Advent Calendar of Witches, Day 7, Medusa

You know Theseus was a villainous monster, right? Medusa, on the other hand, brought corals, the Pegasus, and many other marvels into this world. It’s day 6 on the Advent Calendar of Witches and I want to celebrate Medusa.

I wrote about Medusa, the poetics of spells, falling in love, the space between what seems what seems possible and what actually happens, and HD’s “Notes on Thoughts and Vision” for Guernica. Here are the Medusa parts…

Medusa was brought into being by two chthonic monsters of the archaic world. Phorcys was the first merman and father of crabs. Ceto is the mother of whales.

When you hear someone say Medusa was hideous with hair full of snakes, that is some xenophobic assholery by people who lived on the other shore of the Mediterranean Sea. When you hear she was a dangerous and vengeful witch, that means she was as measured in the congressional hearings on the subject of known-rapist Poseidon as any woman so subpoenaed always is.

When Perseus beheaded Medusa, the Pegasus she had been carrying flew forth from her body and passed through the whole sky in orbiting astonishment at how far this blue world goes. Her offspring, winged and airy and free, gazed upon weary and trembling Atlas, then, in Pegasus’s only recorded act of magic, turned the giant to stone. Eventually the goddess Athena took possession of Medusa’s head, which could still turn you to stone with nothing more than a glance across the chiasm, and she placed it on her shield.

You can read the full essay about Medusa and the poetics of spells at Guernica.

Published by Kathryn Nuernberger

Kathryn Nuernberger's latest books are THE WITCH OF EYE (Sarabande), an essay collection about witches and witch trials coming out in February 2021, and RUE (BOA, 2020), a collection of poems about plants historically used for birth control and pissed off feelings about patriarchal bullshit. The End of Pink (BOA 2016) won the James Laughlin Prize from the Academy of American Poets. Her collection of lyric essays is Brief Interviews with the Romantic Past (The Ohio State University Press, 2017). A recipient of fellowships from the NEA, American Antiquarian Society, Bakken Museum of Electricity in Life, H. J. Andrews Research Forest, She teaches in the creative writing program at University of Minnesota. Recent work appears in 32 Poems, Cincinnati Review, Copper Nickel, Gulf Coast, Paris Review, The Southern Review, and Waxwing.

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