My name is Medusa. I was a mortal baby in a family of immortal and dangerous creatures. I devoted my life to Athena and became a priestess in Athena’s temple. Here, I witnessed her power, her strength, her wisdom, and her human-like instability of temperament.
My story is well-known, but often only the part about how I was punished for allowing Poseidon to overcome me with his desires. My story continues beyond my punishment to my dark times when I was cursed and angry. I became a target for the ‘heroes’ of our time. Finally, my story ends beyond my cruel death when my head becomes a symbol of power and protection for the ones that were responsible for my downfall.
This is my story, before I became a young woman, before I became an object of desire, and before Athena’s rage turned my sisters and I into the most feared creatures of the Greek world and beyond. This is not the story of the goddess and god that destroyed me, not of the hero that murdered me, or of those that used my head to kill others with my power. This is my story and the story of my family.
Athena is powerful, wise, and prone to fits of rage and jealousy. She is the goddess of wisdom and war. She is cunning and plays the long game except when she loses – then her punishment is swift and often overly harsh. Athena is beautiful but does not want a lover – ever. She was born ready for battle and demands the women that serve her to remain chaste and uninterested in men. She has many temples through Greece but has gained special interest in Medusa due to her overwhelming beauty and charm. Athena is competitive in every aspect in life and saw Medusa as competition for the travelers’ attention and devotion. Athena kept Medusa close out of jealousy and suspicion, not out of love for the priestess who devoted her life to her service.
Stheno and Euryale are my gorgon sisters. We have other siblings – way more than I know about, I’m sure. Our mother Ceto, ruler of the dangers of the sea, is also known as the mother of monsters and our father Phorcys controls the dangers of the deep. They did not spend time raising their children and barely spent time together. My father stayed in his depths most of the time and was rarely seen outside his cold and dark realm. Our mother was like the seas and caves she inhabited; cold, dark, and dangerous.
Stheno and Euryale were born gorgons, but once, they were beautiful. Their faces were fierce and terrifying, but they loved me, and I could feel that tenderness. It was my gorgon sisters that left me at Athena’s temple, and it was my sisters that tried to defend me from her wrath. Even though I was only a mortal, my powerful sisters checked on me from time to time while I was growing up. Maybe they felt responsible since they were home during my birth and mother left me in their care. Maybe they were simply curious and visited me when they wanted a break from terrorizing humans. As my closest family, I loved them, and they loved me – even if they showed it by terrorizing me with their strength and power. They could not care for a mortal child and my mother didn’t want to waste her time with a boring, ungifted child. Even though they did not understand the mortals and hated the gods of Olympus; they left me to be raised in the temple of Athena by the sea, close to home but in the mortal world.
Stheno is the oldest gorgon sister. She had rich, dark, red hair that she wore it in a thick braid down her back. Her eyes are also that deep, red color of congealing blood.
She and Euryale were born immortal, with shiny, black wings, and fearsome fangs. Stheno has a strong, muscular body. Not thick, but powerful.
Euryale was born after Stheno and before me. Her hair was soft brown, like her eyes, the color of a fawn. Next to Stheno, Euryale almost seemed gentle until she spoke. Her voice rang out with a powerful echo that stretched far beyond our sight. She rarely stayed in one place for long, which was fair since her name means far-reaching. Both the gorgon and her voice traveled well beyond any place I traveled until we became monsters.
Unlike Stheno, Euryale’s strength was her voice. Her body is powerful, but she was softer and more sensual than Stheno. Euryale was also slower, more rhythmic in her motions. Since they were so often together, the way I describe them is through their differences.
They were born with wings, fangs, and claws but I had to earn them through my curse. Stheno with her fiery red hair, Euryale with her mousy brown hair, and me with my golden tresses that made a goddess jealous enough to curse – we are the gorgon sisters. Together we stood against Athena and together we were cursed.
Our mother, Ceto, married her brother. Both are primordial gods that rarely concern themselves with the trivial matters of Olympian gods and mortals that arrived long after they became bored with this world. Ceto has the reputation as the mother of monsters. Growing up, I knew of my Graeae sisters, Deino, Enyo, and Pemphredo, and I knew my younger, wilder sister Echidna. Echidna was born with the upper body of a beautiful woman and the lower body of a serpent. Some say she is the true mother of our brother, Ladon, but that is a secret only my mother and Echidna know for sure.
Echidna and Ladon
Echidna is our youngest sister, and we call Ladon our brother although it is rumored that he is truly our nephew. These two were my mother’s final children and both incredibly monstrous. Echidna was perfect in every way to my mother. She was fearful yet alluring and she relieved my mother of her lifelong duty of birthing monsters. Ladon was the golden child, the youngest and a boy after a long line of girls. He had one hundred heads and never slept which made him the perfect guard for Hera’s tree of golden apples. These were my siblings, all monstrous in their own way, all strong and fearsome, and unlike me.
How can I tell my story without Poseidon, the god of the sea? As a creature from the sea, I was drawn to him. He spoke to me about the sea’s beauty and splendor when all I had known was its dangers. To say he was attractive to me was an understatement, but I knew better than to let him get too close. I knew Athena’s feelings toward her uncle. I knew the strength of her rage and her insistence on my chastity – not just in body, but in mind. I was not interested in gaining her wrath, especially since I was already experiencing her jealousy.
Poseidon was insistent and he saw me as a prize to win from his niece, Athena. He was angry that the Athenians had chosen Athena as their patron over him, he was angry at the local village for devoting their temple to her instead of the sea god, and he saw possessing me as a way to hurt the goddess. Even though he wooed me with words of tenderness, his actions were swift and brutal when he understood I would not willingly betray my goddess. Athena arrived after Poseidon had me trapped in her temple. I cried out to her. I cried for her to save me, but I will never know why, she turned her back to me. She left me to her uncle that night and in the morning when she returned, she blamed me for defiling her temple. She blamed me for seducing that monster. She knew his attack was meant to hurt her. He desired me because I was hers and hurt me to spite her. She knew it was her fault that he attacked me, but she cursed me anyway. Poseidon was my downfall and the father to my children, but he was not my lover, not my friend, and not my fault.