Daily Myth:Greek- Medusa

Medusa

Medusa by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

Of all the monsters in Greek mythology, Medusa has got to be one of the most well known. Whether she is ugly or beautiful or half snake or fully human or with a full head of snakes or snakes sporadically placed in a head of hair, as long as it is a lady with snake hair we still know its Medusa.

Modest Medusa by Jake Richmond

Modest Medusa by Jake Richmond

Medusa is a Gorgon from Ancient Greek mythology. Gorgons are dreadful female monsters with large eyes, fangs or tusks, forced smiles to show off their teeth and lolling tongues, and reptilian attributes usually snakes mixed in their hair. In some areas of Greece, they were believed to have scales for skin that were almost impenetrable. Medusa was one of three sisters, the other two were named Stheno and Euryale. They all had brass hands, living venomous snakes in their hair, and gazes that would turn people to stone. Earlier myths depicted them as primordial beings.

But there is another myth to the origin of Medusa, that I personally like more. Medusa was believed to be a mortal priestess in the temple of Athena. Even as a mortal, she was best known for her hair, for as a human she had beautiful, flowing, golden hair. And one day Poseidon, who took a fancy to her, came into Athena’s temple and raped Medusa. (Some say that she fell in love with him and, forgetting her vows of celibacy, married him. I prefer the other one because it makes her a victim in the situation with a sad story. I find that more interesting. And in some versions of the myth, Medusa was so vain of her beauty that Athena did not take pity, because women in these stories were always so mean to each other since they are all written from the perspective of men in history). Anyways in this version, there are two explanations as to why her sisters were also Gorgons. One: she still had gorgon sisters, but because her parents were somehow related to Gaia, they had two monster babies and one beautiful maiden daughter. Two: Athena was so mad that she cursed Medusa’s sisters as added punishment (I prefer this one).

The West Pediment of the Temple of Artemis in Corfu, Greece

The West Pediment of the Temple of Artemis in Corfu, Greece

Which ever the story, Athena was so enraged that her temple was besmirched that she went into a rage. She knew she could not punish her stronger, more powerful, divinity of an uncle (who she already humiliated when she was chosen to be patron god of Athens), so she took all of her anger out on Medusa. She transformed her into a beast that everyone feared, and Medusa was forced to flee to a far off place where she could live in misery alone till the day someone killed her.

Medusa by Arnold Böcklin (1878)

Medusa by Arnold Böcklin (1878)

Many years later, hundreds of men had tried to kill her but to no avail. All became stone once they looked into her eyes. Until a hero named Perseus, who had magical items to help him out, was able to cut off her head. His story is best to be saved for another day. But for now the gist is that Perseus is a hero that needed her head for a special reason. So he was given special equipment to aid in his battle against her, and most of the help he gained was from no other than Athena herself. After he got the head of Medusa, he traveled all the way back to Greece. While traveling, blood dropped from her head into the sea and Pegasus was born from her blood, pain, and sea foam (from Poseidon, which would match better with the story of them being in love because then it would be his mourning for her and creating a child with her even though she was dead. That is kind of sweet, weird, but sweet). Also either some of her blood fell all over the African desert or pieces of her hair, but they say that is how the deserts were so filled of venomous snakes in Northern Africa.

It is not often mentioned, or even depicted in artwork, that Medusa had the lower half of a snake, and yet in most video games, artwork, and movies made in modern day that is how she is characterized.

 

If you want to know more about Medusa, check out this website: http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/bogan/medusamyth.htm

-Blog Barista

 

I laughed way to hard at this gem

I laughed way to hard at this gem

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