Know Your Goddess: Medusa

Most recognizable for her locks of snakes, Medusa was the daughter of ancient chthonic deities of the sea. She was born far across the ocean from Greece; Later contributing authors to Medusa’s myth placed her homeland as Libya. Some believed that Africa became the home to many varieties of snakes as Medusa wandered the continent and shed them from her hair. She was one of three sisters, all known as creatures named Gorgons. Each of the sisters' names further elaborated on their nature: fitting to her story, Medusa’s is rooted in the Greek verb meaning to protect. 

Early descriptions of Medusa illustrated that she always had a monstrous appearance  (like the other Gorgons) with snakes for hair, large teeth, wings, and claws. Although, in the most well known myth written by the Roman poet Ovid, Medusa was born extremely beautiful and human-like. Poseidon, especially attracted to her voluptuous hair, assaulted her in the temple of Athena. Engraged, Athena, unable to punish Poseidon, banished Medusa to an island and cursed her to have snakes for hair and a face so revolting it would turn the onlooker to stone.

Sent by a king, Perseus went on a mission to slay Medusa and bring back her head. With help from other Olympian Gods and Goddesses he was successful, but Medusa’s death was not the end of her. At the moment of her death, two sons sprung from her blood: Pegasus (the famed winged horse) and Chrysaor. Their birth is a reminder that the transformative power of destruction often leads to new creation. Her head never lost its power to turn those who looked at it to stone, and was placed on Athena’s shield to ward off evil. Strands of her snake hair went on to protect whole cities. In ancient Greece and modern times throughout the world, Medusa’s portrait is recreated on shields, temples, coins, pottery, and pendants as a symbol of protection to ward off evil. 

Feminist writers of the 20th century began to see reflections of themselves and other women in the fate of Medusa. They saw parallels between the punishment and isolation the Gorgon faced for her own assault and the way women are so often maligned for the mistreatment they endure.

Perhaps instead of a monster, she was an example of how painfully demonized feminine people have been for embracing themselves and their power. Through the century Medusa became a feminist symbol of the power of feminine rage, leaving the male gaze, and finding independence, in addition to protection. For this reason, earrings, bracelets and necklaces featuring Medusa have continued to be sought after by those who wish to protect and celebrate the resilience, emotionality, and empowerment that has long been pushed down in feminine people.

Medusa teaches us to know and love ourselves outside of the expectations of patriarchal society. Because she is a reminder to be unapologetically ourselves and fierce in the face of oppression, Medusa is a perfect talisman for manifesting and honoring our inner bad bitch.


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