When you’re young in school studying mythology the only thing you learn about Medusa is that she was a monster whose gaze would turn living things to stone that Perseus killed for, reasons. And then Perseus chops off Medusa’s head and uses it as a weapon. At least that is as involved as it got when I went to school. However, there is more to Medusa than that. A complex background that I feel makes Medusa more of a martyr than a monster.
Medusa was once a mortal woman. In one story, Medusa was a beautiful woman that the goddess Minerva feared was more attractive than she. To assure her status, Minerva turned her into a creature with hissing snakes for hair. Once Perseus was done with Medusa’s head, he gave it to Minerva who put it on her shield. In an even more messed up version, the beautiful Medusa was raped by Poseidon in a temple dedicated to Athena. This so enraged Athena that she turned Medusa into the snake-haired monster whose gaze turned living things to stone. No matter which way you slice it, Medusa was a victim.
Eventually, we get to Perseus, the guy who slew Medusa. King Polydectes sends Perseus to retrieve the head of Medusa because the King wants to marry Perseus’s mother, which is some royal logic I don’t understand. Some versions mention Medusa laying waste to the country. A country that branded her a monster because she was punished for being attractive and a victim of rape. In case all of this isn’t messed up enough for you, some of these stories say Medusa was pregnant with Poseidon’s child when she was killed. It’s all good though, because Medusa’s blood produced the Pegasus, a mythological creature I can never look at the same with this knowledge.
I hope this has caused you to reconsider Medusa’s place within the divine feminine. If you don’t want to include her in your divine pantheon, I do hope you will at least no longer consider her a monster.
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