And they are three, the Gorgons, each with wings And snaky hair, most horrible to mortals. Whom no man shall behold and draw again The breath of life…
For that reason whoever looked at them was instantly turned into stone.
But wait! This is a greek myth! Naturally we have a hero, Perseus who is aided and abetted by the Gods, in this case Athena and Hermes (known by the Romans as Mercury). With their help - magic sword, magic mirror, magic wallet and cap of darkness - Perseus slays Medusa and happily heads homeward with her head in his magic wallet. On the way he rescues a damsel in distress, Andromeda, and returns to his kingdom, turning the bad guys into stone with the help of Medusa’s head in a bag.
Perseus and Andromeda lived happily ever after and gave Medusa’s head to Athena, who carried it around on Zeus’s shield.
Medusa means “sovereign female wisdom.”
Medusa was originally known as an aspect of the goddess Athena from Libya where she was the Serpent-Goddess of the Libyan Amazons. In her images her hair sometimes resembles dread locks showing her origins in Africa. There she has a hidden, dangerous face.
Medusa has historically been seen as the archetype of the Nasty Mother, however she is far more complex . She symbolizes the following:
Sovereign female wisdom The female mysteries All the forces of the primordial great goddess The cycles of time as past, present & future The cycles of nature as life, death & rebirth Universal creativity & destruction Guardian of the threshold between heaven & earth Purification The ultimate truth of reality The wholeness beyond duality Fertility & life A culture in harmony with nature
Snakes coil around her arms, legs or are entwined in her hair and are shown whispering into her ear. The serpent is a totem of the cycles of life, death & rebirth. It also symbolized immortality.
The serpent is also an emblem of the ocean as the sea was known as an earth-girdling serpent. Centuries later, the myths of classical Greece cast the serpent as an evil, deceitful, revolting character associated with “witchy,” (wise), women.