The Contest: Write a story of 5,000 words or less about the myth below.
Deadline: March 31 2019 by midnight
Entry Fee: FREE!
Let’s talk about Medusa.
There are multiple versions of this myth, and layers upon layers of potential meanings.
I’ll start with the version that most of us are familiar with.
In this version, Medusa was a beautiful mortal woman. So beautiful, that she was desired by Poseidon.
Medusa didn’t reciprocate his desire, but Poseidon was a Greek God, and brother of Zeus, by damnit. He decided to have his way.
Medusa fled. She went to Athena’s temple for protection, but it didn’t help. Poseidon caught up with her and raped her—right there in Athena’s temple.
Now, Athena is a “virgin goddess” (a term popularized by Jean Shinoda Bolen), who does not have lovers. If we’re talking archetypes, Athena is actually a friend of the patriarchy. This archetype tends to ally herself with powerful men, and even serve them at times. Think of the high-performing executive assistant, offering advice to her boss to help him close huge deals that grow the company. She tends to be conservative in temperament. Her main attribute is strategy—strategy on the battlefield, strategy in the courtroom, strategy when it comes to being craftsy (she is a goddess of weavers and artists), strategy when it comes to wisdom. Athena is a thinker, not a lover. She was known to support Zeus staunchly, and her archetype is a man’s woman.
When Athena saw this act of fornication in her temple, she was seriously offended.
How dare this upstart, self-important mortal woman have sex in her inviolate virgin’s temple?
She punished Medusa by turning her into a hideous gorgon, half-snake and half-woman, with serpents for hair and a gaze that could turn men to stone.
Try attracting lovers like THAT, Medusa. Ha!
Medusa was condemned to life in a cave, where she wouldn’t accidentally turn anybody to stone. (Especially no women.)
There she lurked.
Perseus . . . wow, this could become quite a tangent.
But it is relevant, right? So I’ll try to keep it short . . .
Perseus was the son of the mortal Danae and Zeus, who impregnated her in the form of a shower of gold (heh). She wound up marrying a guy who didn’t like Perseus much, and who sent Perseus on a quest to get Medusa’s head, figuring the kid wouldn’t make it.
Seriously, Perseus was sent on this quest by his passive-agressively murderous step-dad. It wasn’t some noble mission to save Andromeda from the Kraken. (Not in the sources I’ve found.)
So Perseus got all this help from Athena and Hermes, and gathered his sacred weapons and tools—these include a magic wallet and the helmet of Hades (which turned him invisible). Hermes also gave him his winged sandals and an adamantine sickle and/or sword and/or sickle-shaped sword.
So Harry took all this stuff and went down into the Chamber of Secrets—
Oops. Sorry. Wrong myth. (Kinda.)
Ahem. Perseus went to Medusa’s cave and looked into the reflection of a shield to see her coming. He used the sickle-sword to cut off her head, and put the head into his magic wallet.
He got away no problem, and took himself to Ethiopia, where “the king’s daughter was set out to be the prey of a sea monster.” (Maicar.com) Perseus kind of had a thing for slaying monsters now, so he used the head of Medusa to kill this sea monster, and married the King’s daughter. Later, he used it to kill his step-dad and his grandfather (who also sucked) and then founded Mycenae.
All in a good day’s work.
So much for poor Medusa. Read more about her at Theoi.
But maybe Medusa’s story didn’t happen quite like that . . .
There is an older version of the myth.
In this one, Medusa was NOT originally a mortal woman. She was always a monster, and had been born into a family of monsters.
She had two sisters who were also gorgons. They were described as “winged women with broad, round heads, serpentine locks of hair, large staring eyes, wide mouths, lolling tongues, the tusks of swine, flared nostrils, and sometimes short, coarse beards.” (Theoi.com)
About the half-woman/half-snake thing . . . I can find no mention of that in the sources. I think that is a modern adaptation of the myth. In most sources, Medusa seems to be just a particularly ugly woman with snakes for hair. There are even Greek vases that depict her with human legs. (The picture below is dated from the 5th century BCE.)
It seems that even in the older versions of the myth, Perseus came to lob off her head.
And even in some later versions, Medusa’s sisters are by her side when he does so. He has to escape them after he kills her.
A note on the aegis:
The depiction of Medusa’s head was known as the “aegis.”
It was on Athena’s shield. From what I can gather, it was intended to petrify one’s enemies, and maybe even prevent them from looking at you altogether so you could swoop in and cut them down.
Some of us see Medusa as a symbol for victims.
Some of us see her as a symbol of strength. Sometimes she has sex with Poseidon willingly (in a field of flowers, no less), other times she’s raped. Sometimes she’s victimized by both Poseidon AND Athena. Sometimes Athena was actually on her side. Sometimes she’s condemned to live in a cave. Sometimes it’s her place of power. It all depends on what you see in the myth.
I have my own interpretation of Medusa.
One that I feel may hark back to when this myth existed BEFORE the sky gods with their patriarchy came along and turned all the goddesses into monsters to be slain.
I see Medusa as a strong feminine power story.
(Seriously, the latest version of that movie is so underrated. There are multiple feminine archetypes going on there. I actually cried when I saw this in the theater in 2010. Here’s a quote from my post that explains why:)
I think my favorite thing about this version of the Perseus myth is that the hero has used the rage of the abused feminine to save the innocent feminine from abuse.
It took a hero to do this—to face what had been done to Medusa, and to channel that rage to a place of service instead of hating or fearing it.
I won’t wax poetic much more on my own interpretation here, but I did want to offer it to you as potential inspiration.
WHEW! THAT WAS A LOT OF MYTH STUFF! NOW FOR THE CONTEST SPECIFICS.
I’m posting this contest in November 2018, but it officially opens January 2019. You can send your entries before then, but I won’t start reading or judging before January 2019.
Why this delay? Because in past years, people haven’t entered the contests in droves around the holidays. Perhaps there is just too much else going on. Also, the prize comes from my own pocket and a little more time around the holidays never hurts.
I’ll judge entries based on:
— Word count. Please stick to 5,000 words or less. It can be much less, if you want. (I only have so much time to read entries, and it would be a shame to toss yours out because it’s too long!)
— Writing prowess. You don’t have to be touched by Athena, but do give it your best shot. An understanding of how to structure a story, how to use dialogue, and all that jazz will work in your favor. (Spelling, grammar, and typos count.)
— An understanding of the myth itself.
Send your entry to my email: [email protected] Please paste your entry in the body of your email, since I won’t open attachments. The subject line should be “Medusa Contest.” Please write your entry in English and in prose. You can email me any questions at the same address. I’ll have a winner by April 10 2019. Subscribe to Mythic Beast to see the winner.
Have questions? See if your answers are in the Writers FAQ.
ALSO . . . I want to let you all know that this will be the last free contest.
I know, I know . . . but it was always the plan to monetize. Mythic Beast has gotten a little time consuming for me to continue doing totally free. So I’ll spruce it up even more and it will become a business.
As of next year, the contest AFTER Medusa will have an entry fee of $17.95.
Where will this money go?
It will be split 2 ways (well, 3 if you count taxes):
1. Raising the contest prize (That’s right! Part of every entry fee will go to raise the overall value of the prize money! The more people who enter, the more the final prize will be worth.)
2. Mythic Beast (Paying either me or the judges I may eventually hire, publicity, taxes, etc.)
Your story can be about any aspect of the Medusa myth.
You can focus on Medusa or Perseus or another figure, as long as Medusa features in some way. (And keep in mind Mythic Beast may have a Perseus contest at some point in the future, so if your Medusa story focuses on him…you won’t be able to use it for that future contest.) Your story can be set in Ancient Greece, a modern office building, or on a spaceship. You can make it a Western or a steampunk or do the Jane Austen version. Get creative!
Good luck arche-typers!
Via: Mythic Beast Studios.
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