Seduction and the Secret Power of Women: The Lure of Sirens and Mermaids

Excerpts & Samples

By Meri Lao

Publisher : Inner Traditions/Bear & Company

ABOUT Meri Lao

Meri Lao
Meri Lao is the author of over 20 books in Italian, German, French, Spanish, and English. She has been a concert pianist, a professor of theater arts, and composed the music for Federico Fellini’s masterpiece City of Women. She lives in Rome.



An exploration of humanity’s age-old fascination with Sirens

• Explains the Sirens’ half-human, half-animal bodies as a metaphor for the psychological challenge that their myth has always embodied

• Fully illustrated in color with works by Rubens, Bosch, Munch, Magritte, and others

Their celestial voices drove mast-lashed Ulysses nearly out of his mind with libidinous promises as they beckoned him ever-closer to paradise--or a rocky death. With womanly torsos and animal lower halves, usually birds or fish, Sirens have long been symbols of the lure of desire--the feminine, as seducer--beckoning men to mystery beyond their ken, or to disaster. This book is both a celebration of Sirens and an examination of the psychology of dichotomy--the diametrically opposed drives and inherent conflicts underlying this female archetype.

Since antiquity, Sirens and their mermaid sisters have maintained an ongoing affair of the heart with humanity’s greatest writers and artists. Sirens play important roles in the classical writings of Homer and Euripides, as well as in the modern works of James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, and many others. Matching these writings with vibrant work from such artists as Peter Paul Rubens, Hieronymous Bosch, Edvard Munch, and René Magritte, Meri Lao has created a feast for the eye. Exploring our 3,000-year-old relationship with Sirens, Lao reveals the secret of the power in their song: it is the sound of the subversive, luring us from the orderly conscious world down to the depth of the world of dreams, and the harder we try to ignore that singing, the more we desperately want to hear it.
“Informative and reflective, this beautifully written, extensively researched, and illustrated work traces the history of Sirens, from their beginnings in antiquity as bird-women, through the familiar fish-tailed mermaids of sculpture, art, and literature, and even to the modern siren wailing on an ambulance. Meri Lao suggests that though men have refused to listen, Sirens, in all of their incarnations, bear a message that merits hearing. Seduction and the Secret Power of Women is a unique and valuable source for all interested in women and mythology as well as mermaids and their kin.”
Jane Caputi, professor of women’s studies at Florida Atlantic University and author of Goddesses and Monsters: Women, Myth, Power and Popular Culture

"The book is entertaining and literate. As a reference text, it is imaginative, logical, concise, and presents a complete analysis of its subject matter in detail. High recommended."
Lee Prosser,, Jan 2008

" . . . a great addition to a magical or feminist library. . . . Meri Lao has provided informative, detailed text worth reading closely."
Michelle Mueller, Facing North, July 2008

" . . . an excellent New Age survey appropriate for both women's studies and new age collections."
The Midwest Book Review, Apr 08

"The author includes a wonderful variety of historical references and illustrations as well as photographic examples, and makes a complicated subject quite clear and understandable. The chapters are packed full of history and explanation, but very well written so they flow without becoming cumbersome or confusing."
D. Tigermoon, The Pagan Review, May 2008