(There is a previous Medusa post. I like this one better and it works with this months series)
Medusa was actually one of three gorgon sisters―A trinity—all children of the ancient marine deity Phorcys and his divine sister Ceto. And as we learned last week, the Gorgon were sisters to the Graeae.
The name, Gorgon derives from the ancient Greek word gorgós, which means “terrible” or “dreadful.”
Um, yeah! Not exactly beauty queen of the year.
In truth, there are many various accounts of the Gorgons appearance, but most will agree they were all female with slithering, venomous snakes in place of hair, and eyes that would turn any living being who beheld them to stone. Some variations of the myths depict them with large fangs, brazen claws, while others with wings.
Beautiful or not, because of their strength and ability to turn things to stone, the image of the Gorgon was sometimes placed on buildings and objects for protection―an apotropaic symbol―a type of ‘magic’ meant to turn away evil. It is now known as a Gorgoneion. One of the earliest Gorgoneions dates back as early as 600 B.C. But archeologist Marija Gimbutas suggests the legend may date all the way to 6000 B.C.
The eldest gorgon sister, Stheno, was independent and ferocious. She killed more men than her two sisters combined. Her name means forceful, and she was just that.
Euryale was the middle sister and a lot more elusive. Not nearly as much is known about her, aside from the fact she hasn’t been spotted in centuries. WHAT??? :O
Of the three, Medusa was the youngest and the only one not immortal. The later the reason she was chosen to be slain by the demigod Perseus—for the power concealed within her crown—and I don’t mean tiara.
The Gorgon legends:
- The sisters were born sea monsters to the deities Phorcys and Ceto in the caverns beneath Mount Olympus—home of the gods. They were created by the great goddesses Gaia to help her children, the Titans, rid the land of the Olympian deities.
- Medusa is changed into a Gorgon by Athena out of anger because Medusa is raped by Poseidon in Athena’s temple, the goddesses of virtue. Athena transforms Medusa as well as Stheno and Euryale for their witness.
Which is your favorite interpretation of the gorgon myth? Do you think Medusa was born bad or is she a victim of circumstance?
* This is the second of several Immortal Monday posts surrounding the life of Perseus. Don’t miss last weeks post: The Graeae Sisters.
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Until next time, immortally yours.