Enquiry Exhibition La Sirena Tattoo

Images of La Sirena

I recently acquired the tattoo shown above right. It wasn’t until I showed it to the group that it was pointed out that it qualified as an image of La Sirena, both as a hybrid being capable of traversing earth and air, and because the sirens of the Homer’s Odyssey were female figures with wings.

The tattoo, by John at Bizarre Ink of Edinburgh, is based on the ‘Queen of the Night’ also known as the ‘Burney Relief’, shown at the top left. I had been fascinated by this figure for years, and finally got to experience her presence at the ‘Feminine Power’ exhibition at the British museum a few weeks ago. I was coming to a significant hinge-point in my life, a tattoo seemed an appropriate ritual marker, and I suddenly realised what it had to be.

The story of the Burney Relief is a mystery worthy of the pulps. Acquired from a dealer in the late nineteenth century, its exact origin is unknown and it was long thought to be a forgery. It has since been widely associated with Lilith, though current scholarship suggests it is a representation of the Ishtar, the Babylonian goddess of love OR Ishtar’s elder sister and arch-rival Ereshkigal, queen of the underworld. (The sisters were much later syncretised by the Greeks as Aphrodite and Hekate respectively.) This duality pleases me, and I suppose the tattoo represents whichever queen of the night I find myself in most need of at any given time.

2 replies on “Images of La Sirena”

Hi Doug,

Firstly, I too had a tattoo at a significant moment in my life and have always been delighted that I did so! The Queen of the NIght is a truly astonishing, marvellous image and your accompanying explanation is fascinating.

Thanks so much for sharing it,



Liked by 1 person

Thanks, John! Darren made a very astute point about this image and the tattooing process concretising my feelings in a moment of crisis in the same way as happening across an objet trouve might. The linked wikipedia page is really detailed and fascinating, though of course the queen of the night keeps her secrets in the end. I’d be most interested to hear the story of your tattoo when our paths cross next. Cheers, Doug


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