Who really was Medusa, The Gorgons and the Amazon Women

"Silence is golden when you can't think of a good answer."
-Muhammad Ali
User avatar
Posts: 1443
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:24 pm
Location: Inland NW, U.S.
Has thanked: 2338 times
Been thanked: 2779 times

Who really was Medusa, The Gorgons and the Amazon Women

Post by Spiritwind »

I have been a curious seeker of truth for some long time now and have found much to ponder when studying the various mythologies that have survived through the ages. I sometimes receive information during my times of reflection and meditation that seem to be at odds with what I have learned by more traditional methods. If you ask the average person who Medusa was you would probably hear the often told Greek version that she was a monster with snakes for hair and her gaze would turn people to stone.

So it may come as a surprise to find that the story is much older and has went through many revisions and much obscuration over time. So to begin with I want to just post a few of the versions I have found in my internet search as a starting point with hopes that even more will be revealed along the way.

https://sites.google.com/site/phsmendoz ... dusafigure

Is the snake goddess really an early manifestation of the Greek Medusa figure

The organization of the Amazon tribes in North Africa, the devastating effect of invasions, and the aims of patriarchal elites have almost completely obscured the identity of the Gorgons and their Goddess Medusa. The most well known portrayals of them in stone, pottery, and paper do nothing but record the confusion. Clarity begins in the distant past, wending its way through Mesopotamia and Egypt, before passing through pre-Mykenaean Krete and beyond.

The earliest known appearance of a female head with bulging eyes, lolling tongue, and wild hair was identified by Dr. Marija Gimbutas among the artifacts of people she called Old Europeans, because they preceded the Indo-Europeans in the area. The picture dates from the 5th millennium BCE, and then the gorgon reappears independently in Southern Rumania roughly five hundred years later. The people of ancient Mesopotamia knew the gorgons too, except they called them lahamas, and they were kindly sea creatures reminiscent of mermaids. The Egyptians derived the uraeus headdress from her, usually worn by their Cat Goddess Bast (Pasht), who was crowned with serpents themselves crowned with solar disks. Otherwise, she wore an asp, the other sacred snake of Egyptian queens, on her forehead. Eventually these ideas coalesced in the Goddess Medusa, Queen of the Gorgons, at once beautiful and frightening.

First and foremost, Medusa was a Sun Goddess and representative of women's genital mysteries. Snakes are generally connected to the Sun in mythology; obviously as in Egypt, or more subtly as the guardian of the solar apples of the Hesperides. Just as Athena would later, Medusa ruled the ocean, ships, and all the skills and arts dealing with them. Her petrifying gaze was the contradictory Sun and the keen vision of the ship's pilot. The snakes standing erect over her forehead are often her favoured blue cobras, looking like the headdress later worn by Bast, or like dreadlocked hair.

The Atlas Mountains were Medusa's first creations, so she was called 'mountain mother' like Cybele. The navel of the world was once said to be Medusa herself in the form of a mountain. In semi-human form, her body was covered, not with reptilian scales as one might expect, but with fish scales. These were always carefully drawn to make a pattern of meanders (), a sacred symbol for water dating back to the Palaeolithic. Since she inhabited the sky as well as the sea, Medusa always had wings which were able to double as fins. This combination of oceanic connections seems to have helped inspire a shift in meaning for the word 'gorgon' in modern versus ancient Greek; in modern Greek, the word now means 'mermaid.' A fascinating change, especially in view of the fact that mermaid lore records them as being especially dangerous to foolish or malicious men, living in an underworld realm without men of any sort, 'mer' or otherwise.

During the day, when she may have been titled 'Hippo' for her skill with the horses of her solar chariot. Medusa travelled across the sky, watching over children and guiding schools of fish, symbolic of unborn souls. At night she sailed in a stone boat across the ocean, from where it covered the upper Earth to the Underworld. There Medusa heated thermal springs and imbued them with healing power, according to Goodrich her keen gaze went on twinkling in the sky as the star now known to be an eclipsing binary and called by the Arabic name Algol 'serpent's eye.' Only the very fortunate saw Medusa's sacred island, home of mermaids, enclosed in willows, representing her genital centre.

Medusa's priestesses were as fierce and frightening, beautiful and kind as her. They wore their hair long, in dreadlocks or just matted into rough strings. It was imperative never to cut or interfere with the growth of this hair, because it symbolized their shamanic power, which the priestesses demonstrated by walking across burning coals in bare feet without injury. Often they had extensive knowledge of herbs to compliment their spiritual practice, including contraceptives like the seeds of poplars and willows, silphium from the giant fennel, or laurel berries. These powerful women formed the basis of the Amazon tribe later called 'the Gorgons.' The Gorgon high priestess presided over North Africa and Amazon colonies in Italy and Spain.

Some of the Amazon Gorgons seem to have come from lands far from Africa. The mythical Gorgons were painted in two main styles by the time Greek tribes finished taking over the Southern European peninsula: Kretan and Mainland. On Krete, Gorgons were shown with thick, curling hair, fangs, lolling tongue, and wings. On the mainland, Gorgons were shown with snakes for hair that stood out from the head, other features being the same. The Mainland style suggests dreadlocked Libyan Amazons, while the Kretan style contains hints of Anatolian or Indian Amazons, especially when the Gorgon was a Lady of the Beasts.

Indian Amazons were worshippers of Uma, driven from the subcontinent by invaders and probably climate change. The Kali-like nature of Medusa may have been emphasized by their input. Kali destroyed various demons in the form of animals in the tales told by the invaders, suggesting she too began as a benign ruler of the wilds. Her headdress was often made of or decorated with snakes and flames. To this day, there are Indian women who feel called to let their hair grow long and matted, prophesy, and walk barefoot across hot coals, doing so without injury. They answer the call by leaving the men they live with if any, refusing to sleep with them, and moving away to establish themselves in homes apart from their former villages.

Anatolian Amazons carved four-winged Gorgons at Delphi and Ephesus to suggest the swift moving wings of bees, a reference to Medusa as a chthonic Goddess, because honey and beeswax were used in embalming.

Like Artemis, who may have partially absorbed her in some parts of Greece, Medusa was worshipped over an extensive geographical area, carried there by Amazons. The Etruscans knew her as Metusa and dedicated the island of Gorgo on the Tyrrhenian Sea to her. Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, Tibet, and ancient Anatolia are dotted with mountains named 'Gorgon' for her. The name began to mutate, becoming 'Urgo,' 'Orkhon,' and eventually 'Gargantua' as the Amazons spread through Scandinavian and Celtic lands.

The Romans and the Greeks translated the names of the Triple Gorgons into their own languages with telling results. Among the Greeks they were the daughters of the Moon, Sun, and Sea Goddess: Strength, Universality, and Wisdom, Stheino, Euryale, and Medusa in order of decreasing age. The Romans called them Valeria 'valourous,' Lativolva 'far flyer,' and Guturna 'ocean pilot' instead.

The Greeks also seemed to believe the Gorgonian Amazons worshipped Athena, the Sun in her death bringing aspect. Then the other aspects of the Sun were Wisdom and the Maiden, Medusa and Akantha 'burning Sun,' a name often carried by Athena's Greek priestesses. The idea seems to come from confusion of the Amazon Goddess with Anatha, a Goddess Athena either absorbed or is descended from.

The Gorgons were not the only North African Amazons. Their sister tribe was the Tritoni, long ago forced onto the mainland by the loss of their island off the west coast of North Africa in a volcanic explosion. It was the Tritoni who worshipped a Goddess of Moon and Sea, called Sipylene. Eventually the two tribes united, to the complete bewilderment of Greek storytellers, who were already lost in thealogical mazes.

The legend of Medusa's murder is no older than the 5th century BCE. Argive and Samian worshippers of Hera always remembered her as an Amazon queen named for a Goddess who was murdered by the combined efforts of Athenian and Southern Greek warlords. Their curious insistence that Medusa's head was buried in front of Hera's great temple seems to be because they had forgotten Hera was herself a Snake Goddess. Athena's role is a late addition, as is the name 'Athens' which was renamed after the recodification of Greek religion following the Dark Age. Even the sacred burning mirrors of the Goddess were turned against her, recast as Perseus' shield. In the 6th century century BCE, the Gorgons were still commonly viewed as an Amazon tribe rather than mythical beings, although Queen Medusa had begun to be rendered as a centaur, as mentioned previously.

The Graea, later guardians of the Gorgons descend from the war priestesses and warriors of the Amazons, who often had grey hair. The Sarmatians, Scythians, and Celts placed such women at the head of their armies to cast victory spells and terrify the enemy, a likely Amazon practice. Jessica A. Salmonson has also noted that at first, Amazon armies probably consisted mostly of older women, including younger women only much later.

Tritonian Medusa gave the Sun its moniker of 'Gorgon's Head,' and the gorgon mask always symbolized women's mysteries. Given Medusa's connections to various contraceptives, those mysteries must have included methods to encourage or discourage conception. The snake, Moon, and menstrual cycle were interrelated symbols of women and rebirth in these mysteries, and were remembered as such long enough to spawn wild superstitions. These included the belief that menstrual blood buried in the Earth under the Full Moon's light bred serpents or basilisks, or that a menstruating woman's gaze could turn men to stone, like the gaze of Medusa herself.

After Medusa and Athena had their places switched... at least in Greek perceptions... Athena always bore a gorgoneum on her breastplate or shield and was accompanied by a snake. Medusa's petrifying gaze, the keen heat of the Sun or the wary gaze of the ship's pilot became better known as a piercer of untruth and vehicle of death. She had been a funerary and Bee Goddess before, but now Medusa's balancing aspects of Mother, Creator, and Purveyor of Justice were gone. Medusa was now only the reminder of the inevitability of death, when people were buried beneath tombstones or memorialized by pillars. Circles of standing stones were originally sacred memorials set up by funerary priestesses in honour of the dead, of those 'turned to stone.'

Later threads suggest more similarities to Kali, who dealt death with her right hand and resurrection with her left. Medusa's blood dealt life or death depending which side of her body it was taken from. Her youngest children, born at her death from her blood symbolized the same thing, Pegasus from her left representing resurrection, and Chrysaor from her right representing death. In one portrayal of Kali, she is shown beheaded, her head sitting to one side, expression peaceful. No enemy is anywhere in the picture, but there is a shakti standing on either side of her, drinking the blood that comes from her neck, a curious parallel.

The Gorgon Goddess had a festival which was eventually fixed on September 9th, although it was probably once set on the autumn equinox. Where does this date come from? The christian church, which once included a Saint Gorgon in its canon.
I see your love shining out from my furry friends faces, when I look into their eyes. I see you in the flower’s smile, the rainbow, and the wind in the trees....

User avatar
Posts: 1443
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:24 pm
Location: Inland NW, U.S.
Has thanked: 2338 times
Been thanked: 2779 times

Re: Who really was Medusa, The Gorgons and the Amazon Women

Post by Spiritwind »

This article has somewhat different information than the previous post.

https://goddessinspired.wordpress.com/2 ... t-goddess/
Most people when they hear the name Medusa instantly visualise a scary snake monster with a face so terrifying that just one glance will turn a man to stone. What only few people realise is that, yet again, what we’re seeing here is a twisting of the truth by the Hellenic or Classical Greeks.

Medusa’s origins lie in North Africa where She represented one third of the Triple Moon Goddess. In pre-Dynastic Egypt She was known as Neith and in Libya, Medusa’s homeland, the Triple Moon Goddess was called Anatha.

Anatha, and Neith before Her, was said to have risen from the primeval floodwaters. More specifically in Libya the birth place of the Triple Moon Goddess was Lake Tritonis, the Lake of the Triple Queens.

Ancient inscriptions about the North African Moon Goddess describe Her as: “I have come from Myself. I am all that has been and that will be, and no mortal has yet been able to lift the veil that covers me.” She was synonymous with Mother Death for to see Her face meant to have died.

The Libyan Triple Goddess Anatha had three aspects: Athena, the Maiden, Metis, the Mother, and Medusa, the Crone.

Anatha’s Maiden aspect Athena was the Goddess of the waxing crescent moon. Like Her Amazon priestesses She wore a goatskin chastity tunic, which was the original aegis that would later be adopted by the Olympian Greeks for their version of Athena. The original African Athena represented independence, youthful exuberance and growth, Her particular attributes being strength, courage and valour.

Metis was the Mother aspect of the Triple Moon Goddess. She, too, would later be adopted into the Classical Greek pantheon as the mother of Athena who was swallowed whole by Zeus while She was pregnant with Her daughter. Like all Full Moon Goddesses Metis was originally associated with fertility and motherhood.

Medusa, the Crone or Dark Moon aspect of Anatha, was the most powerful of the three. She was

the Wise One,
the Keeper of the Dark Moon Mysteries,
the Goddess of Death and Rebirth.

Like Her Amazon priestesses Medusa wore a leather pouch around Her waist that contained live snakes representing wisdom and renewal. She carried with Her the original Gorgon mask or Gorgoneion whose purpose was to frighten off the uninitiated and thus help protect the secrecy surrounding the magic of the dark moon. The mask was painted red to symbolise the power of the menstrual blood. It had gruesome glaring eyes, bared fanged teeth and, like the Hindu Goddess Kali, a protruding tongue. [1]

Medusa’s face was once synomymous with divine female wisdom. In ancient Libya She was linked to divination, healing, magic and the sexual serpent mysteries associated with death and renewal. To invoke Her wisdom Her priestesses would wear Medusa’s mask and celebrate the sexual rites with the representatives of the sea gods.

Anatha and Her three faces / aspects was the Moon Goddess of the matrilineal Goddess-worshiping Libyans. To the patriarchal Greek invaders She became the representative of Her Amazon daughters. As always much historical truth has been hidden in the Classical Greek myths surrounding Athena, Metis and Medusa. While Metis was swallowed whole by Zeus, the father of the Hellenes, thus passing on Her daughter and Her wisdom, Athena and Medusa were irreversably split and made into enemies. Athena would become another token female of the Greek pantheon and would eventually be forced to betray Her own crone self and become a traitor to Her sisters. Medusa, on the other hand, would be turned into a nasty fearsome monster that would eventually be slayed and have Her power stolen off Her to be used by Her murderers.

This is their sad story:

According to Classical Greek myth Medusa was the only mortal sister of the three beautiful golden Gorgon Sea Goddesses – Stheno, Euryale and Medusa. Medusa was said to have many suitors who She all rejected until Poseidon, the Hellenic God of the Sea, seduced Her in one of Athena’s sanctuaries. In earlier versions of the myth Medusa willingly took the sea god as Her lover in celebration of the sexual mysteries between the Goddess and Her Consort, but after about 2000 BCE the legend starts to speak of marriage if not rape. Poseidon who used to be a horse god had taken on the shape of a stallion, while Medusa was said to have been in the shape of a mare.

This reference to horses takes us back to Medusa’s African lunar origins, as Her Amazon tribes considered the horse with its crescent-shaped hooves sacred to the Moon Goddess. According to Robert Graves the fact that in this myth Poseidon had taken on the form of a stallion likely indicates a forced marriage between his male followers and Medusa’s priestesses in order to take their lands and powers.

In the Classical myth Athena is enraged once She discovers what Medusa had done. (This part is bad enough when Medusa willingly made love with Poseidon, but becomes quite atrocious when in later myth Poseidon takes Her against Her will.) In scorn Athena turned Medusa and Her sisters into ugly winged monsters with glaring eyes, huge teeth, protruding tongues, brazen claws and serpent locks. Medusa was said to be the most terrifying of them whose face was said to be so fearsome that just one glance would literally petrify a man and turn him to stone.

This is a very sad twist in the story, as obviously Athena and Medusa are one and the same. Athena’s wrath is therefore actually turned against Herself, the part of Her that is dark, wise, linked to death and renewal and, most importantly, that is carnal and sexual. The Classical Greek Athena is a chaste virgin in quite the modern sense of the word. She is daddy Zeus’s little girl only at the price of turning against Her own dark and sexual nature. In Jungian terms Medusa is Athena’s shadow who She despises and punishes. The fact that Medusa was seduced in Athena’s own sanctuary speaks volumes. The origin of this particular location dates back to the time when Athena was still the new born Maiden to Medusa’s Crone of Death and Regeneration, when She was still the next step on the everturning Wheel of Life after the Time of Rest and Renewal inside Medusa’s Dark Womb.

The next part of the story is the actual murder of Medusa by Perseus, a young solar hero. He is assisted in this task by Athena and Hermes, the Ferrier of Souls.

Robert Gray suggests that this part of the story is likely based on actual historical events. About 1290 BCE King Perseus, the founder of the new Hellenic dynasty in Mycenae, sent out his patriarchal solar warriors to invade North Africa, conquer the women-led tribes who lived there and overthrow their Moon Goddess in favour of their own male divinities. The mythical beheading of Medusa, the wise crone aspect of the Amazonian Triple Moon Goddess, represents the actual invasion of the Goddess’s chief shrines, the desecration of Her priestesses’ Gorgon masks with their contained wisdom and the kidnapping of Her sacred horse.

In Classical Greek mythology Perseus was the son of Zeus and Danae, the Princess of Argon. Following an oracular prediction that his death would be at the hand of his own grandson, the King of Argon banished his daughter and her baby son from his kingdom. Both were rescued by a fisherman named Dictys who took them home and raised Perseus like his own son.

Years later when Perseus had reached adulthood the new cruel and ruthless leader of the land, Polydectes, wanted Danae, Perseus’ mother, as his lover and so devised a plan to rid himself of her son. He demanded a horse of each citizen, but as Perseus was a poor fisherman by trade he couldn’t afford to buy one. He ended up promising the king to bring him Medusa’s head containing Her powers of Magic and Wisdom. As Medusa was often described as a mare, what Perseus was really promising was to bring him the head of the most powerful and terrifying horse known to man – the female menstrual and sexual mysteries of the Moon Goddess (presumably in order to make Her powers those of the newly rising patriarchs).

To help Perseus in his quest Athena gave him Her brightly polished shield to protect him from Medusa’s petrifying gaze. From Hermes he received the only weapon that would be able to slay Medusa, a curved magical sword. I wonder if the curve of the sword is an intentional reference to the moon’s sickle shape.

In a vision Athena and Hermes guided Perseus to the Graiae, three wise old women who were sisters to the Gorgons and who lived at the foot of Mount Atlas in North Africa. After he tricked them by ransoming their one shared eye they reluctantly revealed to him Medusa’s whereabouts and the three things he needed in order to kill Her: a magic pouch to put in Medusa’s head, Hades’ Helmet of Invisibility and a pair of winged sandals.

Perseus carried out the cruel murder and escaped with Medusa’s head in the magic pouch. Legend says that wherever Medusa’s blood fell on the desert floor an oasis would spring up.

Once returned to Greece Perseus gave Medusa’s severed head to Athena who affixed it onto her breast plate. He also gave Athena two phials of Medusa’s healing blood who passed them on to Asklepios, the Hellenic God of Healing. [2]

The ending of this story is very cruel indeed to both Medusa and Her maiden self, Athena.

Medusa, the Goddess of Wisdom, of Death and Renewal, the Dark Goddess of Healing and Divination, who represents the Goddess-worshiping Libyan Amazon priestesses is destroyed by the patriarchal invading Greeks. At first Medusa’s truth is twisted and She is turned from a gentle loving Dark Mother into a monster by Her own Maiden self. Later Her Graiae sisters are forced to betray Her and Her priestesses which ultimately causes Her death and thus the destruction of the North African matrifocal Amazon way of life. And if that’s not enough Her murderers take Her severed head, her Gorgon Mask of Magic and the Mysteries of the Dark Moon, with them to use as their own.

Athena, on the other hand, was punished in quite a covert way. At first sight Athena seems to have it all, She’s Zeus’ favourite girl, She is virginal and chaste and is the Hellenic Goddess of apparently justified War, Civilisation, Justice and the Arts and Sciences. However, on closer inspection things don’t look quite as bright. First Athena, the once greatly beloved Maiden aspect of the Libyan Moon Goddess, was ripped from Her Amazon sisters and turned into a traitor against Her own people. Originally free and independent She was forced to become chaste and subservient to a male father god. She was not even granted the one thing that we all share in common, a mother: unlike everybody else Athena spang straight from Her father’s forehead. She was turned from a Mood Maiden Goddess that represented birth and growth into a Warrior Goddess who fought against Her own Goddess-worshiping sisters all over the ancient world. She was made a traitor when in the classical drama Oresteia She sided with the upstarting patriarchs and cast the deciding vote that only fathers were related to their children. This momentous drama was a major contributing factor in the changeover from mother-right to father-right. It would play a major part in downgrading women to second-class citizens for thousands of years, something that even our 21st century society hasn’t fully recovered from. And to rub salt into the wound in order to become the perfect patriarchal daughter Athena was forced to give up Her past, Her woman-ness and Her sexuality. She wasn’t just made to kill Her own dark, wise and sexual self, but has to wear that slaughtered side of Herself on Her breast plate for all eternity as if as a reminder of what She and all women under patriarchy have lost.
I see your love shining out from my furry friends faces, when I look into their eyes. I see you in the flower’s smile, the rainbow, and the wind in the trees....

User avatar
Posts: 1443
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:24 pm
Location: Inland NW, U.S.
Has thanked: 2338 times
Been thanked: 2779 times

Re: Who really was Medusa, The Gorgons and the Amazon Women

Post by Spiritwind »

And here's is another good one. There really is a wealth of information out there but it will take a while to pull it all together.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news ... -cannabis/

Amazon Warriors Did Indeed Fight and Die Like Men

The Amazons got a bum rap in antiquity. They wore trousers. They smoked pot, covered their skin with tattoos, rode horses, and fought as hard as the guys. Legends sprang up like weeds. They cut off their breasts to fire their bows better! They mutilated or killed their boy children! Modern (mostly male) scholars continued the confabulations. The Amazons were hard-core feminists. Man haters. Delinquent mothers. Lesbians.

Drawing on a wealth of textual, artistic, and archaeological evidence, Adrienne Mayor, author of The Amazons, dispels these myths and takes us inside the truly wild and wonderful world of these ancient warrior women.
Talking from her home in Palo Alto, California, she explains what Johnny Depp has in common with Amazons, why the Amazon spirit is breaking out all over pop culture, and who invented trousers.

The real Amazons were long believed to be purely imaginary. They were the mythical warrior women who were the archenemies of the ancient Greeks. Every Greek hero or champion, from Hercules to Theseus and Achilles, had to prove his mettle by fighting a powerful warrior queen.

We know their names: Hippolyta, Antiope, Thessalia. But they were long thought to be just travelers' tales or products of the Greek storytelling imagination. A lot of scholars still argue that. But archaeology has now proven without a doubt that there really were women fitting the description that the Greeks gave us of Amazons and warrior women.

The Greeks located them in the areas north and east of the Mediterranean on the vast steppes of Eurasia. Archaeologists have been digging up thousands of graves of people called Scythians by the Greeks. They turn out to be people whose women fought, hunted, rode horses, used bows and arrows, just like the men. (See "Masters of Gold.")

What archaeological proofs have been discovered to show that these mythical beings actually existed?

They've been excavating Scythian kurgans, which are the burial mounds of these nomadic peoples. They all had horse-centred lifestyles, ranging across vast distances from the Black Sea all the way to Mongolia. They lived in small tribes, so it makes sense that everyone in the tribe is a stakeholder. They all have to contribute to defense and to war efforts and hunting. They all have to be able to defend themselves.

The great equalizer for those peoples was the domestication of horses and the invention of horse riding, followed by the perfection of the Scythian bow, which is smaller and very powerful. If you think about it, a woman on a horse with a bow, trained since childhood, can be just as fast and as deadly as a boy or man.

Archaeologists have found skeletons buried with bows and arrows and quivers and spears and horses. At first they assumed that anyone buried with weapons in that region must have been a male warrior. But with the advent of DNA testing and other bioarchaeological scientific analysis, they've found that about one-third of all Scythian women are buried with weapons and have war injuries just like the men. The women were also buried with knives and daggers and tools. So burial with masculine-seeming grave goods is no longer taken as an indicator of a male warrior. It's overwhelming proof that there were women answering to the description of the ancient Amazons.

Why were they called Amazons?

[Laughs.] That's such a complex story that I actually devoted an entire chapter to it. It's the one thing everyone seems to think they know about Amazons: that the name has something to do with only having one breast so they could easily fire an arrow or hurl a spear. But anyone who's watched The Hunger Games, or female archers, knows that that is an absolutely physiologically ridiculous idea. Indeed, no ancient Greek artworks—and there are thousands—show a woman with one breast.

All modern scholars point out that the plural noun "Amazones" was not originally a Greek word—and has nothing to do with breasts. The notion that "Amazon" meant "without breast" was invented by the Greek historian Hellanikos in the fifth century B.C.

He tried to force a Greek meaning on the foreign loan word: a for "lack" and "mazon," which sounded a bit like the Greek word for breast. His idea was rejected by other historians of his own day, and no ancient artist bought the story. But it stuck like superglue. Two early reviews of my book even claimed I accept that false etymology. Linguists today suggest that the name derives from ancient Iranian or Caucasian roots.

You describe them as "aggressive, independent man-killers." Were Amazons also lesbians?

That is one of the ideas that have arisen in modern times. Nobody in antiquity ever suggested that. We know that the ancient Greeks and Romans were not shy about discussing homosexuality among men or women. So if that idea had been current in antiquity, someone would have mentioned it.

The one interesting artistic bit of evidence that I did find is a vase that shows a Thracian huntress giving a love gift to the Queen of the Amazons, Penthesilea. That's a strong indication that at least someone thought of the idea of a love affair between Amazons. But just because we don't have any written evidence and only that one unique vase doesn't preclude that Amazons might have had relations with each other. It's just that it has nothing to do with the ancient idea of Amazons.

The strong bond of sisterhood was a famous trait in classical art and literature about Amazons. But it was modern people who interpreted that as a sexual preference for women. That started in the 20th century. The Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva declared that Amazons were symbolic of lesbianism in antiquity. Then others took that up. But the ancient Greeks didn't think of them as lesbians. They described them as lovers of men, actually. Man-killers—and man lovers.

You refer to the "Amazon spirit." What are its key characteristics?

I used that phrase in the dedication to a good friend of mine, Sunny Bock. She was a strong figure who believed in equality between men and women. She rode motorcycles, she rode horses, then became the first female railroad engineer. She was a risktaker who died an untimely death, probably because of her life of risk. She embodied the Amazon spirit: the assumption that women are the equals of men and that they could be just as noble and brave and heroic.

That comes through in the artworks and literature about Amazons. The Greeks were both fascinated and appalled by such independent women. They were so different from their wives and daughters. Yet there was a fascination. They were captivated by them. Pictures of Amazons on vase paintings always show them as beautiful, active, spirited, courageous, and brave.

I talked to a vase expert whose specialty is gestures on Greek vases. He has written an article about gestures begging for mercy in single combat images. Quite a few of the losers in duels are shown gesturing for mercy. But among Amazons, not so much. We have about 1,300 or so images of Amazons fighting. And only about two or three of them are gesturing for mercy. So they're shown to be extremely courageous and heroic. And I think that's the Amazon spirit.

Amazons smoked pot and drank a powerful concoction of fermented mare's milk called kumis, which they used in rituals. Put us around a campfire in ancient Scythia.

In that picture of the ancient Amazons sitting around their campfire we also have to include men. We don't have any evidence that there were whole societies with nothing but women. When we say Amazons, we mean Scythian women. In this case Scythian warrior women.

Herodotus gives us a very good picture. He says that they gathered a flower or leaves or seeds—he wasn't absolutely sure—and sat around a campfire and threw these plants onto the fire. They became intoxicated from the smoke and then would get up and dance and shout and yell with joy. It's pretty certain he was talking about hemp, because he actually does call it cannabis. He just wasn't certain whether it was the leaves or the flower or the bud. But we know they used intoxicants. Archaeologists are finding proof of this in the graves. Every Scythian man and woman was buried with a hemp-smoking kit, including a little charcoal brazier.

Herodotus also described a technique in which they would build a sauna-type arrangement of felt tents, probably in wintertime on the steppes. He describes it as like a tepee with a felt or leather canopy. They would take the hemp-smoking equipment inside the tent and get high. They've found the makings of those tents in many Scythian graves. They've also found the remains of kumis, the fermented mare's milk. I give a recipe in the book for a freezing technique they used to raise its potency. [Laughs.] Do not try this at home.

They were also very big on tattoos, weren't they?

There are a lot of tattoos—beautifully, lovingly detailed tattoos in images of Thracian and Scythian women on vase paintings. Ancient Greek historians described the tattooing practices of the culturally related tribes of Eurasia.

According to one account, Scythian women taught the Thracian women how to tattoo. The Greeks had lots of slaves from the Black Sea area, and they were all tattooed. They thought of tattoos as a sort of punishment. Who would voluntarily mark their bodies? Yet once again they had this push-pull attraction and anxiety about these foreign cultures.

We also now have archaeological evidence that Amazon-like women were tattooed. Tattoo kits been discovered in ancient Scythian burials. The frozen bodies of several heavily tattooed Scythian men and women have been recovered from graves. The famous Ice Princess is just one example—her tattoos of deer call to mind the tattoos depicted in Greek vase paintings.

Johnny Depp said, My skin is my journal, and the tattoos are the stories. I think that's a good way to think of this. They could have been initiations, they could be just for decoration, they could represent special experiences, either in reality or dreams. We don't really know. All we know is that they were heavily tattooed, mostly with real and fantastical animals and geometric designs.

A question I have been dying to ask: Who invented trousers?

The Greeks credited three different warrior women with the invention of trousers. Medea, a mythical sorceress and princess from the Caucasus region, was credited with inventing the outfit that was taken up by Scythians and Persians. The other two were Queen Semiramis, a legendary Assyrian figure, and Queen Rhodogune, which means "woman in red." The Greeks were not that far off. Trousers were invented by the people who first rode horses—and those were people from the steppes.

Leg coverings are absolutely essential if you're going to spend your life on horseback. Trousers are also the first tailored garments. They were pieced together and sewn. The Greeks wore rectangles of cloth held together with pins. They thought trousers were an abomination worn by the barbarians. But once again, they're fascinated by them.

In the vase paintings the Amazons have wildly spotted and striped and checked leggings and trousers. One of the things I find most interesting is that it was not just the men who rejected trousers. Greek women didn't wear them either. Yet we find images of beautiful Amazons in trousers on women's perfume jars and jewelry boxes. I think there's something going on in Greek private life that we don't really know about yet.

There was even an Amazon island, wasn't there?

Yes. It's the only island off the southern coast of the Black Sea. It's now called Giresun Island. But it was first written about in Apollonius of Rhodes's version of the epic poem The Argonauts. As Jason and the Argonauts are sailing east on the Black Sea, they stop at what they call Island of Ares or Amazon Island. There they see the ruins of a temple and an altar, where they claim the Amazons sacrificed horses and worshipped before they went to war.

This is really interesting, because it means the Greeks were finding ruins associated with Amazons as far back as the Bronze Age. It shows how real the Amazons were to them. Recently, Turkish archaeologists found the altar and temple ruins that are mentioned in Jason and the Argonauts.

They got a bad press in the ancient world, didn't they? There were rumors that they maimed and even castrated young boys. Separate the fiction from the fact.

The idea that Amazons abandoned, maimed, or killed young boys is a fairly early story that circulated among the Greeks, because several writers assumed that Amazon societies must be women only.

That then raised the question: How do they reproduce? They came up with these stories of women agreeing to meet with neighboring tribes to reproduce. But then what did they do with the boys? So there were stories that they either maimed them so that they couldn't participate in warfare or that they actually killed them to get rid of them and only kept the girls.

The most common story was that they sent the boys back to the fathers to be raised. Many modern scholars interpreted this as proof that they abandoned their duties as mothers. They don't take care of their babies! They give them away! Blah, blah, blah.

But it turns out that it was a very common custom among nomadic people, called fosterage. Sending sons to be raised by another tribe ensures that you're going to have good relations with that tribe. It's a way of sealing treaties. It was very common in antiquity.

Philip the Great was raised by an ally of his father. It was also common in the Middle Ages in Europe. It's also a way of ensuring you don't have incest within the tribe. The fact that the Scythian and Thracian tribes probably practiced fosterage led to these stories that the Amazons gave their sons to the father's tribe. That's probably a reality. But there is no archaeological evidence that they maimed boys.

Tell us about modern-day Amazons.

Today's news from the Middle East and Syria is filled with images of Kurdish Peshmerga women fighting IS. There are movies and TV series featuring bold warrior women and even Amazons. It started with Xena: Warrior Princess, and then there were the animated films Brave and Mulan and The Hunger Games and the role of Atalanta in the Hercules film. The new Vikings TV show has all the shield maidens. And of course there are strong women in A Game of Thrones. So everyone's really aware of the idea of warrior women.

It's sort of fair to say that Amazons, both as reality and as a dream of equality, have always been with us. It's just that sometimes that fiery Amazon spirit is hidden from view or even suppressed. Right now they're blazing back into popular culture.
I see your love shining out from my furry friends faces, when I look into their eyes. I see you in the flower’s smile, the rainbow, and the wind in the trees....

User avatar
Posts: 1443
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:24 pm
Location: Inland NW, U.S.
Has thanked: 2338 times
Been thanked: 2779 times

Re: Who really was Medusa, The Gorgons and the Amazon Women

Post by Spiritwind »

Obviously this whole topic of mythologies in regards to Medusa is not new. The following is similar in part to the others I have posted, but again, there is some different pieces of information not found in the others so far.


The Serpent-Haired Queen Medusa (Sovereign Female Wisdom) by Demetra George

The Dark Goddess, in her guise as Medusa, was best known as the third Gorgon sister, whose beautiful abundant hair became a crown of hissing serpents and the gaze from her evil eye turned men into stone. Yet Medusa was once known for her beauty. She was depicted with graceful golden wings arched above her shoulders, and she took the Sea God as her lover.

The Orphics called the moon’s face the Gorgon’s Head. According to Robert Graves, during the earlier matriarchal times the Gorgon sisters were representatives of the Triple Moon Goddess. They were masked guardians, the protectors of her mysteries. The fact that Medusa was the only one of the three sisters who was mortal and could die suggests her association as a dark goddess connected to the dark closure aspect of the lunar cycle.

The patriarchy’s fear of the Dark Goddess led them to perceive Medusa as a demonic mythical monster, who was then fortunately decapitated by the hero Perseus. Mythographers have called her a nightmare vision – “a face so horrible that the dreamer is reduced to stony terror.” According to Freud, Medusa’s head represents the terrifying toothed genitals of the Great Mother. Erich Neumann writes that “the petrifying gaze of Medusa belongs to the province of the Terrible Great Groddess, for to be rigid is to be dead,” and that she is the devouring aspect of the mother.


How did the Sea Goddess with the most beautiful of tresses become transformed into a hideous, lethal demon? The story of Medusa is intertwined with that of the cold, detached virgin Athena, Olympian goddess of wisdom and war, who flaunts the Gorgon’s Head in the center of her breastplate. Medusa may in fact be Athena’s dark sister, who personifies the shadow side of her powerful instinctive femininity. The historical origins of these two goddesses take us back to North Africa and to the Egyptian goddess Neith, who was known as Anatha in Libya and as Athena to the Greeks.

Neith emerged from the primeval floodwaters, and her name means “I have come from myself.” The inscription on her temple at Sais reads, “I am all that has been, that will be, and no mortal has yet been able to lift the veil that covers me.” Neith represented Mother Death, and to see her face behind the veil was to have died.

In Libya, Neith, known as Anatha, was said to have arisen out of Lake Tritonis, the Lake of the Triple Queens. She displayed her triple nature as Athena, Metis and Medusa, who corresponded to the new, full, and dark phases of the moon. Athena was the new moon warrior maiden who inspired the Amazon tribes of women to courage, strength, and valor. The Sea Goddess Metis, whose name means “wise counsel,” was the full moon mother aspect of this trinity who, in later mythical tales, conceived Athena from Zeus. Medusa embodied the third, dark aspect as destroyer/crone, and she was revered as the Queen of the Libyan Amazons, the Serpent Goddess of female wisdom.

Originally Athena and Medusa were two aspects of the same goddess, Anatha; and as such they are part of the same archetype associated with a feminine-defined strength and wisdom. We will now see how, in the classical Greek tales, these two goddesses were split off from one another and set up as deadly rivals.

In Theogeny Hesiod gives the following account of Medusa’s origins. Medusa was one of the three Gorgon sisters, who were born from the ancient sea deities Phorcys and Keto. Two sisters were both immortal and ageless: Stheno, “Mighty One,” and Euryale, “Wandering One.” Medusa, “Cunning One” or “Queen,” was the only mortal. They lived on the road to the golden apple trees of the Hesperides at the far western edge of the world on the ocean’s edge near the borders of night and death.

According to the classical texts the three Gorgon sisters were originally beautiful golden sea goddesses. The lovely maiden Medusa was pursued by many suitors, but she would have none of them until she lay with the dark-haired Sea God Poseidon, earlier known asHippios the horse deity, in the soft grass under the spring blossoms. Poseidon, in the shape of a horse, seduced Medusa. After Medusa made love with Poseidon in one of Athena’s sanctuaries and became pregnant with twins, she incurred the wrath of Athena. Some say that Athena’s anger was due to Medusa daring to compare her beauty to that of Athena. Athena may have resented Medusa’s sexual encounter because she had renounced her own sexuality in order to maintain her exalted position on Olympus. Furthermore, Poseidon was Athena’s longtime bitter rival, who contested her rulership of Athens.

Whether Athena’s rage came from the desecration of her temple, sexual jealousy, or competition for supremacy in Libya, she transformed Medusa and her sisters into ugly hags. They became winged monsters with glaring eyes, huge teeth, protruding tongues, brazen claws, and serpent locks. Medusa was singled out as the most terrifying of the three, and her face was made so hideous that a glimpse of it would turn men into stone. Tales, embellished with danger, spread far and wide, telling how the lands and cavern of these fearsome sea monsters abounded with the rigid shapes of petrified men and animals. The Gorgons were feared for their deadly power. Hence the death of Medusa became a worthy heroic quest for the patriarchal solar heroes.

The tale of Perseus’s slaying of Medusa is on of the most ancient of all the Greek myths. The classical version may actually be based on a far older myth, preserved by local folk tradition, which extend back to the Mycenaean Period of the second millennium BCE. It was later overlaid with heroic elements that were so popular among the Greeks of the historic age. Graves feels that this story portrayed actual events during the reign of the historical King Perseus (ca. 1290 BCE), founder of the new dynasty in Mycenae. During this period the powers of the early moon goddesseses in North Africa were usurped by patriarchal-dominated invaders of mainland Greece. The legend of Perseusbeheading Medusa means that the Hellenes overran the Goddess’s chief shrines, stripped her priestesses of their Gorgon masks, and took possession of the sacred horse. This historical rupture and sociological trauma registered itself in the following myth.

Polydectes’ plan was to raise a tax of horses from the islanders (according to another version these horses were intended as a bride gift he meant to offer for the hand of Hippodameia). Because Perseus was poor, there was no way for him to obtain a horse; and he was tricked into pledging that he would bring the king the head of the Gorgon with its deadly power. The oldest narratives of the myth of Medusa relate that she was a mare whom Poseidon had mated while in the form of a stallion. Thus Perseus was promising the king the head of a most terrifying horse.

Perseus was assisted in this task with the help of Hermes and Athena. Hermes, messenger of the gods, gave him a curved magic sword, the only weapon capable of slaying the Gorgon. Pallas Athena, protectress of heroes, lent Perseus her brightly polished great shield to use as a mirror against Medusa, thereby avoiding direct contact with her deadly face, which could turn him into stone. They then appeared in a vision and led Perseus to the cave of the Graiae, who were the only ones who knew the exact whereabouts of Medusa.

The Graiae were three old women, a fateful trio of swan maidens, living at the foot of Mt. Atlas in Africa. Between them they shared one eye, with which they could see everything, and one tooth. Perseus tricked them into revealing Medusa’s whereabouts by grabbing their one eye and refusing to return it until they divulged the information he sought. He also forced them to tell him where to find the Stygian Nymphs, from whom he received a magic pouch to contain the severed head of medusa; the dark helmet of Hades, which would render him invisible; and a pair of winged sandals, which would enable him to fly with the speed of a bird to the desolate island lair of the Gorgon sisters.

Perseus then flew over the stream of Ocean to the extremities of the western shores and found the three Gorgons asleep in their great cavern. They were creatures with grfeat golden wings, their bodies covered with golden scales and crowned with wreaths of serpents, evoking the regalia of the royal Egyptian sea priestesses. He kept clear of Stheno and Euryale, who were immortal and could not be killed, and advanced toward Medusa, watching her reflection in his mirrored shield. His arm guided by Athena, Perseus, with one stroke of Hermes’ blade, slashed off Medusa’s head and hid it in his pouch. He then donned Hades’ cap of invisibility, in order ot escape the wrathful pursuit of the remaining Gorgons, and flew off the island.

From Medusa’s severed neck sprang her twin sons by Poseidon – Pegasus, the winged moon horse, who became a symbol of poetry; and Cryasor, the hero of the golden sword and father of King Geryon of Spain. As Perseus flew away, drops of Medusa’s blood trickled onto the hot African sands, causing oases to grow in the desert. In an alternate version these droplets of blood gave birth to a race of poisonous serpents destined to infest the regions with plagues in future ages.

Athena later gave to phials of Medusa’s blood to Asklepius, the God of Healing. It was said that blood from her right vein could cure and restore life, and that the blood from her left vein could slay and kill instantly. Others say that Athena and Asklepius divided the blood between them; he sued it to save lives, but she to destroy and instigate wars. In some traditions it was Athena’s serpent son Erichthonius to whom she gave the blood to either kill or cure, and she fastened the phials to his body with golden bands. Athena’s dispensation of the Gorgon blood to Asklepius and Erichthonius suggests the curative rites used in this cult were a secret guarded by priestesses, which it was death to investigate. The Gorgon’s Head was a formal warning to priers to stay away.

Among Perseus’s adventures on his way back to Seriphus were the turning of Atlas into stone and the rescue of Andromeda. In order to escape from Africa, Perseus had to defeat the huge King Atlas, father of the Hesperides, who were the guardians of the apples of immortality. Atlas, warned by an ancient prophecy that a son of Zeus would rob him of his golden fruits, refused Perseus’ hospitality and attempted to thrust him away. In anger, Perseus held up the Gorgon’s Head and turned the giant into stone, which then formed the Atlas Mountains, upon which rest the sky and all the stars.

Perseus’s story continues with the rescue of the Ethiopian princess Andromeda, who was bound to a rock on the seashore as a victim to a great sea monster, Cetus. He then takes her for his bride and they return to Seriphus to free his mother from the clutches of Polydectes. Perseus presents his promised gift and thereby turns the king and his court to stone. Perseus’s daughter with Andromeda is named Gorgophone.

Perseus gives the Gorgon’s Head ot Athena, who affixes it to her breastplate. Some say that her aegis was Medusa’s own skin, flayed from her by Athena. Other legends tell of the head being buried in the agora before the goddess Hera’s temple in Argos.


In order to penetrate the mystery that stands behind the Goprgon’s Head, we must first untangle the threads that weave and bind Medusa and Athena. Medusa and Athena are aspects of the same goddess who emerged from Lake Tritonis in Libya. They are both associated with female wisdom, which is depicted in the serpent symbolism that surrounds them – Medusa with her serpent locks and Athena with her serpent-fringed aegis. Medusa, as wise crone, holds the secrets of sex, divination, magic, death and renewal. Athena, the eternal maiden, is linked with the new moon and presides over the female qualities of courage, strength and valor. This African triple goddess, who was born out of the sea and reigned in the desert, displayed herself as both the armored chaste virgin warrior Athena and the serpent-crowned Queen Medusa, protector of the dark moon mysteries, who celebrated the sexual rites with the lineage of sea gods.

The warrior form of this Libyan triple goddess was clothed in the original legendary aegis – a goatskin chastity tunic. She also wore a Gorgon mask and carried around her waist a leather pouch containing sacred serpents. This outfit was duplicated in the dress of the Amazon women, and later worn by the classical Athena in her Olympioan reign. Any man who removed one of these tunics without the owner’s consent would be killed for violating the potent maidenhood of these young women.

The infamous Gorgon masks were called gorgoneions. They portrayed a face with glaring eyes, bared fanged teeth, and protruding tongue, similar to many images of Kali. They were worn by priestesses in moon-worshipping rituals, both to frighten away strangers and to evoke the Goddess herself. The purpose of the mask was to protect the secrecy required for the magickal work associated with the third or dark triad of the Triple Moon Goddess. It served to warn people against intruding upon the divine mysteries hidden behind it.

These ceremonies included divination, healing, magic, and the sexual serpent mysteries associated with death and rebirth. The female face, represented by Medusa, surrounded by serpent hair was a widely recognized symbol of divine female wisdom. The EphasusGorgons with four wings each almost duplicate the flying Gorgons at Delphi, the temple of the world’s greatest oracular priestesses. The venom from the bite of certain snakes induced the hallucinatory state in which the oracular vision was revealed.

The Gorgon face, often red in color, held the secrets of the menstrual wise blood that gave women their divine healing powers. Certain primitive tribes believed that the look of a menstruating woman could turn a man to stone, which links Medusa with the menstrual blood mysteries. The blood that Persues took from Medusa could both heal and kill; it may originally have been her menstrual blood rather than blood from the wound in her neck.

The mask was also worn by priestesses in the sacred sexual rites to symbolize that they were acting not as individuals, but as representatives of the Goddess, whom she empowered to transmit her blessings of healing and regeneration through ritual intercourse. The prophylactic mask was also donned by the funerary priestesses, who initiated people into the mysteries of death. In later times to possess a replica of a Gorgon’s Head was to be protected with a charm against ills that repelled the attack of harmful forces. It was believed to be a protection against the evil eye, and was often depicted in shields, ovens, town walls, and buildings to frighten enemies and ward off malicious spirits.

With the passage of time, Libyan refugees emigrated to Crete. They had brought with them their Serpent Goddess Anatha, and by 4000 BCE she had become known as Athena, the protectress of the palace. Her worship was adopted and then passed on to mainland Greece and Thrace in the Minoan/Mycenaen period. From this era there arose a new genealogy of the birth of Athena. She now was said to have sprung forth from the head of her father, Zeus. Earlier versions reveal that Athena was conceived in a union between Zeus and a mother goddess named Metis/Medusa, who came from the sea.

The tales that come from the transition period between the matriarchy and patriarchy tell how the wise Metis helped Zeus achieve victory over his father, Cronus, by giving him an emetic that forced him to cough up his swallowed children. In honor of her great service Zeus decided to make metis the first consort of the new supreme ruler of the heavens. Although Metis changed into many shapes to avoid Zeus’s lustful advances, she was finally ravished and got with child. Zeus was warned by an oracle that Metis would bear him a second child, who would become kind of gods and men. To maintain his sovereignty Zeus consumed Metis whole while she was pregnant with Athena. The blinding headache that resulted when Zeus walked the shores of Lake Tritonis in Libya could only be relieved through having his head cleft with a double-edged axe (a matriarchal symbol of the lunar crescent). Amidst the rumbling of the earth and raging of the sea, out sprang Athena in armor of gleaming gold. She immediately became her father’s favorite.

Later versions cut out the transitional story of Metis and claim that Athena was conceived and birthed solely from Zeus himself. From a sociological perspective, this myth marks the ingestion of the feminine warrior wisdom principle to the needs of the new patriarchal order. The patriarchy championed Athena as benevolent, suppressed Metis altopgether, and denounced Medusa as evil. Athena and Medusa were then cast as opponents.

As Athena was absorbed into the classical Greek pantheon, she was the only one of the old goddesses who was elevated and respected, and she became part of the new ruling trinity along with Zeus and Apollo. She had to pay a steep price for her supremacy in the new order. First she was forced to deny her femininity and to sacrifice her sexuality, becoming a perpetually chaste virgin. She was cut off from her cyclical nature, which included renewal through sexual rites. She then promised to become champion of the patriarchy by using her warrior potency to denounce, slaughter, and conquer her matriarchal ancestors from Africa.

Graves says that Athena was a traitor to the old religion by affiliating with the solar gods and assisting the solar heroes to slay all the resisting matriarchal fatctions, who were now feared as the Terrible Mother. As she joined Zeus and his son Perseus to kill her own mother Metis/Medusa and supplant her in the hierarchy, Athena was then most appropriately chosen to preside over and pardon Orestes in his trial for matricide.

Duing this time Athena’s prime rival for the rulership of Athens was Poseidon; and it was through the union of her two sworn enemies, Poseidon and Medusa, that she began to wage her war. Historical evidence points to the fact that Medusa was a high priestess of Africa who presided over Libyan tribes of Amazon warror women. Dating from at least 6000 BCE, these fierce and noble African Amazons populated not only North Africa, but also Spain and Italy. The Greek legends of Poseidon mating with Medusa, and Perseus slaying the Gorgon, derive from actual battles waged by the patriarchal Greek soldiers against these warrior women from North Africa. The tribe against whom Perseus fought was a race called the Gorgons.

Medusa, Athena, and Poseidon In the oldest tales there are references to the beautiful third Gorgon sister, Medusa, who willingly takes the Sea God as her lover in the celebration of the sexual mysteries of the Goddess and her Consort. At a certain point after 2000 BCE the legends tell of the “marriage” or alternately “rape” of Queen Medusa to the oceanic King Poseidon, one of the original Olympians, who had been known in his earlier form as Hippios the horse deity as well as lord of the sea. Poseidon in the form of a stallion mounted Medusa as a mare and fathered Pegasus, a winged moon horse.

An early representation of Medusa, dating from the seventh century BCE in Boeotia, shows her as a small, slender mare-woman who, although masked with a Gorgon’s Head, shows none of the frightful aspects of the classical Gorgon. By associating the Gorgon mask with the slender equine form, this artist permits us to catch a brief glimpse of a far more ancient tradition, in which the dark sister was not an isolated object of fear. The Gorgon mask, as the face of the moon, suggests that Medusa was one of the three aspects of the pre-Hellenic Moon Goddess, and the small native horses of these indigenous peoples were sacred to the early moon cults in rainmaking ceremonies. Poseidon’s rape of Medusa in the form of a stallion tells the story of hwo the first wave of invading Hellenes from Greece, who rode large vigorous horses, forcibly married the Amazon moon priestesses and took over the rainmaking rites of the sacred horse cult through the birth of Pegasus.

This is one variation of many similar stories that appear all over the Mediterranean Crescent around this time, describing the transition from the reign of the goddesses to that of the gods. The supremacy of the Great Goddess who took the young God as her Consort/lover was overturned and the God matures and then usurps her power by forcibly raping, marrying and subjugating her and by suppressing her worship. Poseidon’s soldiers likewise raped the Amazon priestesses, and they ignored the injunction of the aegis and Gorgon mask to stay away unless invited. The Gorgon mask then turned into the portrait of horror, fear, and rage frozen on the faces of these warrior women resulting from their forceful violation.

It was only after Medusa’s union with Poseidon that Athena transformed the beautiful Libyan Amazon Queen into the deadly monster whose horrible face would turn men into stone. In Athena’s rivalry with Poseidon she may have been enraged that Poseidon laid claim to the country of her birth. She saw Medusa’s submission to him in one of her own temples as an act of betrayal from the peoples of her native land. Thus Medusa represented a rival matriarchal religion that needed to be suppressed.

In retaliation against Medusa, Athena, who had already sacrificed her own sexuality, ensured that Medusa would never again participate in the Goddess’s sexual mysteries, because one look at her face would petrify any approaching man. And Freud concluded that the Gorgon’s head represented the terrifying genitalia of the Great Mother, which threatens to castrate men. An alternate interpretation suggests that in Athena’s compassion for her lost sisters, she imbued the Gorgon mask with a new, deadly power, one which could kill the attackers. This was to protect the Queen and her priestesses from continuing to be defiled, degraded, and destroyed through the sexual assault of the invaders.

Medusa, Athena, and Perseus According to the Olympian Greeks, Athena finally succeeded in destroying and conquering Queen Medusa during the reign of King Perseus, around 1200 BCE. Perseus, whose name also mean destroyer, acted on Athena’s behalf. At her request and with her help, Perseus overthrew the principle shrine of the Old African religion in Libya and slayed the high priestess, thus furthering the suppression of the matriarchal consciousness. Perseus then delivered the Gorgon’s Head to Athena, who wore it over her heart as a continuing token of her underlying connection to Medusa. She displayed the Gorgon’s Head both to strike terror in her enemies and to affirm her supremacy in having denounced and demolished her matriarchal ancestors.

While the earliest representations depicted the Gorgon as a protector of the dark moon mysteries, the patriarchy later conceived her as a demon. Then, in later artistic portrayals, the Gorgon became a beautiful angel. She passed through phases of becoming sinister, sad, and increasingly pathetic, and finally metamorphosed into a calm, dignified death mask.


I saw you once, Medusa; we were alone.
I looked you straight in the cold eye, cold.
I was not punished, was not turned to stone.
How to believe the legends I am told? . . .
I turned your face around! It is my face.
That frozen rage is what I must explore –
Oh secret, self-enclosed and ravaged place!
That is the gift I thank Medusa for.
- May Sarton, “The Muse as Medusa”

Serpent-haired Medusa was once a queen of the awesome powers of the dark moon. She ruled over the regenerative mysteries of sex and death, and protected these magical rites from being discovered and abused by the uninitiated. As the third, crone/destroyer aspect of the lunar triad, Medusa’s message was one of wisdom, and it concerned the inevitability of death. The west is the gateway to death, and Medusa’s oceanic cavern situated at the far western edge of the world lies at the entrance to the underworld. The patriarchy, in their fear of the wise woman, of death, and of the magical sexual power of the menstruating feminine, demonized Medusa (as they did the other dark goddesses) into a monstrous figure of the devouring, castrating mother.

Medusa continues to haunt generations of men with her deadly power to turn them into stone with a glance from her evil eye. The ancients projected this fear on the star of Agol in the constellation of Perseus. Perseus is holding up the head of Medusa as a trophy of his conqurest, and Agol, known as the demon star, represents the eye in the Gorgon’s Head. Agol is an eclipsing binary and is made up of two stars revolving around each other. Approximately every sixty hours, when the fainter star passes in front of the brighter and hides or eclipses it, Agol gives a long, gradual “wink.” The ancients explained this phenomenon as the winking of the demon’s eye still blinking after her body had been decapitated.

On an outer level the myths of the solar heroes slaying the monsters, like that of Perseus and Medusa, are the patriarchal stories telling the tale of their conquest of the old matriarchy. On an inner level these myths depict the maturation of the masculine principle. They relate the struggle of the young god who is the son and lover of the Goddess to transform himself into the mighty hero who conquers and then dominates the feminine. Interpreting the myth of Medusa has been a subject of fascination for both Freudian and Jungian psychoanalyst writers. Examining the ways in which men have tried to intellectualize and distance themselves from the instinctual powers of the dark feminine can give us clues as to how Medusa currently appears in the male psyche. Men then project this anima image upon actual women who evoke some of the qualities of the serpent-haired queen.

The Gorgon Medusa, like the other dark goddesses, became greatly feared by the patriarchy when humanity forgot the cyclical nature of death-becoming-life. Commentaries about Medusa as written by modern male psychoanalytic theorists emphasize her demonic and destructive qualities. Wolfgang Lederer, in The Fear of Women, states that “nothing but terror emanates from Medusa’s head.” The terror of Medusa that turns men into stone is their terror of death and castration.

Erich Neumann writes that the winged Gorogn’s “. . . are unroboric symbols of the primordial power of the Archetypal Feminine, images of the great pre-Hellenic mother goddess in her devouring aspect as earth, night, and underworld.” Signmud Freud’s interpretation, “Medusa’s Head” (1922), suggests that Medusa’s head, surmounted by snakes, is the symbol of the maternal gentialia – the hair maternal vulva as seen by the son. He says that to decaptitate is synonymous with to castrate. However frightening the snakes may be in themselves, they serve as a mititgation of the horror, for they replace the penis, the absence of which is the cause of horror. Freud felt that being turned to stone implied erection as a defense to the threat of castration.

Philip Slater agrees with Freud that Medusa’s head is a symbol of maternal genitalia, but he disagrees with Freud’s interpretation of turning to stone as a symbolic erection as a defense against the fear of castration. Slater argues that “while the idea of erection may be present in the stiff with terror response, the immobility is much more suggestive of impotence, and this interpretation fits better the many examples of paralysis and turning to stone . . . The purpose of Athena’s aegis was to render potential ravishers impotent rather than to provide reassuring erections.”

For the Greeks, the vulva had the magical power not merely to neutralize, but also as an apotropaic device to frighten away evil spirits such as the Devil. It was used by women against men and against bogies. From a masculine perspective, the alarming hypnotic, staring eyes of Medusa within the maternal genitalia, which turn men into stone, produces immobility, impotence, and anesthesia. Slater cites clinical studies that show how frequently these outcomes are associated with early incestuous arousal. Incest with the mother calls up a terrifying chain of psychological associations for the young man. These fears could be partly associated with certain traditions and rituals practiced in the matriarchy.

For example, in the rites of the year king, the young god, after participating in the sacred marriage, was ritually killed. His dismembered bodily parts were then plowed under the earth in order to assure fertility and abundance for the coming harvest. Held in the unconscious psyche of the masculine his the image that deep sex with the mother results in death. It brings one to a loss of manhood, sexual potency, and life itself. And when death is separated from the cycle of rebirth, this event signifies the final termination of the life force.

Perseus is ahero to the patriarchy because he attacked and killed a representative of the Terrible Mother, who was reputed to seduce and then devour men. In beheading the Gorgon he castrated her and thus deprived the maternal genitalia of its power to render men impotent. Once protected from the deadly power of the Medusa’s sexuality, the turning-into-stone motif becomes, as Freud surmised, the stiff erection. The male phallus is now bent on violent rape as an expression of destructive rage toward the threatening sexuality of the maternal principle. This trend to separate sexuality from motherhood culminated in the Christian tradition, with the idealized mother of the young god, the Virgin Mary, who immaculately conceived her child.

When the distorted shadow image of Medusa is active in the male psyche, the situation arises as a young boy desires to be held in the nurturing bosom of his mother. But at the same time, he resists the urge, fearing that he may become engulfed and smothered. He also struggles to be fred from feeling the intensity of his mother’s unconscious sexual needs and his subsequent sense of his inability to gratify them. Or, if he succeeds in doing so, the result would be, like the year king, the inevitability of his own death. The infant boy’s primal image of the feminine arises form his perception of his mother as possessive and sexually devouring. He fears being swallowed by the womb itself, the hairy vulva reminiscent of the Gorgon’s Head, which is imaged as vagina dentata, a vagina with teeth. A young boy, who is in rage and bitterness, which taints his own inner soul so that he carries her hatred for her.

When a man’s anima consists of such a Medusa-like figure shaped on his relationship to his mother, he later projects it onto his mates. His partners take on the form of the wrathful, deadly female who threatens his sexual potency. She dares him to approach her, only to then reveal a face the the terrifying Gorgon, which is frozen in rage. Medusa’s face reflects her anger over the ways in which the patriarchal mentality has violated, castrated, desexualized, and disempowered her as the queen of the serpent mysteries. When men cease to honor the sexuality of the dark feminine, the contortions of the Gorgon’s grimace show her bloodthirst for revenge. When men evoke this response from the women in their lives, they are overcome with the raw terror of the offender who fears that this vengeance will petrify and render them impotent.

When Medusa is a primary archetype in a man’s life, he will be attracted to women who will respond to his unconscious attempts to set her up to act out his worst fears of the terrible feminine. His partner will come to hate him, belittle him, reject him sexually and criticize his performance, call him repulsive, and repel his advances. His Medusa-like mates will fulfill his shadow projections of women as ball-busting castrators who reinforce his insecurities concerning his sexual potency and “maleness.” His pain, humiliation, sense of diminishment, and ineffectuality, whose source lies in the sexual arena, gradually overtakes his entire self-image and reduces his capacity to function strongly in the rest of his life affairs. He may overcompensate for his inner sense of impotence by becoming increasingly rigid in his negative attitudes and violent actions toward women.

The Romantics of the nineteenth century found in Medusa a vision that Lederer writes encompassed the full circle from her beauty, to the love of woman as pain, as corruption, as the undoing of men, as death. Shelley, upon seeing a painting of Medusa in the Uffizi Gallery wrote,

It lieth, gazing on the midnight sky,
Upon the cloudy mountain peak supine;
Below far lands are see tremblingly;
Its horror and its beauty are divine.
Upon its lips and eyelids seem to lie
Lovliness like a shadow, from which shine,
Fiery and lurid, struggling underneath,
The agonies of anguish and of death . . .
“Tis the tempestuous loveliness of terror . . .”

This glassy-eyed severed female head, this horrible, fascinating Medusa, was to be the object of the dark loves of the Romantics and the Decadents throughout the whole of the century. Lederer continues that the evil and sin that obsessed the imagination of the Romantic poets and artists was always incest with the mother; not the Oedipal incest that would make them into men who replaced their fathers, but the uroboric incest that dissolves them back into the amniotic fluid.

From a Jungian perspective the myth of the hero symbolizes the archetypal stages in the development of consciousness. Initially the ego, which is defined in the West as the organized faculty of the masculine psyche, is born out of the soul, which is the feminine uroboricunity of the Great Goddess, that is, the young god as the son/lover of the Great Mother. The development of consciousness involves the ego’s growth in learning the qualities of reason, intellect, and logic with which to first recognize and discriminate itself as a distinct individual entity, and then to separate itself from the mother. “The stronger the masculine ego consciousness become, the more it is aware of the emasculating, bewitching, deadly and stupefying nature of the Great Goddess.”

According to this point of view, Medusa, as a devouring female monster, represents the dread of the irrational and fear of annihilation by unconscious forces. While the masculine may desire to sink back and dissolve into the pleasure of the womb, this is seen as a regressive trend to the development of the male ego. The hero needs to slay the monster in order to prevent his return to the feminine uroboric unity to free himself from the power of the mother in the unconscious. The violence to the feminine is a reaction to the pull of the mother. The hero’s path of individuation necessitates a movement away from the soul, represented by the dark instinctual feminine. He is aided in this quest by the impetus of the spirit embodied by the light, rational masculine, or the Great Father archetype.

Men who have not made peace with Medusa in themselves will see feminine sexuality as something that fascinates them, but also the source of their self-undoing. As they try to protect themselves against its frightening power by destroying the monster, they will unconsciously incite the Medusa woman in their lives to retaliate by castrating them physically and psychologically. For many of us, direct confrontation with this aspect of our being, often unknown and unnamed as it hides in the dark caverns of our psyche, can overwhelm and immobilize us with its raw intensity.

And yet a man who desire a positive relationship to women’s dark moon sexuality must make the descent into his unconscious, listen to the wailing agony of his decapitated Medusa, reach out in sympathy to her pain, heal the wounds of her rejection, and return whole-within-himself to the upper world. After the hero has proved his separation from his mother, he must reestablish a loving relationship to his inner dark feminine. Until he can do that he will remain trapped in the web of destructive sexual relationships.

Let us now look at the psychology of the feminine who wears the Gorgon’s Head over the center of her breastplate. In what ways have women been conditioned through patriarchal culture to deny and reject the power of the serpent-haired queen within them, and how has this affected their relationship to themselves and others?

Medusa, in her association with the serpent and with the menstrual blood that could heal and destroy, embodies the dark moon mysteries of the Goddess. In her red-faced Gorgon mask surmounted by a crown of snakes, Medusa in women signifies a source of feminine wisdom that is connected to their sexuality. She points to the source of women’s powers of divination, creation, destruction and regeneration.

Buffie Johnson explains that hair stands for energy and fertility. On the head hair signifies higher spiritual forces, and below the waist it indicates the fertilizing forces. When snakes replace the hair as they replace the Gorgon’s tresses, they represent the higher forces of creation.

The serpent symbolizes the kundalini force coiled like a snake at the base of the spine that stand behind our sexual procreative energy. When kundalini is activated, it rises up through the central spinal column, activating each charka in turn, and eventually comes out of the top of the head as cosmic enlightenment. When Medusa’s hair is transformed into snakes, this symbolizes the rising of the kundalini and our ability to utilize this force for regenerative healing, mental creativity, oracular wisdom, and spiritual power.

To the extent that we have culturally repressed and feared the powers of this Dark Goddess and have accepted the patriarchal view of her as a monster to be destroyed, we have cut ourselves off from our ability to access our sexual power to create, regenerate, and know the truth from within ourselves. In face we have been taught to shirk from and reject the kind of menstrual, ecstatic, and nonreproductivesexuality that activates these powers. Medusa in us carries the patriarchy’s projection of women’s dark sexuality as evil.

The pure form of Medusa symbolizes the source of our instinctual bodily wisdom and power. However, in our fear and denial of her, she has come to represent the ways in which we feel the most ignorant and incapable. She signifies a place of deep insecurity in us; and when we are challenged in her domain we become stiff with terror and immobilized from taking action. We are rendered powerless, and our inner Medusa remains vulnerable and unprotected.

In our fear we erect a defense to hold back the forces of those who might take advantage of our weakness and violate us. By donning the Gorgon’s maske we create a hideous face that we hope will frighten and repel others. It is a portrait of feminine anger and hatred, and her effect upon anyone who looks at her is paralysis. Medusa’s mask is ugly, yet underneath her hard and unattractive exterior is soft, beautiful, and sensitive. And she usually has been deeply wounded by a man at some point in her life.

Jean Bolen comments on the woman who is wearing Athena’s armor with Medusa’s aegis on her breastplate. If the Athena side of the archetype is more active, her well-armored (usually intellectual) defenses are up and her authority and critical gaze keep others at an emotional distance. Lederer, commenting on Athena’s stance, says, “As she displays the genitalia of the Mother (i.e., the Gorgon’s Head), she proclaims herself as a castrated woman, and her terrible sight cannot fail to repel all enemies. She becomes the Unapproachble, who fends off all sexual lust, numbs her enemies with terror, and repels desire.”

But for those of us who are severed form Medusa’s serpent power and cannot access our wisdom and strength, we continue to experience failure and humiliation in her sphere. As our fear of inadequacy increases, so do the protective barriers of our defenses. Our frustration and rage serve to crystallize the grimacing mask of frozen rage upon our face. While we are powerless behind the mask, others feel intimidated. We give looks that will turn a person to stone. The mask, now inseparable from our true face, acts to keep others away. Often we do not fully realize the effect of our glare, and so we experience and increasing sense of being ostracized, rejected, and hated by others. These negative and destructive attitudes reflect back upon ourselves, and we become bitter, blaming, and judgmental. If the mask turns inward, we are repulsed by our impotence, which grows into a pervasive self-hatred; and this self-rejection is added to our other problems.

In order to transform the mask, we must first recognize and acknowledge the wrathful face that we present to others. Our next task is to recall Medusa from her banishment and once again reclaim the serpent-haired queen by honoring the dark moon wisdom that arises from our sexuality. Medusa is the source of our deep, regenerative healing power. The menstrual blood of the Serpent Goddess that could heal, kill, and even raise the dead is reflected in the twin serpents of Life and Death twining about the winged staff that is today the emblem of the medical profession. Her blood was given by Athena to the God of Healing, Asklepius, whose daughter Hygeia, Goddess of Health was in classical times the guardian of the sacred serpents in the healing temples.

In order to claim the spiritual power of the ancient Libyan Serpent Goddess of Wisdom, we must develop our talents and inner resources that will give us a new sense of our value and self-worth. We will then see her blessings in our lives as our increasing confidence in our ability to be creative and assertive in all our life endeavors. We will remember how to use her ancient wisdom in recognizing truth, healing and regenerating ourselves and others. And we will recover the magic of our dark sexuality.

Remembering that intelligence, strength, and creativity were once rooted in the feminine tradition, we can call upon the lineage of the Triple Goddess Neith/Anatha. From Athena we can receive valor, strength and courage; from Metis the intuitive wisdom of wise counsel and creative self-expression; and from Medusa our psychic sexual abilities to heal and regenerate. The power that comes from the core of our being, which is grounded in the stability of our inner wisdom and strength, is what can truly ward off the threat of violation. We no longer need the frightening mask as a weapon of defense to conceal our insecurity.

She also has some questions for readers to consider that I think would be useful in planning out the ritual:

1. How do I feel about snakes?
2. How do I respond to the sight of hair on a woman’s vulva? Do I find it beautiful? Am I somewhat fascinated but repulsed at the same time? Can I remember my childhood reactions when I first saw pubic hairs on my mother or some other woman?
3. If I am a man . . . [I won’t put it here]
4. If I am a woman, do I feel insecure and inadequate in my ability to express my sexuality, wisdom, and power in my life? Have I ever put on a wrathful face or given a “look that could kill” in order to protect myself from being exposed? Have I ever felt shunned and rejected by others because of my appearance or personality? Can I acknowledge and honor my female serpent power as my inner source of creativity, actualization and strength in my life?
I see your love shining out from my furry friends faces, when I look into their eyes. I see you in the flower’s smile, the rainbow, and the wind in the trees....

User avatar
Posts: 1443
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:24 pm
Location: Inland NW, U.S.
Has thanked: 2338 times
Been thanked: 2779 times

Re: Who really was Medusa, The Gorgons and the Amazon Women

Post by Spiritwind »

Here is a little background on who Medusa's parental figures might have been, which should help us see where some of the mythology that surrounds her comes from.

The Mother of Greek Monsters

Half-snake, half-woman, all monster. Echidna (Greek mythology) is the mother of the most famous and fearsome of Greek monsters. Married to the god/monster Typhon (Greek mythology), the two beasts bore a brood of children that only a half-serpent mother could love.

Echidna is best known for being the mother of monsters. There's not a huge library of "Echidna mythology" laying around somewhere where she does a bunch of other things. She is sometimes confused with Python of Greek mythology who guards the Garden of Hesperides, though that role is actually that of her child Ladon.

Ladon was an enormous draco (snake), while Echidna was only half-snake. She, like Typhon, had the bottom half of a snake (or several snakes according to which myth you read), and the torso of a human. She did have snakes for hair, a trait she passed down to her child, the Gorgon. Most people would recognize Medusa as the most famous gorgon, though she is not actually related to Echidna in any way (we'll get to that elsewhere on the site).

The Children of Typhon and Echidna
There are still debates on which monsters are, in fact, the children of Typhon and Echidna, so I basically went through them all and took the most commonly attributed ones, being:

Cerberus - the three-headed dog that guards the entrance to Hades.
Chimera - Part-lion, part-goat, part-snake - all monster.
Gorgon - the snake-haired and snake-bodied humanoid that was created in its mother's image. Its stare could turn a person to stone. Medusa became one of these creatures in a later myth.
Hydra - the nine-headed serpent who grew two new heads for every one that was cut off.
Ladon (Python) - the snake that guarded the golden apples in the Garden of the Hesperides.
The Nemean Lion - the giant lion with impenetrable hide who becomes the constellation Leo.
Orthros - the two-headed dog that lived with giants.
The Sphinx - the half-human, half-lion that forces those its meet to answer its riddles, or die.
What ended up happening to Echidna is lost in myth, though we can assume that she still lives in Tartarus, keeping her husband Typhon company while he struggles beneath Mount Etna.
Like many of history's mothers, Echidna's legacy is destined to be carried on by the children she left behind. She herself was thought to preside over the corruption, rotting, and pestilence of the lower dregs of the earth. Most myths have her residing in Tartarus (Greek mythology), who is both a storm-pit of the underworld and father to Typhon (don't ask).
I see your love shining out from my furry friends faces, when I look into their eyes. I see you in the flower’s smile, the rainbow, and the wind in the trees....

User avatar
Posts: 1443
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:24 pm
Location: Inland NW, U.S.
Has thanked: 2338 times
Been thanked: 2779 times

Re: Who really was Medusa, The Gorgons and the Amazon Women

Post by Spiritwind »

I apologize ahead of time for the spelling in this article. It has quite a few errors.


The Nature Of The Amazons

In view of available data there is no reason to deny reality of the ancient women warriors. Four kinds of Amazons should be distinguished in accordance with Greek sources:

Cappadocian Amazons
They lived in Cappadocia, an area of the northern Anatolia (modern Turkey). Their capital was Themiscyra on the river Thermodon, and they are known mainly from Greek mythology. They are also called The Amazons of Anatolia.

Scythian Amazons
They lived in Scythia (modern Ukraine and southern Russia) and in the whole space of Eurasian steppes. They are known mainly from reports by Herodotus and Hippocrates . Some shade them leaves in folklore of Eurasian peoples. For instance, I can name polyanitsas ('steppe females') and Virgin Sineglazka ('blue-eyed female') of Russian folk tales, Ochi-Bala of Türkish epos. Their remains are also fin.d by archeologists, see Ancient Graves of Warrior Women Offer Hints of Amazons.

Libyan Amazons
They lived in Libya (northern Africa). Diodorus Siculus has written the most important report of Libyan Amazons. There are also some remarkable indication of Libyan Amazons' heritage in culture of Berbers — later local inhabitants of northern Africa.

Aegean Amazons
Significant but unclear traces of the Amazons exhibit in Aegean basin (proper Greece). So the main shrines of warrior goddess — Athena and Artemis — stood in this area (Athens, Delos island, Ephesus). Also actions of many myths on these goddesses and proper Amazons took place in this area. These myths explained this with invasion of Amazons. However, there are reasons to think that, conversely, the Amazons were exiled from this region by the peoples who took part in forming later Greek nation.

It's significant that the other Amazonian regions, namely Cappadocia, Libya, and Aegean islands are arid too. Therefore we can assume the female health and the physical strength of those Amazons was based on action licorice, pomegranate, and, probably, other plants having prominent thirst-quenching properties.

Those plant ought to secure the phonomenon of the women-warrioirs because the are rich in substances identical to female sex hormones (estrogens), and retain water. Lack of estrogens and of water retention are two main symptoms of the common female hormonal disturbance.

Besides, the aridity of Amazon's countries makes think that the historically know Amazons presented only remains of earlier cultures, which disappeared on account formation of the deserts or steppes.

According to common notion dating back from the Antiquity, and nourished by modern feminists, Amazons were physically strong misandrist women able to stand up for themselves, and to train the coarse men to the respect for women.

However, according to some Greek sources the Amazons did love men and married them. The couples of Heracles and Deianira, Meleager and Atlanta, Theseus and Antiope (Hippolita) exemplify this pattern.Also had to wrestle Thetis to marry her.

It's significant that these examples are related to Aegean regions concern apparently Aegean Amazons. And although in case of Theseus Cappadocian Amazons are meant, we can allude that originally Aegean Amazons were implied as he arrived to them by sea.

The Amazonian nation was apparently one of very high culture due to the healthiness of Amazonian women. In particular, I'm convinced that the grandeur of the Ancient Greece was due to Amazons' heritage, of which marks are imprinted in Greek mythology. This heritage is most obviously embodied in the notion of goddess Athena, the armed divine patron of war, wisdom and crafts.

Thus, all things considered, the Amazons were mere healthy, robust women of that barbaric epoch.

It's significant that Artemis was regarded as a goddess of the Moon that affects female physiology, and as the divine patron of midwives

There are also some indications of their natural convertible infertile. And the Amazons just ought to be infertile as far as they were healthy and the real female health implies infertility.

The Amazons' health apparently was based on vegetarianism and proper use of licorice.

So, according to the legends, Amazons had domesticated horse, which suggests friendly attitude to the animals. Also Amazon goddess Artemis was worshiped as patron of animals (later changed into patron of hunters). Besides, she together with her brother Apollo was offered to with bloodless sacrifices at their main temple in Delos island.

In addition, its significant that vegetarianism was enough rife in Ancient Greece and Roma — successors of the Amazon culture.

However, despite all their health and power, Amazons were overwhelmed by unhealthy but aggressive and intensively multiplying peoples greedy for Amazons' prosperity, and exiled from their homeland.

The following extract from Iliad (III, 184 - 190) seems to confirm this:

I went to Phrygia once, the land of vines and galloping horses, and learnt how numerous the Phrygians are when I saw the armies of Otreus and King Mygdon encamped by the River Sangarios. I was their ally and I bivouacked with them that time the Amazons, who fight like men, came up to attack. But even they were not as many as these Achaeans with their flashing eyes.

Only some posterity was left assimilated in various peoples, the same Ancient Greeks who were formed from the rest of the Amazonian people and their conquerors - Achaeans. The theme of the former fight against Amazons, named Amazonomachy, was very popular in later Ancient Greek art and epos, which evidently stemmed from the eulogies of the conquerors.

A particular episode of the Amazonomachy deserves our special attention. According to a legend, after Achaean hero Achilles killed Amazons' queen Penthesilea in combat, and pulled off her helmet (the image right portrays Achilles but not Penthesilea in such a helmet) he saw her beautiful face and fell in love with her at once, and raped her corpse after that. We can add an important detail to the episode. According to the Iliad, barbaric Achaeans unable to work up metals properly undressed killed Trojans for their armor and left the corpses naked. Most probably, that passage shamefacedly disguises some earlier version, which you can imagine now.

The latter characterizes brute nature of Amazon's enemies rather than beauty of Amazon women. This episode just embodies the ambivalent attitude to the Amazonian women. On one hand, they were appreciated due to their beauty, and on the other, their bearing not affected by the hormonal disturbanceexcited hatred in the barbaric neighbors. Besides, the wealth created by the healthy Amazonian society compelled such neighbors' jealousy and craving.

Fortunately, great part of Amazonian nation escaped from their homeland and settled in new places, mainly in Eurasian steppes (the Scythian Amazons) and neighbor areas. This settling is well-known as grandiose spreading of peoples of Indo-European family of languages. It shows that women of the people had become suddenly permanent fertile after the exile from the homeland.
I see your love shining out from my furry friends faces, when I look into their eyes. I see you in the flower’s smile, the rainbow, and the wind in the trees....

User avatar
Posts: 1443
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:24 pm
Location: Inland NW, U.S.
Has thanked: 2338 times
Been thanked: 2779 times

Re: Who really was Medusa, The Gorgons and the Amazon Women

Post by Spiritwind »

Another take on the Medusa mythology, similar to some of the others I've posted, with the exception that her parents were listed as Phorcys and Ceto, rather than Echidna and Typhon. Possibly these tales are so ancient in their origin that, much like the bible, they are condensed versions of a much longer and more detailed story that has become overlaid and influenced from one epoch to the other.

http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/po ... samyth.htm
Medusa in Myth and Literary History

Medusa, one of the three Gorgons, daughter of Phorcys and Ceto. She was the only one of the Gorgons who was subject to mortality. She is celebrated for her personal charms and the beauty of her locks. Neptune became enamoured of her, and obtained her favours in the temple of Minerva. This violation of the sanctity of the temple provoked Minerva, and she changed the beautiful locks of Medusa, which had inspired Neptune’s love to serpents. According to Apollodorus, Medusa and her sisters came into the world with snakes on their heads, instead of hair, with yellow wings and brazen hands. Their bodies were also covered with impenetrable scales, and their very looks had the power of killing or turning to stones. Perseus rendered his name immortal by his conquest of Medusa. He cut off her head, and the blood that dropped from the wound produced the innumerable serpents that infest Africa. The conqueror placed Medusa's head on the shield of Minerva, which he had used in his expedition. The head still retained the same petrifying power as before, as it was fatally known in the court of Cepheus. . . . Some suppose that the Gorgons were a nation of women, whom Perseus conquered.

From Lempriére’s Classical Dictionary of Proper names mentioned in Ancient Authors Writ Large. Ed. J. Lempriére and F.A. Wright. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Camille Dumoulié

Medusa's head, an apparently simple motif linked to the myth of Perseus, was freed through being severed and cut loose from its 'moorings' by the hero in the remote depths of the world. There is something paradoxical about the story since the monster was all the more indestructible because it had been killed. Indeed, the figure of Medusa is characterized by paradox, both in terms of the actual mythical stare, which turned men to stone, and in the interpretations that have been given to it. The fascination that she exerts arises from a combination of beauty and horror. Her head was used, in Ancient times, as an apotropaic mask -- a sort of talisman which both killed and redeemed.

As well as being the very symbol of ambiguity, Medusa's head is also one of the most archaic mythical figures, perhaps an echo of the demon Humbaba who was decapitated by Gilgamesh. Everything implies that it is a 'representation' of the most meaningful aspect of the sacred. Insofar as it is the role of literature to assume responsibility for the sacred, each era, when confronted with the mystery of the 'origins', has re-examined Medusa's head with its mesmerizing stare as something which conceals the secret of the sacred.


If ambiguity is the hallmark of the sacred, the role of myths, as René Gerard purports in his La Violence et le Sacré (1972) is to generate differences and contrasts, to distinguish between the two faces of the sacred. Therefore, from the viewpoint of the oldest texts which are true to the spirit of the myth, Medusa is a representation of the Other by virtue of her absolute and terrifying difference. At first sight, her monstrous ugliness and her petrifying stare certainly bear this out.

In La Mort dans les Yeux (1985), Vernant demonstrates that, for the Greeks, Medusa represented the face of the warrior possessed by battle frenzy. In The Shield of Heracles (232-3), Hesiod describes the wide-open mouth, the fearsome hair and the Gorgons' shrill cries which conjure up her terrifying aspect. Thus Medusa's mask frequently appears within the context of a battle. It is present in the Iliad on the shields of Athena (V, 738) and Agamemnon (XI, 36), and also during the Renaissance, e.g. on Bellona's helmet described by Ronsard in the 'Ode á Michel de l'Hospital' (Premier Livre des Odes, 1560). The Gorgon also represents what cannot be represented, i.e. death, which it is impossible to see or to look at, like Hades itself. In Hesiod's Theogony (275 et seq.) and in the Odyssey (XI, 633-5), Medusa is the guardian of terrifying places, either the nocturnal borders of the world or the Underworld. She reappears in this role in Dante's Divine Comedy (Inferno, IX, 55-7) and Milton's Paradise Lost (II, 611). Guarding the doorway to the world of the dead, she prevents the living from entering.

In Christian symbolism, Medusa represents the dreaded enemy and death, and thus becomes an embodiment of the Devil. She appears in this guise in a passage in the Book of Arthur which belongs to the cycle of the Holy Grail (Vulgate version of Arthurian romances, Vol. VII, Washington, 1913). In fact, this is a female monster, the 'Ugly Semblance', who lives at the bottom of a river. She does not exercise her powers by turning people to stone, but by causing the waters to swallow them up. Similarly, a play by Calderón, which tells of the adventures of Andromeda and Perseus (Fortunas de Andromeda y Perseo), has the hero, a new incarnation of the Saviour, defeating Medusa who is the personification of Death and Sin.

At first glance, therefore, Medusa's head is very much a representation of the terrifying Other, of absolute negativity. She continues to fulfil this function in the twentieth-century trilogy by the Greek writer Pandelis Prevelakis, The Ways of Creation, which comprises The Sun of Death (Athens, 1959; Paris, 1965), The Head of the Medusa (Athens, 1963) and The Bread of the Angels (Athens, 1966). In the trilogy, the Gorgon represents both 'Nietzschian nihilism' and the foreign ideologies which threaten Hellenism. The hero sets out to free Greece once again from the monster, but he fails and realizes that there is no longer a single piece of untaited land in his country. Everything points to the fact that the malady specific to modern Greece, and the country's inability to accommodate, change, have provoked this monstrous 'representation' of the Other. Medusa's head does indeed seem to be a mask which serves to justify her absolute and evil strangeness.

The fact that Medusa is a mask and that this mask hides a more human face, is borne out by the way in which her portrayal is developed from the pre-Classical era to the Hellenistic period. There is a dual transformation i.e. the disappearance of both facial quality and ugliness (see Images de la Gorgone, Bibliothéque Nationale, 1985). Beneath the mask lies what could be called Medusa's 'tragic beauty'.


Many elements of the myth suggest, through its basic ambiguity, the tragic nature of Medusa. One of the most revealing of these is the gift from Athena to Asclepius of two drops of the Gorgon's blood, one of which has the power to cure and even resurrect, while the other is a deadly poison. Medusa's blood is therefore the epitome of the 'pharmakon', while she herself -- as is shown by the apotropaic function of her mask -- is a 'pharmakos'. As has been demonstrated by René Girard, the 'pharmakos' is the scapegoat whose sacrifice establishes the dual nature of the sacred and reinforces the separation of the monster and the god. However, it is for literature and the arts to reveal the close relationship between opposites and the 'innocence' of the victim. In this respect, the myth of Medusa is revealing. In his study The Mirror of Medusa (1983), Tobin Siebers has identified the importance of two elements, i.e. the rivalry between Athena and the Gorgon, and the mirror motif.

According to Ovid (Metamorphoses, IV. 779ff), the reason for the dispute lay in Poseidon's rape of Medusa inside the temple of the virgin goddess. The goddess is supposed to have punished Medusa by transforming her face, which therefore made Medusa an innocent victim for the second time. However, another tradition, used by Mallarmé in Les Dieux antiques (1880), stressed a more personal rivalry: Medusa had boasted that she was more beautiful than Athena. Everything points to the face that the goddess found it necessary to set herself apart from her negative double in order to assert her 'own' identity. Common features are numerous. For example, snakes are the attribute of Athena, as illustrated by the famous statue of Phidias and indicated by certain Orphic poems which refer to her as 'la Serpentine'. Moreover, the hypnotic stare is one of the features of the goddess 'with blue-green eyes', whose bird is the owl, depicted with an unblinking gaze. Finally, because she has affixed Medusa's head to her shield, in battle or in anger she assumes the terrifying appearance of the monster. Thus, in the Aeneid (11, 171), she expresses her wrath by making flames shoot forth from her eyes. These observations are intended to show that Athena and Medusa are the two indissociable aspects of the same sacred power.

A similar claim could be made in respect of Perseus, who retains traces of his association with his monstrous double, Medusa. Using her decapitated head to turn his enemies to stone, he spreads death around him. And when he flies over Africa with his trophy in a bag, through some sort of negligence, drops of blood fall to earth and are changed into poisonous snakes which reduce Medusa's lethal power (Ovid, op. cit., IV. 618). Two famous paintings illustrate this close connection between the hero and the monster. Cellini's Perseus resembles the head he is holding in his hand (as demonstrated by Siebers) and Paul Klee's L’esprit a combattu le mal (1904) portrays a complete reversal of roles -- Perseus is painted full face with a terrible countenance, while Medusa turns aside.

In this interplay of doubles, the theme of reflection is fundamental. It explains the process of victimization to which Medusa was subjected, and which falls within the province of the superstition of the 'evil eye'. The way to respond to the 'evil eye' is either to use a third eye -- the one that Perseus threw at the Graiae - or to deflect the evil spell by using a mirror. Ovid, in particular, stressed the significance of the shield in which Perseus was able to see the Gorgon without being turned to stone, and which was given to him by Athena. Everything indicates that the mirror was the real weapon. It was interpreted thus by Calderón and Prevelakis, and also by Roger Caillois in Méduse et Cie (1960).

Ovid was responsible for establishing the link with Narcissus, a myth that he made famous. It seems that the same process of victimization is at work here. The individual is considered to have been the victim of his own reflection, which absolves the victimizer (Perseus, the group) from all blame. This association of the two myths (and also the intention of apportioning blame) appears in a passage in Desportes' Amours d’Hyppolite (1573) where the poet tells his lady that she is in danger of seeing herself changed 'into some hard rock' by her 'Medusa's eye'. Even more revealing is Gautier's story Jettatura (1857) in which the hero, accused of having the 'evil eye', eventually believes it to be true and watches the monstrous transformation of his face in the mirror: 'Imagine Medusa looking at her horrible, hypnotic face in the lurid reflection of the bronze shield.'

Medusa's head is both a mirror and a mask. It is the mirror of collective violence which leaves the Devil's mark on the individual, as well as being the image of death for those who look at it. Both these themes -- violence rendered sacred and death by petrifaction -- are found in Das Corgonenhaupt (Berlin, 1972), a work by Walter Krüger about the nuclear threat.

However, when considered in terms of archetypal structures, Medusa's mask still retains its secret. What is the reason for the viperine hair, the wide-open mouth with the lolling tongue, and, in particular, why is Medusa female? What relationship is there between violence, holy terror and woman?


Robert Graves (Greek Myths, 1958) believes that the myth of Perseus preserves the memory of the conflicts which occurred between men and women in the transition from a matriarchal to a patriarchal society. In fact the function of the Gorgon's mask was to keep men at a safe distance from the sacred ceremonies and mysteries reserved for women, i.e. those which celebrated the Triple Goddess, the Moon. Graves reminds us that the Orphic poems referred to the full moon as the 'Gorgon's head'. The mask was also worn by young maidens to ward off male lust. The episode of Perseus' victory over Medusa represents the end of female ascendancy and the taking over of the temples by men, who had become the masters of the divine which Medusa's head had concealed from them.

Although it may have become less intense, the battle of the sexes was not resolved. The feminine continued to remain a source of fear for men, and the association of women with Medusa, evoked an aspect of the sex which was both fascinating and dangerous. Medusa often appeared in Renaissance poetry, e.g. Ronsard's Second Livre des Amours (S. 79, 1555), but the stare which turned men to stone was often only a conventional metaphor for the lover's 'coup de foudre'. The comparison took on a deeper meaning during the nineteenth century. Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal (1857) and 'decadent' literature such as Lorrain's M. de Phocas (1901), provide illustrations of the dangerous fascination exerted by woman, with her deadly stare and mysterious hair. But it was Goethe's Faust Part I (1808) which supplied the real significance of this connection. During the 'Walpurgis night,’ Faust thinks he sees Margarita but Mephistopheles warns him that it is Medusa and explains that 'magic deludes every man into believing that he has found his beloved in her'.

This terrible woman, the paragon of all women, whom every man simultaneously fears and seeks and for whom Medusa is the mask, is in fact the mother, i.e. the great Goddess Mother whose rites were concealed by the Gorgon's face. Countless texts illustrate Medusa's affinity with the depths of the sea and the terrible power of nature, e.g. Hugo's Les Travailleurs de la Mer (1864), Lautrémont's Chants de Maldoror (1869) and Pierre Louÿs' Aphrodite (1896), but the most explicit example is probably the text written by Freud in 1922: Das Medusenhaupt -- 'Medusa's Head'. He presents her as the supreme talisman who provides the image of castration -- associated in the child's mind with the discovery of maternal sexuality -- and its denial. The snakes are multiple phalluses and petrifaction represents the comforting erection.

From this point onwards, the myth of Perseus takes on a new psychological meaning. It tells of the exploit of the hero who, because he has conquered ‘castrating' woman and armed himself with the talisman of Medusa's head (seen here in its comforting, phallic role), is able to conquer Andromeda, the terrifying virgin, and kill the sea monster which represents the evil aspect of woman. This motif is also found in the Christian legend of St George (Jacques de Voragine, La Légende dorée, (1264) as well as in the anthropological legends concerning the fear of the 'dentate vagina'. A 'sacred' man must perform the first sexual act with a woman.

Two texts illustrate this aspect of the myth. One is, the Book of Arthur (op. cit). in the passage devoted to the 'Ugly Semblance'. The monster occupies the lands of a maiden who not only asks the king for the assistance of a knight but also for a husband whom she describes as though he had always been intended for her. The task that he performs seems to have been the necessary requirement for his union with the Virgin. The story stresses the association of the monster with the element of water and, in particular, with the sea into which it has to be driven back. The second text is a short story by Döblin, Der Ritter Blaubart -- the 'Knight with the Blue Beard' (1911). Because the hero has had mysterious and intimate relations with a primitive monster -- a giant medusa -- he is forced to either kill all the women he loves or allow them to be killed. However, one of them, because of her purity, confronts the monster in the secret chamber where it lurks. In this last example, the character seems to have been unable to free himself from the maternal influence and fear of the feminine.

Finally, this association of Medusa with castrating woman is very evident in a passage in Chêne et Chien (1952) by Queneau: 'Severed head, evil woman/ Medusa with her lolling tongue/So it was you who would have castrated me?' However, the myth reveals -- and this seems to be obscured by the Freudian interpretation -- that woman's 'castration' is a result of the violence imposed on her by the original hero. Woman only appears in the story divided by separative decapitation, casting off the feminine in the remote depths of the world. Cast down, the feminine remains unrecognized within its innermost recess and it is this 'abject' void which maintains the theatre of the world and the logic of the talisman. In this theatre, woman occupies the two opposite extremes of evil (castration, sorcery) and their cure (the phallus, the Virgin), i.e. of the abyss and the Ideal. That is why, despite her terrifying power, she is fascinating. 'Fascinum' means 'charm' and 'evil spell', but also 'virile member'. Between the 'emptiness' and the Idol represented by the division of woman, yawns the gulf of male Desire. This persistent ambiguity can be found in the classification of the creature called the medusa. It owes its name to its resemblance to Medusa's head (Apollinaire, Bestiaire, 1920), but is included in the Acephelan category. Medusa keeps her secret behind the ambiguous mask. Although she is 'representable', she is never 'presentable' and even Perseus only sees her reflected in his shield. She is the hidden presence, absent from the world, which enables the scene to be played out. In his 'heroic comedy' Le Naufrage de Méduse (1986), Ristat shows Perseus searching for the Gorgons and meeting Hermes, the 'Guardian of Resemblances', who proves to the terrified hero that 'Medusa herself is only a shadow'.

However, the hero remains trapped in the interplay of images and the logic of the talisman, just as he remains fascinated by the Gorgon mask. Thus Medusa's head becomes, for the man who takes possession of it after severing it from the terrifying woman, and in accordance with the principle of the 'pharmakon', the complete opposite, i.e. the 'skeptron' -- the sun.


In the same way that there is a hidden similarity between Athena, Goddess of Wisdom, and Medusa, a similarity also exists between the sun, symbol of the Ideal and the Gorgon's mask. Although they are both objects of desire, Athena and the sun are unapproachable and terrifying for those who come too close. This danger is illustrated by the Platonic myth of Phaedrus (247-8e) in which the downfall of souls is brought about by an overpowering desire to see the sun. Certain structural elements from the myth of Medusa also reappear in the myth of the Cave (The Republic, 514-7a), i.e. fascination, averted eyes, violence inflicted on the philosopher, etc.

In his poem (op. cit.), Queneau maintains that the sun, like the Gorgon, is fearsome and castrating: 'The sun: O monster, O Gorgon, O Medusa/O sun'. In this way, Medusa herself can become an incarnation of the Ideal, i.e. of Virtue (Du Bellay, Epithalame, 1559), of Beauty (Baudelaire, op. cit., 'La Beauté') and of Truth (Kosmas Politis, Eroica, Athens, 1938). Surely the sun itself is the severed head that, like the head of St John the Baptist, only soars in the zenith: 'In triumphant flights/from that scythe' (Mallarmé, Hérodiade, 'Cantique de saint Jean', 1913). Whoever seeks Athena, finds Medusa's head. Whoever approaches too close to the sun discovers its castrating and castrated monstrousness (Bataille, L’Anus Solaire, 1931).

Although Nietzsche had embarked upon the destruction of all idols, he too, in this way, recognized the desire for death inherent in the desire for truth at any cost. The philosopher who wants to examine all things 'in depth', discovers the petrifying abyss. The destiny of the man whom Nietzsche refers to as 'the Don Juan of knowledge' will be paralyzed as if by Medusa, and will himself be 'changed into a guest of stone' (Morgenröte i.e. the Dawn of Day, 327, 1881). This is also the destiny of the 'lover of truth' who, in the Dionysos Dithyramben (1888) appears to be 'changed into a statue/into a sacred column'. Nietzsche, who was aware of the necessity 'for the philosopher' to live within the 'closed circuit of representation' (Derrida), to seek the truth even if he no longer believes in it, without ever being able to attain it, devised his own version of the 'truth', his Medusa's head, the Eternal Return: 'Great thought is like Medusa's head: all the world's features harden, a deadly, ice-cold battle' (Posthumous Fragments, Winter 1884-5).

All thinkers who reflect upon the nature of representation, as well as on thought which pursues the 'eidos' are in danger of confronting Medusa's head. Thus, Aristotle, in The Politics (VIII) differentiates between instructive and cathartic music which is associated with Bacchic trances, whose instrument is the flute and which should be avoided. To prove his point, he refers to the myth of Athena. When she played the flute, her face became so distorted that she abandoned the instrument. It was in fact she who had invented the flute to imitate an unknown sound, virtually unrepresentable, i.e. the hissing of the snakes on Medusa's head as she was decapitated (Pindar, The Pythian Odes, XII, 2-3). As she played, she noticed in a spring that her features were becoming distorted and assuming the appearance of the Gorgon's mask. This once more introduces the Narcissistic theme and the blurring of the difference between Athena and her rival, which here arises from tragic art. Therefore, in terms of philosophy, art should remain in the service of the 'eidos' by continuing to represent the image that arouses desire for the Object.

But it is also condemned if it presents the object in such an obvious manner that the remoteness of desire degenerates into dangerous enjoyment. This partly explains Tournier’s condemnation of image and photography in La Goutte d'Or (1985). He explicitly links their power to Medusa's petrifying fascination and contrasts them with the art of writing which is the art of education and the route to wisdom 'par excellence'.

It would seem that the fear experienced at the sight of Medusa's head is the terror of discovering the secret behind the representation of the image.

From Companion to Literary Myths, Heroes, and Archetypes. Ed. Pierre Brunel. Routledge, 1996. Copyright © 1996 by Routledge.
I see your love shining out from my furry friends faces, when I look into their eyes. I see you in the flower’s smile, the rainbow, and the wind in the trees....

User avatar
Posts: 1443
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:24 pm
Location: Inland NW, U.S.
Has thanked: 2338 times
Been thanked: 2779 times

Re: Who really was Medusa, The Gorgons and the Amazon Women

Post by Spiritwind »

If you have ever wondered where the story of Rapunzel originated, this article may provide a few clues. In this version she is locked in a dungeon, but in others she is locked in a tower.


Danae and Perseus

Abas, the son of Lynkeus and Hypermestra, followed the family tradition and had twin sons, Proitos and Akrisios. The twins fought continually, even while still within their mother's body, and continued their conflict as they grew up. Eventually Proitos left and started a new kingdom at Tiryns, only a few miles south of Argos, while Akrisios assumed the kingship of Argos. He married a woman (whom late sources name Eurydike) and had a daughter Danae. He then inquired of the Delfic oracle as to how he could have a son.

This is the basic pattern of most Greek heroic myth. When a king's wife either has no children or produces a daughter, the king asks an oracle about having a son. The answer is almost always the same: don't have a son, or that son will kill you. If the king has a daughter, he is told by the oracle not to let his daughter get married. If she does, the king will be killed by some version of a son (e.g., grandson, son-in-law, stepson). So all these kings with daughters proceed to impose an apparently impossible task upon any suitors of their daughters. To become a hero, therefore, you had to overcome an insurmountable obstacle (which always means to win a princess from her father by doing something impossible for everyone else).

For example, if a suitor wished to marry Hippodameia, daughter of king Oinomaos of Olympia, he had to beat her father in a chariot race (but Oinomaos had the fastest horses in the world, and the suitor had to take Hippodameia with him in his chariot). If he wanted to marry Iole, daughter of king Eurytos of Oichalia, he had to beat her father in an archery contest (and Eurytos was the best archer in the world). And if he wanted to marry Alkestis, daughter of Pelias, he would have to yoke a lion and a boar to a plow (something only Pelias could do).

In the case of Akrisios and his daughter Danae, he was told by the oracle that if his daughter married, she would have a son who would kill him. Akrisios therefore locked up Danae in a bronze underground dungeon, and set guards to watch over the prison.

One day, however, Akrisios came to visit his daughter and discovered that Danae had a baby named Perseus. Who was the father? Some said it was Zeus, who came through the keyhole in the form of golden rain, and others said it was Akrisios' twin brother Proitos, Danae's uncle, who had bribed the guards with gold and then made up the story of Zeus and the golden shower.

Danaos took his daughter and her baby son a few miles south to Nauplion, put them in a box, and threw the box into the Aegean Sea. This is another recurrent aspect of heroic myth: the infant hero-to-be is almost always exposed by his father (or sometimes mother) to what seems to be certain death in the sea or the wilderness.

These children sent to die always survive, of course; usually they are found and raised by parents of low status (or sometimes even by animals) and they eventually seek out their true parents. The oracle is always fulfilled (that is, the king dies), the mother is often rescued from some terrible predicament, and it is often in the quest for his real parents that the heroic status of the son is attained.

The box containing Danae and Perseus washed ashore on the island of Serifos and was found by a poor fisherman named Diktys. He had once been the king of Serifos but he was deposed by his twin brother Polydektes. When Diktys found and opened the box, he immediately fell in love with Danaeand told her, "I love you and would marry you if I could, but you are obviously a princess and I am a poor fisherman. Still I will protect you from all other men, and I will raise your son Perseus as if he were my own."

When Perseus was 21 years old, king Polydektes saw Danae and fell in love with her. Since he could tell that Perseus was a son of Zeus, he had to figure out some way to get rid of him. Making up a false story, he announced that he intended to court Hippodameia, daughter of king Oinomaos of Olympia. Since he didn't want to engage in the chariot race with Oinomaos, which all other suitors had lost, along with their heads,he told his people that he had a different strategy. If all his subjects gave him a horse, he would take the entire herd to Oinomaos, who might then be so grateful that he would hand over his daughter without forcing Polydektes to race.

All of Polydektes' subjects brought him a horse; finally it was Perseus' turn, and he told the king, "I live with the poor fisherman Diktys and we have no horses. But I am a loyal suject and I would do anything for you, even bring back the head of the Gorgon Medousa."

This is just what Polydektes wanted to hear, and he commanded Perseus to bring him Medousa's head, figuring that such a task would cause the certain death of Danae's son.

The three Gorgons were Medousa, who was mortal, and her immortal sisters Sthenno and Euryale. They lived in what is now called Morocco, near the paradise Garden of the Hesperides (one of the several Greek versions of the Garden of Eden). They had tusks like a boar, wings, snakes instead of hair, and the power of turning to stone anyone whose eyes met theirs (that is, if a Gorgon saw you looking at her you would be petrified and die).

Perseus, however, had no idea where the Gorgons lived and was wandering around Serifos helplessly until Athena came to his aid. Athena, the goddess whose entire career is dedicated to disguising herself as a man, is the great friend and helper of most heroes, just as Hera is usually their greatest enemy (since most heroes are the illegitimate sons of her husband Zeus).

When Perseus asked Athena where the Gorgons lived, she told him that there were three nymphs who knew the answer. Perseus said, "What three nymphs? There's a nymph for every pond and fountain, a nymph for every tree, and hundreds more in the ocean." Athena replied that the three Graiai knew which three nymphs knew the home of the Gorgons.

The three Graiai were old hags who had been born as old hags. They had one eye and one tooth between the three of them, and both were detachable. If a Graia wanted to eat something, she said, "Pass the tooth," and if she wanted to see what she was eating, she said, "Pass the eye."

Perseus found the Graiai, snatched away the eye and tooth as they were passed around, and refused to give them back until they revealed the identity of the nymphs. Then he went to the nymphs, learned where the Gorgons lived, and received from the nymphs and from Athena many gifts to help him get the head of Medousa.

He received a shield with a mirrored surface (so he could see the Gorgons indirectly), a special bag kalled the kibisis (to put Medousa's head in, so he wouldn't accidentally look at it), a sickle to cut off her head, winged sandals (so he could fly), and the cap of Hades (which made whoever wore it invisible).

Weighted down with all these implements, Perseus flew to the Garden of the Hesperides, where he found the three Gorgons asleep on the ground. Looking in the mirror-shield, and with Athena guiding his hand, he cut off Medousa's head. As soon as he did this, the winged horse Pegasos and an armed warrior named Chrysaor jumped out of the neck of headless Medousa. She had recently had an affair with Poseidon, and had become pregnant with these two children.

The noise of this double birth awakened her sisters and they started to pursue Perseus. Putting on the cap of Hades, however, he became invisible to them and easily escaped. Perseus then began his return to Serifos, where his mother Danae was being pursued by the lecherous Polydektes (who was sure that Perseus would never return).

As Perseus flew over Ethiopia (probably modern Haifa) he looked down and saw what was apparently a princess about to be eaten by a huge sea serpent. He flew to the palace of the king, Kepheus, and asked what was happening. Kepheus told Perseus that because of the arrogance of his wife Kassiopeia Poseidon had sent the sea serpent to harass his country. When he asked the oracle how he could get rid of the monster, he was told the only way was to sacrifice his most precious possession, his daughter Andromeda. Perseus asked, "If I kill the sea serpent and rescue Andromeda, can I marry her?" When the king agreed, Perseus flew to the coast, took Medousa's head out of the kibisis and showed it to the monster, who was turned to stone. He then returned with Andromeda to the palace, where king Kepheus told him, "There's one thing I forgot to tell you. To marry Andromeda you first must defeat her fiancee, my twin brother Phineus, and his army."

Perseus again used Medousa's head to turn Phineus and his army to stone, then flew back to Serifos to rescue his mother. After finding Danae and her protector Diktys, who had taken refuge on an altar, he turned Polydektes and his entire army to stone. He then restored Diktys to his rightful position as king of Serifos and announced his intention of returning to Argos to visit his grandfather Akrisios.

At this point we would certainly expect Danae and Diktys to get married and live happily ever after; he had loved and protected her for all these years, but could not marry her because of his poverty. But even though he now is king again, Danae cannot be allowed to marry. Perseus flew back to Argos with his bride under one arm and his mother under the other.

When a man takes his mother on his honeymoon, we might well wonder whom he is really marrying. But of course Andromeda and Danae are two aspects of the same person. That is why they first appear in exactly similar situations.

When he arrived in Argos, he discovered that Akrisios had disappeared and no one knew where he was (when Akrisios learned that Perseus, the grandson who was destined to kill him, was going around turning people to stone, he had left Argos and was secretly living in the northern Greek city of Larissa under an assumed name). Perseus therefore assumed the kingship of Argos, and he and his wife Andromeda had many children. Some years later Perseus went up to Larissa to participate in athletic games being held in honor of a dead king. Since Perseus had recently invented discus-throwing, the people of Larissa invited him to demonstrate this new sport. Perseus threw the discus very far and rather wildly; it sailed into the stands, struck Akrisios on the foot, and killed him instantly.

When he returned to Argos, Perseus was ashamed to be king of the city whose former king he had just killed. He therefore arranged an exchange with his father's twin brother Proitos, king of Tiryns. Proitos and his son Megapenthes came to rule Argos, while Perseus became king of Tiryns. At this time Perseus founded the city of Mycenae.
I see your love shining out from my furry friends faces, when I look into their eyes. I see you in the flower’s smile, the rainbow, and the wind in the trees....

User avatar
Posts: 1443
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:24 pm
Location: Inland NW, U.S.
Has thanked: 2338 times
Been thanked: 2779 times

Re: Who really was Medusa, The Gorgons and the Amazon Women

Post by Spiritwind »

Home > History > Amazons

According to Greek mythology, Amazons were a warlike tribe of women descended from the god of war, Aresand the naiad Harmonia. They originated from the area around the Caucasus Range and settled on the bank of the Thermodon River in Pontus, Asia Minor, and founded the town of Themiscyra on the coast of the Euxine (modern Terme in Samsun, on the Black Sea coast of Turkey).

For the continuation of the Amazon race, the women mated with the neighboring Gargarean men for a short period each year. Male children born from these unions were either sent to the Gargareans or killed. Another version of the myth tells of a number of men kept for mating purposes, but had the status of slaves, and were allowed to perform only those tasks executed in other countries by women. Legend also says that the legs and arms of these men were mutilated to prevent their challenging the Amazons' power.

Women entirely ruled their society, and two queens, one for defense and one for domestic affairs, shared the sovereign rule. Whether men were or were not included in the Amazon state, only women bore arms, not only defending their own country, but making conquest expeditions into neighboring territories. They fought both on foot and on horseback, carrying crescent shields and wielding spears, bows and battle axes. In some myths, it is said female children had their right breast seared in order to draw a bow and throw javelins more efficiently as adults.

War, hunting, agriculture and training girl Amazons were their principal pursuits. It was said they were the first humans to ride on horseback. The Amazons were especially devoted to the goddess of hunting, Artemis.

Stories about the Amazons belong to the earliest Greek sagas. Homermentions them in a way which shows that they were familiar to his audience. When in historical times the Greeks became familiar with the Thermodon region and found no Amazons there, they supposed either Heracles (Hercules) had destroyed them all, or they had been driven away. Thus in later legends, the Amazons were moved further and further away from their original homeland, but they were always located on the fringe of the world as it was then known to the Greeks. They were said to be of Scythian origin from Colchis (south of the Caucasus) and there was also supposed to be a race of Amazons in Africa. They were, in any case, always foreign to the Greek homeland, and to the Greeks, like all foreigners, they were viewed as barbarians.

The Amazons were a favorite subject for sculptors and painters. In art of the earliest periods, they are dressed exactly like warriors, but usually with one breast bare. After the Persian Wars (499-448 BC), for example, on Greek vases of the great classical period, they are represented in oriental garb, wearing caps and trousers, and pictures of them relate more to known legends about them. They are never depicted as having lost one breast, in spite of the Greek belief their name meant 'breastless'.

Various explanations of the origins of the legends about the Amazons have been put forward. Some writers trace them to the armed slave-girls who served certain Asian deities. The association of the Amazons with Artemis supports this theory, but the story is more likely to be an imaginative elaboration of reports about matriarchal tribes in Anatolia, or of tribes in which the women led a freer and tougher life than they did in Greece. The persistence of the legend up to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD, and its popularity as a theme in the arts show the Amazon myth had a deep appeal to the Greeks.

Another legend says that the city of Ephesus in Asia Minor was founded by the Amazons, and their queen, Ephesia, gave her name to the city.

Legendary Amazons


During the Greeks' attempt to take Hippolyta's golden belt, Heracles slew the Amazon Aella ("whirlwind") who was known for wielding a double-ax.


The Amazon queen Antiope was kidnapped by Heracles from her homeland, brought to Athens and presented to Theseus, the mythical king of Athens. Theseus took her as his wife and she bore him a son named Hippolytus after Antiope's sister Hippolyta. She is the only Amazon known to have married. Fighting by her husband's side during an Amazon attack on Athens, one of her Amazon sisters, Molpadia, ran her through with a spear.


Hippo's name means "horse", a word found in many Amazon names. She was one of the queens who helped found the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Cyrene, and Myrina. After conquering Asia Minor and Syria, the warrior woman set up a wooden image of Artemis near a beech tree in Ephesus. There the Amazons would perform a shield dance with rattling quivers, beating the ground in unison to the accompaniment of pipes playing a wild, warlike melody.


Hippolyta was one of the greatest queens of the Amazons and one of the most beautiful and strongest women of her time. She wore the golden girdle of Amazonian queenship, a gift from her father, Ares. This royal belt became the object of Heracles' ninth labor. Hippolyta was attracted to Heracles and was ready to give him the girdle until Hera, Heracles' nemesis, disguised herself as an Amazon and spread the rumor that the queen had been robbed by him. The Amazons rose to assist their queen and a fight ensued. In the battle, Heracles, believing Hippolyta plotted against him, killed her, took the girdle and left.


In Greek legend, the Amazon queen Lysippe had a son, Tanais, who offended Aphrodite by his scorn of marriage and his devotion to war. In revenge Aphrodite caused him to fall in love with his mother. He was so shamed by this that he flung himself into a river, drowning himself. Lysippe lost her sorrow in work consolidating her queendom, building the city of Themiscyra and raising temples to worship Artemis. It is said she led a force of women that were the first to use cavalry in battle.


One of the great military queens, Marpesia began a victorious campaign at the Black Sea coast of Turkey and soon conquered Thrace and Syria. Then, with Queen Hippo she marched through Ephesus and Cyrene, finally reaching the Aegean Sea. After settling down to rule her empire, she was called back to the battlefield to defend it from the uprising of her subjects and lost her life in the process.


The Amazon queen Omphale was said to have ruled the southern empire of Libya. Omphale bought Heraclesin a sale of slaves and had him weave, spin and card wool as well as many other duties. If he made mistakes she would beat him with a golden sandal. Eventually growing bored with him, Omphale sent Heracles back to his homeland.


Otrere meaning "nimble" was the name given in some tales to the ancestral goddess of the Amazons. It was also a title of distinction bestowed upon women leaders.


Pantariste killed the Greek messenger Tiamides, who was on his way to alert his countrymen about the Amazonian revolt against the Greeks' attempt to steal Queen Hippolyta's belt.


One of the greatest Amazon warriors, Penthesilea led a troop to Troy to fight the Greeks. There she engaged Achilles in single combat that was a close combat but was finally killed. Achilles mourned her death when he tore off her helmet and saw her beauty. Thersites, reputed to be the ugliest Greek at Troy, jeered at Achilles' grief and accused him of unnatural lust, whereupon Achilles killed him. This enraged some of the Greeks and Diomeds, a cousin of Thersites, threw Penthesiliea's corpse into the River Scamander.


The Amazon queen Thalestris visited Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) during one of his Asian campaigns, wishing to have a daughter by such a famous general. She stayed with him for 13 days before returning to her own country. Writing more than 400 years later, Plutarch lists no less than 14 authorities who mention this tale, though nine of them, he says, dismissed it as 'complete fiction', and it was laughed at after Alexander's death by his successor in Thrace, Lysismachus.

I see your love shining out from my furry friends faces, when I look into their eyes. I see you in the flower’s smile, the rainbow, and the wind in the trees....

User avatar
Posts: 1443
Joined: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:24 pm
Location: Inland NW, U.S.
Has thanked: 2338 times
Been thanked: 2779 times

Re: Who really was Medusa, The Gorgons and the Amazon Women

Post by Spiritwind »


KHRYSAOR (or Chrysaor) was a son of the Gorgon Medousa. He was usually represented as giant, but may also have been conceived of as a winged boar, just as his twin brother Pegasos was a winged horse.


CHRYSAOR (Chrusaôr). A son of Poseidon and Medusa, and consequently a brother of Pegasus. When Perseus cut off the head of Medusa, Chrysaor and Pegasus sprang forth from it. Chrysaor became by Callirrhoë the father of the three-headed Geryones and Echidna. (Hesiod, Theog. 280, &c.; Hygin. Fab. Praef. and 151.)

Source: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology.

Hesiod, Theogony 280 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"But when Perseus had cut off the head of Medousa there sprang from her blood great Khrysaor and the horse Pegasos . . . while Khrysaor is named for the golden 'aor', the sword he handles."

Hesiod, Theogony 966 & 979 ff (trans. Evelyn-White) (Greek epic C8th or C7th B.C.) :
"Sing out now the names of those goddesses who went to bed with mortal men and, themselves immortal, bore to these children in the likeness of immortals . . . Kallirhoe, daughter of Okeanos lying in the embraces of stout-hearted Khrysaor through Aphrodite the golden bore him a son, most powerful of all men mortal, Geryones."

Stesichorus, Geryoneis Fragment S10 (trans. Campbell, Vol. Greek Lyric III) (Greek lyric C7th to C6th B.C.) :
"[Menoites tells Geryon to remember his parents :] Your mother Kallirhoe and Khrysaor, dear to Ares."

Stesichorus, Geryoneis Fragment S11 :
"[Geryon] the mighty son of immortal Khrysaor and Kallirhoe."

Stesichorus, Geryoneis Fragment S87 (from Scholiast on Hesiod's Theogony) :
"Geryon is son of Kallirrhoe, daughter of Okeanos, and Khrysaor."

Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 2. 42 (trans. Aldrich) (Greek mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"When he [Perseus] saw Medousa, he beheaded her. As soon as her head was severed there leaped from her body the winged horse Pegasos and Khrysaor, the father of Geryon. The father of these two was Poseidon."

Lycophron, Alexandra 840 ff (trans. Mair) (Greek poet C3rd B.C.) :
"The harvester [Perseus] who delivered of her [Medousa’s] pains in birth of horse [Pegasos] and man [Khrysaor] the stony-eyed weasel whose children sprang from her neck.”

Diodorus Siculus, Library of History 4. 17. 1 (trans. Oldfather) (Greek historian C1st B.C.) :
"The cattle of Geryones, which pastured in the parts of Iberia which slope towards the ocean. And Herakles, realizing that the task called for preparation on a large scale and involved great hardships, gathered a notable armament and a multitude of soldiers as would be adequate for this expedition. For it had been noised abroad throughout all the inhabited world that Khrysaor (Golden-Sword), who received this appellation because of his wealth, was king over the whole of Iberia, and that he had three sons [the three-bodied Geryon] to fight at his side, who excelled in both strength of body and the deeds of courage which they displayed in contests of war; it was known, furthermore, that each of these sons had at his disposal great forces which were recruited from warlike tribes. It was because of these reports that Eurystheus, thinking any expedition against these men would be too difficult to succeed, had assigned the Herakles the Labour just described."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Preface (trans. Grant) (Roman mythographer C2nd A.D.) :
"From Neptune [Poseidon] and Medusa [were born]: Chrysaor and the horse Pegasus. From Chrysaor and Callirhoe [was born]: three-formed Geryon."

Pseudo-Hyginus, Fabulae 151 :
"From Medusa, daughter of Gorgon, and Neptunus [Poseidon], were born Chrysaor and horse Pegasus; from Chrysaor and Callirhoe, three-formed Geryon.”

Ovid, Metamorphoses 4. 786 ff (trans. Melville) (Roman epic C1st B.C. to C1st A.D.) :
"While deep sleep held fast Medusa and her snakes, he [Perseus] severed her head clean from her neck; and from their mother's blood swift-flying Pegasus and his brother [Khrysaor] sprang . . . he [Medousa], it's said, was violated in Minerva's [Athena’s] shrine by the Rector Pelagi (Lord of the Sea) [Poseidon]."

Nonnus, Dionysiaca 31. 13 ff (trans. Rouse) (Greek epic C5th A.D.) :
“As Medousa was slain [by Perseus], the neck was delivered of its twin birth, the Horse [Pegasos] and the Boy [Khrysaor] with the golden sword.”


Just as his brother Pegasos represented the warmth and rains of spring, so Khrysaor may have presided over the warm summer months (of the harvest season). His name khrysaorperhaps referred to the seasonal golden-blades of grain. His wife was the gentle, rain-nymphe Kallirrhoe (the fair flowing).

Khrysaor may have been placed amongst the stars as the Constellation Great Boar (Ursa Major). The Greeks say that the boar constellation was later reassigned, or removed from heaven, probably meaning that the character of Khrysaor was transferred to the Sword of Orion, while Ursa Major became the bear (Kallisto). Khrysaor, unlike most of the other constellations, is specifically described as immortal, meaning it never sets in the Ocean.

Khrysaor remained closely associated in myth with both of the nearby constellations: Orion and Canis Major and Minor. The former was probably his Geryon in one account, and the latter his two-headed dog Orthos. Ursa Major preceded these two in the heavenly procession. An alternative assignment for Orion was Khrysaor's brother, the namesake Orion, a son of Poseidon and the Gorgon Euryale.

In art one sculptural depiction of Khrysaor represents him as a boy beside the foal Pegasos in the arms of their mother Medousa.
There is also a vase painting depicting Khrysaor's son Geryon holding a shield emblazoned with the emblem of a winged boar--a likely representation of Khrysaor considering his boar-tusked, winged mother Medousa and winged-horse brother Pegasos. Pigs were also sacrificed to the earth-goddess Demeter Khrysaoros (of the golden blades) after harvest in autumn to prosper the grain-crop during the new season's planting.

Khrysaor was probably the same as the Erymanthian Boar captured by Herakles as one of his twelve labours.
I see your love shining out from my furry friends faces, when I look into their eyes. I see you in the flower’s smile, the rainbow, and the wind in the trees....

Post Reply

Return to “General discussions”