Fortunately for us all, Medusa is persistent. Her natural capacity is infinite, which means “without limits or borders,” as is her generativity. She is capacious enough in her power to make use even of the desolation spread everywhere by the very fear of her. Medusa, which is to say gender in the form of the Mother, makes use of that desolation by letting the system that produces it, the very system set up by the boy-man’s apotropaic reaction against her, escalate itself to the point where it finally breaks-down, as such self-escalating systems inevitably do. It is that very point of ultimate break-down that, at last, the door opens to permit Medusa’s break-though, which comes not with a vengeance but with a kiss.
Perhaps what so threatens the boy-child is the threat delivered by the sight of a split, a cleft, a tear or rift, that separates him irrevocably from the Mother, and from all that the Mother means to him. That is, perhaps what really threatens the little “man” so is the vision of a yawning gap between himself and all who are like him, most definitely including the Father, on the one side, and the Mother and all who are like her, on the other. Read more
Our automatic reaction to what we perceive as dreadful, threatening, or monstrous is apotropaic. We try to drive the monster away, fleeing from it—combining fight against it with flight from it, in the common “fight-or-flight” reaction to what engenders fear in us. Thus did one flee from Medusa, as one fled from all three Gorgons of Greek myth. Unfortunately—at least it strikes us at first as a misfortune, and continues so to strike us for a very long while—Medusa refuses to be avoided. Read more
As petrifying as the sight of Medusa’s head might have been, Medousa, the name of one of the Gorgons, literally meant “guardian,” from the verb medein, “to protect, guard over.” The ultimate root of both words is the Proto Indo-European root *med-. That original root meant “to take appropriate measures.”
The wisdom of the desert hermits is that the only effective response to acedia, the devil of boredom that prowls at noon, is not to try to divert ourselves from it, in an unfulfilled, unfulfilled-able, and ultimately counter-productive—and ultimately magical—endeavor to ward it off and keep it away. Rather, it is to accept it, as one accepts a gift, and to remain with it. It is to let it wash over one, relaxing into it instead of stiffening against it in. Read more
Apotropaic means “designed to avert evil” (from Greek apo-, “away from,” plus trepein, “to turn”). Acts so designed arise from the fear that evil—or at least what we experience as evil—evokes. To experience some thing or occurrence as evil is to experience it as injurious, dangerous, threatening. We flee from what we experience as evil, flee from it either by moving away from it, or by putting up defenses against it, to ward it off, deflect it, avert it (literally, “turn it aside”). Read more