Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Medusa Touch - Part 3

The Medusa Touch (part 3), continued from part 2.

Continuing on the theme of deities that I think are similar to Medusa, here are a couple more of interest. Here is the goddess Kali as her associated god Durga:

Kālī is the feminine of kāla "black, dark coloured." ... The homonymous kāla "appointed time", which depending on context can mean "death", is distinct from kāla "black", but became associated through popular etymology. The association is seen in a passage from the Mahābhārata, depicting a female figure who carries away the spirits of slain warriors and animals. She is called kālarātri (which Thomas Coburn, a historian of Sanskrit Goddess literature, translates as "night of death") and also kālī (which, as Coburn notes, can be read here either as a proper name or as a description "the black one"). Kali's association with blackness stands in contrast to her consort, Shiva, whose body is covered by the white ashes of the cremation ground (Sanskrit: śmaśāna) in which he meditates, and with which Kali is also associated, as śmaśāna-kālī.

In the above picture Kali/Durga is seen with the typical dishevled hair of other Medusa related figures. Durga is translated as "the invincible," which is interesting when considering that although Medusa was mortal, her sister Gorgons were invincible.

This is a more telling picture of Kali. Here she is more blue than black, but we can also see the parallels to Medusa more clearly. Kali holds the severed head of a slain warrior, which she decapitated with her sword. This should remind anyone familiar with the Medusa tale that Medusa was decapitated by Perseus, shown here in a very similar pose (with an identical sword).

Kali holds the Trident, the weapon of choice for Neptune who is the Roman version of Medusa's 'lover' (and/or rapist), Poseiden. She is sticking out her tongue, has four arms to Medusas four wings, and snakes are seen on the ground around Shiva. More importantly her pitch black and wild hair is eclipsing the sun. Even more telling is the crescent moon (a shared symbol with Sin) on her crown which is placed over the sun as well. Kali, who becomes drunk on the blood of her victims on the battlefield, dances with destructive frenzy. Blood drinking seems to be part of each of the deities I've presented, except oddly enough Medusa herself.
In Greek mythology, blood taken from the right side of a Gorgon could bring the dead back to life, yet blood taken from the left side was an instantly fatal poison.

Moving on the South America, here is an Incan figure (with "Medusa" face) with an inset picture of an eclispe to compare to the drawings on it's face. During the time that the Nazca Lines were being scratched out in the martian surface of Peru there were many total eclipses visible in that region. It is thought that the Inca viewed the eclispe as the eye of God and drew the pictures to appease him. Just for fun, here is a famous Nazca drawing, a monkey with a labyrinth spiral tail. (Hmm a primate and a stargate, why does that seem familiar?)

Medusa the Gorgon.
According to Ovid (Metamorphoses), Medusa alone had serpents in her hair, and this was due to Athena (Roman Minerva) cursing her. Medusa had copulated with Poseidon (Roman Neptune), who was aroused by the golden color of Medusa's hair, in a temple of Athena. Athena therefore changed the enticing golden locks into serpents. Aeschylus says that the three Gorgons had only one tooth and one eye among them, which they had to swap among themselves.
Medusa was a stunning blond bombshell until Athena got a hold of her. Reminds me of the old movie about cavemen tribes. The “good” cavemen were all blond and the “evil” cavemen all had dark hair. Anyways, the single eye is quite provocative (as is the single TooTH but I’ll skip that), as single eye’d deities are quite common. Usually a single eye'd god is... well is God. Associated with the single orb of the Sun, his bright eye, and having some story as to why the Moon isn’t quite as bright; having been lost or pecked out or donated to a fountain of wisdom, etc. Focusing on Medusa, it’s quite fortuitous that after having written about single eyed figures so many times I find that Medusa is one as well. Anyways the hair turning from light to dark, and the single eye basically clinches the moon symbolism for me.

But the moon and sun are quite similar, and even overlap in the awsome display of an eclipse. Being able to predict the cycle of eclipses would be a show of power for any society, who could then claim to be able to predict the future. Once they figured out the moons orbit, and the sometimes erratic eclispe cycle, they could use the portent in the sky to amaze their subjects; similar to Apocalypto where the eclispe (which was almost certainly known in advance) was ended when the god was appeased with blood sacrifice. One such famous calendar from South America is the Aztec Sun Stone, or Aztec Calendar.

Historically, the Aztec name for the huge basaltic monolith is Cuauhxicalli Eagle Bowl, but it is universally known as the Aztec Calendar or Sun Stone. It was during the reign of the 6th Aztec monarch in 1479 that this stone was carved and dedicated to the principal Aztec deity: the sun. The stone has both mythological and astronomical significance. It weighs almost 25 tons, has a diameter of just under 12 feet, and a thickness of 3 feet.
This calendar is basically the same as the famous Mayan calendar. By now you should be able to pick out all the familiar symbols. There's the face with wide-open eyes, and the open mouth showing the teeth with the tongue sticking out. "The tongue, stuck out is the form of an obsidian knife, indicates that the diety demands to be fed with blood and human hearts." This head has golden hair, as it is the sun god's face, Tonatiuh, or Lord of Heaven. On either side of the bodyless head is what appears to be two serpents. Described as the "claws of the sun god which are suspended in space," these beings have a single eye and eyebrow and a human heart in their teeth/claws. Instead of the four wings of Medusa or the four arms of Kali, there are the four Suns of the four previous epochs around the face.

Continued in the last article, part 4.


Unknown said...

Alright well it's getting late and I got school tomarrow, so I'll have to do another part to this later. Sheesh, well at least I'm not making you read it all at once! The next part will probably (hopefully) be the last.

Unknown said...

Strangely, that does make me happy.

Very interested in the hair transformation, turning from blond to snakes, or blond to dark. Was that old caveman movie the practically unwatchable "The Clan of the Cavebear"? Any other examples of hair color changing? It seems a ridiculously easy device for storytellers to use. I'll have to keep my eye open for it.

Kali's blood frenzy makes her sound like a Maenad (or more likely prototypical of Maenads) and she bears remarkable similarity to the Celtic Morrigan/Badb/Macha.

Unknown said...

You know, I probably couldn't tell one fur-bikini movie from another, but I'm sure my mom knows which one I'm talking about.. maybe I'll call her. Anyways there's a hair transfomation in Jake Kotze favorite, a Robin Tunny movie, The Craft. (Actually at least 3 hair transformations.) The one I'm thinking about is the black girl, "Rochelle" who has a feud with the school's typical blond bimbo, "Laura Lizzie." (Both names have LL!) Rochelle gets a lock of Laura's hair and braids it into her own. Later, Laura's hair starts to fall out until she's bald. So the black girl with black curly hair causes the white girls golden hair to dissapere. Now, I'm sure you can see where I'm going; this seems very much like an eclispe. The rays of light represented by long golden hair have dissapered due to the black curly hair - or Medusa snakes.

I'm sure that there are plenty of movies with hair change. All I can think of right now is "Eternal Sunshine...," (dyed hair form orange to blue) "Ultraviolet," (black to purple or vise versa) and "12 Monkeys" (dark brown to blond with a whig). But now that you're looking for it, I'm sure you'll notice more.

The Maenads are definetly worth a look. The blood letting or sacrifice sure is interesting, but not really what I want to concentrate on here, though it might be worth a future article. Hmmm, the moon goes from white to blood-red during a lunar eclipse, and white to black during a solar eclispe. The sun goes from gold to black and loses it's "hair" or sun rays during an eclipse. So much to think about!

Unknown said...

I'm wondering about the hair motif because I'm thinking about writing about Howl's Moving Castle, and his hair at one point changes from blond to red to black. He makes a really big deal about it, as a matter of vanity. I found this a little mystifying though, as a symbolic device, reverse alchemy. But it is an eclipse too now that you mention it, or lunar phase shift of some nature.

Rogue gets a white streak in X-Men and the same thing happens to the mom in Poltergeist when she goes into the Otherworld, but I suppose that's different.

The Graeae also share an eye amongst the three of them. There's certainly a lunar relation to all the tripartite goddess figures, Gorgons, Fates, Furies, Morrigan, etc.

Very interesting series.

ericswan said...

Leap Day and all. It appears you were moved by the as above thingy more than you realized at the time.

Naiad said...

Hi! very good article, I liked it speacially cause you name two goddess I love, Tlaltecutli and Kali, as you said they have a lot of the vampire idea, which I love.
I just had the most amazing experience with Tlaltecutli...really amazing!!
Good blog!
Thanks, cheers from México City.

mariya said...

Hey this was well brought out!!! I love it! I just dont understand the calendar. Its such a blur when I look at it. I just space out. And I have 20/20 vision. Its just hard for me to decipher codes from what it is. What does it mean? Whats the details in it? Honestly.

Unknown said...

Haha, yeah mariya, the Central American symbolism is very creative, and very hard to decipher, at least for people not familiar with it (as I am not!). Here's a picture which explains some of the details. If the picture is down when you read this, just do a google image search for "aztec sun stone" and you should find a black and white image of the calendar with all the details on the first page of results. Thanks for stopping by :D


What are you saving up to be.. Jewish?