What Is The Meaning Behind A Medusa Tattoo?
If you’ve scrolled on your FYP in the last few months, you might have seen ambiguous TikToks that reference the meaning of the Medusa tattoo. “A lot of people didn’t realize the meaning of a Medusa tattoo. If you do, I am so sorry you went through this too.
You are so strong,” said TikTok user @r. bree. xo, showing her inking of the Gorgon. Videos of people showing their Medusa tattoos on the app are racking up hundreds of thousands of views, as many hint towards a deeper meaning.
Most will know Medusa for her head of snakes instead of hair and the power to turn anyone who looks at her into stone. Many will also be familiar with her most famous tale from mythology—being beheaded by Perseus. After severing her head using a bronze shield to protect his eyes, Perseus used Medusa’s head to defeat his enemies in battle.
- Medusa became a sign of monstrous evil, but her backstory is far different;
- According to the main variation of her tale, Medusa was once a beautiful young woman;
- It was that beauty that caught the attention of sea god Poseidon, who is said to have raped her in Athena’s sacred temple;
Athena in response turned Medusa into the figure we recognize, with her snake curls and deathly stare. In the widely believed variation, the power put onto Medusa was a curse from Athena, who was furious at the tainting of her sacred temple. Other iterations of the myth however recognize it as a blessing, a way for Medusa to protect herself after being assaulted by Poseidon.
According to The Met Museum, Medusa is portrayed in most Greek art as an “apotropaic symbol used to protect and ward off the negative,” representing a “dangerous threat meant to deter other dangerous threats, an image of evil to repel evil.
What does a Medusa tattoo symbolize?
” In modern tales of Gorgon though, she is a symbol of female rage. She was even used in feminist theorist Hélène Cixous’s 1975 manifesto The Laugh of the Medusa. Similarly, the TikTok tattoos reference Medusa as a victim rather than a villain. She is seen as a symbol of power after sexual assault and combatting the culture of victim-blaming as a woman made into a monster for her own rape. Stock image of a Medusa head. Videos of people showing their Medusa tattoos on TikTok are racking up hundreds of thousands of views. Getty Images UPDATE 01/18/22 6:54 a. ET: This article was updated to include new videos and picture and to modify the headline..
What does the Medusa symbol mean?
Medusa Facts – 1- Who were Medusa’s parents? Medusa’s parents were Phorcys and Keto, but sometimes identified as Forcis and Gaia. 2- Who were Medusa’s siblings? Stheno and Euryale (the other two Gorgon sisters) 3- How many children did Medusa have? Medusa had two children called Pegasus and Chrysaor 4- Who was the father of Medusa’s children? Poseidon, the god of the seas.
She became pregnant when he raped her in Athena’s temple. 5- Who killed Medusa? Perseus the eventual founder of Mycenae and the Perseid dynasty. 6- What does Medusa symbolize? Medusa’s symbolism is open to interpretation.
Some popular theories include Medusa as a symbol of the powerlessness of women, evil, strength and a fighting spirit. She is also seen as a protective symbol due to her ability to destroy those against her. 7- What are Medusa’s symbols? Medusa’s symbols are her head of snakes and her deathly stare.
8- Why has Medusa’s head been depicted on logos and coins? Medusa represent power and the ability to destroy one’s enemies. She’s often viewed as a strong figure. Her head is viewed as a protective symbol and was even used by the French Revolution as a symbol of French liberation and freedom.
9- Did Medusa have wings? Some depictions show Medusa as having wings. Others show her as being very beautiful. There is no consistent depiction of Medusa, and her portrayal varies. 10- Was Medusa a goddess? No, she was a Gorgon, one of three hideous sisters.
Is a Medusa tattoo disrespectful?
There should be nothing offensive about getting a Medusa tattoo. She is a female monster from Ancient Greek mythology but is also seen as a victim. It is believed that she was cursed by the goddess Athena and that anyone who met her gaze turned to stone. She met her end when Perseus beheaded her.
What is the message behind Medusa?
Medusa is an instantly recognizable figure from ancient Greek art. Her face, whether fierce and grotesque or feminine and composed, appears in virtually all media in varying contexts. The most common interpretation of Medusa suggests she is an apotropaic symbol used to protect from and ward off the negative, much like the modern evil eye.
- She represents a dangerous threat meant to deter other dangerous threats, an image of evil to repel evil;
- A close look at her role in Greek mythology and art reveals a nuanced and complex character with multiple iterations and implications;
Medusa is best known for having hair made of snakes and for her ability to turn anyone she looked at to stone, literally to petrify. Multiple works by ancient sources, such as Homer, the eighth-century B. poet Hesiod, and the fifth-century B. lyric poet Pindar, provide a wide-ranging and diverse picture of the fabled creature.
According to Hesiod’s Theogony , she was one of three Gorgon sisters born to Keto and Phorkys, primordial sea gods; Medusa was mortal, while the others, Stheno and Euryale, were immortal. The best known myth recounts her fateful encounter with the Greek hero Perseus.
A dishonorable king demanded that he bring him an impossible gift: the head of Medusa. Perseus set out with the aid of the gods, who provided him with divine tools. While the Gorgons slept, the hero attacked, using Athena’s polished shield to view the reflection of Medusa’s awful face and avoid her petrifying gaze while he beheaded her with a harpe , an adamantine sword.
Such a violent act resulted in the birth of Medusa’s children, the winged horse Pegasos and the giant Chrysaor, who sprung from her neck. The two immortal sisters pursued Perseus with fury, but the hero escaped with his prize using Hermes’ winged boots and Hades’ helmet of invisibility.
Not even death, however, could quell Medusa’s power, and Perseus had to keep her decapitated head in a special sack strong enough to contain it, called a kybisis. On his travels, he used the head to turn his enemies to stone and rescue the princess Andromeda from a sea monster ( 20.
192. 16 ), before giving it to Athena for her aegis ( 34. 11. 7 ). Pindar’s Twelfth Pythian Ode recounts how Stheno and Euryale’s angry pursuit of their sister’s killer resulted in another chapter of the Medusa myth.
After hearing their anguished and furious cries, Athena was inspired to invent the flute to mimic them. When the goddess played the flute, however, she discarded it after seeing her reflection; her face distended and became ugly as she played ( 24. 97. 28 ).
While she purposefully and successfully mimicked the wails of the Gorgons, she also unwittingly imitated their wide and dreadful features. The snake-haired Medusa does not become widespread until the first century B.
The Roman author Ovid describes the mortal Medusa as a beautiful maiden seduced by Poseidon in a temple of Athena. Such a sacrilege attracted the goddess’ wrath, and she punished Medusa by turning her hair to snakes. While these stories sound fantastical today, to the ancient Greeks they were quasi-historical.
Myths, as well as the stories recorded by Homer and Hesiod, were considered part of a lost heroic past when men and women interacted with heroes, gods, and the supernatural. Tales from this period were repeated in every medium; the evidence from Greece presents a world saturated with heroes and monsters in poetry, prose, and art.
As such, Medusa was not just a fantastical beast, but part of a shared past and present in the minds of ancient viewers. She signified a historical menace—the story of Perseus vanquishing and harnessing her energy was not just a story, but a chapter in the shared allegorical and historical record of the Greeks.
Just as Medusa exists in multiple types of stories in the mythological record, she is also portrayed in multiple ways in ancient art. Her appearance changes drastically through the centuries, but she is always recognizable due to her striking frontality.
It is rare in Greek art for a figure to face directly out, but in almost all representations of Medusa, despite style and medium, she stares ahead and uncompromisingly confronts the viewer. The term gorgoneion refers to the head and face of Medusa, which was used often as a decorative motif.
It is a prolific symbol of her particular power that appears in architecture , vase painting , and metalwork. The gorgoneion was a pervasive image in temple decoration of the Archaic period (ca. 700–480 B.
Perhaps the largest example comes from Temple C (built ca. 540 B. ) at Selinunte in southwestern Sicily—two monumental gorgoneia, one on the east and one on the west, dominated the pediments of the temple. Medusa’s visage was also used to decorate smaller architectural elements.
- In Sicily, southern Italy, and mainland Greece, temples were decorated with numerous antefixes (ornamental terracotta roof tile covers) that bore gorgoneia ( 27;
- 14 ), a phenomenon especially prevalent during the Archaic period;
During this time, Medusa is depicted as a monster; she has a round face, wide eyes, a beard, and a gaping mouth with an extended tongue and gnashing, sharp teeth ( 39. 11. 9 ). Medusa remains a popular image on later architectural components, but her form is more specifically human and female.
- She loses the frightful teeth and beard, but is still recognizable ( 20;
- 215 ) in Classical and Hellenistic examples with her wild hair and confrontational look ( 98;
- 30 );
- Greek vases, cups, and related terracotta objects sometimes included a decorative gorgoneion as well;
In some cases it was painted at the bottom of a drinking vessel ( 14. 136 ) and served to surprise the drinker as he emptied his cup. Pieces from the seventh and sixth centuries B. are decorated with monstrous gorgoneia that can take up the entire surface ( 31.
- 4 ), similar to those on contemporary antefixes;
- The circular shape of many of these ceramics offers a particularly appropriate space to depict the rotund face of the Archaic Gorgon; it is outrageous, with oversized features that combine the feminine (curled hair and earrings) with the masculine (beard);
The trend of using Medusa’s face to decorate ceramics continued into the Hellenistic period (ca. 323–31 B. She is present as the central decoration on many vases ( 06. 1021. 246a,b ), as well as a repetitive ornamental motif. Just as in architecture , these late fourth- and third-century B.
Gorgons evolve from the grotesque to the feminine but retain their specific frontal quality. The fifth century B. saw the emergence of a new artistic emphasis on the ideal form. Perfection and beauty became the standards of this new Classical style, and Medusa, despite her role as a monster, was not exempt.
Medusa is truly ubiquitous—she is represented not only in architecture and pottery, but also in metalwork. Her head is a common ornament on the handles of bronze vessels ( 60. 11. 2a,b ). The circular shape and protective qualities of her countenance also lend themselves to jewelry; she appears on earrings, pendants, and rings ( 74.
51. 3397b ). The Gorgon is also reproduced on armor. In the Iliad , her head appears on Zeus’ aegis. Hesiod’s Shield of Herakles describes an illustration of the myth of Perseus and the Gorgons on the hero’s shield.
More commonly, the gorgoneion is the central motif on the aegis of Athena. Depictions of the goddess in both vase painting ( 63. 11. 6 ; 34. 11. 7 ) and sculpture ( 24. 97. 15 ) include the head of Medusa on her chest. The most renowned sculpture of Athena, the gold and ivory Athena Parthenos that once stood in the Parthenon, included two gorgoneia: one on her aegis and one on her shield.
The Gorgon’s face is not limited to divine armor, however, but also decorated the martial accoutrements of Greek soldiers , such as helmets, shields, and greaves ( 41. 162. 74 ; 1991. 171. 45 ). The presence of Medusa on armor reinforces the idea that her presence held significant power to protect the wearer against enemies.
The gorgoneion is not the only artistic representation of Medusa; she is also shown in scenes illustrating the adventures of Perseus. In many cases, the hero flees with Medusa’s head as her body lies nearby, sometimes with Pegasos and Chrysaor at their mother’s side ( 06.
- 1070 );
- A monumental example of this type is the central decoration of the early sixth-century B;
- Temple of Artemis on Corfu, though interestingly this depiction leaves out Perseus and the beheading;
- Other scenes display the moment before the killing;
The iconographic formula consists of Perseus holding his sword to Medusa’s neck, looking away as he delivers the fatal cut to avoid her petrifying gaze. A metope from Temple C at Selinunte depicts such a tableau and includes Athena, who stands by the hero to guide him.
In later illustrations from the fifth century B. , Medusa is asleep while the hero approaches to attack ( 45. 11. 1 ). Here is a rare instance of a nonfrontal, nonstaring Medusa; in sleep, the threat of her power is canceled.
Indeed, she is portrayed as a peacefully sleeping human figure—only her wings suggest that she is a supernatural creature. Some scenes include the other Gorgons, Stheno and Euryale, pursuing Perseus after he has beheaded Medusa. One example, on an early seventh-century B.
- amphora from Eleusis, depicts the two running after the hero while their headless sister’s body lies behind them;
- The Gorgons are often represented in this running pose, known as knielauf , on pottery ( 01;
6 ), in architecture, and on relief sculpture ( 55. 11. 4 ). Even though Medusa’s appearance changes drastically through the Archaic , Classical , and Hellenistic periods , from a grotesque creature to a beautiful female, her “otherness” remains. The legends of the Gorgons cast them as foreign others living outside of the known Greek world and horrific beings to be feared and ultimately vanquished.
Archaic depictions are monstrous and inexplicable—the Gorgon seems to be both male and female, both human and animal. The sixth-century B. antefixes, bronze handles, and vase decorations all depict a creature that is as terrible as it is distinctive.
Classical and Hellenistic images of Medusa are more human, but she retains a sense of the unknown through specific supernatural details such as wings and snakes. These later images may have lost the gaping mouth, sharp teeth, and beard, but they preserve the most striking quality of the Gorgon: the piercing and unflinching outward gaze.
Alterity is at the foundation of Medusa’s force, which was alive and present in the minds and memories of ancient viewers. Her very presence is foreign, dangerous, and potent, as are her specific characteristics.
In the Odyssey , her head was kept in Hades to drive the living from the world of the dead. The Perseus myth provides us with the phenomenon that her face and gaze could turn men to stone. Pindar preserves the tale that the Gorgon’s cries were awesome and awful.
- Perseus and Athena were required to control such threatening forces and harness their power;
- This harness was taken up by ancient Greek artists, who represented the Gorgon across all periods and in all media;
Medusa is a deadly and cryptic other, but she is also ubiquitous, with an undeniable energy that inspired artists to repeat her semblance and story in diverse ways across literature, lore, and art through ancient Greece, Rome, and beyond.
Is Medusa a symbol of feminism?
Trigger warning: mentions of sexual assault Any kid born in the early 2000’s has likely heard of the Percy Jackson series. A modern take on ancient Greek mythology, it sent a whole generation into a mythology frenzy — inhaling books and pretending to be half-bloods, picking which gods they wanted as parents.
True to most tellings, the series portrayed Medusa — an obstacle the main character had to battle — as a heartless wench collecting unlucky statues with incredible force. She was cold, calculated, and terrifying.
Now, the same generation has turned her into a feminist icon with a story too many can relate to; instead of being a symbol of fear, Medusa has become the symbol of justice for sexual assault victims.
How does Medusa relate to today?
Medusa in Modern Culture – In modern culture, Medusa is seen as a powerful symbol of female intelligence and wisdom, related to the goddess Metis, who was a wife of Zeus. The snake-like head is a symbol of her cunning, a perversion of the matrifocal ancient goddess who the Greeks must destroy.
Are Medusa tattoos common?
Medusa tattoos are popping up all over TikTok. – Those familiar with Greek mythology likely know that Medusa was a mythic figure who was capable of turning a man to stone with just a look. Oh, and she had snakes for hair. All of this makes her sound rather unappealing, but it also speaks to the way men likely shaped many of the most famous stories told about women. Article continues below advertisement Although there are likely a million different reasons to get a Medusa tattoo, the most common one on TikTok right now is designed to invert the narrative that women should be punished or blamed in the wake of being sexually assaulted. In some tellings of Medusa’s story, she was raped by Poseidon, and then punished by Athena because of it. Now, women are reclaiming her as a figure of strength and empowerment. Historically, the figure of Medusa has been used to ward off evil. Medusa, who is often evil herself in these tellings, is used as an figure to repel other evil forces.
Now, women are reclaiming that narrative for themselves. Now, many are claiming that Medusa is not an evil figure, but a strong person who had to overcome enormous pain and trauma. Although she never actually existed, her story is one that many women on TikTok have found themselves relating to.
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