Mermaids & Lilith
Where to begin on the mythology of mermaids and sirens? There is truly too much to read on them to ever fully cover it in one spot. I will say mermaids are half human-half fish. And sirens, technically are half human-half bird, but through the ages mermaids and sirens have become interchangeable. In my story I use the myths of Lilith as they can be found in literature. What I added was the story of Lilith bearing two daughters. Many mythologies have stories of competing siblings, and it seemed to work for my needs.
Similarly, while Lilith’s story is more Western, I can find similar stories of half human-half serpent creatures in just about every culture, which makes the myth rich for retelling in my Siren Series where I hope to connect some of them.
Last, while there are those who may think otherwise, I prefer to think of our siren and mermaid friends as symbols of positive representations of life, rebirth, transformation, learning, fertility, and abundance.
To read more on the subject, Google Siren + Mermaids + Lilith + Mythology. It’s a fun way to spend a lazy afternoon.
In Siren’s Song, my heroine, Alex, has come to possess part of an ancient astrolabe. Astrolabes are instruments used by astronomers, navigators, and sometime astrologers to predict the position of the planets and stars. They were popular in the medieval Islamic world and some of the most beautiful astrolabes are of Arabic design. The very first astrolabe may have been made by Hipparchus in the first two centuries BC.
There is conflicting information on the life of Hipparchus. He may have lived long enough to be known by Ptolemy and shared communications. It is thought that he gained some information from the great library of Alexandria. Being a library docent in L.A. I have fondness for libraries, and in my next book, Siren’s Cipher, the heroine, Olivia, visits the tomb of one of the great librarians of Alexandria. This fictional librarian was also a mathematician, astronomer, and keeper of a great secret…
An astrolabe (astro=star, labe=take), measures a star’s altitude in degrees. It can consist of one or more plates, with the cover often a decorative design of some sort. The most beautiful astrolabes I have seen are in the collections at the British National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, and the British Museum in London. I was fortunate on my last trip to Paris in March to pop over to London and visit both on my day off. To learn more, visit your local library—or these museums online. Some pictures are included below.
Fin Whales (Balaenoptera physalus)
I went to several sources to study fin whales, most of the research ending up being just for fun. Last I heard, humans could not communicate with whales via their human voice the way my heroine does—but she is a unique creature, and the whales have neither confirmed nor denied this yet.
Fin Whales are the second largest living animal after the Blue Whale and can grow to 88 feet long. A newborn is approximately 21 feet long and 4000 pounds. Baleen Whales—the blue whale the most powerful among them—have the most powerful voices on Earth. As researched by Stephen Hart of The Animal Communication Project, the blue whale’s voice can cross an ocean and echo from the other side! Their moan is “comparable in sonic energy to the twin booster rockets of the space shuttle.” There is some great information on whale songs at his web site: http://acp.eugraph.com/cetaceans/whales.html
In SIREN’S SONG, Alex can sense the whales’ presence. This is not as unheard of as you might think. Infrasound (the sound with which baleen whales communicate), can be detected by humans—though not consciously. In tests, imitating the low frequency of whale song, the infrasound inspired a sense of awe, fear, anxiety, and even sorrow, so oftentimes it is linked with the presence of something supernatural.
You can learn about whale songs, and hear samples on the Australian Government link:
Human Encroachment into the oceans for war, industry, and seismic exploration do cause sounds that affect sea life, particularly those like whales that rely on sound as their primay sense. There is an interesting article from the Vancouver Aquarium on this link, Sonar and Seismic Exploration: A Major Headache for Whales
Here are some of the fun Whale Facts you can find on the following Whale Center of New England link: http://www.whalecenter.org/amazarch.htm
- The blue whale heart is the size of a small car, and a small child can stand in the major arteries leading from the heart.
- It has been calculated that a single breath from a mature blue whale can inflate up 2000 balloons.
- It is now believed that the most recent land ancestors of whales were hippos!
- Sperm whales are believed to be capable of dives as deep as two miles down (over 10,000 feet), though most dives are probably less than a few thousand feet, typically in search of food.
The Rules of the Road at Sea
It was difficult to find written documentation for sailing ships prior to the late 1800s. However, most of the official sea-faring rules were based on traditions that had been developed over the course of the years. As my guideline for behavior at sea and the use of whistles and bells, I referenced the third edition of “The Rules of the Road at Sea: Comprising of Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, 1897, and Rules in Force in Harbours, Rivers and Inland Waters with Explanatory Notes and Observations.” By Hubert Stuart Moore of the Inner Temple and The Admiralty Court, Barrister-at-Law. Published by J.D. Potter, Admiralty Agent for Charts.
Historical Clothing and Language
This is one of my weaker spots to improve upon. I give my characters just enough clothing to say something about their personality. It may not always be historically accurate. My apologies. Similarly, I have now and then caught heroine using idioms that weren’t yet around in 1790. Hopefully I caught most of them … but when you are trying to save the world from the ‘end of days’, who has really has time for every polite turn of phrase?