Mythological and Disney Rant Part I: On the Good Girl—Bad Girl Split

by SofiaWren on June 26, 2013

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure to hear women’s mysteries expert Nuit Moore discuss the myth of Medusa.

Her retelling of the relationship between Athena and the snake headed Gorgon opened my eyes to a very sinister and common division every modern woman is carrying around inside of her. This is part one.

In Part II to this post, I’m also going to talk about how this myth relates to my healing journey and the Little Mermaid. 

(I’m skipping my usual Moon post this month as Part II will be pretty personal).

Medusa and Athena

According to Nuit Moore, Medusa and Athena were originally part of matriarchal cultures in Northern Africa.

These two powerful women presided as goddesses for tribes for cultures that understood the power of the feminine.

Myths changed in their tellings, at times Athena, goddess of wisdom, was daughter to Medusa, the beautiful Gorgon who’s blood was both a poison and medicine. At times they were sisters.

Always were they bound in love.

Fast forward to the absorption of Athena and Medusa in the Greek Pantheon……a patriarchial culture.

(NOTE: This is not a man hating rant just a “down with the patriarchy” rant: patriarchies are topped by one male person which hurts alllll the men on the lower rungs as well as women. Matriarchies are more circle oriented and sweet for e’rebody.)

The connection of love between Medusa and Athena is severed. 

Here’s a little description of Ovid’s version from wikipedia:

In a late version of the Medusa myth, related by the Roman poet Ovid (Metamorphoses 4.770), Medusa was originally a ravishingly beautiful maiden, “the jealous aspiration of many suitors,” but when she was caught being raped by the “Lord of the Sea” Poseidon in Athena‘s temple, the enraged Athena transformed Medusa’s beautiful hair to serpents and made her face so terrible to behold that the mere sight of it would turn onlookers to stone. In Ovid’s telling, Perseus describes Medusa’s punishment by Minerva (Athena) as just and well earned.

Medusa is no longer a beautiful free woman, she is a hideous wicked monster who gets raped AND punished, I guess, for “asking for it?” Isn’t that how these things normally go?

Perseus, some hero, kills Medusa with her own stony reflection and lops her head off.

Athena forever wears the head of her formely-loved-now-“justly”-punished-for-being-raped sister/mom ON HER SHIELD.

Nuit Moore discusses this as a wound that Athena forever carries with her. It’s a reminder of the sacrifices that she made to be absorbed into the patriachy.

A while ago I mentioned that when I had two pen names, I was a more extreme version of myself in every way

This happened to Athena and Medusa too– Medusa got ugly and monsterous, and Athena stopped caring about the fate of humanity and switched to looking over MANkind.

She stopped being a goddess of all kinds of wisdom, like clairsentience (body knowing, a kind of intuition) and became stuck in her head with analytical logic.

I’ve listened to a Greek historian who honors Athena as her primary goddess, and she opened my eyes to Athena’s true essence: caring, intuitive and “like Galadriel.”

Athena wasn’t always seen as a cold smartypants like Hermione in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

But I’m going to draw a line in the sand here because society is still going with this Medusa/Athena split:

Virgin or whore
Bad girl or good girl
Work hard, play hard

Two different kinds of woman with two different lifestyles that are expected to stay separate. If they don’t converge in the same person, than they at least don’t converge in the same environment ever.

Well, dammit, I’m not into boxes.

I’ve been aiming to break down this separate wall because I personally am tired of having two websites, facebooks, whatever.

Since I heard this hearing this myth, I keep noticing this split. I see how it shows up in our ‘persona’ and what we think we and others can and should do.

This is holding women back inside and in community.

There is a wound, but Nuit told me that by honoring this story, we start to move against it.

And it is so.

Read on to Part II for a post on my personal journey.

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Janet Stephenson June 26, 2013 at 3:54 pm

Lovely, thought-provoking post, Sofia!

As I was reading, I started thinking about the extremes within myself and I caught a glimpse of myself as Galadriel when she expands to her great and terrible self… and then she retreats back into her body and decides to go diminish to the West. I have moments where I do feel and recognize the great and terrible within me… and it’s interesting the power that accompanies those moments.

Later in the article when you mentioned Galadriel, I smiled.

I honestly did not know/realize there was an intimate connection between Athena and Medusa earlier in the mythology. This is giving me pause to reconsider what I thought I knew… which I always enjoy, so thank you!

SofiaWren June 27, 2013 at 6:13 pm

Janet thank you so much for your reply. I am so interested by your mention of Galadriel when she gets terrible. It’s so cool how she remains the most important woman of the Lord of the Rings. She has many facets as an “everywoman” rather than being split up into good and evil characters.

I know what you mean when you talk about that feeling of power rising– it doesn’t even need to be expressed in words and action, it’s a way of being and perceiving the world almost. In the past I have found it uncomfortable, but getting into business is making me more comfortable with being uncomfortable, if that makes sense?

I’m glad you enjoyed the myth! Food for thought.

The Nerdy Nutritionist July 3, 2013 at 10:40 pm

i LOVE greek mythology and had forgotten about the relationship between Athena and Medusa! Thanks for the reminder 🙂

SofiaWren July 5, 2013 at 3:06 am

Yayy welcome! <3 Greek myths

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