Mercury: Freya, Goddess of Communication, Travel and the Power of the Mind (Norse)

The planet Mercury is the closest planet to the Sun. For that reason it’s either in the same astrological sign or the one before or after that of the Sun.

The god known to the Romans as Mercury was known to the Greeks as Hermes. His Egyptian equal was the god Thoth.

Hermes was a charming and quick-witted trickster. He managed to steal Apollo’s cows behind everyone’s back when he was still only a baby and once found out was able to talk his way out of it. In addition to being exceedingly smart and sweet-talking, Hermes was a god of language, writing, magic and healing. Hermes was the messenger of the gods as well as a Psychopomp who ferried the souls of the dead onto the other side. Hermes’s namesake Hermes Trimegistus was an alchemist and occultist.

The astrological planet Mercury has taken on Hermes’ principal characteristics, namely those of communication, travel and the power of the mind to shape and transform its surroundings by changing consciousness at will. The latter is what is known as magic. The planet Mercury is associated with mental agility and adaptiveness.

These are all qualities exibited by the original Venus Goddesses such as Inanna in Sumer and Isis in Egypt who essentially went on consciousness-altering shamanic journeys into the darkness of their unconscious minds. According to myth the original Venus Goddess would, just like the Moon, travel into the Realm of Darkness for three days before rising again. (Please check out “The Original Venus – Goddess of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld” to find out more about the original Venus Goddess.) In earlier versions of the myth the descent was usually due to a personal quest while in later myths the Goddess was said to travel into the Underworld to save Her Son-Lover-Consort. As said before, one of the interpretations of the Descent Myth is that the Underworld represents the Unconscious and the journey the Goddess undertakes is Her quest to reunite with Her own dark self. Because of this I could have assigned any of the Venus Goddesses to represent Mercury. My initial choice was Egyptian Isis, as the horned symbol for astrological Mercury reminded me a lot of Isis’ heifer horns. I eventually chose Freyja, the Norse Shaman Goddess, as She embodies all of the qualities of Mercury perfectly. To find out more about Freyja, please read my post entitled “Freyja – Great Mother and Shaman Goddess of the Nordic People“.

Freyja‘s traits and what She is about

Freyja is the planet of communication, travel and the conscious mind. She is essentially a shaman planet that embodies our human consciousness and our ability to shape our surroundings through the power of thought. Freyja stands for our ability to explore altered states of consciousness to gain knowledge and wisdom.

Freyja is the planet of magic and trance journeys. The art of magic essentially involves the conscious mind communicating with the unconscious mind in order to make desired changes take place. To do this a magic practitioner uses images and symbols, as the unconscious mind doesn’t understand words and logic.

Freyja‘s main areas of focus are:

Communication

– language
– writing
– “gift of the gab”
– networking
– negotiations
– trading
– charm
– social skills

Trickery

– mistress of disguise
– deception
– trickery
– mischievousness

The Mind

– cleverness
– intellect
– ingenuity
– resourcefulness
– inventiveness
– rational thought
– reason
– lateral thinking
– quick-wittedness
– mentally agility
– fast thinking
– open mindedness
– flexibility

Travel

– literal physical travels
– shamanic trance journeys

Magic

– affecting one’s surroundings by changing consciousness at will
– astrology
– tarot
– the occult / alchemy

Freyja‘s metal is mercury or quicksilver (although the Goddess’s real metal is likely gold).

Within the body Freyja governs the nervous system.

Freyja in a Horoscope

Freyja is a personal planet that affects each individual uniquely. However, it’s possible to change these traits through will power.

Within a horoscope Freyja describes our unique communications style. She tells us what we like to talk about and what our thoughts are focused on.

Being about language, Freyja describes how we understand others and how we express ourselves. She tells us the manner in which we digest and process information.

In astrology Freyja acts as a kind of agent or message switchboard for the other planets. She describes how we convey their messages.

The planet Freyja rules Gemini, the fast-talking, mentally agile, friendly Air sign of the Twins as well as Virgo the Earth sign of the Maiden Goddess who also is exceedingly sharp witted and mentally active. Freyja is exalted, in other words happiest, in the sign of Virgo.

Freyja – Great Mother and Shaman Goddess of the Nordic People

The Goddess Freyja was the Mother Goddess of the Northern Germanic or Norse people. Her roots reach all the way back to the Neolithic and Her worship didn’t cease until well into the Christian era only a few hundred years ago.

Freyja is Queen of the Vanir Goddesses and Gods. According to Norse mythology there exist two quite distict groups of gods.

One are the Vanir Goddesses, Gods and Nature Spirits who were said to live in Vanaheim, a world just west of our human world (known as Midgard). The Vanir were also referred to as “The Giving Ones”, as they are essentially the Old European Earth-based Goddesses and Gods who inherited most of the old paleolithic and neolithic beliefs and associations. They are linked to nature, the Earth, fertility, abundance, wellbeing, agriculture, the Wheel of the Year and the cylce of life, death and rebirth.

The other newer group of gods are the Aesir or Sky Gods. These were the gods of the Indo-European invadors who were said to live in Asgard at the crown of the world tree Yggdrasill. The Aesir are mostly males – sometimes with wives – and, like the Greek Olympians, they are mostly concerned with thunder, lightning and, of course, battle. The exception is Odin, their father god, who was taught runes and divination by Freyja and is more of a shaman than a god of battle and heroism. [1]

The name Freyja in old Norse means “Lady” while that of Her brother Freyr means “Lord”. As in other mythologies Freyja and Her brother are sibling-consorts whose love assures the fertility of the land. Their relationship may also reflect the leadership set-up within the ancient matrifocal nordic people, where genererally a woman and her brother co-ruled their clan.

The Goddess Freyja is a free woman, who bows to no-one. Later myth tells of an absent husband called Odr, with whom She had two daughters, Hnoss (= precious) and Gersimi (= treasure). The fact that Odr sounds so similar to Odin and that Odin’s wife Frigg’s name was Frija in Old German has made some scholars suggest that Freyja and Odin were married off to each other in a bid to unite the two factions of the Nordic culture, namely the Old European natives and the Aryan invaders.

Unlike in more southerly climates where sunshine is a given and the Sun is so powerful that it can cause fires and damage crops, in northern countries such as Germany and Scandinavia the Sun is much milder and it’s in fact the lack of sunshine that can cause lower crop output. As a result mythologies in hotter climates identified the Moon with the Goddess and even today their languages (such as Spanish, Italian and French) describe the Moon as female. On the other hand, northern mythologies identified the Sun with the Goddess and Germanic languages such as German still see the Sun as female.

For that reason I believe that Freyja is actually a Goddess of the Sun. There is no evidence that Freyja was ever associated with the Moon and Her three phases. Freyja has always been an all-in-one Goddess. When the Romans encountered Freyja they likened Her to Venus, the Roman Goddess of Love and Beauty. And while it is true that the Goddess Freyja has much in common with Venus and other Venus Goddesses, Her origins are most likely Sun-based. (See also The Original Venus – Goddess of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld.) Everything about Freyja is described as golden and Her magical necklace Brisingamen is golden and shining brightly with a fiery light. Incidentally it is said that it was Freya’s magical necklace that created the Morning Star or planet Venus.

Freyja is very much still like the original Great Mother Goddess from the Neolithic Age. Even long into the Christian era She retained all of Her aspects, primarily those of being a Life Giver and Death Bringer.

Freyja is the Goddess of Love, Fertility, Pleasure and Abundance. She is beautiful and passionate and shares Her love freely with whomever SHE chooses. It’s Freyja’s lovemaking that assures the fertility of the land and the growing of the crops. No doubt just as it was custom in ancient Sumer so did Her priestesses known as Völvas share their love as freely in order to honour the Goddess and help bring fertility and fruitfulness to their tribe. This aspect of Freyja is what reminded the Romans of their own Goddess of Love, the beautiful Venus.

Freyja is also the Goddess of Death and Renewal. She is an ancient Bird Goddess whose totem animals include the raven and falcon. Legend says that half of all the slain warriors go to Freyja’s hall Sessrumnir in the realm of Folkvanger. Some accounts connect Freyja with the Valkierie battle maidens, who decide over life and death on the battle field, but that connection likely is only anecdotal.

Another of Freyja’s totem animals is the wild pig, which is symbolic for both life and death. Freyja Herself is often referred to as Syr (= sow) which is a strong fertility symbol. She is also said to ride Her battle swine Hildesvini whenever She’s not riding in Her cat-drawn carriage. This can be seen as a metaphor for Freyja acknowledging the existence of and having complete control over Her wild potentially dangerous side. In many mythologies the boar is the bringer of death.

Freyja is a Shaman Goddess, a Goddess of Magic, Prophesy and Healing. In mythologies where the Goddess manifests as the Moon, these are all aspects of the Dark or Crone Goddess. Freyja taught rune magic and divination to Her daughters and eventually Odin, the father god of the Aesir. She owns a special falcon cloak that allows the wearer to transform into a falcon. It represents Her power to travel shamanically through different worlds.

The ancient Germanic people had an animistic-shamanic religion, whereby everything was seen as being sentient and alive, and the Wise Women or Völvas would enter altered states of consciousness in order to heal and gain spiritual knowledge and awareness. Freyja’s Völvas were greatly revered seeresses gifted with divination, clairvoyance and prophesy. And just as cats were Freya’s special animals, so were they the spirit allies of the Nordic Wise Women. [2]

Freia’s Nine Names

Hail to Freia! Lady of Dark and Light,
Our Lovely Lady of Day and of Night.
Maid/Mother of Seith-crafts both Black and White,
Hail to the Mistress of Magic and Might!

Gullveig–thrice born Seith-bride greedy for gold,
Anon She shall live, beautiful and bold.

Heidh–the Seith-wife, the comely and clever,
To wise-women, She was welcome ever.

Hreda–enchanting Seductress of Spring,
Lustful Lady of Noatun’s noble King.

Mardoll–our Shining Mother of the Seas,
Kind Benefactress of comfort and ease.

Mengloth–Mount Lyfja’s Mistress and Sun-bride,
Nine Healing Maids, faithfully by Her side.

Horn–flax and fate Mother silently spins,
Always All-knowing, trust and troth She wins.

Syr–bewitching Sig-maiden of the Sun,
Masterful Sword-bride of battles well won.

Gefn–our divine Dis-Giver’s touch shall heal,
Powerful Patroness of wealth and weal.

Heithrun–wild and wanton She raptly rides,
In frost-filled forests, under deep dark skies.

Praise to the Ladies of Dark and Light!
Praise to the Ladies of Day and Night!
Praise to Freia, our Mistress of Might!
Praise Her Nine Names and Their Blessings Bright!

© Rhonda Turner
By author´s special permission, may be freely shared for private, non-commercial purposes,
as long as it remains intact and this copyright notice is included.

NOTES

[1] One interesting thing about the Aesir gods is that according to the foreword of Snorri Sturluson’s “Prose Edda” the Aesirs were not so much gods as normal humans from Asia who had acquired supernatural powers along the way! With Aesir and Asia sounding so similar, this may actually be confirming the theory that the Aesir were the gods of the Aryan invaders, while the Venir were the goddesses and gods of the original Old European inhabitants of northern Europe. And as is the case with Greek mythology the interactions between the Vanir and Aesir may actually be reflecting the real interactions between the two groups (invaders and natives) and their eventual merging of beliefs.

[2] Sadly due to the demonisation of the old religion by the Christians, the wise Völvas would eventually be portrait as evil witches and their cats as their familiars. Once greatly revered and appreciated for their goodness, they would eventually be tortured and burned at the stake.

[3] Interestingly, the German word for “woman” “Frau” is derived from the southern Germanic variant of Freyja, which literally means “lady”.

The Original Venus – Goddess of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld

At some point during the Bronze Age (starting in the 4th millennium BCE) the original Goddess myth started to change.

While during the Neolithic (~ 6,500 to 3,500 BCE) the Goddess was understood to be immanent and androgynous with both the womb and the entire generative life force seen as being a part of Her, during the Bronze Age Her essence was split into the permanent female principle – the Goddess – and the forever changing o principle – Her Son-Lover or Consort. [1] The main story themed around the Goddess giving birth to a son, who would then become Her lover and essentially father himself. While the Goddess remained constant and immortal, Her Son-Lover would ultimately face death and enter the underworld. As a major part of the myth the Goddess would then go after him to resurrect him.

The myth of the Goddess and Her Son-Consort represented both the Wheel of the Year, whereby the Goddess was everlasting nature and her Son-Lover the ever-growing, ever-dying vegetation, as well as the moon’s cycles, whereby the Goddess was the Moon as a whole and her Son-Lover the ever-changing phases of the Moon.

At the same time as the split between nature / life as a whole (the Goddess) and its temporary manifestations as human, animal and plant life (the Son-Lover-Consort) took place, the Goddess became associated with the planet we call Venus. [2]

The planet Venus was seen as being the Daughter of the Moon and each of the Venus Goddesses all still clearly showed their neolithic roots as Moon Goddesses.

The Venus Goddesses include Inanna in Sumer, Ishtar in Babylon, Astarte in Canaan, Isis in Egypt, Aphrodite in Greece, Venus in Rome and, in a way, Freya in Scandinavia / Northern Germany. [3]

Unlike the Goddess as the Moon with Her three aspects – the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone – the Goddess as Venus was generally seen as an all-in-one Goddess. She was the Goddess of Heaven, Earth and the Underworld, She was the Life Giver and Death Bringer, She was the Goddess of Love and Fertility, as well as Destruction and Death. She was the Ruler of the Underworld where the dead would reside until their subsequent rebirth. The Goddess as Venus was a Goddess of Time, Fate, Natural Order and Harmony.

The planet Venus is acually quite similar to the Moon. Due to her being an inner planet (the same as Mercury), from our vantage point Venus appears, disappears and then later reappears over a period of about 18 months.

After the Sun and the Moon Venus is the brightest body visible in the sky. She is either a Morning Star or an Evening Star. The Greeks would call Venus Phospheros (= Bringer of Light) when she appeared just before dawn and Hesperos (= the western one) when she appeared in the evening. The Roman equivalents were Lucifer (= the light bringer) and Vesper (= evening), respectively. [4]

Just before Venus appears in the eastern sky as a Morning Star, she disappears from our sight for 14 days, after which she reappears in the east where she rises daily for about 8 to 9 months. She then disappears again for about 3 months this time only to reappear in the west just before sunset, where she remains for another 8 months. After that the cycle stars again.

When drawn graphically the movement of Venus relative to the Sun and the Earth traces out a 5-pointed star or a pentacle. For that reason the Goddess is often associated with the 5-pointed star. Inanna, on the other hand, is associated with Venus as an 8-pointed star or rosette. This most likely refers to the planet’s 8-year pentacle cycle, i.e. the length of time it takes for Venus to wander across the sky in an apparent pentacle shape, and / or her 8-month period as a Morning or Evening Star. Venus’s maximum elongation from the Sun is between 45º and 47º. When drawn out grahically within a circle this traces an 8-pointed star.

In her book A Magical Tour of the Night Sky Reena Shesso explains a possible link between the relationship between Venus and the Moon in the sky and the Venus Goddess and Her Son-Lover in Near Eastern mythology.

When Venus is an Evening Star she only meets the Moon in her waxing crescent phase. Shesso uses the Goddess Inanna and Her Consort Dumuzi to elaborate the example. Inanna is Venus while Dumuzi, the “wild bull”, is the waxing crescent Moon. However, with the Moon and Dumuzi ultimately being manifestations of the Goddess Herself, the Moon in the story also represents Inanna’s lap and Her Boat of Heaven. As the Moon grows bigger every day and spends more and more time with Venus in the evening sky, so do Inanna and Dumuzi become more and more enamoured with each other and spend more and more time making love. The ancient Sumerian poems talk about Inanna’s lap being “filled with milk and cream” which is a double metaphor for, of course, on the one hand Inanna and Dumuzi’s lovemaking and on the other hand the growing crescent moon. In some years Inanna-Venus and Dumuzi-Moon come so close to each other that the Moon eclipses Venus.

Eventually Inanna enters into the Underworld and Venus disappears from our skies. While Inanna is gone, Dumuzi shines brightly as the full moon. Eventually Inanna resurfaces and Venus reappears in the eastern sky as a Morning Star. Now Inanna-Venus and Dumuzi-Moon only meet when the latter is feeling weakened and remorseful and is on his way into the Underworld in Inanna’s stead. In the sky when Venus is a Morning Star the Moon is in her waning phase going in the opposite direction whenever the two meet. Eventually the Moon disappears for three days completely while Venus continues to shine brightly every morning. The myth may very well be expressing these natural events pictorially when Inanna is angered by Dumuzi’s gloating during Her stay in the Underworld and She therefore chooses him to be Her replacement in the Realm of the Dead.

Variants of the same myth can be found all over the Ancient Near East, Classical Greece and even Christianity. They essentially all centre around the Wheel of the Year and the recurrent Death and Renewal of the Vegetation God. In addition, those stories also try to explain our own Cycle of Life, where each individual, personal soul (Son-Lover-Consort, Greek “bios”, Egyptian “Ba”) separates from the immortal, universal soul or life force (the Goddess, Greek “zoe”, Egyptian “Ka”) to live her / his own unique life until physical death reunites them with the universal life-force, the Goddess.

Over time, as the centuries and millennia went by, life changed for the Bronze Age people and so did their interpretation of the Venus Goddess and Her Son-Lover-Consort. Invasions and wars became more prevalent and villagers were forced to congragate in reinforced towns, cities and eventually city-states. While at first the Son-Lover was only seen as a representative of the temporary aspect of nature, over time his importance and power grew until he became equal to his Mother. Eventually, of course, he would supersede Her and become Her father. Back in the Bronze Age the human ruler of the land identified himself with the Son-Lover-Consort of the Venus Goddess. At first he literally was seen as the human representative of the vegetation god that would die and be reborn every so often (usually every 8 years, one Venus pentagram cycle). His earthly reign was only possible through the Sacred Marriage with the Goddess (or Her priestess representative). As time went on and the Consort grew in importance, so did his representative, the king.

By the end of the Bronze Age the Goddess no longer reigned supreme, but according to later myths She now willingly did the god’s and thus the king’s bidding. As a result the Venus Goddess had become, on the one hand, the Goddess of Love and Fertility, and on the other, the Goddess of Battle and War. Often the role of Goddess of the Underworld would be passed on to either Her sister or a male god. However, even at the end of the Bronze Age, as late as 1,500 BCE, the Goddess as Venus was still a Goddess over Life and Fertility as well as Death and Battle, and in case of Isis, so much more still. The Bronze Age Venus Goddess was still much more than would eventually be attributed to Her, that of being merely a Goddess of Love and Beauty.

The original Venus Goddess in Her aspect of Shaman who travels through the underworld is Mercury, the planet of magic and communication.

The original Venus Goddess in Her loving, nurturing aspect is Venus, the planet of love, art and beauty.

The original Venus Goddess in Her aspect of passionate Creatrix-Destructress is Mars, the planet of strength, courage and drive.

NOTES

[1] This supports the assertion that even at least during the early Bronze Age family life was matrilocal, which means that women always stayed home with their mothers, sisters, daughters and young sons, whereas men relocated to live with their “wife”‘s family. In some cases the men also stayed at their own mother’s house and acted as fathers to their neices and nephews instead of their own children.

[2] The Venus Goddess was usually also associated with the star Sirius in the constellation of Canis Major, also known as the “dog star”. In Egypt where the Goddess Isis was linked to Sirius, the star was known as Sothis.

[3] Freya has never been expressly linked to the planet Venus, but she has by association. Freya was a shaman or witch and Venus as the Evening Star was linked to witches or wise-women.

[4] Interesting that the Latin “Lucifer”, the Light Bringer, has become synonymous with the devil.

Pluto: Medusa, Dark Goddess of Transformation, Queen of the Shadow Self (Libya, North Africa)

Planet Pluto is named after the Roman God of the Underworld (Greek Hades) and like its namesake astrological Pluto is associated with death and transformation.

These are clearly qualities of the Dark Moon Goddess who represents the time of rest and regeneration that takes place at the end of one cycle and just before the start of the next. (See also “Moon Magic and the Triple Goddess“)

Life is cyclical and the Dark Phase of a cycle is the closure phase between the destruction of the old and the creation of the new. This is true for all things from the Wheel of the Year to the Moon’s phases to a woman’s menstrual cycle and even the Wheel of Life itself. To understand this concept of continuity and the cyclical nature of life itself, we need to understand a little about energy. All the energy in existence is permanent and indestructible. This is a scientific fact known as the Law of Conservation of Energy. This permanent, indestructible energy can exist in one of two states, either manifested as matter or unmanifested as formless energy. The transitionary period between two physical manifestations involves a process of cleansing and renewal. This transformative state of regeneration is equivalent to the dark phase of the moon which is governed by the Dark Moon aspect of the Goddess. The indestructible energy that is transformed from matter to energy and back to matter IS the primordial Goddess in Her entirety who is immanent in all and everything.

I could have assigned any of the Dark Moon Goddesses to the planet Pluto. However, as astrological Pluto is also associated with our suppressed Shadow side, I knew the perfect Goddess to represent Pluto would also have to have a perceived darker / unwelcome side such as Libyan Medusa or Semitic Lillith who were both turned into monsters by Classical Greek and Hebrew mythology, respectively. I eventually chose Medusa to be the Goddess of Transformation and Queen of our Repressed Shadow Selves. Medusa is a Snake Goddess who with Her snakefaced Gorgon Mask represents life energy and regeneration. In Greek mythology She also represents Athena’s Shadow side. To find out more about both Medusa and Her Maiden Self Athena, please check out my post entitled “Medusa – The Libyan Dark Moon Serpent Goddess“.

Medusa‘s traits and what She is about

Medusa is the planet of death and transformation. She is natural law, She is the “cold” truth of life and death. Medusa is the animal base nature that is left when you strip away the false façade of polite society.

Medusa is about secrets, suppressed materials (the Jungian “Shadow”) and taboos.

Medusa is the not-so-very-nice side of ourselves, of our societies, that we’d like to negate. Within an individual this may be based on real actions that invoke our sense of guilt and self-loathing, but may also be something that we merely believe is bad due to societal expectations. The more we deny Medusa‘s existence, the bigger She will grow until one day She will erupt violently to destroy our constructed walls and purge our denied truths, so that we can start afresh and – now cleansed – rise again like the Phoenix from the ashes.

Medusa‘s main areas of focus are:

Death & Renewal

– death (often violent and unexpected unlike Mother Holle-Saturn’s death due to old age)
– transformation, usually large-scale
– natural law: birth – flowering – decay – death – rebirth
– major change
– upheaval
– new beginnings

Secrets

– suppressed materials (“Shadow”)
– secrets
– mysteries
– the occult
– depth psychology

The dark side of life

– taboos
– paranoia
– survival
– shrewdness
– cynicism
– being streetwise / clued up

Control

– power
– control
– obsession

Bringing “things” to a head

– cleansing
– eliminating
– purging false constructs

Karma for collective sins

– corrects social wrongs with no regard for the innoncent

Medusa‘s metal is plutonium, but oil and coal are also linked to Her, as they once were living matter that became buried all at once due to a natural disaster.

Within the body Medusa rules the dark Shadow side of our unconscious.

Medusa in a Horoscope

Medusa is an outer planet which means that Her journey around the sun is so slow that many people over many years share the same sign in their horoscopes. For that reason house positions and aspects are more meaningful for an individual reading.

The Outer Plantes of Transformation have more of a significance for the collective. Their influence tends to be spiritual or cultural (memetic) in nature. They affect cultural programming and represent long-term changes that shake up habitual patterns of behaviour and beliefs.

Medusa acts in one of two ways. On the one hand She makes us suppress and deny the societal wrongs we’re currently committing, while on the other hand She purges our collective Shadow and forces us to face our society’s past crimes. Things that come to mind include the Witch Burnings and the related oppression of all things female and sexual, Slavery, Colonialism,  offensive War and, of course, the atrocities committed during WWII.

In a personal chart Medusa is also linked to our denied unconscious Shadow.

Medusa rules Scorpio, the intense and secretive Water sign. She is exalted in Aries, which means that She feels perfectly at home in the Sign of the Ram. This is as expected as Boudicca-Mars who rules Aries and Medusa are both concerned with survival. While as a personal planet Boudicca-Mars cares about the survival of the individual, Medusa is about survival of the collective irrespective of individual loss and suffering.

Medusa – The Libyan Dark Moon Serpent Goddess

Most people when they hear the name Medusa instantly visualise a scary snake monster with a face so terrifying that just one glance will turn a man to stone. What only few people realise is that, yet again, what we’re seeing here is a twisting of the truth by the Hellenic or Classical Greeks.

Medusa’s origins lie in North Africa where She represented one third of the Triple Moon Goddess. In pre-Dynastic Egypt She was known as Neith and in Libya, Medusa’s homeland, the Triple Moon Goddess was called Anatha.

Anatha, and Neith before Her, was said to have risen from the primeval floodwaters. More specifically in Libya the birth place of the Triple Moon Goddess was Lake Tritonis, the Lake of the Triple Queens.

Ancient inscriptions about the North African Moon Goddess describe Her as: “I have come from Myself. I am all that has been and that will be, and no mortal has yet been able to lift the veil that covers me.” She was synonymous with Mother Death for to see Her face meant to have died.

The Libyan Triple Goddess Anatha had three aspects: Athena, the Maiden, Metis, the Mother, and Medusa, the Crone.

Anatha’s Maiden aspect Athena was the Goddess of the waxing crescent moon. Like Her Amazon priestesses She wore a goatskin chastity tunic, which was the original aegis that would later be adopted by the Olympian Greeks for their version of Athena. The original African Athena represented independence, youthful exuberance and growth, Her particular attributes being strength, courage and valour.

Metis was the Mother aspect of the Triple Moon Goddess. She, too, would later be adopted into the Classical Greek pantheon as the mother of Athena who was swallowed whole by Zeus while She was pregnant with Her daughter. Like all Full Moon Goddesses Metis was originally associated with fertility and motherhood.

Medusa, the Crone or Dark Moon aspect of Anatha, was the most powerful of the three. She was

the Wise One,
the Keeper of the Dark Moon Mysteries,
the Goddess of Death and Rebirth.

Like Her Amazon priestesses Medusa wore a leather pouch around Her waist that contained live snakes representing wisdom and renewal. She carried with Her the original Gorgon mask or Gorgoneion whose purpose was to frighten off the uninitiated and thus help protect the secrecy surrounding the magic of the dark moon. The mask was painted red to symbolise the power of the menstrual blood. It had gruesome glaring eyes, bared fanged teeth and, like the Hindu Goddess Kali, a protruding tongue. [1]

Medusa’s face was once synomymous with divine female wisdom. In ancient Libya She was linked to divination, healing, magic and the sexual serpent mysteries associated with death and renewal. To invoke Her wisdom Her priestesses would wear Medusa’s mask and celebrate the sexual rites with the representatives of the sea gods.

Anatha and Her three faces / aspects was the Moon Goddess of the matrilineal Goddess-worshiping Libyans. To the patriarchal Greek invaders She became the representative of Her Amazon daughters. As always much historical truth has been hidden in the Classical Greek myths surrounding Athena, Metis and Medusa. While Metis was swallowed whole by Zeus, the father of the Hellenes, thus passing on Her daughter and Her wisdom, Athena and Medusa were irreversably split and made into enemies. Athena would become another token female of the Greek pantheon and would eventually be forced to betray Her own crone self and become a traitor to Her sisters. Medusa, on the other hand, would be turned into a nasty fearsome monster that would eventually be slayed and have Her power stolen off Her to be used by Her murderers.

This is their sad story:

According to Classical Greek myth Medusa was the only mortal sister of the three beautiful golden Gorgon Sea Goddesses – Stheno, Euryale and Medusa. Medusa was said to have many suitors who She all rejected until Poseidon, the Hellenic God of the Sea, seduced Her in one of Athena’s sanctuaries. In earlier versions of the myth Medusa willingly took the sea god as Her lover in celebration of the sexual mysteries between the Goddess and Her Consort, but after about 2000 BCE the legend starts to speak of marriage if not rape. Poseidon who used to be a horse god had taken on the shape of a stallion, while Medusa was said to have been in the shape of a mare.

This reference to horses takes us back to Medusa’s African lunar origins, as Her Amazon tribes considered the horse with its crescent-shaped hooves sacred to the Moon Goddess. According to Robert Graves the fact that in this myth Poseidon had taken on the form of a stallion likely indicates a forced marriage between his male followers and Medusa’s priestesses in order to take their lands and powers.

In the Classical myth Athena is enraged once She discovers what Medusa had done. (This part is bad enough when Medusa willingly made love with Poseidon, but becomes quite atrocious when in later myth Poseidon takes Her against Her will.) In scorn Athena turned Medusa and Her sisters into ugly winged monsters with glaring eyes, huge teeth, protruding tongues, brazen claws and serpent locks. Medusa was said to be the most terrifying of them whose face was said to be so fearsome that just one glance would literally petrify a man and turn him to stone.

This is a very sad twist in the story, as obviously Athena and Medusa are one and the same. Athena’s wrath is therefore actually turned against Herself, the part of Her that is dark, wise, linked to death and renewal and, most importantly, that is carnal and sexual. The Classical Greek Athena is a chaste virgin in quite the modern sense of the word. She is daddy Zeus’s little girl only at the price of turning against Her own dark and sexual nature. In Jungian terms Medusa is Athena’s shadow who She despises and punishes. The fact that Medusa was seduced in Athena’s own sanctuary speaks volumes. The origin of this particular location dates back to the time when Athena was still the new born Maiden to Medusa’s Crone of Death and Regeneration, when She was still the next step on the everturning Wheel of Life after the Time of Rest and Renewal inside Medusa’s Dark Womb.

The next part of the story is the actual murder of Medusa by Perseus, a young solar hero. He is assisted in this task by Athena and Hermes, the Ferrier of Souls.

Robert Gray suggests that this part of the story is likely based on actual historical events. About 1290 BCE King Perseus, the founder of the new Hellenic dynasty in Mycenae, sent out his patriarchal solar warriors to invade North Africa, conquer the women-led tribes who lived there and overthrow their Moon Goddess in favour of their own male divinities. The mythical beheading of Medusa, the wise crone aspect of the Amazonian Triple Moon Goddess, represents the actual invasion of the Goddess’s chief shrines, the desecration of Her priestesses’ Gorgon masks with their contained wisdom and the kidnapping of Her sacred horse.

In Classical Greek mythology Perseus was the son of Zeus and Danae, the Princess of Argon. Following an oracular prediction that his death would be at the hand of his own grandson, the King of Argon banished his daughter and her baby son from his kingdom. Both were rescued by a fisherman named Dictys who took them home and raised Perseus like his own son.

Years later when Perseus had reached adulthood the new cruel and ruthless leader of the land, Polydectes, wanted Danae, Perseus’ mother, as his lover and so devised a plan to rid himself of her son. He demanded a horse of each citizen, but as Perseus was a poor fisherman by trade he couldn’t afford to buy one. He ended up promising the king to bring him Medusa’s head containing Her powers of Magic and Wisdom. As Medusa was often described as a mare, what Perseus was really promising was to bring him the head of the most powerful and terrifying horse known to man – the female menstrual and sexual mysteries of the Moon Goddess (presumably in order to make Her powers those of the newly rising patriarchs).

To help Perseus in his quest Athena gave him Her brightly polished shield to protect him from Medusa’s petrifying gaze. From Hermes he received the only weapon that would be able to slay Medusa, a curved magical sword. I wonder if the curve of the sword is an intentional reference to the moon’s sickle shape.

In a vision Athena and Hermes guided Perseus to the Graiae, three wise old women who were sisters to the Gorgons and who lived at the foot of Mount Atlas in North Africa. After he tricked them by ransoming their one shared eye they reluctantly revealed to him Medusa’s whereabouts and the three things he needed in order to kill Her: a magic pouch to put in Medusa’s head, Hades’ Helmet of Invisibility and a pair of winged sandals.

Perseus carried out the cruel murder and escaped with Medusa’s head in the magic pouch. Legend says that wherever Medusa’s blood fell on the desert floor an oasis would spring up.

Once returned to Greece Perseus gave Medusa’s severed head to Athena who affixed it onto her breast plate. He also gave Athena two phials of Medusa’s healing blood who passed them on to Asklepios, the Hellenic God of Healing. [2]

The ending of this story is very cruel indeed to both Medusa and Her maiden self, Athena.

Medusa, the Goddess of Wisdom, of Death and Renewal, the Dark Goddess of Healing and Divination, who represents the Goddess-worshiping Libyan Amazon priestesses is destroyed by the patriarchal invading Greeks. At first Medusa’s truth is twisted and She is turned from a gentle loving Dark Mother into a monster by Her own Maiden self. Later Her Graiae sisters are forced to betray Her and Her priestesses which ultimately causes Her death and thus the destruction of the North African matrifocal Amazon way of life. And if that’s not enough Her murderers take Her severed head, her Gorgon Mask of Magic and the Mysteries of the Dark Moon, with them to use as their own.

Athena, on the other hand, was punished in quite a covert way. At first sight Athena seems to have it all, She’s Zeus’ favourite girl, She is virginal and chaste and is the Hellenic Goddess of apparently justified War, Civilisation, Justice and the Arts and Sciences. However, on closer inspection things don’t look quite as bright. First Athena, the once greatly beloved Maiden aspect of the Libyan Moon Goddess, was ripped from Her Amazon sisters and turned into a traitor against Her own people. Originally free and independent She was forced to become chaste and subservient to a male father god. She was not even granted the one thing that we all share in common, a mother: unlike everybody else Athena spang straight from Her father’s forehead. She was turned from a Mood Maiden Goddess that represented birth and growth into a Warrior Goddess who fought against Her own Goddess-worshiping sisters all over the ancient world. She was made a traitor when in the classical drama Oresteia She sided with the upstarting patriarchs and cast the deciding vote that only fathers were related to their children. This momentous drama was a major contributing factor in the changeover from mother-right to father-right. It would play a major part in downgrading women to second-class citizens for thousands of years, something that even our 21st century society hasn’t fully recovered from. And to rub salt into the wound in order to become the perfect patriarchal daughter Athena was forced to give up Her past, Her woman-ness and Her sexuality. She wasn’t just made to kill Her own dark, wise and sexual self, but has to wear that slaughtered side of Herself on Her breast plate for all eternity as if as a reminder of what She and all women under patriarchy have lost.

I saw you once, Medusa; we were alone.
I looked you straight in the cold eye, cold.
I was not punished, was not turned to stone –
How to believe the legends I am told?…

I turn your face around! It is my face.
That frozen rage is what I must explore –
Oh secret, self-enclosed, and ravaged place!
This is the gift I thank Medusa for.

– copyright 1978 from Invocations and Mythologies
in Collected Poems of May Sarton “The Muse of Medusa”

NOTES

[1] According to Marija Gimbutas in “The Living Goddess” the origins of the Gorgon mask as well as Kali’s fearsome face with Her stuck out tongue can be traced back to the early Neolithic from when Gorgon-like masks were found at Varna in today’s Eastern Bulgaria. Even then they represented the Snake Goddess and symbolised regeneration and life.

[2] Incidently Asklepios would eventually become eternalised in the heavens as the constellation Orphiuchus, which is situated next to Scorpius and through which the planets also travel on their journey across the sky. Some astrologers have voiced the opinion that Orphiuchus, the serpent bearer, should be the 13th sign of the zodiac. According to myth Asklepios discovered the secret of life without death and was killed by Zeus in order to prevent the human race from becoming immortal. I wonder if the secret of immortality has anything to do with Medusa’s severed head and Her magical blood, which most likely was menstrual blood.