Posts Tagged ‘Euryale’

the gorgons

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Perseus and Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini, (1554). Perseus with the head of Medusa. Details.

Perseus and Medusa by Benvenuto Cellini, (1554). Perseus with the head of Medusa. Details.

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In Greek Mythology, the Gorgons were three monsters, daughters of Echidna and Typhon. Their names were Stheno (“forceful”), Euryale (“far-roaming”), and the most famous of them, Medusa (“ruler”).  Although the first two were immortal, Medusa was not, and she was slain by the demigod and hero Perseus.

It was said that their  appearance would turn anyone who laid eyes upon it to stone. The name “Gorgon”  is Greek, being derived from “gorgos” and translating as “terrible” or “dreadful”.

Hesiod in his “Theogony” imagines the Gorgons as three sea daemons and makes them the daughters of two sea deities.

Homer speaks only of one Gorgon, whose head is represented in “The Iliad”as fixed in the centre of the aegis (meaning a mirrored shield) of Athena, the Greek Goddess of Wisdom,  and whose counterpart was a device on the shield of Agamemnon.

In Homer´s “Odyssey”, the Gorgon is a monster of the underworld into which the earliest Greek deities were cast.

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Roman mosaic from 4th C. BC found in Palencia, in the year 1869 and currently at the National archaeological Museum of Madrid.

Roman mosaic from 4th C. BC found in Palencia, in the year 1869 and currently at the National archaeological Museum of Madrid.

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In most versions of the story, Medusa was killed by Perseus.

According to Ovid (“Metamorphoses”, book IV), the reason for the dispute between Athena and Medusa lay in Poseidon‘s rape of Medusa inside the temple of the virgin goddess.

The goddess of Wisdom was supposed to have punished Medusa by transforming her face, which therefore made Medusa an innocent victim.

As to Perseus, he was  the son of the mortal Danae (the daughter of the King of Argos) and Zeus, the Ruler of Gods.

He would later on become the legendary founder of Mycenae and of the Dynasty of Danaans

Perseus had been sent to  fetch Medusa´s head by King Polydectes of Seriphus because Polydectes wanted to marry his mother.

The gods backed up Perseus. Thus, he received a mirrored shield from Athena, gold, winged sandals from Hermes (the messenger of the Gods), a sword from Hephaestus and Hades´helm of invisibility.

Medusa was the only one of the three Gorgons who was mortal, so Perseus was able to slay her while looking at the reflection from the mirrored shield he received from Athena.

Perseus could safely cut off Medusa’s head without turning to stone, by looking only at her reflection in the shield.

During that time, Medusa was pregnant by Poseidon.

When Perseus beheaded Medusa, Medusa and Poseidon´s sons, Pegasus (a winged horse) and Chrysaor (a golden sword-wielding giant), sprang from her body.

According to other accounts, either Perseus or Athena used the head to turn Atlas into stone, transforming him into the Atlas Mountains  that held up both heaven and earth.

Many elements of the myth suggest, through its basic ambiguity, the tragic nature of Medusa.

One of the most revealing of these is the gift from Athena to Asclepius of two drops of the Gorgon’s blood, one of which has the power to cure and even resurrect, while the other is a deadly poison.

In his study “The Mirror of Medusa” (1983), Tobin Siebers has identified the importance of two elements, i.e. the rivalry between Athena and the Gorgon, and the mirror motif.

As to the mirror motif, common features are numerous. For example, snakes are the attribute of Athena, as illustrated by the famous statue of Phidias. 

With regard to symbolisms and equivalents, it is interesting to highlight that in Ancient Greece a Gorgoneion (a stone head, engraving, or drawing of a Gorgon face), frequently was used as a sacred symbol in the hopes of warding off evil.

These symbols were similar to the sometimes grotesque faces on Chinese soldiers’ shields, also used generally as an amulet. Likewise, in Hindu mythology, Kali is often shown with a protruding tongue and snakes around her head. Medusa is, besides, one of the most archaic mythical figures, perhaps an echo of the demon Humbaba who was decapitated by the babylonian hero, Gilgamesh.

David Leeming in his book: “Medusa: In the Mirror of Time” (2013) traces the development of Medusa from her earliest appearances in Archaic art and poetry to her more recent incarnations. Leeming makes reference to Jean Pierre Vernant several times in his book.

Particularly he mentions Vernant´s  essay “In The Mirror of Medusa” (1985), in which he examines Medusa in the context of archaic Greek religious life.

Leeming second Vernant when he states that Medusa is basically “a mask conveying the Ultimate Other”. They both believe that Medusa represented the death power which “wrenches humans away from their lives”. (“To gaze at the Other, which is the Medusa mask is to lose the Self, to be petrified”).

Robert Graves (“Greek Myths”, 1958) believes that the myth of Perseus preserves the memory of the conflicts which occurred between men and women in the transition from a matriarchal to a patriarchal society. 

In fact, the function of the Gorgon’s mask was to keep men at a safe distance from the sacred ceremonies and mysteries reserved for women, meaning, those which celebrated the Triple Goddess, the Moon.

Graves reminds us that the Orphic poems referred to the full moon as the “Gorgon’s head”. The mask was also worn by young maidens to ward off male lust.

Consequently, according to Robert Graves, the episode of Perseus’ victory over Medusa represents the end of female ascendancy and the taking over of the temples by men, who had become the masters of the divine which Medusa’s head had concealed from them.

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“La Méduse” by Jean Delville. 1893

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►Gallery: “The Gorgons”: 

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“Medusa” by Arnold Böcklin (On the Left: 1878. On the Right: 1897).

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“The Gorgon Medusa”, by Caravaggio. (1590).

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►Links Post:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gorgon
http://www.rwaag.org/medusa
http://bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2014/2014-08-09.html
https://books.google.com.ar/books?id=vQqIWcgAxhIC&redir_esc=y
http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/bogan/medusamyth.htm
https://dearkitty1.wordpress.com/2008/12/25/medusa-inspired-art-on-show/

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  Last but not Least: “Three Awards” 

Thank you very much to bloggers from Time for my Thoughts, Jully´s Blog and Dear Kitty for nominating me for a Blogger Recognition Award, a Creative Blogger Award and a Real Neat Blog Award, respectively.

I will follow these basic rules for these three awards: 

♠Thank the person who nominated you. ♠Add the logo to your post. ♠Nominate ten (10) bloggers of your choice and tell them about the nomination. 

I. Nominees Blogger Recognition Award: 1. Natascha’s Palace 2. Art Box 3. Way Station 4. Book lover circumspect4 5. WolfBerryKnits 6. Cheryl “Cheffie Cooks” Wiser 7. Blabberwockying 8. Ricettedicasamia 9. Missameliaandsir 10. Keep The Hope.

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II. Nominees Creative Blogger Award: 1. Dreamspinner Extraordinaire 2. La Luna Escarlata 3. Spiritual Dragonfly 4. Trees of Transition 5. Stephanie’s Book Reviews 6. Collage a la intemperie 7. Breathe In My Touch 8.Time for my Thoughts 9. Dear Kitty 10. Of Means and Ends.

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III. Nominees Real Neat Blog Award:  1. Joys of Joel 2. Soul Synchronicity 3. Be Different Buddy 4. Ionic Bond Blog 5. El Mejor Viaje del Mundo 6. Nearly Dear 7. Jully´s Blog 8. Diana Douglas 9. All Nine 10. Imperfect Happiness.

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