Rage: A Meditation on Medusa

Rage. One of the scariest words but I feel it constantly these days. Maybe not constantly, okay, I don’t feel it when I’m absorbed in making a bowl, my hands tightly pressing the clay in an effort to rework the world. Today I tried coil pottery instead of the wheel. After failing to make a vase, I was left with long rolled out pieces of clay. Snakes. I took a clump of clay and slammed my palm into it again and again, flattening it with satisfying slapping sounds. I curved the clay into a sightless face. Pressed my thumbs into it for eye sockets. One snake got recruited as a nose, another was sliced into a mouth. The longest snakes clothed the face with hair. Snake-hair, weaving itself down and around each other, reaching out to hiss. It was easy to do this, all I had to do was picture myself on a bad hair day, which is whenever it rains. Or is humid. Or when I have given up, too lazy to comb it after a shower.

Medusa with her snake-hair is a symbol of female rage, her snakes reaching out to bite and poison any man who comes near. Medusa and her sisters are exiled to an island. The island becomes not a punishment but a solace. Medusa and her sisters live quietly tending their garden, foraging in the forest, and fishing in the sea. It is a simple life but a good one. They hang stolen crystals in the windows to send rainbows around the rooms. 

Medusa and her sisters are alone on the island when Perseus finds them and cuts off Medusa’s head. She was the only mortal of her sisters. Perseus flies away on his winged sneakers, shield of mirrored bronze on his left forearm, sword sheathed by his side, holding a bag with poor Medusa’s head inside. He will use her later to kill a king. 

Some legends say that Medusa was pregnant when he killed her. Well, soldiers never respect pregnancy or children. It is estimated that 90% of people killed in war are civilians. No, I didn’t make that figure up. 

Out of Medusa’s belly came the winged horse, Pegasus, and Chrysaor, a giant with a sword. Chrysaor was too late to defend his mother. The sisters wailed their grief but there was work to do. A child, even though a giant, will distract one from pain with its antics and needs. The horse left.

One legend has it that Medusa and her sisters were punished for being raped in Athena’s temple. As always, the blame falls on the victim. Athena was one toxic bitch. 

Another theory is that Medusa and her sisters represent three sides of one goddess who was worshiped in a female-centered religion until the Greeks conquered the land and its people, raped the women, and took any able bodied adult as slaves. They killed the youngest children who would not be of any use. Patriarchy and dominance, wealth for the few, lots of landless peasants and slaves. Sound familiar? This is the source of my rage. I have been raped more than once, humiliated and exploited on my job, watched my children be sacrificed to your gods. I am ready to fight, but will be crafty and wait for my moment. You will not suspect it when I cut your throats in your sleep despite all your surveillance cameras, gates, and police. I will drink your blood in jubilance. 

A better known expression of female rage is the Furies, or Erinyes, followers of Dionysus (or maybe not) who would pull apart men and feast on them under the full summer moon. I believe they ran with the hounds of hell. Even the Furies liked their pets. 

Hesiod wrote that the Titan Cronus castrated his father, Uranus, and threw his cock and balls into the sea. The Furies were born from the drops of blood that fell on the earth. Another tale is that the Furies emerged from Night, or from a union between air and earth. Virgil suggested they are the daughters of Hades and Night. 

Orestes is pursued by the Furies because he committed matricide. It has been suggested that Athena created a trial in which he is acquitted because Athena presides over the trial and sets the rules. Sounds like the politics of our day. The Supreme Court has birthed the monster of  Citizens United and now two rapists on the Supreme Court will decide if women have the rights to their own body. I wish I could curse them like the ancients and draw down a plague…

When I type into YouTube the word ‘anger’ I find shitloads of anger management videos. Of course. Because whatever you do, please don’t think that your problem is political. YouTube assures you it is always personal. 

(Written Feb. 2022 after making a Medusa head out of clay. The clay piece no longer exists.)