The Ferocious and the Erotic: “Beautiful” Medusa and the Neolithic Bird and Snake
This article looks at the figure of Medusa cross-culturally, through texts and iconography, in order to examine her origins as well as her multifaceted functions. Dexter shows that Medusa is a compilation of Neolithic European, Semitic, and Indo-European mythology and iconography. Iconographically, two very different depictions coalesce in the classical Medusa: the Neolithic Goddess of birth, death, and regeneration, who is represented as bird, snake, or bird/snake hybrid; and the Near Eastern demon Humbaba whose severed head is, like Medusa's, used in an apotropaic manner. Medusa is ferocious but, as this article shows, she is a healer as well as a destroyer. Because she is often viewed as frightening in Indo-European cultures, this other side of her is often overlooked.
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