O maid, you once were lovely,
full of grace, and named
for Wisdom in eternal female form–
Metis, Maat, Medha the names you bore…
But the passing generations,
reshaping and restructuring your form,
made you over as a thing to fear,
no longer Maid, but Monster
with a deadly, stony gaze;
Men made you cruel and cold
and perilous to life in latter days,
forgetting that the peril in your eyes
is Truth too true for them to see, and live.
Grim-faced now, the Gorgon who is wise,
whose serpents in her hands once offered Life
now–writhe in ringlets on her brow
And Perseus pursues her with a knife…
2005 by CL Redding
The mythic Medusa illustrates one of humankind’s greatest dysfunctions.
Throughout all the cultures in which women have been put down and diminished, relegated to roles of subservience, charged with incapability of mind and frailness of body, Medusa is the perpetual feminine monster. In those regarding the Universe as perpetually polarized between the good and the bad, the feminine became associated with evil: with deceit and beguilement, with treachery and trickery, with insincerity and disloyalty… It’s a very long list, all the Evils of the world.
Out of these attitudes, naturally flows the reshaping of the feminine from being respected as an equal partner to the masculine, and possessed of particular female powers, to being chattel of the male: from a whole, inherently valuable person to an object having no value except as men define it. Humanity has been deformed and crippled by this dysfunction since the rise of patriarchal supremacy. When life became about conquest and physical domination, the values of insight, of healing, of the powers of gentleness were diminished.
It isn’t about how individual men are, or specific women: It is about foundational assumptions and beliefs throughout a culture in its defining of maleness and femaleness. It is about the essence of the masculine and of the feminine. It is about unexamined notions and forgotten roots. It is the belief in what we are, male or female, in our deepest, most inescapable selves.
How do we heal this dysfunctional family, humankind? It has to start with awareness, with questioning what has been accepted, even unwillingly, as normal, with looking back to beginnings, to the most ancient times before the beginnings, to seeing a world without this dysfunction. It requires realizing where beliefs come from, where these beliefs came from, at their very roots.
When we recognize that the original notion–that women are less than men, that female power is less significant than male power–we can consider what information our ancestors possessed, see how the mistaken or misunderstood or simply missing information led them to such a conclusion. Finally, we can admit that it has always been wrong, and assert what we, generations and ages later, now believe.
We know so much more now, we understand so many things better than our ancestors did, or could. Our philosophies have grown far more sophisticated. We have better psychological tools for making this descent into our most profound past. It is in our power to refute, to redefine the ‘truths’ of our ancestors, and knowing better, to do better, as Maya Angelou said, to make the necessary shift from benightedness to revelation.