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Russian Sirins

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Gamaun

Gamayun

The mountains and forests of Japan have long been the domain of the legendary Tengu, one of the most famous and ubiquitous creatures in Japanese folklore. The Tengu was a shape-shifting bird-like creature of the sky and trees, and they were seen as a protector of the mountains. The spirits Alkonost, Gamayun and Sirin are a mythical Tengu like creature with halve bird bodies in Russian Folktales. Similar to their neighboring Japanese folktales, these winged spirits possess a great deal of power when provoked.

Gamayun

Gamayun, similar to the Tengu, is a prophetic and wrathful bird of Russian folklore. It is a symbol of wisdom and knowledge and lives on an island in the east, close to paradise. Like the Sirin and the Alkonost, the Gamayun is normally depicted as a large bird with a woman's head. In his esoteric Christian-Buddhist cosmography Roza Mira, Daniil Andreev maintains that Sirins, Alkonosts, and Gamayuns are transformed into Archangels in Paradise.

Alkonost

The Alkonost is, according to Russian myths and folklore, a creature with the body of a bird but the head of a beautiful woman. It makes sounds that are amazingly beautiful, and those who hear these sounds forget everything they know and want nothing more ever again. She lives in the underworld with her counterpart the sirin. The alkonost lays her eggs on a beach and then rolls them into the sea. When the alkonost's eggs hatch, a thunderstorm sets in and the sea becomes so rough that it is untravelable. The name of the alkonost came from a Greek demigoddess whose name was Alcyone. In Greek mythology, Alcyone was transformed by the gods into a kingfisher.

Sirin

Sirin lubok

Sirin is a mythological creature of Russian legends, with the head and chest of a beautiful woman and the body of a bird (usually an owl). According to myth, the Sirins lived "in Indian lands" near around the Euphrates River.

These half-women half-birds are directly based on the Greek myths and later folklore about sirens. They were usually portrayed wearing a crown or with a nimbus. Sirins sang beautiful songs to the saints, foretelling future joys. For mortals, however, the birds were dangerous. Men who heard them would forget everything on earth, follow them, and ultimately die. People would attempt to save themselves from Sirins by shooting cannons, ringing bells and making other loud noises to scare the bird off. Later (17-18th century), the image of Sirins changed and they started to symbolize world harmony (as they live near paradise). People in those times believed only really happy people could hear a Sirin, while only very few could see one because she is as fast and difficult to catch as human happiness. She symbolizes eternal joy and heavenly happiness.

The legend of Sirin might have been introduced to Kievan Rus by Persian merchants in the 8th-9th century. In the cities of Chersonesos and Kiev they are often found on pottery, golden pendants, even on the borders of Gospel books of tenth-twelfth centuries. Pomors often depicted Sirins on the illustrations in the Book of Genesis as birds sitting in paradise trees.

Sometimes Sirins are seen as a metaphor for God's word going into the soul of a man. Sometimes they are seen as a metaphor of heretics tempting the weak. Sometimes Sirins were considered equivalent to the Polish Wila. In Russian folklore, Sirin was mixed with the revered religious writer Saint Ephrem the Syrian. Thus, peasant lyrists such as Nikolay Klyuev often used Sirins as a synonym for poet.

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