Medusa: Protectress of Secrets and Hidden Trauma
I can’t tell you when I started working with asteroids. I know it wasn’t from the very beginning, while I was memorizing facts and themes of the traditional planets and their potential expression, but it feels as if the asteroids have always been a part of my practice. Perhaps that’s because the Asteroid Goddesses–the name often given to the four primary asteroids used by many astrologers–speak uniquely to the Divine Feminine which has been a fixture of my magical practice. Pallas, Juno, Vesta, and Ceres give astrologers a new set of signifiers to indicate feminine energy in the cosmic makeup of people, events, and ages, and to view a chart without them feels like an incomplete picture to me. But there are so many more asteroids out there–potentially millions, several thousand of which have been named, recognized, and cataloged for astrological use. But very little work has been done on what they indicate, the energy they bring to the chart, and what they tell us about ourselves and our potential.
Over the last few months, I’ve felt a strange pull towards these bodies. I’ve read their names over and over again, looked at the ephemera, combed through their placements in my own chart and the charts of others. The absence of research into their influence felt like a gaping hole, a darkness begging to be illuminated. That’s when this project was born. Beginning this project with Medusa opened my eyes. Not only did it show me the complexity of mythology and the themes it deals with, it also proved to me that we, as astrologers and stargazers, deserve a better body of work on asteroids. We deserve a thorough examination of their role in our narrative as written by our charts, and we deserve to understand the information they hide in plain sight.
And who more appropriate to begin with than the Protectress of Secrets herself, Medusa?
When I started this project, I thought it would be fairly straightforward: I would dig through some mythology books, apply what I saw to astrological concepts and chart analysis, and share what I found with my readers. To say I should have known better is an understatement. I am not one to keep things simple, but rarely are astrological concepts simple to begin with. What I didn’t account for was the complexity of the myths themselves. I was introduced to many of these stories in childhood, and paired with limited life experience and colourful illustrations, they remained in the realm of the fantastic–remote and unable to touch me. Yet this could not be farther from the truth.
Medusa’s is a story that forks in infinite directions. At almost every turn there is an alternate version of her tale. Most can agree that her parents were Phorcys and Ceto, primordial beasts of the sea. Phorcys often appears as a fish-tailed man with shell-like skin and claws, so it’s easy to believe that his children would be equally monstrous. And many of them were–the crablike Skylla, the single-eyed Graeae triplets, the viper-bodied Echidna among them. However, mythology isn’t always so logical, and it’s entirely possible that Medusa and her two sisters were born with unparallelled beauty. Their title, Gorgon, does mean “fearsome,” and their names tie them to their parentage: Sthenno, “strength,” and Euryale, “of the brine,” seem apt names for monsters. But Medusa’s name stems from the word for “guardian,” and all versions of the myth agree that she was the sole mortal sister among them. Ovid, among others, praised Medusa for her unearthly beauty–far from the snake-haired monster familiar to us, she was a lovely young woman whose crowning glory was a head full of twisting curls, able to arrest those who gazed upon her not by turning them to stone, but with her captivating looks.
It seems unlikely that the sharp-toothed, serpent-tongued monster of myth would be installed as priestess of Athena, but it’s generally agreed that Medusa served the Goddess of Knowledge in her island temple. As one of the flawless virgin goddesses, Athena commanded all her servants to vow chastity and Medusa–however beautiful or monstrous–was no exception. But here the story forks again: either Medusa betrayed her vow and seduced Athena’s nemesis in the ultimate act of blasphemy, or Medusa fell victim to a brutal act of violence.
It is here I would like to remind you that the ancient world was full of atrocity and cruelty. I understand that many people have difficulty reading about these things, but I would like to assure you that the stories and themes contained below are meant to illuminate areas of human experience and bring light into the darkness of our inner universe.
In the beginning of my research, I wanted to believe the former: that Medusa, with her brazen beauty and bold mortal youth, lured Poseidon into her temple and seduced him, either completely forgetting her vows in the throws of passion or purposely breaking them to experience pleasure with the Earth-Shaker himself. If we believe this version of the story, her punishment seems just if not a little extreme.
It’s much more disturbing to believe the alternate version of the story, even though it dominates textbooks and poetry alike: that the Temple of Athena was raided and Poseidon claimed its priestess as his own in an act of assault that bound her as his unwilling wife. In this version, Medusa understands that she cannot remain Athena’s servant as the wife of another god and begs her goddess for forgiveness as she must relinquish her duties. But Athena, ever the goddess of Head Over Heart, dispatched punishment nevertheless: Medusa was transformed into a monster. Her teeth grew long and jagged, her supple skin speckled with rough scales, her once-glorious hair now a writhing a nest of vipers: she would still arrest all who looked upon her, but it was now her fearsome appearance that turned them to stone. While rape is horrifyingly common in mythology, it still chilled me to think that Athena–the patron of wisdom who boasts justice and victory among her epithets–would punish her priestess so severely for something that was not her fault. Athena and Poseidon have an established rivalry–why use this woman as a pawn in this long standing game? But all of these questions are only valid when we view the story from a modern lens. All is fair in love and war, and to the Olympians, mortals are often just collateral damage: Athena gave Poseidon his new wife, but only after transforming her into something he would not want, nor would any.
And here, the myths converge: Medusa and her Gorgon sisters, likewise transformed, are exiled to a remote island where Perseus, hailed as one of the great heroes of Greek myth, armed with Athena’s own golden shield, slays the monster using her own reflection. The mechanics of her death speak volumes about the meaning of this myth, and it’s no surprise that Medusa’s head is returned to Athena who binds it to her shield as a weapon to turn her enemies to stone. Medusa is restored as her goddess’s protectress.
This is a dark story, with even darker themes beneath its fantastical surface. But to make the most of its meaning, we need to settle on a few details.
This all starts to solidify when we see Joseph Campbell discuss the myth in relation to events in ancient history. The first event is the dissolution of particular feminine cults in the ancient world: snakes are often used to represent the divine feminine in the ancient world, as their connection to the earth and shed cycle mirror the feminine rhythms. Snake worship cults sprang up around many ancient goddesses–including Athena. The other event to which Campbell points is the very real invasion of a temple that involved the stripping of its priestess’s apotropaic mask and ultimate violation. The Medusa myth, he suggests, is a hidden societal trauma that resulted from the disgraced feminine and the shift towards patriarchal religion. Medusa is indeed the Guardian, but what she protects is not he who claims her head but the hidden trauma that would cause our blood to run cold and allow fear to freeze us in our tracks. She bears the myth of humiliation because what lies beneath could destroy us without proper tools of introspection: the only way to look upon Medusa is through the mirror, and we are often the last person we want to face.
When we apply this to Medusa the astrological body, we learn much about her role in the natal chart: she is an indicator of emotional issues, due to her close ties to the sea and water elements, but she also speaks to mental states and means of processing information as she spent at least part of her life in service to the Goddess of Knowledge. She is indeed a protectress, and her position indicates where we hide trauma and protect ourselves from the effects. Ultimately, she indicates the places we avoid confronting our darkness and instead mask issues that would otherwise transform us or our image. While it would seem as if this secret is one too painful to bear, one that would be humiliating and degrading to bring to the light, we must recognize that this level of protection requires profound strength and therefore is often felt as one of life’s great spiritual burdens.
In her discovery chart, Medusa was retrograde in Pisces, allowing us to glimpse behind her mask at the great spiritual depths within. The Moon, Saturn, and Mercury in a Grand Air Trine emphasize her role as a Priestess of Knowledge, a creature of the seas operating within the foreign realm of logic and thought, but it’s another aspect altogether that speaks the loudest about her role as an astrological body: the Sun conjunct Venus in Virgo quincunx Chiron in Aries–wounds of the self that we hide for the health of our self image. Exploring her position in others’ natal charts, we see this theme repeated: Rock Hudson’s Medusa at 20 Scorpio guards his sexuality sandwiched between his Sun and Saturn, creating structures of secrecy just behind the surface; Karen Carpenter’s Medusa at 22 Taurus squared both Jupiter and Mercury to one side and the Moon and Pluto to another, using her widespread fame to prevent herself from confronting her own issues around food and femininity that ultimately turned destructive; Michael Jackson, with his Medusa at 9 Capricorn, trine his Sun and Pluto in Virgo could not keep his paralyzing fear of age from destroying his health, nor could it prevent this destruction from public notice, especially sextile his Ascendant.
When I first conceived this project, I assumed I would spend a few days researching each asteroid and then recording my discoveries. What ensued was over a month of studying, pouring over charts and ephemera, applying psychological concepts to mythology and searching for echoes in the external universe. I managed to compose my own tables of significance, interpretations of Medusa in each sign and by aspect to each traditional planet. In practice, Medusa is an indicator of trauma not unlike Chiron, though her shadow extends far beyond the Wounded Healer an into the deepest recesses of human darkness. Not everyone will identify with her or her energy, and her role in the chart will likely be one few will want to explore. But for those stuck deep in karmic cycles of trauma, she may be a valuable source of perspective and release.
Clearly, this project is so much more than I originally conceived. I’ll be sharing my findings along the way here in this blog, but I’m also compiling all my extended information–including all my delineations–in a draft that I hope will find its way onto your bookshelves. If you’re curious about the placement of Medusa in your own chart, or simply want to see what clarity asteroids can bring to your personal astrological journey, you can book a reading by clicking here. Make sure you check my Instagram for ongoing research and polls about which asteroids I’ll be covering first as well as your experience with their expression.