"Then said the Lady Circe:... ’Square in your ship’s path are Sirens, crying beauty to bewitch men coasting by;

Woe to the innocent who hears that sound!
...the Sirens will sing his mind away on their sweet meadow lolling....

But if you wish to listen, let the men tie you in the lugger, hand and foot, back to the mast, lashed to the mast, so you may hear those harpies’ thrilling voices’…"


Homer, Odyssey, Book XII

Among the many affinities between pagan and Christian symbolism which Clement of Alexandria (d.215) explored, one was of particular interest for the seafaring people around the Mediterranean Sea - the image of Odysseus lashed to the mast in Homer’s Odyssey. Fearful of being tempted by the sirens, mythical creatures whose seductive songs lured sailors to their destruction, Odysseus orders his men to place wax in their ears and to bind him fast to the mast of the ship. In Christian interpretations of this myth, Odysseus became a "type" or prefiguring of Christ, and the mast was seen as a premonition of the cross. Just as Odysseus had safely guided his ship through all manner of perils, so, too, Jesus steers the ship of the church through the narrow pass between sin and error. Just as a mast enabled a ship to triumph over the fearsome storms of the sea, the cross - and all that it represented - enabled the church to emerge victorious over all the vices and depravities of this world.
Canadian Heritage Information Network, The Provincial Museum of Alberta,

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