In re-visioning the myth of Medusa, I begin to see it as a teaching for modern women about the journey back to our instinctual selves so that we may become co- creators in our own life. It is the teaching of the Dark Goddess, and the dark moon mysteries. It is also a teaching about menstrual rites, and the ability to reset ourselves during menstruation which acts as an inner barometer checking how aligned with ourselves we are.
As a priestess in the temple of Athena – goddess of wisdom – Medusa is primed to be Athena’s top girl. She is diligent, devotional, chaste, reverend and respectful. She is the ‘good girl’ doing what is expected of her but ultimately responding to the will of another, and as we shall see, denying her true nature.
Medusa’s story begins with consciousness- though it is controlled and inauthentic, then her descent into unconsciousness when she is turned into a hideous gorgon, and finally her rebirth into her true self as the moon horse Pegasus, and healer of others through the power of her blood. In exploring feminine consciousness, Medusa’s myth also sees parallels in the myth of Lilith. In astrology the triad of Lilith consciousness- asteroid Lilith- Dark Moon Lilith- Black Moon Lilith- tells a similar story of reclaiming banished feminine wisdom. Looking at Lilith and Medusa points in a natal chart can describe the possibility of feminine rebirth.
In the most common reading of the myth, Medusa’s liaison with the sea god Poseidon is seen as a rape, in much the same way as Kore’s abduction to Hades is also viewed through the lens of violation. But what if Medusa, originally a sea nymph, ‘protector of the dark moon mysteries, who celebrated the sexual rites with the lineage of sea gods’[i] was in fact initiated back to herself, in a sacred homecoming in which she reconnects with her instinctual energy?
In the temple of Athena, Medusa is a dutiful Priestess but serving the chaste goddess of wisdom Athena – a goddess who was born from the head of the ultimate solar god, Apollo – may be a self-sacrificing act that denies her access to her true self. Essentially Medusa is mistress of the dark moon, occult teachings, and sex magic. To deny these aspects in herself is to deny her essence and her destiny. A tantric union with the sea god, King Poseidon offers Medusa a return to her true nature even while she deeply offends and is punished by Athena – reason- and cast out from the temple precincts- ordered society.
It could be that originally Athena and Medusa were one in the same, derived from an ancient Libyan goddess, or rooted in Egyptian mythology through the goddess Neith. As the solar gods assumed precedence over matriarchal and lunar consciousness, the temples were often burnt and desecrated, many of the priestesses became destitute, whores, or nuns, and the Sun god Apollo boldly steaked his claim in the Temple of Delphi- a name whose etymology has its origins in the same word a womb- and where the famed Oracles of Delphi advised the great and good of the land though a mysterious power that rose form the earth- serpent power.
In mythology, particularly Greek mythology, but also Roman, Christian and Celtic, fragmenting the goddess into opposing aspects was a way to undermine Her power, or set Her against Herself in the form of the ‘Other’.
In our next Moon Lodge, we will be exploring Sisterhood and addressing the blocks that modern women have in joining forces with, loving, and supporting other women. Divide and separate is one the oldest and simplest methods of bringing things, and people, into a weakened state and many modern women have a hard time supporting other women. One reason for this is that is hard to support/love another when you cannot be that for yourself. Women often report issues around trusting other women, or feeling that other women are out to get them, undermine them… or steal their man. When female power is in short supply, patriarchal values such as survival of the fittest, power over, control, and undermining the enemy comes into play. When women do not feel empowered to get their needs met, they are often accused of using tactics of manipulation. A friend once told me that she thought the hardest thing for a woman to do around other women is to hold her power. Whatever way I look at it, I can see/feel that the issue of sisterhood is deep wound of our time that is ready to be healed.
Imagine Athena and Medusa as one in the same- a mighty power of instinct, wisdom, the ability to merge, and the ability to separate. Soli/lunar magic unified in one awakened being.
When Medusa’s head is severed by the demi-god Perseus, the drops of blood falling on parched African desert as her flies away form the scene of the crime, causes little plants, flowers and shoots to spring up in an otherwise arid land. The blood of Medusa is a holy substance with life giving properties, and death dealing powers. Fertilizing barren land with the healing waters of life echo Medusa’s role as ‘mistress of the waters’ and connects her with a lineage of grail priestesses including Mary Magdalene whose knowledge of how to materialize spirit are at the heart of the gnostic and grail teachings.
The flowers that spring up from the drops of Medusa’s blood represent the power of renewal- which are the secrets known to the dark moon goddesses of transformation, renewal and initiation.
On receiving the blood of Medusa, Athena makes a gift of it to the god of healing Asclepius who separates the liquid into two vials. The blood in the left vial can destroy and cause death, while the blood in the right vial restores and heals and can bring life back to the dead. This is the mystery of the serpent wisdom- it has the power to destroy or create. Medusa herself has the power to destroy by rendering those who gaze upon her to stone, while in her beheading she unleashes the winged moon horse Pegasus, symbol of creative inspiration, revered by artists for centuries.
I prefer to read the myth like this… a rebirthing story for Medusa, her creative power finally unleashed by the death of her old persona and the restoration to her natural state. Medusa is sometimes originally depicted as a sea mare, and her name means “I come form myself”.
For modern women we might read the myth of Medusa as a caution against rejecting our essential selves. When we do this, we are in some way punished and we punish others… we can turn others to stone in our jealousy and frustration at our unlived lives. We, daughters of the patriarchy, often carry the burden of the unlived lives of our mothers’ who may have bitterly resigned themselves to a life of denial, and like Athena punish their daughters who dare to turn away from this feminine denying conspiracy.
Returning to one’s primal essence is often viewed by others as not very rational and indeed can at times look quite mad to the rest of the world. And in one way or another we will be punished for such a transgression against the social order. But sometimes we have no choice. Afterall, you cannot turn down the great sea god Poseidon.
In astrology, Neptune- Poseidon’s Roman counterpart is an outer planet taking us into the transpersonal realms. This suggests that when we are in the grip of an outer planet god, it is not about our self-will, wants and desires, rather the experience weaves us into the non- rational mystery of our soul’s journey and homecoming.
Of course, the shadow part of working with the myth of Medusa is undoing all the ways that we betrayed ourselves and were betrayed by others- often our mother- healing the wounds… we might even say sins, of going against our true nature.
[i] Mysteries of the Dark Moon by Demetra George. P. 159