Bronze medallion of Athena Promachos, wearing a helmet in
the form of Medusa's head and the aegis over her left shoulder.
A decoration from a formal chariot used for parades. Possibly
from a workshop in Delos, 2nd century BC.
Thessaloniki Archaeological Museum.
More about this figure below
Andromeda, by Perseus sav'd and wed,
Hanker'd each day to see the Gorgon's head:
Till o'er a fount he held it, bade her lean,
That death she liv'd by.
Let not thine eyes know
Any forbidden thing itself, although
It once should save as well as kill: but be
Its shadow upon life enough for thee.~DGRossetti's poem.
Which means, in the neo-platonic-speak of depth psychology:
The Medusa, one of three sisters originally, beautiful, a priestess in the Temple of Athena; that is, a beautiful mortal in the sacred sphere (a temple being the eye of the polis) of Wisdom. And Beauty is the direct apprehension of the Good, the pure Being of the stillpoint (the exact center of a sphere, which is unmoved even as the whole turns); an aspect, or rather a reflection of the perfect, the divine, the One: Things that can "exist" only outside of time. Things Eternal, timeless as in without time -- and thus, dangerous to look at directly... Not something that can belong to the (time-bound) mortal. So of course the earth shaker comes to shake things up: Poseidon, a god who goes back before Homer. And he rapes the priestess right there in the temple. And the goddess of Wisdom punishes her for it. Was it her fault, being a carrier of things outside of time? She, a virgin priestess, servant of that wisdom? No, not her fault any more than it is ours to be vessels of consciousness who apprehend the immortal, a thing we cannot have (which in platonic-speak summons eros: desire, mover of "the sun and all the stars"). Medusa suffers the loss of her beauty as we must suffer death. She becomes a creature no mortal can look upon -- the mysteries as they truly are: eternal, belonging outside of time. To violate this is to be an abomination (calling down destruction, see similar fate in Actaeon Surprising Diana), and that is her face with the snakes for hair, snakes that crawl in and out of darkness, writhing and unnatural in the world of time and space, one end in the light and the other in the dark unconscious. Yet -- snakes also are healers, sacred to Asclepius.
She, Medusa, a symbol, terror itself, and creature of our most profound pity. She, our own self, each of us, forced to live with the knowledge that we will suffer death. And so Perseus comes as a resolution. Again, he is each of us, taught and armed by the psychopomp Hermes, slicing off Medusa's head (think chakras) without directly looking at her (fearless!), precipitating the higher birth of Pegasus -- imagination. Pegasus who soars, tended by muses, pawing the earth and setting the deep springs to flow: art itself. Pegasus, winged horse, beloved, an eros who moved it all from the beginning
|Edward Burne-Jones (Edward Burne Jones) (1833-1898)||The Perseus Series: The Death of Medusa I|
reaching back beyond all this, see http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/classes/finALp.html , http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/bmcr/2007/2007-04-61.html
See also Chrysaor, Geryon, Edinger, Eros
Myths persist, change and grow: e.g., Alchemy, 1617
For Pallas is Sophia or Wisdom, who carries health in her right hand and riches in her left, providing at the same time both for man's ease and plenty. To Her Perseus brought the head of Medusa which turned all thinges into Stone, and was horrid in its appearance with serpents and vipers instead of Hairs; which she afterwards placed in her shield to use it against her Enemyes, that is to say Rude and Barbarous people who are therefore to be turned into Stones. And in truth Wisdom or Naturall Philosophye renders its incredulous and envious condemners quite stupid and void of sense and understanding by the means of that same thinge, from whence Chrysaor was borne who was the father of Geryon who had three bodyes. That is by the means of the Lapiditick Gorgonian blood, which is nothing else but the Tincture of the Philosophick Stone. ~ Atalantafugiens, emblem 23