BIRDS IN RUSSIAN MYTHOLOGY
to E. I. Itkina in her book "Loubok - Russian Popular Prints"
on page 16:
the more popular Loubok scenes were of sweet-voiced, half-birds half-maidens
named Siren and Alconost. These scenes were drawn during the middle
of the 18th century through the beginning of the 19th century. Artists
who painted the Loubok prints not only copied popular lithograph originals
but created original compositions of these heavenly birds.
depictions of the Siren birds are based on legends and stories from
the Chronograph books. According to these books, the voice of the
maiden-bird is so sweet that a man who hears this song forgets everything,
begins following the bird, and without the ability to control himself
he eventually collapses and dies of exhaustion from pursuing the bird.
usually depicts a man entranced by the Siren bird's song, which is
sitting on a flower and fruit covered bush. In the lower portion of
the drawing, underneath the bush the man is lying dead at the hands
of the bird.
noise people would try to scare these birds away by beating drums,
blow horns, fire cannons, and some prints depicted people ringing
large church bells. The loud noises would frighten the Siren birds
that would leave earth and head back to their heavenly dwelling.
heavenly bird, Alconost, is similar to Siren with the only difference
was that it had hands. Alconost very often would carry a scroll in
her hands, with proverbs of redemption from heaven for a spiritual
life on earth. According to legend the Alconost had a similar effect
on people, as did the Siren. "Whoever will be near this being,
will forget everything of this world, his mind will leave along with
his soul..." - from a subtitle on a Loubok print on (pic. 20)
common sense experts and people alike, believe that in folk art the
Siren is the bird of joy, and Alconost is the bird of sorrow. This
contradiction is incorrect since it is not based on the symbolism
of the images. When analyzing various books, chronicles, and works
of folk art (murals, icons, and hand-sewn pieces) it becomes clear
that Alconost never represents sorrow. This contradiction was more
or less created by a famous painting by V.M. Vasnetsov "Siren
and Alconost. The Song of Joy and Sorrow (1896)". In the artist's
depiction of the two birds he depicts a dark bird and an illuminated
bird, the illuminated one joyful, the dark one sad. This is the first
time these birds were used in a representation of a contradiction
in feelings. Nowhere in folk art can such a comparison be found. This
flawed practice started in professional art, which used ancient symbols
without having a complete understanding of their deeper meanings.