Thursday, August 31, 2017

Review: Medusa Anthology

Re-visioning Medusa: from Monster to Divine Wisdom, a girl god anthology; Glenys Livingstone, Ph.D, Trista Hendren, Pat Daly, editors; preface by Joan Marler; cover art by Arna Baartz; CreateSpace 2017, trade paperback 6” x 9”, 266 pages; also available as an e-book.

If you’ve ever wondered about the mythical persona known as Medusa, this is the book for you. Re-visioning Medusa covers a lot of ground and includes a number of different points of view and interpretations. It is excellently edited to alternate among essays, art, and poetry. Included among the many points of information, for instance, we learn that the animals associated with Medusa and her iconography include snakes, birds, horses, lions, and boars. 

In her Preface, Joan Marler, known for her association with Marija Gimbutas and for founding the Institute of Archaeomythology, explains that this volume contains work by people from “Australia, North America, Europe, Israel and Turkey.” With brief summaries of some of the essays in this book, Marler discusses the history of Medusa mythology in many different cultures, including Southeastern European, Greek, the Balkans, and Renaissance (Christian) Italy, as she writes: “Renaissance artists, inspired by Greek mythological themes, frighteningly realistic portrayals of decapitated women with snakes for hair….emblematic of the Inquisitional murders taking place in Europe during that time…. Later, during the 18th-19th centuries, Romantic artists, poets, and Decadents recast Medusa as a beautiful victim, not a monster….” She goes on to explain the influence of Freudian psychology in the 20th century and urges us to be present in the “here and now,” as we “listen the ancient wisdom that is our True Inheritance.”

An introductory note by Editor Trista Hendren, explains why the editors of Revisioning Medusa decided to allow the authors from diverse countries and institutions to use the spelling, punctuation, and other style features that they were used to rather than standardizing such style items in the entire book, as is customary. I think it was a wise, innovative decision to allow this diversity and adds color to the book. In keeping with this style freedom, I am not including degrees (such as Ph.D. and Rev.) with the contributors’ names, although they are included in the book.

I’m going to leave my coverage of the many essays in this book until after I list the poets and artists, and approach the essays in what I hope is an innovative way.

Contributing poets (in order of appearance of their first poem in this anthology) are Barbara Ardinger, Susan Hawthorne, Janet Guastavino, Angela Kunschmann, Penny-Anne Beaudoin, Kerryn Coombs-Valeontis, and Elizabeth Oakes.

In order of appearance of initial art contribution, contributors of art showing various interpretations of Medusa (in black & white—both original and photos of art or sculpture) include: Glenys Livingstone, Cristina Biaggi, Miriam Robbins Dexter (within essay), Sudie Rakusin, Jeanne K. Raines, Lizzie Yee, Caroline Alkonost, Diane Goldie (with descriptive text), Kaalii Cargill (within essay), Luisah Teish (with descriptive text), Alyscia Cunningham, Jack K. Jeansonne (with descriptive text by Marija Krstic), Susan Hawthorne, Arna Baartz, Nuit Moore (with descriptive text and poem), Glenys Livingstone (artist unknown), Kerry Coombs-Valeontis, Marie Summerwood, Meg Dreyer, Pegi Eyers (with descriptive text).

Some of the essays are scholarly, some are more personal in tone, and others have still other stylistic approaches. To demonstrate the views and styles of the many essayists, I will briefly comment upon the essay and quote a short passage from each.

Writing from her personal experience over the years, Glenys Livingstone, in her essay, “Mother Medusa: Regenerative One,” writes of wearing a headpiece that was “characteristic of the ancient primordial Medusa, though I did not know it….Only gradually have I come to identify Her snake coils and bird wings, as an ancient combination representative of Medusa….I realize now that I had been invoking Medusa; calling Her into my being, embodying Her in Seasonal ceremony, embedding Her in regenerative creativity in my life.”

In her essay, “Medusa: Ferocious and Beautiful, Petrifying and Healing: Through the Words of the Ancients,” Miriam Robbins Dexter, one of Livingstone’s sources, presents scholarly material to show that “Medusa is a compilation of Neolithic European, Semitic, and Indo-European mythology and iconography.” She explores the meanings of Medusa’s name as well as her various myths, which she has translated from Greek and Latin texts. She points out the differences in the way Medusa is understood over the centuries, writing, “Whereas the Neolithic Goddess is a powerful arbiter of birth, death, and rebirth, she has been transformed in Greek from a Goddess of the life continuum to this a dead head.”

Jane Meredith’s long, personally-focused essay, “Calling Medusa In,” concludes with an invocation, I excerpt and quote here in part: “Oh, Medusa, I’m calling you in….I invoke you into my own life and the lives of my friends, I invoke you into the houses and families of childhoods everywhere….Bring your qualities Medusa….It is time serpents were released and wildness broke the stone face of what is acceptable and we saw behind the masks….”

In the shortest essay in the book, “To Stand Witness,” Teri Uktena writes that although the Medusa myth has always been a favorite of hers, she was “bothered by the myth from the very beginning because it made no sense.” She goes on to explain why she felt this way and ultimately links it to real life instances in which women have been sexually abused.

In her essay, “Medusa: The Invitation,” Maureen Owen writes, “The story of Medusa is fundamentally the story of the domination of the patriarchal invaders of mainland Greece over the early goddess culture of North Africa….When I hear this story, I hear Medusa’s invitation, urging me to look deeper….” Owen continues by delving into the roles of serpents, and Medusa as high priestess, Goddess, and Queen, and Crone, depending on the time and culture.

In “Till We Have Bodies, “ Kaali Cargill, discusses Medusa mythology as part of her “love affair with myth.” She writes, “She [Medusa] has been known as the Destroyer aspect of the Triple Goddess called Neith in Egypt, Ath-eena or Athene in North Africa. It is through Medusa that mythology offers a hint of what once may have been possible for women in terms of birth control.”

In her essay, “Medusa, Athena, Sophia: the Fierceness of Wisdom Justice,” Bonnie Odione writes: “we cannot look at her face directly, as the patriarchs could not view Yahweh’s.” In exploring Medusa’s relationship to Wisdom goddess(es), she suggests, “a rapid transit from Greek mythology to pre-common era Jewish Alexandria….The Wisdom (Hebrew: Hockmah) tradition that was present throughout the Hebrew Scriptures is Grecianized (Greek: Sophia…) to better reflect Alexandrian culture….” She continues by discussing a quote from the Book of Wisdom, used at Donald Trump’s inauguration.

In her essay, “Medusa, My Mother and Me,” Barbara C. Daughter explores her relationship with her mother and her own self-image in light of various images of Medusa. She writes of conflating Medusa with “a small statue Arthur Evans is said to have unearthed at Knossos Greece: the Minoan Snake Goddess….Who were these snake-wielding women and what could they reveal to me?”

Marie Summerwood begins her essay, “Medusa Goddess: Up Close and Personal,” with a memory from her priestess initiation of “the first time I knowingly met the presence of Medusa….” She had called in other goddesses, including Isis, Quan Yin, Mary, Aphrodite. She had not planned to invoke Medusa, but “the moment when I had planned to speak the name of the next goddess, my hands clenched and unclenched and I found myself fiercely whispering – over and over – the name of Medusa.” She goes on to describe the work she has done through Medusa, and ends with a chant with notated music.

In her essay, “Medusa’s Hall of Mirrors,” Leslene della-Madre writes that as a result of her work with women’s mysteries, “I have felt that helping women to reclaim Medusa by symbolically reattaching her head through ritual is deeply empowering.” She goes on to discuss the ritual for such a working, as well as her research to try to find out why “the origins of myths from cultures around the world that seem to bear similar resemblances, even though contact amongst people living far apart most likely did not occur.” Her explorations take her to what to some may be a startling—and to me fascinating, and innovative— conclusion involving the possible change of “planetary configurations in our solar system.”

In “Ancient Wisdom for Modern Times, “ C. Loran Hills reflects on the effects of various versions of the Medusa myth. In some versions, she notes, “Wild women are condemned as corrupt, depraved, and wicked….unruly, ungovernable, visionary, savage, and ferocious….Strong-willed women are demonized in the patriarchal system and socialized to behave.” To counter this, she urges us to nurture each other and educate ourselves. She also comments that women’s aging is “viewed as repugnant”and “treated like a disease…” and discusses the history of the word, “hag.”

Marguerite Rigoglioso’s essay tells us “How You Can Reattach Medusa’s Head,” with instructions based on a ritual she first performed with a group in 2012 and which has been performed by a number of groups since. Of the ritual’s significance, she writes: “With the enactment of this reparatory ritual, we set in motion the re-memberment of this ancestor, and thus the reversal of her story. With that, we set into motion the reversal of all women’s disempowerment.”

“Medusa: Wisdom of the Crone Moon,” by Theresa Curtis is a dramatic (some may feel at times melodramatic) narrative. At the beginning of this essay Curtis writes, “her tale is long and rich, and constantly growing deeper – it can never truly be known…. For me, She reeks of endless mystery of the secrets beyond the dark moon.” Curtis then goes on to write of Sigmund Freud’s referral to Medusa as “Vagina dentata…exhibiting panic and horror…in the face of her power…. he was never able to complete his treatise on Her.” Curtis then recommends how women can “reflect on Medusa without statuing to stone” through an initiation that involves setting intention, an induction that involves becoming Medusa, and awareness.

Gillian M.E.(dusa) Alban begins her essay, ”Medusa’s Stunning Powers Reflected in Literature,” with this sentence: “The monstrously divine Medusa is emblematic of women’s struggles to rise above oppressions with her serpentine power and invincible gaze.” After reviewing Medusa mythology, among those whose work she delves into are Frieda Kahlo, Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Robert Graves, Jean Paul Sartre, Margaret Atwood, Sue Monk Kidd, and Angela Carter.

Dawn Glinkski’s “Making Amends with Medusa” focuses on the fixed star, Algol, at 26 degrees of Taurus, which is known as the “demon star” or “Medusa’s head.” This position is of particular interest to me because I have a stellium (several planets) at or near this position. Among the famous people Dawn discusses whose planets are conjunct or near Algol, is Bob Dylan, whose birthday is the same as mine (yes, date and year)—our charts are close in time (taking into consideration time zone difference), differing most in location. Glinkski points out that Dylan has Uranus conjunct (in same degree as) Algol (as do I) and sees this related to his being involved in the civil rights movement (as was I) and rebelling “against the establishment though his music.” (as I have through my writing?) She writes that 3 words she associates with Algol are “protection, preservation, and prevention.” Though this information was unknown to me at the time (about 3 decades ago), I selected a statue of Medusa to place in my office at work for just such purposes. And that is also why I named this blog after Her. Among other people Glinski discusses who have birth charts with relationships to Algol are Oliver Cromwell, John F. Kennedy, and Donald Trump. Glinkski interprets the placement in their charts and also suggests ways to interpret this placement if it appears in your birth chart.

In “Re-visioning Medusa: A Personal Odyssey” Sara Wright tells how, when she was a child, for her a painting conflated her mother with Medusa. She writes, “This image of my mother with her long, curly hair, seemed quite frightening to me. It was as if this painting held a key – but to what?” Continuing, she writes, “as an adolescent, I started to call myself Medusa….self-loathing became the mask I wore. I hated my body.” The essay ultimately tells how, as an adult, she came terms with the fear of her mother by finding out more about Medusa. Near the end of the essay. She ties her “odyssey” in with a current political situation.

Laura Shannon, in her essay “Medusa and Athena: Ancient Allies in Healing Women’s Trauma,” sees these goddesses as helping women, mostly in similar ways, despite their differences in mythology. She cites a number of other authors who have written on the topic of these goddesses and trauma (such as PTSD) including Patricia Monaghan, Sigmund Freud, Joseph Campbell, Carol P. Christ, Marija Gimbutas, Miriam Robbins Dexter, Anne Baring, and Annis Pratt. She sees both Athena and Medusa as protectors and writes: “By placing Medusa’s head in her heart, Athena gives Medusa a post-traumatic sanctuary in a safe and strong body, and Medusa gives Athena a part of her protective powers.” Shannon goes on to discuss the role of circle dancing, both in ancient Athens and in current Greece and the Balkans (and, I would add, in other countries such as the U.S., where I have participated in such dances).She feels these dances help women heal from trauma as well as “affirm and transmit pre-patriarchal values.”

Trista Hendren is another one of the authors who, as she puts it in“Re-stor(y)ing Sanity,”the book’s last essay, was, as a child “terrified of Medusa.” In exploring the reasons why— both as a child and growing into adulthood— she delves into the writings of Margaret Atwood, Mary Oliver, Toni Morrison (particularly Sula), bell hooks, Jane Caputi, Hélène Cixous, Monica Sjöö, Barbara Mor, Andrea Dworkin, Audre Lorde, Mary Daly, and Starhawk. One of the conclusions Hendren reaches is: “Our patriarchal brainwashing thoroughly rinsed out the richness of our being— even the biological realities of our bodies. Everything is supposed to be bleached. Our body hair removed. Our faces, masked. Our glorious womanly smells, perfumed over. Our menses, hidden or erased completely….”

An exceptional anthology, Re-visioning Medusa will be valued not only by people who have studied and worked with Medusa for some time, but also those who haven’t yet wondered about Her. A complete list of the Table of Contents, including title of contribution and contributor’s name, can be found by clicking on the “Look Inside” feature on the book’s page on

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Buzz Coil: July-August 2017

Here are some recent posts from blogs on our blogroll (please note, we don't knowingly list posts in Buzz Coil that have been published previously by the blogger elsewhere or on the same blog):

Women & Mythology: This blog’s Aug. 19 post announces “2018 ASWM Conference and Call for Proposals.” Deadline for proposals is Oct. 15 for the conference being held in Las Vegas March 16-17. A link to info on proposal guidelines is included.

 Annelinde’s World: Annelinde Metzner’s July 29 post is her poem (with 2 illustrations), “The Magic Pouch.” The poem is scheduled to appear in the 2018 We’Moon Datebook. It begins:
“I have released my magic pouch.
Fathom this – the miracle sac nestled in my abdomen
where spirits come to Earth and find their destiny.”
Metzner's July 22 post, “Magdala Tower, is addressed to Mary Magdalene and posted on her feast day. With 5 illustrations.

HecateDemeter: Blogger Hecate’s Aug. 22 post, “This is a Prayer to the Erinyes; This Is a Prayer for the Resistance,” is written in support of anti-fascists et al., and as a response to the death of Heather Heyer. Her Aug. 20 post continues her series, “The Magical Battle for America,” with a response to Stephen Bannon’s exit from the White House and a meditation involving wands and “your landbase.” Hecate posted other posts in this intriguing series on Aug. 13, Aug. 6, July 30, July 23, July 17, July 8, and July 1.

Works of Literata: In an Aug, 21 post, "Magic for the eclipse," blogger Literata shares the advice she has received through working with the total solar eclipse.

My Village Witch: Byron Ballard’s Aug. 1 post, “Setting of the Sun—a Harvest Lament,” explains the difference between the harvest holidays, Lughnasadh and Lammas, and discusses the opinions among Pagans about this first Harvest Holiday. Includes ritual material.

Pagaian Cosmology: In a July 22 post, “Imbolc/Lammas at Earth Gaia, August 2017,” Glenys D. Livingstone compares the celebration of Imbolc (“Early Spring”) in Australia, where she lives, with Lammas (“Late Summer”) in the Northern Hemisphere.

Broomstick Chronicles: On Aug. 22, in a post titled, "AAR 2016," Aline O’Brien (aka Macha NightMare) publishes a long post about the syncretism of various religious and spiritual paths within Paganism. With several illustrations, including a copy of a painting of a well-known actress by a well-known pop artist. Published simultaneously on COG Interfaith Reports.

Because of the large number and variety of bloggers and posts on these blogs, we are now suggesting that you visit them and select the posts that interest you most.

Feminism and Religion: Many bloggers from many different religions and paths.

Pagan Square: This blog of many mostly-Pagan paths is sponsored by BBI Media and includes SageWoman blog posts

The Motherhouse of the Goddess: Blog affiliated with Motherhouse Podcasts and Mystery School.

The Wild Hunt: Pagan, news-oriented blog that has grown from single blogger to many bloggers.