Asteroid Files: Medusa

Helios on Medusa
– Fuck it. We’re doing Medusa.

The Astronomy– 149 Medusa is a bright-colored, stony main-belt asteroid named after the Gorgon Medusa, a snake-haired monster in Greek mythology. When it was discovered, Medusa was by far the smallest asteroid found (although this was not known at that time). Since then, many thousands of smaller asteroids have been found. It was also the closest asteroid to the Sun discovered up to that point, beating the long-held record of 8 Flora. It remained the closest asteroid to the Sun until 433 Eros and 434 Hungaria were found, leading to the discovery of two new families of asteroids inward from the 4:1 Kirkwood gap which forms the boundary of the main belt.

Photometric observations of this asteroid gave a light curve with a rather long rotation period of 26.038 ± 0.002 hours and a brightness variation of 0.56 ± 0.03 in magnitude. It has an orbital period of 3.21 years or about 1171 days.

The Myth– In Greek mythology, Medusa (“guardian, protectress”) was a Gorgon, generally described as a winged human female with living venomous snakes in place of hair. Gazers upon her face would turn to stone. Most sources describe her as the daughter of Phorcys and Ceto, though the author Hyginus makes her the daughter of Gorgon and Ceto. Medusa was beheaded by the hero Perseus, who thereafter used her head, which retained its ability to turn onlookers to stone, as a weapon until he gave it to the goddess Athena to place on her shield. In classical antiquity, the image of the head of Medusa appeared in the evil-averting device known as the Gorgoneion.

The three Gorgon sisters—Medusa, Stheno, and Euryale—were all children of the ancient marine deities Phorcys and his sister Ceto, chthonic monsters from an archaic world. While ancient Greek vase-painters and relief carvers imagined Medusa and her sisters as beings born of monstrous form, sculptors and vase-painters of the fifth century began to envisage her as being beautiful as well as terrifying. In an ode written in 490 BC Pindar already speaks of “fair-cheeked Medusa”.

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 because Poseidon had raped her 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.

In most versions of the story, she was beheaded by the hero Perseus, who was sent to fetch her head by King Polydectes of Seriphus because Polydectes wanted to marry his mother. The gods were well aware of this, and Perseus received help. He received a mirrored shield from Athena, gold, winged sandals from Hermes, a sword from Hephaestus and Hades’s helm of invisibility. Since Medusa was the only one of the three Gorgons who was mortal, Perseus was able to slay her while looking at the reflection from the mirrored shield he received from Athena. During that time, Medusa was pregnant by Poseidon. When Perseus beheaded her, Pegasus, a winged horse, and Chrysaor, a giant wielding a golden sword, sprang from her body. Harrison’s translation states “the Gorgon was made out of the terror, not the terror out of the Gorgon.

A number of early classics scholars interpreted the myth of the Medusa as a quasi-historical – “based on or reconstructed from an event, custom, style, etc., in the past”, or “sublimated” memory of an actual invasion. According to Joseph Campbell:

The legend of Perseus beheading Medusa means, specifically, that “the Hellenes overran the goddess’s chief shrines” and “stripped her priestesses of their Gorgon masks”, the latter being apotropaic faces worn to frighten away the profane.

That is to say, there occurred in the early thirteenth century B.C. an actual historic rupture, a sort of sociological trauma, which has been registered in this myth, much as what Freud terms the latent content of a neurosis is registered in the manifest content of a dream: registered yet hidden, registered in the unconscious yet unknown or misconstrued by the conscious mind

In 1940, Sigmund Freud’s “Das Medusenhaupt (Medusa’s Head)” was published posthumously. In Freud’s interpretation: “To decapitate = to castrate. The terror of Medusa is thus a terror of castration that is linked to the sight of something. Numerous analyses have made us familiar with the occasion for this: it occurs when a boy, who has hitherto been unwilling to believe the threat of castration, catches sight of the female genitals, probably those of an adult, surrounded by hair, and essentially those of his mother.” In this perspective, the ‘ravishingly beautiful’ Medusa is the mother remembered in innocence; before the mythic truth of castration dawns on the subject. Classic Medusa, in contrast, is an Oedipal/libidinous symptom. Looking at forbidden mother (in her hair-covered genitals, so to speak) stiffens the subject in illicit desire and freezes him in terror of the Father’s retribution. There are no recorded instances of Medusa turning a woman to stone.

Archetypal literary criticism continues to find psychoanalysis useful. Beth Seelig analyzes Medusa’s punishment from the aspect of the crime of having been raped rather than having willingly consented in Athena’s temple as an outcome of the goddess’ unresolved conflicts with her own father, Zeus.

Why She Matters– IT’S FUCKING MEDUSA. She is arguably the most enduring figure from the entire insane rogue’s gallery that is Greek Myth. Now, this asteroid has been picked apart by literally everyone, with just about all of them coming to the same results; Medusa means rape. Now I don’t necessarily disagree with my fellow astrologers on this topic (except Ami Manning, she can die in a hole for all I care) but let’s see if we can find something they might have missed, shall we?

Right so, one theme that echoes throughout the story (and is included in her name) is that Medusa is linked to the idea of protection. She was the guardian of the sacred in her role as priestess, and Campbell’s interpretation (along with Harrison) leans heavily into that without outright saying so- but what is she protecting? Well, I think Freud was onto something (*vomits off-screen* That was harder to admit than you guys know.); It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the similarity between the female genitalia and a snake-haired monster to the untrained eye, especially the child’s mind. If we put the pieces together we get a narrative: A lost snake cult of early Greece, before the Age of Heroes, where the women ruled and the mysteries of Life were the sacred secret. There are weird stories of Athens being ruled by snakes in the earliest dark days, and Mt. Olympus itself was originally owned by a giant snake before the Titan Kronos claimed it in his wrestling match. Medusa can be seen as a conduit to this deep past, and in the chart it will represent a point that is sacred, a secret you must defend and carry through your life- a sacred duty.

The real reason I did Medusa today of all days is due to her other connotation. I posit that Medusa does not necessarily represent rape by itself. Look, we know that there is real evil in the world, and 80% of it is evil that men do, especially to women. It happens and we would be fools to deny it. Just because its ugly doesn’t mean we should shrink from its terrifying reality. Today, while Venus is in Scorpio and we are in Libra season, a brave woman is testifying before a panel of men who don’t believe her about a sexual assault of a man who she has to sit mere feet from. She is speaking up to prevent him from being put in a position to affect millions of lives and take power from even more women. She has to relive her horror under the scrutiny of an entire nation. I put forward Medusa’s other function- The protectress of those who have been raped. Medusa defends women against men and the evil that they do- Remember that the only reason Perseus could defeat her was with the help of Athena. The abused need a monster to defend them from the other, scarier monsters that haunt them- and there’s no one more up to the task than Medusa.

To find out where she shows up in your chart, go to astro.com, put in your birth details and in the extended options, at the bottom of the next page, there will be a menu of additional objects. To the right of that is a blank space where you can enter the number 149, for Medusa. Once you have it entered, generate the chart! Where does Medusa affect your life? Let us know in the comments below!

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