Shield me as we charge
This is an imagined letter from Medusa to Athena, based on Sandy Salzillo’s mind-blowing idea that perhaps Medusa was dead before she was beheaded, and perhaps she died from seeing her own reflection. Sandy also posited that by using Medusa’s image on her shield after the beheading, perhaps Athena was attempting to unify two pieces of the feminine psyche that had been split. Wow.
What might it feel like to speak from this orientation? And how might I also envision Sandy’s concepts of reflection, projection and complex playing the major parts in Medusa’s story? Finally, I also wanted to try on the idea, as Sandy quoted from Sylvia Brinton Perera, that maybe Athena is an ally, and was symbolically staying in relationship with the protection offered by Medusa - in effect, the dying memory of matriarchal culture.
Dear Goddess Athena,
I forgive you for your part in my murder. Your actions were harsh but generous at the same time. I’ve learned that the most generative aspects of power lie in the tension of opposites, and that the gods are responsible for maintaining that balance. I’ve felt a similar balance between death and rebirth - in order for something new to rise, something old has to be let go, and I was the one cast free. Free? Ha! Yes it may sound strange, but I’ve come to think of it as freedom, for in truth I am not dead. I am in transition, in-process...
After my rape at your temple, you endowed me with the serpent-power to heal and transform. And while I was no longer charmingly beautiful, I became one who could charm with a power so great that I could stop others dead in their tracks. “Behold me and pay the price!” But why did the price have to be so high? Well, I don’t know for sure, but I’ve come to believe that the generative qualities of feminine beauty are more closely aligned with protection than they are with destruction. I’ve also learned that men must look to something other than my flesh if they wish to move closer to me and evolve. But what is that ‘other’? What is the secret to surviving my gaze? Ha! I could not survive it myself!
Thank you for your mercy in supplying Perseus’s shield. When I knew death was imminent, I saw your gifted shield glinting before me, and I knew you were offering me a way to protect my dignity and ease my passage. So I willingly cast my gaze upon myself and allowed myself to die. But once again, your wisdom was beyond my grasp. It’s taken me all this time to come to the realization that it was not my reflection that killed me, after all. Instead, it was the act of receiving the full power of my projections, rooted in fear. And this is what you wanted me to know - when my projections are reflected back to me, they will kill me just as surely as they will kill any man. You also knew that the sword of Perseus would serve the deeper purpose of cutting away the fearful projections that were killing us all.
Until now I’ve felt that power came from anger which was rooted in fear. But now I understand that those roots aren’t strong enough. There’s more to us than that. Our power is god-given and rooted in the feminine divine. And if anger remains our strongest catalyst for change, then we’d best root it in righteousness. Finally, I’m understanding the magnitude of your task - balance must be restored, at any cost.
I can see now that my fate has been easier than yours. While I suffered briefly, you were left with the task of holding down the fort and maintaining order amongst a people filled with bitterness and fear. And although we’ve both suffered the humility of being misunderstood, I was chosen for transformation, and you have had to stand your ground.
I’m honored that you engraved my image on your shield, and hope that others will come to understand this symbolic representation. In doing so you have elevated my death, and for that I remain eternally grateful. I’m also beginning to understand why you needed to save my blood - for in blood there is life and in life there is future. You chose me as a partner for a future yet to be claimed.
I’ve tried to be patient, but now I feel a deep stirring in my soul. Do you agree, dear Goddess, that the time is near? The time to replace an image with an entity? The time to shed the patriarchal constructs of feminine beauty, and release ourselves to embody the feminine divine?
I long for the day when my transformation is complete, and although I don’t yet see what I will become, I know that I will still need you. Please continue to shield me, dear Athena, as we prepare for the charge.
Yours in reflection,