But is she really who we think she is? I love archetypes; they just pop up in my imagination from time to time and stay with me as some sort of beacon or reminder. Medusa emerged in my dreaming about 18 months ago, around the time I was getting ready to make big changes in my life. It’s no coincidence to me that’s she came at this time, as I was feeling a bit snaky and maybe just a little capable of a death stare.
For me Medusa aligns to the Sorceress phase of a woman’s life, a time towards the end of menopause. Remember menopause is a long time – 15 years in total, so there’s plenty of time to get to know her. This is the final phase of the power years; the fire burning bright in it’s last transformation.
In myth Medusa was the granddaughter of the earth (Gaia) and the ocean (Oceanus), a beautiful mortal Gorgon maiden sworn to celibacy to fulfill her duties as an attendant to Athena. But she forsook her vows to consummate the reciprocated love of Poseidon – God of the Sea. Her punishment for this transgression was to be transformed into a snake haired, ugly monster turning to stone those who looked upon her. Her destiny thereafter was to wander, homeless and loveless until Perseus, another of the Greek heroes, ended her life by cutting off her head, which he then used to protect himself and others from harm and treachery.
Medusa is by any measure a terrible form of the feminine. Unlovely: scorned: suffering for love. And yet in the end she becomes the protectress, triumphing in death, as she never could in life. I was delighted to discover Medusa recently in my travels through Greece and Turkey and was surprised to find her always in her place as the protectress, adorning doorways and pathways. But most magically of all she lives under the great city of Istanbul, deep in the underground cisterns, supporting one of the mighty pillars.
On returning from Turkey I began a project of painting the thirteen archetypes of woman and started with Medusa. For me painting is a meditation, an immersion into the essence of the archetypes or form I am attempting to render. Rather than aim for likeness I seek out the feeling of face and let it speak to me. My time with Medusa was undertaken at a challenging time for other external reasons and so many times I wanted to abandon her. She began as the beautiful maiden and slowly revealed her shadow, the darker side we are more familiar with.
Resolution of the shadow, bringing those aspects of self we deny into the light is the work of becoming whole. The shadow, according to Jung, is the unfinished business of repressed behaviour. Those dirty little secrets underneath the face of pleasantness or spirituality or any other pedestal we allow ourselves to be put on. Shadow is personal and collective. In these troubling times we live in I see plenty of shadow coming to light. It is hard to look at, difficult to understand and the hardest of all; to accept. But in the end it makes us whole and healed.
oms to all.