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The Origins of Starbucks' Volatile 'Snake' Goddess Logo

By Sarah Wilson    1/29/13

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How much do you pay attention to the logos that represent your favorite brands? Have you ever stopped to think of their origin and meaning? The logo of one of the most popular brands of coffee is known all over the world – she is a crowned goddess-like figure who resembles a mermaid in some respect. Starbucks calls her a siren…one that often appeared in Greek mythology as a beautiful yet dangerous creature that lured unsuspecting sailors with her lovely music and voices. Portrayed as femme fatales, following the siren's call often ended in shipwrecks as vessels hit the rocky coast of their island.

To the average coffee drinker and person on the street, the interesting meaning behind Sirens and what it means for the Starbuck logo is relatively unknown. The logo figure also resembles a goddess from the past named Astarte.  From the Bronze Age to Classical times, Astarte was a goddess worshipped throughout the Eastern Mediterranean. She was a deity linked to fertility, sexuality, and war. Astarte is also known for being a 'snake' goddess and having her own cult worship.

One of Astarte's symbols was actually a star within a circle, which was used to symbolize the planet Venus. Interestingly, two stars are found within the green circle surrounding the logo character of the former Starbucks logo, which was used to separate 'Starbucks' and 'Coffee.' Artistic depictions of the goddess often show her naked, so why was such a figure with a steamy background chosen to represent the popular coffee chain?

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The Starbucks logo also resembles yet another mysterious yet volatile female, Melusine (or Melusina). Known as the alchemical siren or twin-tailed mermaid, this creature in the past was at the center of various stories and legends, as well as had a connection to alchemy. Melusine dates back to medieval legends, and was portrayed as an attractive woman who was cursed with the misfortune of transforming into a serpent from the waist down whenever she bathed.

Legend has it that Raymond, the Duke of Aquitaine, finds the maiden in the forest, and begs her to become his bride. She is in agreement, but makes him promise to never disturb her on a Saturday, while she is taking a bath.  However, the Duke begins to wonder about his young wife, and decides to go against her wishes, and sneaks a peek. He sees her true appearance and is shocked. Feeling betrayed, Melusine turns into a dragon and furiously departs. The duality of Melusine is meant to shed light on the medieval perceptions of sexuality.

This same symbolism of duality is also seen in alchemy. The siren with the two tails is viewed as being associated with enlightenment. The two tails in alchemy represent the unity of earth and water, or body and soul. In 1971, the early logo of Starbucks closely resembled the two-tailed siren of Melusine.

The Starbucks Corporation has opened coffeehouse chains all over the world. They are known as the largest coffeehouse company across the globe with stores in more than 60 countries, including Japan, the United Kingdom, China, South Korea, Mexico, Thailand, and the Philippines. That's a lot of coffee drinkers 'worshipping' this brand of coffee represented by a potentially deadly, serpent-like goddess.

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