Reviving Medusa and Mythic Symbolism

Mythology is a rich source of imagery and inspiration for artists. Yet it is also a potential source of misleading information and confusion when the moral of the tale is lost, garbled, or misinterpreted. Often, the “inner” meaning of teaching-tales is carefully encoded in the entertaining plot, meant to be “unpacked” by a wise elder.

Ancient myths were not intended to be interpreted literally. Yet this is exactly what most modern listeners/readers/viewers do, because we are spoiled by Hollywood and commercial media. As a result, they are often misunderstood in all kinds of problematic or even offensive ways and the original meaning of the tale is lost. Folks may not even realize it exists.

So contemporary artists feel free or even justified in modernizing and re-interpreting these myths. The effect is of obscuring or garbling the original meaning. Or creating an entirely different tale!

This often happens when well-meaning folks try to impose modern political paradigms on ancient without understanding the significance of the original in the first place. The animated movie Sita Sings The Blues is a good example.

This happens a lot in sacred art, when artists try to modernize the ancient icons or make them more aesthetically pleasing to contemporary tastes. A good example is the famous Indian artist Ravi Varma.

Here is a bit of corrective medicine addressing the myth of Medusa from a scholar who is focused on  the mystical “inner” meaning of this teaching tale: