Friday, 6 September 2013

Medusa: The Snake and the Mask - Research Behind a Painting

Where to start with a painting whose research has taken me into ever complex attitudes, global relevance, and a well weaved web of myth and lie?

Medusa first came to me a few years ago, shortly after I'd had the pleasure of attending a Snake - Kundalini workshop with the lovely Kwali at 3 wishes Faery Festival in Cornwall in 2010.

In this workshop we did some yoga and breath-work, and when we were all prepared, Kwali placed her beloved Snakes upon us. This was the first time I had touched, held or even been particularly close to a snake, but a love affair with them was born that day. Some people were scared and getting over deep phobias and so this experience with these gentle snakes was deeply healing for them. For me, I was amazed by their warmth and presence, such beautiful, strong and sensitive creatures. One of the first snakes I'd held, gently wrapped him/herself around my arm and didn't want to leave! I now have a tattoo of a snake curling around this arm.

I remember I'd had an on going RSI neck complaint,and  at the end of the session a small Boa Constrictor gently curled around my neck, OK, I can hear some of you squealing out there, but it was far from scary; I felt a deep sense of calm, of slowness and peace. These ancient beings slow your hectic human vibration down to a deeper level of calm. The lovely snake stayed there for about 20 minutes, and when I had to leave and give her back, I realised that the constant ache in my neck had gone, and it didn't come back for a good couple of weeks. Snakes can heal on many levels.

The photos below top to bottom are: after Kwali's Snake healing Session at 3 Wishes in 2010, with India the Boa after my Halloween Fire/Bellydance performance in 2012, my snake tattoo curling around my left arm, and dressed as Medusa at the Avalon Faery Ball in 2011.

As a disclaimer before I start these blogs, this is all from preliminary research, which will be continued, I'm more stating ideas and personal feelings, rather than setting down 'facts' about this mysterious Goddess.

Medusa is at a first glance, one of the 'great Monsters' and Gorgon sisters of Greek mythology. Most of us have grown up with films showing us this hideous monstrous woman turning people and animals into stone. (Something to research is the relevance of stone, petrification, and the turning of the life force to stone). So if we are brought up to revile this aspect of Womanhood (as we have been brought up to fear 'Witch' and 'Hag') we are at it's base looking at a part of our rejected psyche when we look at the triple Medusa.

Most Goddesses have triple aspects, which relate to the moon phases, waxing, full and waning, which in hand relate to the 3 aspects of Womanhood, Maiden, Mother and Crone. Three sisters/aspects are a common theme with Goddesses, such as the Morrigan and Hecate to name but two of many.

I always want to question those who history have defined as hideous, monstrous and feared, they were usually the most powerful creatures whom the newer 'patriarchal' society couldn't quite control or contain. The powerful Goddesses of an older age were pretty much buried, disfigured or forgotten by the time we turned BC into AD.

Well we have the first challenge in the name itself. Medusa or the Greek Medousa, stems from 'Guardian', 'Protectress' or to 'Rule Over'. I have read other versions which mean 'to plan' or 'to contrive', which doesn't sound quite as awesome really, like someone said: ''quick we better put less powerful meaning out there for Her!'

Also Medusa is from a pre Greek background, the classical myth does not own Her, although it's done it's best to destroy Her! There are statues of Her in Egypt and Libya, not as a hideous monster, but as a beautiful woman, with dreadlocks -  not Snakes for hair. In Africa she is thought to have derived from a powerful and healing Snake Goddess, who appears to have similarities to the Creator/Destroyer Goddess, Kali. She is also linked to an Amazonian Snake Goddess. More on this another time.

As we've seen, Medusa seemed to be everywhere before her fall from pre-eminent earth/snake goddess to feared monster. Her beauty was great and world renowned, there are even depictions of Her in Europe too, as a gentler blond, fertility goddess! She was seen in calm pastures, surrounded by nature, with a belt of snakes, or snakes coiling on Her limbs. This, apparently, was the initial view the Classical world took of her until the world changed and there seemingly wasn't room for this kind of feminine power in the new world order...

The Greco/Roman myth went on to state that Medusa was' raped by Poseiden on the steps of the temple of Athena' (another long story is that in pre Greek myth it would seem that Athene-Medusa were one and the same... oh the mystery thickens!). So horrified was Athena at this sacrilege that she turned the ravishing beauty that was Medusa into the monster we now know.

So this has good morals doesn't it?  (Groan)

a) If you are raped then, well it's 'obviously' your fault and you deserved to be punished! Seriously disgusting.
b) In a way She was raped, all her power taken from her by the new way of the world, demoted from Goddess to Monster...
c) Medusa was born from a primordial Sea God and Goddess, so what's Poseiden got to prove here?
d)Did I mention Athene and Medusa were meant to linked-  so this is a messed up turn of events!

I believe all the Deities here are powerful and awesome in their own right. The ways stories have been told, in my opinion has twisted their meanings and identities.

So it's easy with Medusa for your (or my!) blood to run high at the pure injustice of it all,  yet another story we've probably all been mistold. However what I have discovered is that She isn't easily beaten or broken, she was around waaaay before the word 'monster' was uttered near Her, and She lives on in our passions, our blood and in our healing. In further Medusa blogs, I'll be sharing my new painting of Her and I'll also on my Witchcraft Diaries blog be looking more into her via a Video if you'd like to see that, let me know.

Thank you for reading and do let me know your thoughts and opinions are.
Many Blessings X


Amy Leigh Strickland said...

I'm glad someone else is bringing up that point in the myth—the point where Athena punishes her for her rape. I've only seen that angle in two other places and in one place I saw the story told as "she wanted it." Athena is a fascinating character in the Greek stories, but what I love most about the Greek Pantheon is that the gods are fallible.

Laura Daligan said...

Thanks Amy, yes I'd like to learn more about Athena. I have more Celtic background, so it's good to learn about all the Pantheons :) I love the stories of the fallible Greek, Scandinavian and Celtic Gods - it's fascinating :)

MJ Wayland said...

Interesting article about Medusa, I have found that many people will not work with her, and yet, very similar to Hekate. Medusa, I've found is a gateway goddess - a protector of doors. She can often be found on very old gravestones and memorials, again I feel this is the link with doorways between this life and the next.

Laura Daligan said...

Thank you MJ, that's really interesting. I also feel a great gateway goddess, and deep earth power. Gravestone - turn to stone.
I would happily, but of course cautiously work with her, when I've meditated and journeyed with her it's been fascinating.

Roman Stenzel said...

I have always understood in a way for every being in myth their is a reflection in life, even if a being in myth has been constantly bashed for being egotistic, blood thirsty or monstrous their is always a better aspect of these which you can find within yourself, an aspect in you're life which you have been unaware of, that has lied dormant waiting to be noticed and embraced or perhaps it's potential has not yet been fully realised, the energies and feelings of mythical beings can act abit like a door way to these aspects of yourself even some of the most seemingly worst mythological beings have better aspects that you may be able to relate to unaware that they have always been apart of you