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You look in my eyes and are not turned to stone.
How can that be—unless
the old stories are not quite true?

Medusa was one of the three Gorgons ("the Terrible Ones"), the daughters of Keto ("Whale," daughter of Gaea and Pontos, the outer sea) and her brother Phorkys (also a sea Deity). She was said to have once been a beautiful maiden, famous for Her lovely hair, who was turned to a hideous monster by the Goddess Athene. Snakes then replaced Her beautiful tresses, and Her gaze was so terrible it would turn men to stone. The hero Perseus killed Her on a dare, decapitating Her and making off with Her head, which he gave to Athene. Thereafter Athene wore it on Her aegis or breastplate that symbolized the storm clouds.

There are many different representations of Medusa, some ugly, some not, and not all showing Her with Her famous snaky hair. Often She has wings, either large bronze ones sprouting from Her back, or a small pair on Her forehead. Sometimes She is shown as an ugly woman, burly and muscular, with large fangs.

Medusa's legends are very tangled with those of Athene, and Medusa may originally have been Her sexual and destructive aspect. Some legends say Medusa was given Her fearsome aspect by Athene as punishment for winning a beauty contest against Her; or that the punishment was given because the sea God Poseidon had sex with Medusa in Athene's temple. Poseidon was sometimes said to have been Athene's father, from Whom She got Her blue eyes, and They were long rivals, as can be seen in Their competition for patronage of Athens.

It is said that Perseus was guided by Athene's hand as he killed Medusa, or even that Athene Herself slew Medusa as She slept. When Medusa's blood fell to the earth, the hero Khrysaor and the winged horse Pegasos were born, for Medusa had been pregnant from Her encounter with Poseidon. Her blood was then taken by Athene who gave it to Asklepios, or in some stories, Erikhthonios (the half-serpent, half-human Who was claimed as ancestor by the early Athenians; the Erechtheum, a temple shared by Athene and Poseidon on the Akropolis, is named for Erechtheus, his adopted grandson), who used it to kill or cure.

In these legends, Medusa shares many symbols with Athene and with Poseidon. Athene, as a sky Goddess, is associated with birds, especially the wise owl; and She also is linked to the chthonic serpent, as seen in links to Erekhtheus and Erikhthonios (who were often confused) and in the snakes that fringe Her aegis. An epithet of Athena, Sthenia, meaning "strong," shares its root meaning with the name of one of Medusa's Gorgon sisters, Sthenno. Likewise Poseidon was said to have seduced Medusa in the guise of either a bird or a horse, and Medusa's parents were both sea Deities.

Drawing this card in a reading indicates old tales, and intuiting out the truth behind them. Paying attention to dreams, and exploring the deep meanings behind them will help to shed light on a current situation that has its roots in the past.

Alternate spellings: Medousa

This design is available on prints through ArtPal.


Ch'ang O