by Boots Hart, CAP

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Medusa: Through Our Mental Mirror, Darkly

We all know Medusa - that female gorgon of salacious tongue and twining snake hair...She who evokes such fright that human life turns to stone the moment one lays eyes on the utter perfection of her terrifying flesh.

Or at least we think we know Medusa. But neither the myth nor astrological Medusa are as simple as all that. In the general sense Medusa is about fear. But this point refers to no simple fear on our part.

No, Medusa is...more slithery than that, more frightening and less understood by that Self which in some way or form will learn to fear fearing fear.

In particular, fear of something you don't want to know...that you fear knowing about your Self or life itself. 

Which means Medusa isn't about 'that' or 'them.' Snakes and all, the Medusa in your chart says something about you.

Something intrinsic about you.

Classed as a 'common' main belt asteroid (number 149, should you need to know), we may take solace...(such as it is) knowing  asteroid Medusa is one of literally thousands of asteroids out there. Given how Medusa is about the sort of fear which disquiets us to the point that we will not or cannot do something (that being the 'turned to stone' quality) as humans we are going to have an intrinsic avoidance with regards to anything Medusa.

So that Medusa is merely one of thousands of life factors...that may help us feel comfortable with the 'odds' of reaching our goal(s) without facing something which will stop us in our tracks.

On the other hand, doing that very sort of 'odds weighing' as a means of getting ourselves to do what we need to do in life...isn't that also one of the ways we face the very Medusa we fear?

Ah yes, 'there is nothing to fear but fear itself,' as one American president put it.

Asteroids metaphysically represent all the many factors we face on our way from 'I'll give (this) a try...' to '...I understand now,' and in  Medusa’s case, the “cycle” period within which 'fear' or 'fearful' issues resolve whatever internal issue has been raised.

In other words, Medusa is not the solution to "the problem." The inception of Medusa cycles (which would be the conjunction in your natal chart) will refer to periods or situations which in evoking your response raises something about the difference between being driven by instinct and the honoring of that we know to be not merely true, but that which at some very deep and real level we are sworn to by our own choosing to believe...understand...stand for.
Why all this is and would be...? That comes from the myth about Medusa, a myth which starts with three sisters.

Two of those sisters are immortal. Medusa isn't. Medusa is born mortal - just as we are - and is thus defined as "vulnerable" to things her sisters would never be affected by.

Human traits will differ. When they do, is that what makes us vulnerable to our fears? And in mythic terms, if we are reading the myth of Medusa, should we be wary if we are told that this mortal vulnerability is also described as extremely beautiful?

For Medusa is beautiful. In fact, all three of the sisters are beautiful.

But Medusa is extraordinary. Not only that, but she just loves to show off her long, gloriously beautiful hair.

As for her family, Medusa came from Titans - entities embodying the eternal, sometimes infernal and certainly uncontrollable ('titanic') forces which shape our life and world.

This being the philosophic if highly organized world of Greek mythology, it isn't surprising that such uncontrollable forces were embodied as unruly characters like the Titans. Never represented as particularly personable, wise or witty, they weren't held in high regard by the (somewhat more contained) higher ups of the Olympian pantheon.

But they were Medusa's parents. There is one version of the myth which speaks of Medusa as the child of Ixion's narcissistic lack of gratitude. Yet most name sea Titans as her parents with several names being volunteered as the parents of Medusa and her two somewhat less horrifying sisters, which because water is the metaphysical element of emotions might make it seem like sea Titans are the correct choice as the nominees for gorgon parenthood.

But if so, how is it that Medusa is born mortal and her sisters were born immortal?

That would seem to make the answer Ixion...which in turn (if true) would say Medusa began her own story as the child of Greek myth's original murderer.

And considering how the Greeks had no problem with that all-too-human habit of embodying guilt bequeathed to and embedded in our psyches less by the intent of others than by the triggering of our own internal fears...that explains a deal about the power of a myth which spells a bad end for Medusa from the moment of her beginning.

Not that the myth begins in Medusa's childhood. Far from it - the myth begins as Medusa has been sworn to serve as a priestess to the goddess of all knowledge ethical, logical and unemotional: Pallas Athena.

Athena in Vulcan's Forge
Giorgio Vasari (1511-1574)

It was an honor to do such service in the day. So when the opportunity came to Medusa, she of course took the job of serving Athena on with pleasure.

Thus did Medusa, the vulnerable offspring of titanic emotionalism, enter into the Pallas Athena, she who in springing from Jupiter/Zeus' brow expresses the conviction that an ultimate sort of 'heady' power (wisdom) is to be found in the clarity of perspective and dispassionate comprehension.

And that's where Medusa was and what she was doing when into Athena's temple came Neptune (Poseidon). As ruler of not just oceans but all water physical and metaphysical, Neptune  embodies the 'fluid dynamic' of emotionalism - and considering how life on Earth is water based, it's not surprising that Medusa was drawn by Neptune's presence.

She could hardly help herself. After all, Neptune was Jupiter's brother - which in itself is an interesting foreshadowing of modern science considering the relative roles of planets Neptune and Jupiter in our solar system. Both planets control objects through sheer power of magnetism - which is not unlike what the Greeks postulated in their descriptions of both gods.

This is exactly how metaphysics works.

And yes, the implications can be frightening, particularly as we consider how in most versions of this myth Medusa abandons her vow in willingly succumbing to unfathomable Neptunian passions, thus defiling the sanctity of Wisdom.

That was an exceptionally bad thing to do, for while the knowing of Jupiter and truth of Athena is the basis of that we call 'Free Will,' so Neptune takes us through the full breadth of emotional arc to where all dissipates into that unconscious surrender mortals tend to call 'Fate.'

by Angelo Bronzino

As for the 'alternate' versions of this story, they aren't any more pleasant as they have Neptune raping Medusa. Either way, Medusa is overcome.

And because Medusa is so prone to being overcome by her emotions even when surrounded by the facts of all she has sworn to serve, Athena metes out the famous punishment by transforming Medusa from a beauty into a gorgon - something so shockingly awful as to arrest us where we stand.

In most versions of the tale Athena not only transforms Medusa but her sisters as well. Is that a curious reference to how the feelings of people who otherwise like, love or admire us are affected ("punished") by what we do? Or is the reference to punishing Medusa's sisters an allusion to how often a person shamed in one area of life tends to crumple in others?

The effects of our feelings aren't isolated, after all.

In any case, three young beauties become an ugly trio, though only Medusa achieves the landmark ability to turn mortals into stone.

It's an attribute guaranteed to make it hard to make friends and influence people in any enjoyable (never mind survivable) way and soon Medusa, frightened by her own power, did what many do: she went into isolation, turning punishment into the retreat of self-condemnation.

From that comes an important note on asteroid Medusa: where we find Medusa in the chart we find something which will cause us to hide - either literally, mentally or emotionally. That we hide from created our problems to begin with and it's always emotional.

Too bad we feel too scared of our truth to face it. But we do. There is a place in each heart, mind or soul where we lose the ability to serve in our best interest. The idea of that is scary - and the reality that we can consciously or unconsciously become the instrument of our own downfall simply because of how we are made, who we are, where we come from...that's even scarier.

And yet we know we dare not abandon ourselves to our fears, whatever they may be. 

So what do we do?

How is Medusa - our Medusa - to be defeated? 
The call here being for a 'heroic effort' in our individual cause, the story now shifts to a Perseus, a hero in the making.

Unfortunately Perseus isn't happy. And the reasons for his unhappiness are very much understandable. Not only has Perseus just been given the task of doing away with Medusa, he's been ordered to do it for not the most altruistic of reasons.

And what would that reason be?

That reason starts with King Polydectes, a rather unsubtle fellow seriously intent on marrying Perseus’ mother, Danae.

Polydectes wants Danae in the very worst way and Danae wants nothing to do with Polydectes.

Besides being king (meaning he made all the rules) Polydectes must have also had some smarts as he didn't simply order Danae to become his wife - the common solution of the time for kingly types.

Instead, he concentrates on Danae’s god-like teen son - the product of a truly immortal affair Danae had with Jupiter. If Polydectes was going to have any chance of bullying mom to the altar, Perseus would need to be dealt with. 

So Polydectes cooks up a plan any lustful monarch would be proud of. Feigning a somewhat offended shrug, he lets everyone know that if Danae isn't interested in being his queen...well, that's her problem.

Polydectes will just be moving on.

Danae, Mother of Perseus
by Gustav Klimt

And move on Polydectes does, soon announcing that he's chosen a different woman to be his privileged which point, with his new claim duly claimed, Polydectes stares young Perseus down. What, no wedding present?

Perseus tries pleading financial ineptitude, but that doesn't get him very far as Polydectes accuses Perseus of sitting around on his heroically lazy butt - an accusation which angers Perseus. He's been trying. He just hasn't found the right right job yet...and while he's doing his best, Perseus would take it kindly if the local king would just stop flacking him. After all, what kind of gift was Polydectes expecting from Perseus? What could a young Perseus give the king which would be any sort of suitable wedding present?

Thus the trap is sprung. Having lured young Perseus into volunteering himself, the entirely prepared Polydectes probably waits not a moment before replying.

He actually has something in mind...something Perseus could be a good lad and go fetch for his king.

That thing?

Medusa’s head.

The Head of Medusa
(unknown Flemish artist, 16th c, oil on panel, Uffizi Gallery)

Hearing this, Danae realizes her headstrong son is in over his headstrong head. So she appeals to Zeus (Jupiter) in the key of plaintive, and Jupiter responds by sending his go-to god (Mercury) out as chief procurement organizer.

In truly Olympian fashion this soon results in Mercury and Athena (yes, that Athena) equipping Perseus not merely thoroughly, but in the manner befitting a bastard son of Jupiter (of which there were more than several).

First Mercury hands over a cap of invisibility (on loan from Pluto/Hades). Then the god helps strap his own famously winged sandals onto Perseus' demi-mortal feet before handing the teen an unbreakable, sickle-shaped sword.

But with all this, not surprisingly it's Athena's token which will count most when dealing with Medusa. That which is provided by Athena is Wisdom's own immortal shield. Brightly polished on both its outer and inner faces, Athena's shield literally images how we come to know truth (Athena) in reflection and how that reflection is meant to clarify our perspective on our Self (our truth) as we go up against our conflicts in this world, this life, this existence. 

 The Arming of Perseus
 by Edward Burne-Jones (1885)

So Perseus seeks Medusa out...(apparently her cave is in Africa). And when he gets to that cave he kills the gorgon of emotionality not on sight or by looking at her, but instead by thinking through what to do and how to do it in reflection.

Perseus was out to decapitate and do away with his problem. And as anyone who has ever tried to do something based on processing directions given to them in a mirror's reflection, it takes a peculiarly intense concentration to overcome our instincts.

But it can be done - and that's the point and solution to the Medusa question: to not be driven by instinct. Where Medusa appears in a natal chart or by transit isn't our 'doom' - it's an instruction: this is where you must not operate instinctively. Understanding the issue may be frightening to you, but the cost of not facing such a fear is likely to be far, far greater in the long run.

In essence Medusa asks us to respect ourselves enough to brave our fears, whether they be simple or complex. The image of Perseus wielding the sword of Mercury while protected by Athena is nothing more or less than the metaphysical statement about how in the most dire or difficult of situations it is through the clarity of dispassionate reflection that our mortality is protected - most off all from that instinct which otherwise will prove our undoing. 

As Medusa’s head is severed, blood is spilled. And as that blood flows out into reality, from it comes Medusa's offspring, creatures sometimes considered hers alone and sometimes seen as the product of Medusa surrendering to Neptune.

Whatever that may be, whether taken separately or together, these two creatures do seem to represent Medusa's extremes of spirit: she who serves against she who without thought takes what she wants, regardless of word or promise.

Yes, Medusa does sound a bit like Ixion.

Medusa's first child is the winged horse called Pegasus, a the embodiment of fear as flight, replete with the kind of brute-or-graceful animalistic strength which in the human terms may well suggest that aspects to and the placement of asteroid Medusa may be an important part of astrologically understanding our individual fight-or-flight imperatives whether they be active or unneeded in an otherwise happy life.

Known as “the giant Chrysaor,” Medusa's other 'blood child' grows to become a hero armed with a golden sword upon whom Medusa's curse falls through family - echoing many a human whose family experiences alternation of generational allegiances and trials. Recalling Medusa's reptilian side, one of the Chrysaor children is Echidna, a deadly she-dragon whose upper half is all beautiful female and whose lower half is that of a serpent.

The other child is known as the Geryon - or sometimes in plural form as the Geryones. This isn't a problem of counting, but rather one of distinction - a quality which recalls the 'fuzzy' or more indecisive aspects of Neptune.

In brief, this single-plural problem stems from this entity's description as “a three-bodied giant” - a quality which is somehow supposed to come out as less threatening than Echidna.

Assigned to guarding sacred cattle at the western end of the world, Geryon has come to be associated with constellation Orion the Hunter while Pegasus has its own constellation - one marked by including fixed star Scheat, a problematic star which often speaks to ideas, matters and personalities which are 'before their time' and thus subject to rejected by ourselves or others, either as a 'flight of (Pegasus) fancy' or something which is objected to instinctively.

And yes, thus often enough, incorrectly.

Using the power of reflection, after slaying Medusa Perseus covers her head with a leather sack and carries it away. Still wearing Mercury's winged sandals, he flies north with blood dribbling from the gorgon's neck.

And as those drops fall to the sands below, they give rise to all the poisonous snakes in Africa. Yet lest we think that which is poisonous is always bad, when several drops of Medusa's blood are given to someone with the highly polysyllabic name Erichthonius along with instructions how how to use it as poison, with that also comes instructions on how to use gorgon blood in reanimating the dead.

No, not literally. Perhaps in myth, yes. But for astrological purposes this is a reference to that image we most often associate with the Phoenix - the rising from the ashes, the bringing back to life that which our disproportionate passions may have theoretically destroyed.

To finish here, ultimately Polydectes receives the quintessential lesson in why we should be careful what we ask for, lest we get it when (as most versions of the story have it) Perseus returns home to learn Polydectes has raped his mother Danae.

The young hero heads for the palace where (not shockingly), Polydectes is surprised to see him.

But for good or ill, Polydectes is still Polydectes. Whipping out his most illustrious and kingly sneer, Polydectes informs Perseus that he'd 'known' Perseus couldn't kill Medusa.
But Perseus did kill Medusa. And to prove it, as all the king's sycophant courtiers sneer on Perseus pulls Medusa's head out of the sack, holding it up where all can see it...and be promptly turned to stone.

Some questions shouldn't be asked and some truths are impossible to live with.

But that's just life.

With the king and court duly dealt with, Perseus returns the immortal garb and weaponry to the proper Olympian immortals.

And what about Medusa's head? That Perseus gives to Athena, who then embeds it on the front of her shield - the same shield she gave Perseus to carry.

Is it a warning? Perhaps. Often we try so hard to learn and then are sorry we know. It's the essential lesson of knowledge - that with knowledge comes power, and with power comes the responsibility to use that power properly - which means sometimes in a manner which requires us to silence the voice of instinct in thinking things through.

So sometimes knowledge is indeed a frightening responsibility. But to not know and instead act solely on instinct?

That plainly can ruin a life which could otherwise have been just...beautiful.

Oh how scary...but truth nonetheless.

Perseus (Andromeda's son) doing battle to save his mother - the mortal
spirit of innocence before that which has given Perseus life can be
overwhelmed by Neptune (emotionality) arising in 'mostrous' form from
'oceanic depths' - the psychic sea which is humankind. we really know who Medusa is? Or is Medusa that thing in our life which keeps us from being willing to know the 'frightening reality' of who we are, or what we are capable of doing to our Self or others?

Is that... the knowledge, the possible fear of 'doing' a greater share of why humans seem so drawn to preferring a dream that we can never build on in reality to a factual reality in which we could possibly build our dream but which we cannot access without facing our inner fears?


The head of Medusa as it ended up, mounted at the center of Pallas Athena's
shield, facing all who would approach - a lasting mythic comment on the
connection between fear, perspective and conscious wisdom...and
probably the need for just that.

Beyond whatever else, the frightening face in Wisdom's shield is a directive telling us that our greatest truths lie beyond facing our greatest fears. Only through knowing what our fears are can we choose to learn differently and dispell them.

Yet since there will always be more to learn and be, in the end the only knowledge which will ever really set us free of instinct's rampages is that truth which allows us to accept the beauty of that fear which allows us to know everything about our Self, that being the path to a life as a human being unafraid to face anything.


  1. Whoa. Killer post. It makes me feel like a worm in the sunlight.--Tasha

  2. Is there a book you'd recommend that focuses on interpretations of aspects between natal asteroids and planets? Reason I ask: the Sabian symbol for my natal Medusa (22 degrees 7' Leo=23 Leo/Sabian) galvanized me because I do circus history writing as a hobby. I also wonder about the influence that my natal Pluto at 24/25 degrees Leo may be exerting on my desire to spend more time on my hobby while yoked to my day job. I'd appreciate your giving me info on any authors who write on the subject of asteroids/aspects and planets.
    Thank you,

    1. I don't know of any such book personally, Michele, but that doesn't mean it doesn't exist. My guess is that nobody has yet figured out how to do such a book as narrowing down the 'list' one used would be tough, seeing as there are thousands of named asteroids, and even more waiting to be named.

      But to the whole of the picture you're giving me...Medusa plus Pluto in Leo, the day job versus the evidently much beloved hobby - the entire Leo quest is about how to express ourselves in a manner which is not only expressive of who we are and what we can create, but also - simultaneously - a means by which we connect and make a contribution to the lives of others. Pluto placements always indicate where we will be 'drawn in'...and some of us experience that as initially being drawn inward while others are drawn to other people (this being the starting point of understanding why the natal sign of Pluto says a lot about anyone). But whichever 'direction' we begin with, Pluto teaches us that we can't "obsess" on one factor even if we do like it best because we succeed when everyone succeeds...which makes the Pluto function more or less the highs and lows of experiencing Neptune (which controls Pluto's orbit) as the 'controlling' factor which ultimately rewards ego through ego denial or the use of ego in the service of others.

      Sorry I don't know any names off hand, but I'll give it some thought.


  3. Wow thanks much. Question. I have in the 6th house Medusa 26 Sag, Galactic Center Sag 26...Both are conjunct Mars 28 Sag, which is conjunct Neptune at 21 Sag. Medusa conjunct both Mars and Neptune, Galactic Center only conjuncts Mars. Any key words on this? I just discovered this a few days ago, as Asteroids are very new for me. The whole thing about instinct, is very interesting because I keep reading about the divine feminine, Lilith, etc and trusting instinct, but like Medusa, I have been through trauma, so my instincts have def turned into a Medusa so to speak... But any key words or insights, Connection with having Medusa conjuncting both Mars and Neptune, and Galactic Center only conjuncting Mars?

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  5. Sorry I wanted to ad that, In the same house, Mars which is conjunct Medusa, Galactic Center, Neptune, is also conjunct Nemesis in Cap 2 deg. lol. Not sure how this colors or ads anything to the energy, but IM READING THE ARTICLE ABOUT NEMESIS right now, hence why I posted again here. lol. Learning is fun.

    1. Ow!. As someone who grew up in a sea of trauma, you have my sympathies and understanding that it's a process, learning to rebuild what others break...and I'm not surprised Medusa appeals to you as a symbol, as trauma is all about facing and experiencing fear. Such events will mark and change us (which is why they're defined as traumas and not toe stubs) and we would expect to see signatures of same in the chart. (Think of it this way - would you expect to see no signs of trauma in the chart of someone who is traumatized? No!)

      Now that I'm reading more about your chart (I started with your Eurydike/Moon comment on the "Lachesis, Kalypso, Eurydike: The Measure, the Motivation, the Cost" post) the combination of Moon in Aries and Mars-Medusa-Galactic center is quite a fiery collection - hopefully you have something which you consider personally challenging and 'creative' (however that manifests) to keep your learning, as that is going to (in time) get you where you need to go - which starts with your owning your own "stuff" and dealing with that as something you can somehow 'gift' to others - maybe by public speaking or something like that?

      Being aware of people you work with and end up teaming up with here and there in life (that's 'teaming up' in a non-romantic sense)...that is going to in time provide you with ways where you can - if you choose to - shine and earn substantial respect from others.

  6. I have Medusa in the 1st house but a bit far from my Ascendant.

    1. Facing your Self and personal capacities is no doubt something of a challenge, but there is much to be gained by understanding your own power and the power of your essence.


  7. I have Medusa conj.Karma at 11 degrees Scorpio. My ascendant is at 8 degrees conjunct Dejanira and Selena. I also have Neptune at 15 degrees. I have been facing these great fears these last few years, starting with Saturn and NN hitting the ascendant in 2013. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to benifit from your writing and expert knowledge. It has been greatly beneficial to me and l appreciate it so much.

    1. You are very welcome, Ellen. May light and blessings find you!

  8. What about medusa in the 1st house in Pisces? ��