Medusa – Blame The Victim

Over the years Medusa became a sign of monstrous evil, but her backstory is far different. According to the main variation of her tale.
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If you’ve scrolled on your FYP in the last few months, you might have seen ambiguous TikTok videos that reference the meaning of the Medusa tattoo.

These videos are racking up hundreds of thousands of views, as many hint towards a deeper meaning. A lot of people didn’t realize the meaning of the Gorgon tattoo. If you do, we are so sorry you went through this too. You are so strong.

Most will know Medusa for her head of snakes instead of hair and the power to turn anyone who looks at her into stone. Many will also be familiar with her most famous tale from the Greek mythology being beheaded by Perseus who used Athena’s personal shield to protect his eyes from Medusa’s power.

Over the years Medusa became a sign of monstrous evil, but her backstory is far different. According to the main variation of her tale.

Medusa's repression graffiti in a European subway
Medusa’s repression graffiti in a European subway

The true story of Medusa

Somewhere in Greece, a cursed creature remained hidden. Among all the monsters who inhabited the nightmares of the Hellenic, this was undoubtedly one of the most feared. Many brave heroes dared to hunt this creature, but none ever returned.

They said that this creature was so hideous that no one could face it Her name was Medusa.

Medusa was not always like that. She once had been one of the most beautiful women ever to walk the earth. She was born of the union of two primordial sea deities, Phorcys and Ceto. But Medusa came into the world as an average child.

Medusa had two sisters, Stheno and Euryale. They were Gorgons creatures that combined women and serpent traits.

Her devotion to Athena

Since childhood, Medusa was devoted to the goddess Athena, and when playing with her sisters, she always pretended to be the goddess Athena, while her sisters love to be the villains.

Together with the girls, she also played with Iphicles, who is Medusa’s best friend. The two were inseparable. Medusa grew and became more beautiful every day.

Medusa’s charms made the young Iphicles an easy target for Eros, the god of love. In love, Iphicles declared his affection for Medusa. The young lady deeply loved the boy, but she dreamed of becoming a priestess of Athena and could not cave into the temptation of love.

When she reached the appropriate age, the young woman started her preparation to become an Athena priestess. The temple’s apprentices needed to have pristine conduct and discipline. All their acts could be reflected in the goddess’s reputation.

One of the crucial requirements for becoming a priestess of Athena was absolute purity. They were to mirror themselves in Athena; therefore, the young women should remain virgins just like their goddess who never surrendered to the influence of Eros (God of Love) and Aphrodite (Goddess of Love and Beauty).

Medusa became a perfect priestess; Maybe even too perfect. The rituals conducted by Medusa kept attracting more followers. Athena was delighted with how that beautiful young woman performed each of her activities.

Medusa had beautiful fluttering hair, with her movements mesmerizing those who stared at her. A gullible man dared to say that Medusa’s hair was more beautiful than Athena’s. The goddess, from the top of Mount Olympus, noticed a commotion in one of her temples. She realized that many were not there to worship her, but rather to see the charming priestess.

Athena resisted the temptation to do anything against those who shifted their focus from her to Medusa. The goddess knew that, although this was wrong, the young priestess was not to blame. After all, she was only doing her work in the best way she could.

Poseidon’s sick plot

Meanwhile, at Mount Olympus, Poseidon noticed the goddess’s restlessness. The sea god and Athena had a major rivalry. They disputed the right to be the city’s patron god, the Attica region’s capital. The goddess was the winner of this dispute, and in honor of her new protective goddess, the city changed its name to Athens.

Poseidon did not accept defeat well, so he was waiting for the right moment to take revenge on the goddess. Poseidon noticed that Athena was focused on her most beautiful and gracious priestess. He decided that this beautiful young woman could be an instrument of his revenge.

Poseidon plotted to tarnish Athena’s reputation by striking her most unblemished follower. In the meantime, Medusa kept carrying her everyday life, unaware that the Olympic gods were watching her.

Medusa walked by the sea and lurking, concealed among the waves, the god of the Seas followed her. She heard someone say her name; the call came from the ocean. Poseidon emerged from the sea in all his paramount glory. The god used his charm to seduce Athena’s priestess but Medusa, although, stunned by all his splendor, did not forget her vows and rejected Poseidon’s advance.

He did not accept the rejection and grabbed Medusa’s arm. She reacted unexpectedly and violently hitting him in the face, managed to get rid of the god.

Medusa ran to Athena’s temple, the only place where she felt safe, but Poseidon consumed by lust went after the young woman. Poseidon was almost reaching her when the brave Iphicles stood between the god of sea and Medusa.

Despite his bravery, Iphicles represented no obstacle to the god who with one blow through the young man away. Medusa stepped inside the temple of her goddess and knelt before her statue. She asked for protection when she heard the god of the Seas heavy footsteps approaching.

The god approached the encircled young woman who cried out for help. Poseidon possessed her on the goddess altar by force in order words, Poseidon assaulted Medusa.

The god happily left the temple. His revenge had gone better than planned. Besides having corrupted Athena’s best priestess, he also degraded her beloved temple, which the goddess deeply treasured for its purity.

Athena’s reaction

Medusa felt ashamed and filthy when the goddess Athena took the form of her statue and furiously blamed the priestess.

Medusa's head flat drawing

“If it had not been for her striking presence, which diverted men from the path of virtue and purity and for her vanity which made her irresistible, none of that would have happened. Her temple would have remained immaculate, and her honor as a goddess would not have been diminished.”

Athena – The Greek Goddess of Wisdom and Strategic Warfare

Athena decided to punish the priestess, who is now impure and guilty for the dishonoring of the temple she was to care for.

The night arrived, and Iphicles regained consciousness, after the decisive blow he suffered. He then began to search for Medusa. He heard her cry in the temple of Athena. Arriving there, he encountered Medusa sitting on the ground crying in pitch-black darkness. She asked him not to come near because she did not want to be seen like that.

Concerned, her friend nevertheless approached, offering words of comfort. But when he touched the young woman’s shoulder, a serpent bit his hand. Medusa frighteningly turned, and the two youngsters looked at each other.

The young Iphicles became a stone-made statue. In desolation, Medusa wept, embracing the statue of her best friend. Not to hurt anyone else, she ran away. But during her escape, she was cited by some residents of the city. Those who looked into her eyes became petrified.

People told each other about that horrible snake-haired creature.

A group was assembled to hunt the creature. These men were found two days later wholly petrified and with terrified semblances. Medusa had no intention of hurting anyone; she simply wanted to defend herself from unfair aggression.

She decided to hide in a region that its inhabitants had abandoned for centuries. There she found an ancient temple in ruins, which she turned into her hiding spots. Many warriors attempted to capture the Gorgon for glory, but none ever returned.

Isolated, Medusa kept losing her remaining humanity. Her reputation as a terrible monster became legendary. Medusa survived by hunting small animals and rodents. One of her prey led to an unexpected reunion. Medusa encountered an ancient bust, which represented the goddess Athena. She realized that those ruins had once been one of the first temples to give shelter to the goddess.

Athena’s regret and shame

A statue of Athena holding her shield to her side with Medusa's head fixed on it in the middle as a symbol of regret
A statue of Athena holding her shield to her side with Medusa’s head fixed on it in the middle as a symbol of regret

This discovery revived her ancient habits. Medusa started to care for the temple and to exalt the glory of the goddess the dilettante daughter of Zeus, the supreme God of Olympus.

However, living a miserable existence, the young woman still showed her nobility. In her heavenly residence, the goddess did not fail to notice the Honorable acts of her former priestess. She realized that her actions could not be justified by vanity, since no one could witness those acts, and she felt sorry for having enforced such a cruel and irreversible punishment on the girl.

Perseus the killer

While conducting one of her many rituals, Medusa heard the steps of another invader. Medusa’s animalistic side re-emerged, and she prepared to face another opponent. The daring warrior walked cautiously in the creature’s abode.

While she prepared the ambush, sneaking close to the warrior, she was stunned when noticing that he was carrying Athena’s shield. The sacred aegis that at once belonged to Zeus.

Athena’s shield was so polished that it reflected like a mirror, and using the reflection, the warrior realized that the monster was behind him. With a sharp blow, the young warrior severed Medusa’s head from her body.

Medusa was dead, and her blood kept dripping to the ground. The warrior anonymous until that point would go down in history under the name of Perseus.

After completing his labors, Perseus returned Athena her aegis and also gave her Medusa’s head. What few knew was that Medusa carried Poseidon’s divine seed and from her blood, Chrysaor was born — the warrior of the golden sword.

Not only that, another beautiful creature, a winged horse also emerged. The majestic Pegasus was the purest of all creatures, embodying all the original purity that had been stolen from his mother.

points of conflict in the story versions

Many believed that the help Athena provided to Perseus when she handed him her precious shield, was another act of retaliation against Medusa. Actually, she only wished to free the young girl from that dreadful existence, which had been unjustly imposed upon her.

Athena glorified Medusa by adding the Gorgons head to her shield. The image of the loyal priestess was now internalized beside the goddess she loved so much.

The story of Perseus and Medusa is perhaps one of the most well-known stories in the entirety of Greek mythology, and it’s definitely one that elicits a very strong emotional reaction.

Whenever I discuss either Medusa or Athena, I always see the exact same question with people, “Why would Athena help Medusa, but then help Perseus kill her?”

This, of course, refers back to the role that Athena played in Medusa’s transformation. Specifically, the version where Athena turned Medusa into a Gorgon as a means of protection. Athena then helping Perseus kill Medusa doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to a lot of people. Because “Why give someone the means to protect themselves, if you’re just going to kill them anyway?”

In the widely believed variation, the power put onto Medusa was a curse from Athena, who was furious at the tainting of her sacred temple. Other iterations of the myth however recognize it as a blessing, a way for Medusa to protect herself after being assaulted by Poseidon.

Conclusion

According to The Met Museum, Medusa is portrayed in most Greek art as an “apotropaic symbol used to protect and ward off the negative,” representing a “dangerous threat meant to deter other dangerous threats, an image of evil to repel evil.”

In modern tales of Gorgon though, Medusa is a symbol of female rage. She was even used in feminist theorist Hélène Cixous’s 1975 manifesto The Laugh of the Medusa.

Similarly, the tattoos reference Medusa as a victim rather than a villain. She is seen as a symbol of power after sexual assault and combatting the culture of victim-blaming as a woman made into a monster for her own rape.

know you know why a lot of people have this tattoo, because once they were victims and now they are survivals so they have experience in dealing with these types of assault. So it is a empowering and assuring sign that if you are facing something like this reach me I can and will help. A sign of a safe zone.

A final word here at hertones we will be always available for you if you want to talk about any bad experiences you had to face we will support you and will do our best in connecting you with the prober authority and health professionals. Just reach out to us whenever you need support.

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