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Medusa Tattoo meaning: What happens to her in the Greek myth?

Olivia Olphin September 10, 2021
medusa tattoo meaning
Photo by: PHAS/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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Medusa has become an iconic figure from Greek mythology, with her striking coiling snake hair and eyes that turn people to stone. While many people choose tattoos simply for the aesthetics, others choose tattoos that represent something deeply personal, or important that has happened to them. We take a closer look at the meaning behind a Medusa tattoo, including an exploration of the original Greek myth.

What happens to Medusa in the original myth?

Medusa is best known as one of the three Gorgons from Greek mythology; a woman with snakes for hair who could turn men to stone with one look. She is a symbol of incredible feminine beauty and also terrifying female power.

Medusa was one of the daughters of Keto and Phorkys, who were sea gods. However, Medusa was mortal, while her sisters Stheno and Euryale were immortal.

She had been blessed with a striking beauty, and incredibly long and glorious hair. Poseidon, God of the sea, soon became enamoured with the young Gorgon and forced himself on her in a temple of Athena.

Athena was outraged at Medusa and transformed her hair into a bed of serpents, changing her into the grotesque monster we know today.

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Silver medusa head on marble fragment.

The young Gorgon could not look at another human being without them being turned to stone, and lived a sad lonely existence, taking out her anger on any traveller who visited her.

Medusa’s death is perhaps the most famous part of her story. Greek hero Perseus was sent out by a king to bring back the head of the Gorgon as a gift. He killed her while she slept by using Athena’s shield as a mirror so he could behead her without looking in her eyes.

However, her power was not dimmed in death, and her head had to be kept covered in a sack called a kybisis so no one else was turned to stone.

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What is the meaning behind a Medusa tattoo?

For many, the myth of Medusa is linked to the struggle and re-birth of a woman dealing with sexual assault and trauma. In the myth, Poseidon forces himself onto the young Medusa and she is punished for his actions.

A re-examination of this Greek myth sees many people identifying with Medusa as a victim rather than a villain, and wearing the image as a symbol of survival. One possible meaning of the Medusa tattoo is as a representation of strength after trauma or sexual assault.

While many people get a Medusa tattoo because of the striking image of a beautiful woman with snakes for hair, many have been getting this ink because of what it symbolises.

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Meaning of tattoo discussed on social media

Many people have taken to Twitter to understand the real meaning behind a Medusa tattoo as a symbol of survival.

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If you are struggling with trauma due to sexual assault please reach out to some of the helplines below.

RAINN Sexual Assault Hotline:
https://www.rainn.org
800.656.HOPE

Rape Crisis Centre: (608) 251-7273

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Olivia Olphin is an English Literature graduate and a film and literature fanatic. She has many years of reviewing experience, recently working as accredited press for the London Film Festival. She has also written widely about culture and sex education, as well as LGBTQ+ and women's issues.