Tritonis: Commemorative Medusa Stamp
9"x11" completed in 27 hours, 15 minutes. Hand embroidered, original design. (It looks a bit wonky because the fabric isn't taut.)
Okay, let's get to it!
This is a commission piece that I did as part of my Myth and Monster series. I almost want to call it "Aftermath" because it depicts the what happened to Medusa and Cetus after their attacks. If you read my previous piece on Arachne and classical hubris, you know I have a bone to pick with Athena. Well, Medusa is one of the best examples of what a bitch Athena is.
My favorite version of events is Medusa was raped, ("outraged", Ha!) in Athena's temple by Poseidon. Athena was soooo pissed that her temple was desecrated, she punished Medusa by turning her into a monster with snakes for hair, claws and fangs. And of course, her monstrous gaze could turn people into stone. Nice work, Athena. Poseidon gets off scott free.
Enter Perseus, involved in a convoluted fake out, worthy of a daytime soap. King Polydeces falls in love with Perseus's mother, Danaë. Mom and son aren't interested in any of that business, so clever Polydeces says, "Just kidding! I'm going to mary Hippodamia!"
Perseus breathes a sigh of relief and says, "That's great news! I'll bring you what ever you like as a wedding present!" King Polydeces demands Medusa's head, hoping the task will kill Perseus, allowing him to resume bulling his mom into marriage. (Interesting side note, Polydeces was the brother of the man that raised Perseus.)
Of course, Athena can't wait to help Perseus lop off Medusa's head, and she, Hermes and Hades equip Perseus with the tools he'll need to kill Medusa. Athena then leads him to the Graeae, (who are also Medusa's sisters) and he tricks them into giving him directions to the Gorgon's cave by stealing their eye and tooth that the three of them share. (In a total dick move, he throws their eye and tooth into Lake Tritonis.)
Perseus finds the Gorgon sisters, Stheno, Euryale and Medusa sleeping on the shore of Lake Tritonis and he lops off Medusa's head. From her neck springs her children Pegasus and Chrysaor (fathered by Poseidon). He mounts Pegasus, happens to fly past the princess Andromeda who is chained to a rock about to be sacrificed to Cetus the sea monster, (the Gorgon's and the Graeae's mother). He kills Cetus and saves Andromeda. (Cetus becomes a constellation, thanks to Poseidon.) Then he returns to Polydeces and turns him to stone with the head. Athena takes the head and places it on her Aegis, turning it into the first Gorgoneion. Bellerophon later uses Pegasus to kill the Chimera, who is also related to Pegasus (cousin) and Medusa (niece), by way of being Ceuts' granddaughter.
PHEW! What does all this mean? Athena is such a bitch. Why is she all up on Medusa and her kin? In this story we see Medusa's entire family bitch slapped by Athena through her henchman, Perseus. Medusa's mother, sisters, and children are all completely dominated and destroyed in this story. Why? Why is Medusa such a threat to Athena?
If you read the previous post about Arachne, you'll remember the bits about the chthonic cults being challenged by the newer cults, and we see that here, but we also see the theme of the triple Goddess being overtaken by a single deity. It's interesting to note that Metis, Athena's mother is sometimes depicted as a triple goddess as well.
I also find this intriguing because when Athena decided to stomp all over Medusa, she actually made Medusa far more threatening than if she had left well enough alone. First by turning her into a monster, and then by turning her head into a Gorgoneion/Weapon. In attempting to destroy her, she actually infinitely increased Medusa's power.
Incidentally, the Gorgonion is almost the most interesting part of the story. There is evidence of it being used as a warning/protection as masks in mystery cults, in order to frighten the uninitiated and prevent them from studying divine secrets, as well as being painted on thresholds in order to frighten intruders. Graves even states that it was painted on Greek baker's ovens in order to discourage people from peeking in the oven and ruining the baking bread.
I could go on and on about this, Medusa's magic blood that raises the dead, her role as a Libyan triple Goddess, the rise of patriarchal society and cults and Athena's Uncle Tom-ish role in ushering that in... but I've droned on long enough, and I consider myself lucky if you're still reading.
I just think this whole story is fascinating because we can see similar stories being repeated over and over, ad nauseum. New powers will almost always engage in similar shenanigans in order to usurp the former power. You see it in politics, in the work place, in relationships... people tend to attempt to damage and discredit the people they're threatened by in order to assert themselves. They demonize, punish, slander and sometimes injure that person and anyone connected to them in order to dominate.
So, what I have illustrated is Medusa after the rape, Cetus after being killed, and the head after becoming the Gorgonion. And of course, This piece will eventually be turned into a pillow sham, literally transforming the embroidery into a bedtime story, enhancing it's nightmarish qualities.