Friday, January 22, 2016


"Stheno" by Troy's Work Table. Carport chalking for Friday 22 January 2016.

Sidewalk chalk, charcoal, chalk pastels.


I was reading poetry and plays of ancient Greek writers and wondering how we end up with the stories that we think have been told. They are what I call "Sunday school" stories. Being raised in a Lutheran congregation, I heard many Bible stories in Sunday school and confirmation, only to learn later in life that many of the stories were darker than the versions I heard as a child or that adult storytellers and teachers left out pieces that were violent, contradictory, or just plain weird.

The same is true for many Greek myths. The gods use mortals as pawns in games they play against one another. They even use the so-called "heroes" of Greek mythology to act on their immortal behalf, usually without the hero knowing that he is being used.

The story of Medusa is one such story.


The story that most of us know is probably something along these lines. There is a monster Medusa, who is terrorizing the countryside, turning creatures, men, women, and heroes to stone with her gaze. The hero Perseus is sent to slay her and take her head, and he is helped along the way by gifts from his father (Zeus), Hermes, and the goddess who wants Medusa's head (Athena). Athena is the one who made Medusa the monster she is, though. Poseidon raped the mortal human Medusa in the Temple of Athena, thereby desecrating this sacred space with an act of violence and violation. (In some versions of the story, Medusa is a willing participant, but notice that Poseidon isn't punished.)


There are further complications in the story.

(1) Medusa's sisters Stheno and Eurykale, both of whom are immortal, unlike the mortal Medusa, are likewise monstrous. Are they punished with monstrosity along with Medusa due to Poseidon's transgression? Or are they punished as monstrous offspring of older deities, who, like the Titans, are supplanted by the newer and more recent gods?

(2) Perseus himself is sent to certain death by a future father-in-law who wants him out of the picture and gives him a task likely to end in his demise. The gods intervene to ensure that Perseus is successful.

(3) Why does Athena want the Gorgoneion (Medusa's head as amulet) for her Aegis (sometimes a shield, sometimes an armor)? Why does Zeus want the same? And why do they need Perseus to retrieve it for them?


Which brings us back to Stheno. Why wouldn't she pursue the slayer of her sister? Why wouldn't she seethe against the murderer of her kin?


View more photos of "Stheno" HERE.

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