A Short History Of Medusa


Greek mythology has a cacophony of legendary characters with monstrous attributes, and one of the most infamous would have to be Medusa - a human female with snake like attributes and living venomous snakes in her hair. Those who gazed upon her face and looked her in the eyes would turn to stone, similar to the snake like creature the Basilisk.


Apparently snakes have been freezing us since Adam and Eve. A coincidence that the devil chose to arrive as a serpent? I think not.


Medusa is regarded as a Gorgon, a mythical creature in a sisterhood that could turn people to stone with their powerful gazes, and the earliest notification of this ancient belief came from the tales of the philosopher Homer in 1194 BC. The Gorgon sisters were made up of Medusa, Stheno and Euryale, who were all children from the sea God Phorcys and his sister, the sea Goddess, Ceto. The sisters are routinely depicted in ancient artworks as monstrous in form, but an ancient myth by Roman poet Ovid described Medusa as a beautiful maiden who was cursed by the Greek God Athena who turned her hair into serpents. Athena's wrath came unjustifiably because the sea God Poseidon had raped Medusa in Athena's temple.


In most versions of Medusa's story, the now pregnant Medusa was eventually beheaded by the Greek hero Perseus, who was sent to fetch her head by King Polydectes of Seriphus because Poldectes wanted to marry Perseus's mother. The Gods bestowed gifts of Perseus to assist in his quest, and he received a mirrored sheild from Athena, winged sandals from Hermes, a sword from Hephaestus and a helm on invisibility from Hades. Perseus was able to slay Medusa by looking at a reflection in the mirror shield that Athena had given him.


Supposedly when Perseus beheaded her, Pegasus, a winged horse, and Chrysaor, a giant wielding a golden sword, sprang from her pregnant body.


Since the retelling of her legend, Medusa has become a symbol for nihilism, scientific determinism, feminine rage, and even in a classic Sigmund Freud's psychoanalysis report in 1940, a fear and threat of a mother's castration. In a more accurate depicted essay by Elizabeth Johnston, Medusa is titled the "original nasty woman" and that her story is a rape narrative of victim blaming, one that is too familiar in American western culture today.


I strongly agree with Johnston's approach to the legend because despite her monstrous appearance and ability to turn people into stone, looking deeper into Medusa's legend has had me feeling sorry for the poor woman. She was raped by Poseidon, and cursed by Athena when really Athena should have cursed Poseidon for the raping. It is a classic look into the lack of feminism that existed in ancient Greek times, and for Athena to so happily have sent assistance to kill Medusa really lives up to the "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned".


Medusa has been depicted in many forms of popular culture today, including appearing in television episodes of the BBC One series Atlantis, a 1968 episode of Doctor Who, Monster High, Once Upon a Time, and Supernatural.


Photo from Riordan Fandom Wiki


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