Greek mythology describes Medusa as the daughter of Phorkys and Keto, the children of Gaia (Earth) and Okeanos (Ocean). She was one of the three sisters known as the Gorgons. Medusa was the only mortal out of the three; momma always liked the immortals best. Medusa was very beautiful and lived far in the north were the sun doesn’t shine.
Being a curious archetype, she wanted to see the sun, and asked the Goddess Athena for permission to go south. Athena refused to allow the trip and Medusa who had already packed the sun screen and had a bikini wax was angry. Medusa accused the goddess of being jealous of her beauty. That was it!!! Athena was angered and punished Medusa by turning her best feature, her rich thick hair into snakes and cursing her by making her so ugly that any one who looked into her eyes would turn into stone. Some deities you just don’t mess with, but a mop of unruly snake hair is a punishment beyond the Geneva Convention.
Medusa translates to sovereign female wisdom, which suggests she was more than a spoiled girl with a snappy comeback. There seems to be a political message here about going against power unprepared. She actually has a more complex and deeper mythology. Historically Medusa had been an archetype for the nasty mother and female mysteries. She represents the cycles of nature and life as the guardian of the threshold and the area between heaven – earth – underworld. She is destroyed in order to create balance and purity. Medusa is the ultimate truth and wholeness. Snakes coil around her arms, legs and are entwined in her hair. They don’t just hiss, but often are shown whispering into her ear. The serpent is a totem of the cycles of life, death and rebirth and the seasons. It is the connection to the fertile earth and to the underworld.
Turning men to stone is a particular talent that would reference of looking to the mystery of women and their unknown powers, scary business. I’ve seen my sister turn a few to stone, but rum was also involved.
Perseus was sent to retrieve the head of Medusa. This is a task that takes the utmost male courage and one of those snake handling sticks. On the way to her place he notices several stone statues, possibly more clues he may need help. He came upon the sleeping Gorgon sisters, and Athena still a little miffed over the beauty wise crack held her shield to work as a mirror. This made it possible for Perseus to cut and run, with a very unwieldy trophy. Athena made Medusa’s hell on earth possible, as well as her hasty dispatch to Hades. The defeat and besmirchment of the older mother goddess, as well as her replacement with a new modern hunter type, sounds like a new HBO series.