re-emergence is going to be a dance to behold”