There was a woman whose beauty rivaled that of the Goddesses themselves. She could have had any many she wanted, but she rejected them all choosing instead to pledge herself to the service of the virgin Goddess Athena. They all took the hint. Poseidon didn’t. One day when she was serving in Athena’s temple he came for her, and he didn’t take no for an answer.
When Athena discovered Poseidon and the woman had defiled her temple her vengeance was swift. Casting the young priestess out wasn’t enough for the Goddess. Instead Athena stripped her of her beauty and cursed her to live out the rest of her life as a Gorgon. With snakes for hair, skin as rough and cracked as that of a snake, and eyes so hideous gazing into them was enough to turn a man to stone the young woman was banished to a distant island where she would live out her life in solitude.
However, people, being stupid as usual, continued to seek her out, and the result was always the same. They'd look at her, she'd look at them, and they'd turn to stone. Finally, sick of all of the trouble Medusa caused her Athena was compelled to help Perseus end Medusa's life to save the rest of Greece from her uncontrolled wrath.
This unfortunate soul was none other than the legendary Medusa.
But, in truth, Medusa’s story didn’t start with my “once upon a time” and in many cases it didn’t have the tragic ending the Ancient Greeks gave it. In Ancient Europe she was considered the embodiment of girl power with a voice that could charm the snakes themselves, and instead of snakes sprouting from her head they twined all over her, including through her gorgeous locks.
In Africa she was revered as a Goddess herself, and regardless of the medium her face was always covered for a glimpse of her face would show the viewer the moment of their own death. To the Amazons of Libya she was the serpent Goddess, Athene. In other parts she was past, present, and future. She was both the giver and taker of life straddling the gaps between heaven, earth, and the underworld.
The woman who would one day become Medusa started down the path to the dark side when men began to gain power over women. That marked her decent from Goddess to monster, from beautiful to hideous, and from force of nature to victim.
But when good Goddesses go bad someone has to stop them, and in this case it was Perseus. With the help of Athena and Hermes Perseus realized that the, fairly obvious, key to hunting Medusa, or any Gorgon was in not to make eye contact. The minute anyone looked into those baby blues they’d be dead, without Medusa even having to strike a blow. In order to defeat a Gorgon the attacker had to shield their eyes while simultaneously chopping the Gorgon’s head off, but even once the head is detached the eyes of a Gorgon still have the power to turn both the mortal and the immortal to stone in an instant, making a Gorgon head the ultimate weapon.