The Order of the White Moon Goddess Gallery Presents
A Level 1 Final Project for the Pyramid of Light Mystery School
By Medusa Krakatoa
Medusa is a Snake Goddess born of a complex age. She has much to teach us about where we have come from and who we are. She is the goddess of being unafraid to see reality. She is a goddess of resisting subjugation. She is a goddess of embracing the power within to change. She shows us that Divine Femininity wears many crowns.
Medusa has had many forms throughout the ages.
~The Great Snake Goddess~
Earliest versions of Medusa can be traced back to the Paleolithic and Neolithic ages. Since no written alphabet existed at the time and we do not know her earliest names, she is referred to as the great Snake Goddess. The great Snake Goddess was very important to our ancient ancestors because they left behind sacred art devoted to her. The abstract symbol of the snake- wavy lines, zig zags, and the spiral- can be seen carved into prehistoric cave walls throughout the world and at Copper Age archaeological sites such as Çatal Hüyük. Snakes have been found painted on pottery as soon as human beings mastered that art.
In ancient Egypt, the names for the Snake Goddess were numerous. She was Meretseger (She Who Loves Silence) and Renenutet (Nourishment Snake), who gave children their positive destiny. Eventually Renenutet was identified as an alternate form of Wadjet (“Green One.”) Wadjet was Lower Egypt's powerful protector and came to guard both Lower and Upper Egypt with her sister Nekhbet when the two were unified. She was called the Eye of the Moon and the Eye of Ra. Wadjet’s gaze was said to slaughter enemies. For this beneficial protective power, Wadjet was the cobra shown on the crown of the pharaohs called the uraeus . In ancient Greece, Wadjet was known as Uto or Buto.
~The Healing Power of Snakes~
Snakes were also used in healing rituals throughout the ancient world as they are today. In Malta at the Hypogeum of Ħal Saflieni, a subterranean pit might have contained snakes, as certain types of snake venom causes an altered state of consciousness, one in which communion with the Divine can be achieved. In the fifth century BCE, the center of healing at Epidauros devoted to Asclepius and his daughter Hygieia used snakes in healing rituals. Hygieia, goddess of health and cleanliness, and her father Asclepius, god of medicine, were worshipped there. At this temple, the symbol of healing was a snake-entwined staff. The rod of Asclepius is the basis for the modern day symbol of medicine. It was Asclepius who used the blood of Medusa to kill or to heal.
Today in upstate New York, you can get a snake massage. Serpentessa, a snake priestess with 25 years experience, guides boa constrictors over the body of her patients. This snake massage stimulates the vagus nerve, which releases endorphins and oxytocin, creating a sense of well-being and relaxation.
In the ruins of Minoan Crete, startling faience statues were found in the Knossos temple repository that depict the great Snake Goddess or one of her priestesses. These goddesses hold snakes or have snakes winding all the way up the arms to the tiara. The priestesses of the Snake Goddess probably invited the congregation to ask continual blessings. The bare breasts of these Snake Goddesses surely represents nourishment.
Minoan Snake Goddess figurines, 1600 BCE, Archaeological Museum, Heraklion, Crete
photo by J. Ollé Creative Commons licensing
And many have remarked on the arresting gaze of these goddesses. They are very like the eyes of a snake, round and regenerative, hypnotizing. And very like the eyes of one in a trance, bringing to mind the owl.
Similar to the figure of Wadjet crowning of the royals of Egypt, Gorgoneions were also apotraic. Gorgoneions are ancient bas relief and masks meant to ward off evil and typically features the fierce visage of a woman with snakes. Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas identified the earliest Gorgon mask dating to around 6000 BCE at Sesklo, the earliest known Neolithic culture. Gorgoneions were worn as amulets or hung over the doorway and have also been worn into the modern age as jewelry.
Terracota clay mask of Gorgo Medusa, 6th-5th century BC from Palaikastro-temple of Diktaian Zeus, displayed at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion.
Photo by C. Messier Creative Commons licensing
As barbarian tribes began to invade the stronghold of Snake Goddess worship in Crete, the story of Persephone’s abduction by Hades also began. At Eleusis from the sixth century B.C.E. up until the fall of the Roman Empire, Persephone and her mother Demeter took on the nourishing fertility aspects associated with the great Snake Goddess. Demeter is often depicted holding sheaves of wheat with snakes in her hands or winding around her arms. The rituals devoted to Demeter and her daughter were called the Thesmophoria rites and all males were excluded from participation. In these rites, pinecones were placed in crevices in the earth where snakes were waiting. Young piglets were sacrificed and fed to the snakes. Women who had purified themselves collected what the snakes did not eat. The remains were then spread onto the fields to ensure bountiful harvests.
The Hopi tribe’s Snake Dance is similar to the Thesmophoria rites and the snake is tied to fertility of the land.
In the early thirteenth century, the Snake Goddess took the form of Medusa when the temples devoted to the great Snake Goddess were violently overthrown. Medusa’s name means “guardian,” and at this point in time, Medusa became a twofold guardian: 1. Medusa guards the Great Snake Goddess and ensures her continuation in the human psyche; 2. Medusa guards women subjected to the violence and trauma of the patriarchy in the past, present and future.
Roman mosaic from Piraeus depicting Medusa, 2nd century AD, National Archaeological Museum of Athens
Photo by Jebulon Creative Commons licensing
In other words, the Great Snake Goddess did what snakes do. She shed her old skin and underwent a transformation in order to cope with the new. Centuries after these events took place, Ovid, in his Metamorphoses, sums up the rupture of the Goddess culture by telling us a patriarchal fairytale version of Medusa. He tells us that Medusa was once a beautiful priestess in the temple of Athena/Minerva. He says that Medusa had once had beautiful hair and this inflamed the lust of the god of the sea:
Her Neptune saw, and with such beauties fired,
Resolved to compass, what his soul desired.
In chaste Minerva’s fane, he, lustful, stayed,
And seized, and rifled the young, blushing maid.
The bashful Goddess turned her eyes away,
Nor durst such bold impurity survey;
But on the ravished virgin vengeance takes,
Her shining hair is changed to hissing snakes.
We all know the myth by now and its perpetuation today. What happened to Medusa is what happened to the priestesses of the great Snake Goddess when patriarchy first shed blood. Yet even in Ovid’s myth after Perseus decapitates Medusa, her eyes continue to exact their vengeance. The great Snake Goddess was made immortal when she transformed to Medusa. Medusa sees all the realities of the world.
Medusa has power in her eyes. She can turn any man or monster to stone with one look. Like Wadjet, and like the snake itself, she protects herself by immobilizing her enemies. Medusa is protecting herself and her sisters. She is always self-aware.
In Ovid’s story, Medusa was punished for her rape and sent to solitude on a far-away island. What happens to a priestess happens to the Goddess herself. Athena banished the part of herself that was traumatized the way people who suffer trauma can sometimes do. Dr. Bessel van der Kolk who studies the affects of trauma on the brain, proved that the brain of a person speaking of their trauma is reliving the traumatic episode in the present, not the past. For those who have suffered trauma (everyone has), Medusa’s solitude reminds us that sometimes it is necessary to rest. Taking some time to be alone after stressful times is sometimes necessary when we are getting our bearings. Then we can determine the next best steps.
Medusa was anointed with a crown of living snakes, the sacred symbol of death, regeneration and healing. She reminds us that it is necessary to let go of the past and renew ourselves. To overcome your trauma is a difficult task but the Self that is created when you shed the old skin is worth it.
Medusa’s veins flow alternately with poison and panacea, the power to kill or to heal any ailment. We have the power to stay in the past or to move forward.
After Perseus defeated his enemies using Medusa’s power, the head of Medusa was given to Athena Parthenos. Athena Parthenos bears Medusa’s head on her breastplate and shield and is accompanied by snakes. Athena Parthenos is a goddess of cool-blooded logic. She is collected and calculating and does not get swept up by drama and chaos. Athena and Medusa work together because Athena brings the stoicism and Medusa brings the raw, wild emotion. Athena is another aspect of the Snake Goddess whereas Medusa weeps and freezes the trauma so we can look at it, Athena helps us take the next steps.
Even though Medusa has been depicted as a monster, in modern times women have been reclaiming and invoking her. Perhaps Medusa reminds us that we women were once the priestesses, mystics and shamans and can become as such again. She may be a link to the past yet she continues to evolve.
Medusa is so enduring that her image has been used in movies, literary publications, printed on t-shirts and is being reimagined by artists. One such artist is Luciano Garbati, whose sculpture Medusa With the Head of Perseus has given so much inspiration to women in the #metoo movement.
Medusa With the Head of Perseus, 2008 by Luciano Garbati
Used with the artist’s permission
Medusa, like all forms of the Snake Goddess, shows us that out of death comes rebirth. Destruction and creation is the duality that must exist and brings about wellness and healing.
As the snake sheds its skin and is reborn, we also give birth to ourselves when we overcome suffering. When we invoke Medusa, we look in the mirror and behold both the negative and positive aspects of our selves. This integration creating wholeness helps us overcome our trauma and gives us the power we need to thrive.
When we stop running from and repressing the shadow side of our Divine Femininity, we can see ourselves with love and compassion. To embrace the Medusa is to see our reflection and not be frozen by it or run from it. When we work with Medusa we step into our power.
Medusa can be invoked when you are ready to bravely accept all that you are. Medusa can be invoked when you have been isolated but are ready to come out into the company of others again. Medusa will carry you through the valley of the frozen statues until you can walk beside her.
Medusa is a great listener. She holds space for those who need to speak their truth. Medusa helps us take the time we need to process our trauma.
Medusa is also sympathetic to those who have imbalances, injuries and diseases of the throat and thyroid and to those with chronic conditions. Medusa is the ultimate healer. The healer heals so that she can help others heal themselves.
Art by Medusa Krakatoa
~Sacred to Medusa~
The snake is sacred to Medusa because the snake represents the cycle of death and rebirth and therefore healing. The snake sheds its skin so that it can enjoy a new life. The venom in our lives can help us become stronger and even more capable of living our soul purpose.
The evergreen is sacred to Medusa. Pine cones were a part of the rites of Thesmophoria and because the evergreen is a survivor. When a fire devastates a forest, the first trees to grow back are always the evergreens. The fire opens the cones and distributes the seeds. The ridges on the cones also look like the scales of a snake.
The areas of the body sacred to Medusa are the eyes, the ears and especially the throat. The eyes represent the capacity to see clearly- the past, present and future. Much healing can take place by activating the eyes. A treatment called eye movement desensitization and reprocessing therapy includes a hand motion technique used by the therapist to guide the client’s eye movements from side to side, similar to the way the snake moves.
The throat is also of great significance to Medusa. In Ovid’s patriarchal fairy tale of Medusa, Perseus brings about Medusa’s decapitation, slicing through her throat chakra. The throat chakra can be damaged by the inability to speak your truth and also by listening to too many unkind words and negative speeches. Throat chakra balancing brings the true voice back and also good listening skills. Since the throat is the bridge between the body and the spirit, an imbalance there could denote a lack of grounding in the body, which can be the cause of chronic conditions and illness.
Healing and shadow work is sacred to Medusa. The blood from her veins shows that the cure for the pain is in the pain. The blood from her right side slays and the blood from her left side cures and brings back to life.
Colors sacred to Medusa are black for endings, green for renewal, and blue for healing and speech.
Pinecones, public domain
~Invoking the Goddess Medusa~
For the altar:
-Medusa picture, snake picture or statue
-Pine or spruce cones
-Red candle for invoking
-Green candle for renewal
-Blue candle for healing imbalance at the throat chakra
(White can be substituted for any color)
-Drum, rattle, sistrum, tuning fork, singing bowl or just singing!
For the ritual:
-A large container for water such as a punch bowl, sink or bathtub
-Pine or evergreen essential oil
1. Have your large tub of cold water and ice ready. Please be careful, as you will be dunking your head in the water. It is good to have a few towels ready to go.
2. Bless and consecrate in keeping with your ordinary practice. Light your candles and admire the special objects to honor Medusa you have placed on your altar.
3. Start by beating a drum, shaking a rattle, striking a tuning fork or playing a singing bowl. These are ways of moving your mind out of the space of your ordinary thoughts and into the mindset of astuteness, or trance. When it feels natural to do so, invite Medusa to be with you by singing to her, saying her name rhythmically, chanting, or whatever is comfortable for your particular needs. Build the energy by going faster or getting louder.
4. When the time is right- a moment of musical and energetic crescendo- completely dunk your head into the cold water once, twice and three times. Take a moment as you towel off to check in with your body and your breath. The water will be cold and take your breath away, so take some time to breathe into your throat. Feel the breath travel through your throat to your lungs, diaphragm and tummy. If it helps you to connect with your breath, or if your breath is not in all places- throat, chest, diaphragm, tummy- lay your hands on those places and concentrate. Fill your breath into those places.
5. Anoint your throat with pine or evergreen essential oil. As you anoint your throat, hum. Speak to Medusa internally or externally. Ask her if she be with you to guide you. Pause for her reply. It may come in the form of a bodily sensation, a sound, or a sudden emotional understanding. Pay close attention. You might feel compelled to dance or make tea or go outside and look at nature. As long as it harm none, including yourself, do what you will.
6. Burn the pine needles for Medusa. Please be careful, as dry pine needles burn very quickly!
7. Thank Medusa for coming. Bless and consecrate. Record your experiences in your journal.
8. To continue to work with Medusa, ask Medusa to witness you and be with you. Create affirmations and say them as you look into the mirror. Journal your realizations. Take time to refresh yourself by walking near evergreen trees and bushes and collecting pine needles and pinecones. Visit the snakes at the pet shop or zoo. Wear clothing with snake patterns. Ask Medusa to visit you in your dreams or journey to her through shamanic meditation.
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