MEDUSA

medusa
MEDUSA (TOURNE VERS MOI TES YEAX PLEINS D'AZUR ET D'INNOCENCE)

egg tempera and resinous oil (amber) on panel
1993 - 203 x 165 mm

To me, Medusa was not a monster.

This is how I think:
Just like many other female characters in Greek mythology, the Gorgons were a thriai, meaning there were three of them: Sthenno, Euryale and Medusa. This leads inevitably to the idea that they were somehow a representation of the Goddess. Now Gorgo means something like dreadful, and the way they are described, the Gorgons are more like fairy-tale, or even horror creatures than divinities: their eyes turned those who looked into them into stone, and the blood from the left-side of their body was a deadly poison, whilst that of the right-hand side of their bodies was a panacea which cured everything.

Some say that Medusa once was a beautiful girl who, because she had made love to Poseidon in a grove that was sacred to virgin Pallas Athena, was turned into a monster by the latter. This contradicts in a way the fact that she was a sister of the daimons Sthenno and Euryale, but that is mythology: not everything is logically correct. Some links are irrational, but they are there, so we better not neglect them. Let's not forget that this happened in times when Aristotle's two-faced logic (true or not true) wasn't yet invented, and things could still be both true and not true at the same time, or neither of both. Medusa was also the only mortal one of the three sisters.

Add to this mixture one of my favourite books: Jean Ray's Malpertuis, a Flemish story in which Euryale playes a lead part, and a line by Charles Baudelaire: Tourne vers moi tes yeux pleins d'azur et d'étoiles ( turn to me your eyes full of sky and stars ) and you get a a better idea of how I interpret Medusa. And then finally add that feeling many humans will know: when you look into the eyes of the beloved, your legs grow weak and you feel like being a bit petrified, which is normal (my idea) because you see the reflection of the divine. So when someone would look into the eyes of the representation of the Goddess in her aspect of crone, of life-death unity, which is Medusa, it would be total petrification, meaning: becoming immobile.


It pleases me to think that hero Perseus symbolises the new, male-dominated Greek culture, the culture of the Sky-Gods that integrated some female divinities from other cultures (like Aphrodite-Inanna) in order to replace the Goddess, and that his killing of Medusa - who may have been a priestess of the Mother, and as such more a function like for example Minos than a person - entered the minds of the new Greeks as the beginning of a their era, just like the Christians took over stories and holy places of what came before them (think Saint Walpurgis).

"Each one kills the thing he loves" wrote Oscar Wilde, and that is what Perseus may have done in an alternative interpretation. In trying to understand the mystery of the Life-Death unity, he chose the typical male way of fear and violence and, to end the mystery he could not grasp, he destroyed it. Reduced it. Like all reductionist scientists still do today. This may even go back to real-life situations in which priestesses of the Mother ( who did carry snakes... originally even Persephone was a snake) were killed by the invading army.


Finally: wherever I see beauty, I do indeed feel like being unable to move, petrified. Not by fear, but because I stand in awe, facing someting wonderous and mysterious. Medusa, in this painting, with her hommage-to-Memlinc face, is also immobile here (paintings don't move like movies) and she will never ever look into my eyes. Or yours. Which makes we go on craving for the mystery without ever being able to resolve it.