Short Essays: Analysis of Perseus & Medusa

System for finding the cause of the Perseus & Medousa myth

The creation of a myth is the taking of a reality and forming it into a symbolic representation. That is to say, myths are a Technik, a tool used for the explanation of real-world phenomena or the conveying of an Event. I propose here two of the main types of myth.

  1. A pure-myth would lead to a myth created with no a priori Event. Thor, for example, is a god created for the explanation of a phenomena – the striking of Mjolnir being the creation of thunder rumbling in the sky. A pure-myth is also a story that conveys a message about how-to-be. How-to-live.
  2. A synthetic-myth is a tale of a real Event with embellishment. (We all want to make our stories sound more interesting than they were).

This is all to say: myths are intentional, they have an intention to convey a message.

In regard to the tale of Perseus and Medousa, there is the possibility of its basis being a true tale though heavily exaggerated. Such as the capture of a villainous individual and his head brought to another for a reward. However, I am more inclined to consider it a pure-myth, in the different retellings/different stories I cannot identify anything to consider it a synthetic-myth. I believe it to be a pure-myth with the intention of conveying cultural and ethical points.

 

The intention of Perseus and Medousa

Let us analyse the story as explained by Apollodorus.1

“Acrisios consulted an oracle about fathering male children”2 He was told that his daughter would give birth to a son that “would kill him.” And so, he had a chamber built underground to hold his daughter, Danae, obviously with the intention of preventing her from conceiving. Zeus was, however, captivated by Danae. He travelled to the chamber disguised as a cloud of gold and impregnated her with Perseus. Perseus is an immaculate conception, son of a god. Eventually he does kill Acrisios unintendedly by hitting him in the foot with a discuss during an athletic event.

Message 1:

The oracle giving a negative prophesy which haunts the subject. They try all they can to escape it, but they never can. We have the above, Oedipus, the Seeress’s Prophecy to Odin in the Poetic Edda. I consider this element to be akin to Friedrich Nietzsche’s Amor fati – love of fate. The message here is we cannot escape our future, we are not immortal, thus we must accept fate and enjoy life as much as possible.

Acrisios tried to escape his prophecy by putting Danae and Perseus in a chest and cast them out to sea. They were saved and given shelter by a man called Dictys. Dictys brother, Polydectus, was a king whom fell in love with Danae but couldn’t sleep with her because Perseus was a grown man at this point. He concocted a plan to dispose of Perseus by calling for the donation of a horse from everyone, so he could marry someone else. Perseus could not provide a horse but said if he could he would give him the head of the gorgon. Dictys demanded that Perseus give him the head, clearly believing that Perseus would not achieve the task. But he, of course, carried it out in spectacular fashion (there were three gorgons on the island, yet only one of them – Medousa, whom he decapitated -was mortal). Upon returning from the task he discovered his mother had taken refuge over Polydectus violence.

Polydectus had summoned his friends, clearly knowing that Perseus would rightfully seek revenge. Turning away he held out the gorgon’s head which retained the gorgon power of turning those who see its eyes to stone.

Message 2:

Ethical messages lay within these sections of the myth.

Dishonourable/disrespectful actions have consequences. If you treat someone badly, ridicule them, (in the case of Perseus) manipulate them, they will strike back. In Ancient and Medieval eras, the insulting of someone’s honour was much more than just an insult upon their person, but their family and lineage. Dishonourable attacks were not just an attack on you as a subjective individual but your historical-Dasein.

Dictys’ who had saved Danae once before had saved her yet again, he was rewarded by Perseus by being installed as king. Noble actions are rewarded.

 

Conclusion

The myth of Perseus and Medousa is a pure-myth intended to convey cultural values and ethical position. It is an archetype which is still brought to the world to this day in movies, books, etc. The fact that children in 2019 still know the tale of Medousa’s beheading shows the power that Ancient myths have for teaching society a cultures view of right from wrong. It is evident that Pagan myths are still as important today as they were over 2000 years ago. Children need to learn right from wrong, we need a way of conveying normative ethical positions that will capture their imagination while still giving the entire argument for that position. Stories that have been refined over 2000 years are that tool par-excellence.

 

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I have had issues with WordPress un-publishing my essays critiquing thing such as liberal democracy, egalitarianism, immigration policies and so-on. For me to return to tackling these subjects I need to relocate to another platform. At this point, uploading essays attacking these Idols (for what are they but Idols?) on this page is becoming nought more than an annoyance. I will make sure my essay Progress & Egalitarianism remains, others I am refining will go up on the next page along with some more short stories and such (no, I have not ceased Gloria). The end of my subscription here is approaching its end, and I have no intention on renewing it. But to move to another page costs money, and a new – reliable – computer for writing the content does as well. Money I do not have. And so, I must ask for help so I can continue this project, to continue a presence online, to continue taking a hammer to the ridiculous and unrealistic notions instilling utopian desires and fictitious ways of viewing the world – the collective Mauvaise foi we are thrown into unknowingly by those whom benefit from our ignorance.

Click here to help me continue producing content

I have had issues with WordPress un-publishing my essays critiquing thing such as liberal democracy, egalitarianism, immigration policies and so-on. For me to return to tackling these subjects I need to relocate to another platform. At this point, uploading essays attacking these Idols (for what are they but Idols?) on this page is becoming nought more than an annoyance. I will make sure my essay Progress & Egalitarianism remains, others I am refining will go up on the next page along with some more short stories and such (no, I have not ceased Gloria). The end of my subscription here is approaching its end, and I have no intention on renewing it. But to move to another page costs money, and a new – reliable – computer for writing the content does as well. Money I do not have. And so, I must ask for help so I can continue this project, to continue a presence online, to continue taking a hammer to the ridiculous and unrealistic notions instilling utopian desires and fictitious ways of viewing the world – the collective Mauvaise foi we are thrown into unknowingly by those whom benefit from our ignorance.

Resources:

  1. Trzaskoma, Stephen M., et al., (eds.), Anthology of Classical Myth: Primary Sources in Translation, (USA: Hackett Publishing Company Inc., 2004). Pg. 31-3.
  2. ibid.

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