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Saturday, July 6, 2013

Who is Medusa, Really

In the course of contemplating a childhood discussion I had with a deceased friend, I remember we both wondered about the Classical Greek monster named Medusa. We were curious about her power to turn living creatures to stone. Ancient stories repeat the gaze of the cursed woman projected this lethal assault. We wondered specifically about this gaze.

Neither of us had to say "She has those snakes on her head," but one of us did. I don't recall which.

I am hopeful and I don't think either of us stated something obvious like "Snakes have eyes. If they see you, does Medusa see you? Do they tell her?"

Well-acquainted with mythology and the sciences of nature even at that young age, I'm sure I prattled "Medusa is almost blind. Snakes don't see very well, either. They see with their tongues. They taste you."

One of us replied "
Tasting won't change you stone. She's gotta see you."

It's likely either of us then said "With her human eyes, they're the strongest and they'll see you first unless you get really close. Then the snakes will bite you."

Tim could have said that, he was a smart kid. He read comic books. And he'd tell me about them. Regarding the present subject, Medusa, our young imaginations were sufficiently satisfied. Our discussion ended, perhaps followed by a brief resurrection when he told me Marvel Comics had given the name to a super heroine. I do remember she and Spiderman had a fling outside his web – or inside, if that's how readers dangle their legs.


Now, there is melancholy when I ask only myself "Were those snakes really a part of Medusa, like a finger or her nose? Were they and the cursed woman the same creature?"

A practical mind might instantly conclude "The uglified woman wears a wig. She wears a tame nest of serpents on her head. The goddess Athena made her mortal rival so ugly, a crown of vipers helped the transformed woman appear an imperceptible degree prettier. Sure, the shift was imperceptible, but it was nevertheless a move in a more pleasing direction."

Absent any other rational explanation for the supernatural, a quick application of Occam's Razor does indeed support the supposition Medusa and her snakes were not one and the same. Revived and at the same time, the living and biting crown symbolizes the woman's obtuse vanity. Ugly beyond redemption, she still adorns herself and dares strive toward beauty – she still trespasses Athena's golden fields of honey-drenched hairs. This is another world. Medusa has been justly punished but she has still not learned her lesson – she still provokes wrath from Olympus.

The ghost of Tim says "Athena did that to her."

"What?" I say, astonished I speak with my deceased friend.

He tells me "Athena is a goddess. Her curses transcend human imagination."

All I tell him is "You're dead."

He says to me "I know now, I know the truth."

I try and I stutter "Tell me."

He does.

"Those snakes are larvae. They are vagrant lemure snatched from the underworld. They are seeds of a Roman world. Athena planted them in Medusa's head."

"How deep do they go?" I wonder aloud. "Are they like botflies?"

Tim tells me "Under her her scalp and through her skull."

"They've always looked like they're really fixed in her head," I say and contemplate prints of sketches I've seen in books. I further venture and report "Like a snake stuck in a hole. Have you ever tried pulling one out by the tail? I did, it's impossible – not without tearing it in half."

Tim comments. "Satan tore the legs off the scion when he tried pulling it outside the Garden. There was a hole in the fence. It's still there."

Indescribably disheartened at unfamiliar spiritual and emotional fathoms, I whine. "I have all that to worry about?"

"You'll find that out," Tim reveals.

Selfish and obsessive, he talks about the original topic. "Those snakes feed from the blood vessels in her brain. They starve Medusa with their umbilical fangs. And they grow and writhe inside her head. They squash all the gray matter. The parasites make her crazy. She is mad because those snake live inside her skull."

"who are you?" I ask him. The question is all I have.

"Your muse." Tim gives me that.

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