Lorelei is the name of a spirit and the big rock in the Rhine River on which she sits. Lorelei, the most famous of the Rhine Maidens, is a Sirenlike mermaid who sits on her rock in the Rhine, combing her long hair and singing. The Lorelei rock is located in a particularly hazardous juncture of the Rhine, characterized by swift, treacherous currents. Lorelei’s voice distracts fishermen and boaters from the dangers and they crash, many drowning.

Different legends explain her history and actions:

• She was a girl who, betrayed by a faithless lover, threw herself into the Rhine and was transformed into this alluring but deadly mermaid

• She was a local woman whose true love, a sailor, drowned and so she threw herself into the river to join him

• It’s also possible that these legends camouflage an ancient Pagan goddess

The name Lorelei derives from two old Rhine dialect words: lureln (murmuring) and ley (rock). An alternative interpretation defines Lorelei as lurking rock. The reason Lorelei is more famous than the other Rhine Maidens is because of the success of Heinrich Heine’s 1827 poem of the same name, which eventually became a well-loved song. Sylvia Plath’s 1956 poem also titled Lorelei may pay tribute to the Rhine Maidens in general.

The Rhine Maidens are the mermaids of the Rhine River. They are among the stars of Richard Wagner’s operatic Ring Cycle.




The Lorelei rock is on the Rhine’s eastern bank near Sankt Goarshausen, Germany.



Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.