I got up very early this morning, in my house full of sunshine, and I started working with my American-Italian coffee at my side. In the semi-standing sleepy walk that from the bed leads to the coffee (in my case, this walk must cross a flight of stairs) I felt the buttocks and the soles of my feet hurt …
This is my first sovenir from Warsaw.
Another physically perceptible sign is a ridiculous stylization on the wrist – made with the pen, by me, in the plane – of a warrior siren.
These are after-effects of Warsaw, which in a very short time, up to one day, will go away. But the warrior siren will always be the first thing that I will remember of this city, so this must be the first that I write about.
I’ll write several posts about my Warsaw, describing in detail this city full of surprises (very unexpected), I’ll tell you what to do and what to see, where to go and why, so stay tuned.
Now I’d like to be lulled by my love for the useless information, and my useless story today is the one of the
This is the symbol of the city of Warsaw, replacing and defeating the ancient local iconography of the old winged human figure, with legs and tail and scaly belly.
What was just a ‘human figure’ has turned into women (with breasts and long hair) in the decades of the fourteenth century up to the 1700s, when she began to be represented with a fish tail.
Some other physical characteristics has changed over time, while hield and sword have always been there in her hands.
Legend says that she is a “sister” of the Copenhagen mermaid (one of the more recent additions to the far more ancient legend). She, the Danish mermaid and two others have traveled the Vistula River heading to the Baltic Sea.
But our Siren remained in Warsaw, instead, after she vowed eternal protection to the city as a sign of gratitude to the inhabitants who helped and welcomed her.
Most fascinating and far more interesting than the dragon, she slowly entered the semiotics and the imagination of the city, sounds to me like a female cultural revelation.
You will find the two main warring sirens of Warsaw at the center of the Market Square and along the Vistula River.
So in two central scenarios of the city life, these bronze female figures stand proudly, they are reassuring, fair, elegant, defensive.
Even more interesting, you’ll come across the Warriors Sirens all around the rest of the city, on the old doors, on poles and on modern commercial signboard; you’ll see them in wood or wrought iron, stylized or forged in neoclassical mannerisms. Sometimes winged, sometimes defeating a snake.
They don’t sing nor charm, they don’t deceive.
No dreamy and waiting attitude, no absent face expression, no seductive attitude.
They have a fierce fixed look, they have shield and sword, they are beautiful yet serious and inspire reverence.
Looking for them and finding them is inspiring and can be a nice game to play with kids. Or with me.
Note: in the articles about Warsaw that you’ll read in this blog, you’ll always read about the “Warrior Siren” and I will not call them mermaid. I know ‘siren’ is very old-fashioned word and even all the local guides call it Mermaid. And this makes sense.
But I like some words less than others. I don’t like the word mermaid so much, it sounds to me like… Disney world or romance fairy tale. I think it’s that ‘maid‘ that I don’t find suitable in the signifier of these proud Warriors.
They are adult, mature, sometimes rough and martial. These are Sirens.