Serving Monsters: Medusa

My Medusa agalma (I did not sculpt this although I did paint Her eyes).

Typically when I share my practices I get private messages asking me for specifics on how I serve certain divinities, especially when They are not often honored in cult. One of the divinities I am asked most about is Medusa. This powerful Goddess is one of the most recognizable apotropaic symbols of the ancient and modern world. Many don’t realize She is a living Goddess, despite Her mythology. There is also a lot of confusion on Her mythology itself. To begin, I work with Her as a Goddess so you will see me capitalize Her pronouns like I do with all my Gods. For me, this is a way of reclaiming the Gods as a valid religious cult, not just antique figures reduced to myths and stories. It also respects the deep reverence I have for Them. As far as Medusa, while She is indeed a monster, She is above all a powerful Goddess. Before we can explore how I serve Her we need to take a look at Her mythology and discover who She is.

The most common version of Her myth you will see all over the internet is that of a once beautiful Medusa, Whose shining jewel was Her hair. She was so enchanting that She caught the attention of Neptune Who raped Her in the temple of Minerva. Minerva turned Her gaze and hid Her grey eyes behind Her aegis to protect Her chaste sight from the act. So that it wouldn’t go unpunished She turned Medusa’s hair to twisting foul snakes. Her creation was so powerful She adorned Her breastplate with these snakes to frighten enemies. Oftentimes when we see this version of the myth recounted Minerva is replaced with Athena, and Neptune with Poseidon. It is often cited as a story where Medusa is unjustly punished as the victim of rape. But what is the truth to this myth? Is this the accurate version of what happened? This account comes specifically from the Roman poet Ovid in his work “Metamorphoses”, told at the end of the story of Perseus. But in later stories in Metamorphoses when Ovid mentions Medusa, She and Neptune have a more seductive relationship as we see in Book VI when he is telling the story of Arakhne. 

Hekate Einalia, Mother of the Gorgons (pictured top left) from the Artist’s Edition of ‘Liber Khthonia’.

Many neglect to realize this is a much later telling of the Medusa myth. The earliest version comes from some 7 centuries earlier appearing in the Theogony of Hesiod. In this version, Medusa has always been a Gorgon, one of three sisters, daughters of the Gods Phorkys and Keto (Who is sometimes considered the Sea aspect of Hekate), but the only one born mortal. She was never raped by the Lord of the Sea, Poseidon, but His lover. The two Gods “lay with each other in soft meadows among spring flowers”. She was fated to be beheaded by Perseus as the only mortal Gorgon, the only one he could actually behead since mortals cannot injure Gods. But this is how Medusa achieved Her apotheosis. She gained Her immortality being placed on the aegis of Athena, and is now the most recognizable symbol of the ancient world. Most people who know Medusa’s name don’t know the names of Her sisters, Sthenno and Euryale. Their names roughly translate to Sthenno being “the Strong”, Euryale being “Wide-Stepping”, or “of the Wide Sea”, and Medusa being the “Guardian Queen”. She is the Queen among the Gorgons, by far the most powerful. This is not a tale of woe, where a rape victim is punished, but the story of a mighty Goddess earning Her place among the Deathless Gods. This is the version I subscribe to because it is how Medusa has shown Herself to me, not as a tormented, mournful monster, grieving Her lost beauty, but a powerful, proud Goddess Queen Whose sight paralyzes and obliterates enemies. She is not to be pitied, but adored. 

Sesklo “Gorgoneion”.

The ancient Greeks depicted Medusa in various ways that seemed to evolve over time. The talismanic image of the Gorgoneion is believed to be at least as early as the 8th century BCE and some scholars propose they could reach as far back as 6,000 years from the Sesklo region of Greece where a terracotta mask was discovered that bears a striking resemblance to early Gorgon imagery and most likely represented an early Mother Goddess cult. It is believed that Medusa was originally just a head and the body came later. Among the earliest depictions of the Perseus and Medusa myth is a bas-relief from the seventh century BCE depicting Perseus averting his gaze as he beheads Medusa, although curiously She is depicted as a centaur with the lower half of a horse putting it from around the time of Hesiod. It wouldn’t be too far fetched for a Sea Goddess like Medusa to have a horse’s body, especially as mother of Pegesus.

Perseus slaying Medusa as a centaur 7th century BCE.

Around the 6th century we start to see Her iconography become a mix of the grotesque, large eyed, hideous monster that makes up most of Greek Gorgon imagery. One of my favorites is a black figure vase from the late 5th century that shows a concerned Poseidon rushing to the beheaded Medusa, Euryale frantically coming to embrace Him. To me it expresses Their actual relationship, that of lovers. In this example, based on Euryale, the Gorgons are depicted the same as Athena on the reverse, so They are most likely less grotesque and more akin to Goddesses. Over the centuries She appears as a guardian depicted on city walls, armor, shields, jewelry, coins, pottery, and sculpture. Sometimes She is gruesome, sometimes She is beautiful, and sometimes She is only Her eyes or a single eye used much like modern Evil Eye talismans often worn as jewelry or depicted on drinking cups. It is important to understand that the power of Medusa isn’t necessarily a power based in Cosmic “good”. Her apotropaic and protective abilities are rooted in Her frightfulness, and Her power to kill with venom or petrification. She isn’t a Goddess to serve in a capacity of benevolence because She is and has always been a monster. Even some 6,000 years ago, Her image was used to frighten as a stormy, wrathful aspect of the Mother Goddess. 

Medusa on the Temple of Artemis at Corfu with Pegasus (hind legs at the left) and Khrysaor (right) flanked by lions.

To the ancients Medusa was an extremely powerful guarding force and it would appear She never truly lost Her connection to the Mother Goddess despite Her sinister reputation. While most iconography shows Her as simply a head, some of the most striking Medusa imagery comes from temples dedicated to Apollon of Miletus and Artemis of Corfu where we see the Gorgon full bodied, often with 4 wings coming from Her back, Her usual snakes, yet She is flanked by two lions in both instances, a direct reference to the cult of the Great Mother. In the marble statue from the temple of Artemis in Corfu Medusa embraces Her children Pegasus and Chrysaor, as well as Her lions. This means that She is not the beheaded Medusa, but restored after the event as a Great Mother akin to Kybele.  But She is not the fertile, benevolent aspect of the Great Mother, She is the destructive force of Nature, its ferocity. When linked to the solar Great Mother, She is the destructive force of the Sun rather than its life supporting force. Much like in India where Kali is the destructive force of Durga, when equated to Kybele or Artemis, Medusa is the same.

Poseidon rushing toward Medusa as Euryale reaches out to embrace Him.

Now that we have the myths and iconography explained, we can dive into how I serve Her. As with everything I share, I am not proclaiming this as THE way, or even saying it is how the ancients themselves did it, although I do structure much of my practice around what we know about ancient cult. It is just MY way. You are free to take from it as you please, use all, part, or none of it, or even use it to inspire your own practice. I will say, since I have started serving Medusa as an active force in my cult and witchcraft the results have been beyond astounding. Medusa is a Goddess you need a physical representation for so you would need either a statue, relief, painting, or other image. She is less spiritual and more physical so it isn’t something you should want to utilize internally. To begin, it is important to understand each of Medusa’s symbola has very specific power because it isn’t just Her gaze that I utilize in my cult practice. To start, Her gaze is indeed important and probably the primary symbola I work with. It is penetrating, and has the power to “turn to stone” anyone who meets it. In my practice it also paralyzes the Evil Eye and any malicious intentions sent against me, rendering them useless. When I look for idols or agalmas for Medusa they need to have very wide, expressive eyes. I cannot use any Medusa image that does not have eyes, or has voids for eyes. Her face should also look fierce, and terrifying, not mournful. She is a proud Queen after all. 

The next symbola I use are Her snakes. Her snakes are usually just considered snakes to make Her hideous and their purpose is neglected, but the snakes themselves have power. They have the power to overwhelm enemies with fear. According to legend, Athena gave Herakles one of Medusa’s serpent locks in an urn that He used to protect the town of Tegea as it would make enemies flee in fright. When using an idol or agalma for Medusa I like to see at least a few of the snakes turned toward the viewer, hissing threateningly, although this isn’t a deal breaker. I typically don’t find Medusa imagery useful for what I need that neglects the snakes, even some that are based on ancient depictions such as the Medusa Rondanini that resembles what Versace uses in his logo. Although beautiful, and it may work for some, I prefer a more snake heavy idol unless the imagery makes up for it with an extremely expressive face and eyes.  

While those are the two main things I look for, there are other things you can consider when finding or making a cult image for Her. Most ancient iconography of Medusa features an open mouth with fangs or tusks. This specific symbola isn’t something I necessarily require in my idols for Medusa, as I also like Her to look beautiful and proud, but it can serve a purpose to add another level of threat when it comes to repelling enemies and negativity. For me personally I like to use snake fangs over tusks due to their practicality, but either will certainly work. Another thing you should consider is if you want an idol that is just a head, or one with a body. When it comes to the body of Medusa there are two kinds available on the market, one with the body and legs of a woman, the other the torso of a woman and the tail of a snake. I personally like both, but know that the snake tail is a modern invention. The closest I have ever come to finding iconography with a snake tail is winged Gorgon from a 6th century BCE shield where Medusa is depicted with a helmet and the tail of a serpentine fish and legs of a lion. 

Medusa with the tail of a fish or sea serpent and legs of a lion 6th century BCE.

Over the years I have used several idols for Medusa, the first being a small Halloween decoration in the form of a resin bust. Then I moved to a beautiful large wall plaque that I currently use, although eventually I will sculpt one that will be enthroned in a shrine. But for each one I awaken it by first cleansing and fumigating Her in an incense of the following ground together:

  • 1 tsp frankincense
  • 1 tsp myrrh
  • 1 tsp benzoin storax
  • *These three resins are often sold together as Black Ethiopian resin, of which you would use 1 tbsp
  • 1 tsp dragon’s blood
  • ½ tsp clove
  • ½ tsp amber resin
  • ¼ tsp juniper berry
  • ¼ tsp black pepper
  • ¼ tsp wormwood
  • Add and mix:
  • 3 drops musk oil
  • 3 drops camphor oil
  • 3 drops anise oil
  • A splash of red church wine
  • A small amount of honey 

This incense is formulated with strong protective and evil averting properties. It can be used as a go to incense when serving Medusa, especially if you are working with Her to remove curses or the evil eye, or to consecrate wards to protect a space or person.

To perform the ritual Night light a black chime candle. Mix a bowl of spring water with some sea salt, wormwood, cedar, and rue. Light a second black chime candle from the main candle and salute the four directions and say “In the name of Medusa!” and extinguish the flame in the water. 

Take a small bouquet of fresh spring flowers and dip it into the holy water and sprinkle it onto the agalma (sacred idol) to cleanse it. This will purify and cleanse the image so Medusa comes to you appeased, reminded of Her love of Poseidon. You can then gently wipe down the statue with soft linen cloth. Next prepare the incense and fan the smoke toward the agalma. As you fumigate Her image say an invocation, facing West:

“I call to You, Guardians of the Gates of the West, Realm of the Setting Sun, open the way to the Land of Night! 

Hear me, Gorgon Queen, come to me as I come to you, kindly and in good form. Beautiful Medusa, Serpentine Goddess, I summon You to this rite I host in Your honor! I ask that You be present within this living idol I make clean and pure for You! Let it be as You so all my enemies are petrified by the sight of Your gaze! Mighty Protectress, by Your will and mine, the deed is done!”

Next, enthrone Her in Her shrine or altar where She will be housed as sacred space. Offer Her spring flowers separate from those you used to asperge the idol as well as more incense, and sweet red church wine. The agalma is now consecrated for use so She should be treated as a sacred object, the physical form of Medusa Herself. 

Medusa will be a passive ward, meaning you do not have to actively work to get the evil averting powers from the agalma. However, if you want to do workings with Her for specific purposes such as cursing, protection, or removing hexes of the Evil Eye you must petition Her wrathful aspect. When I am working with Her and I want to harness the power of Her ferocity, and Her petrifying gaze I will set up my work area so that it faces away from Medusa, and only look upon Her image in a mirror that is on the work altar. At Her shrine, at Night, I will light a black candle and incense, having as little light as needed to perform the spell. For these types of rituals I will offer Her red church wine, whole uncooked eggs, and spring water in addition to any ingredients or materials for my spellwork. My typical conjuration of Medusa is this:

“Gorgon-eyed Hekate, Unconquerable Queen of Witches, I conjure You to be present and send to me Your ghosts of forgotten soldiers so they may stand before me, beside me, and behind me and let no harm come to me in my witch’s operations. Open now the Iron Gates of Night so I may do my work! 

Listen, Gods of the Infernal Den, I am the witch NN, and my words have power! I summon the Gorgon Queen, Serpent-locked Medusa, infamous and terrifying Goddess, I stir You to Your furious form! Come, rise from the Hellish Pit on swift wing and turn to me Your petrifying gaze so You may witness this rite! Lend me Your power, Great Empress, that I may perform the task at hand and destroy my enemies whether they are material or spirit! Curl Your blackened lips and bear Your venomous fangs! Widen Your frightening eyes, flashing with fire, and look upon (enemy’s NN) so he/she/they may be destroyed! Cast in stone his/her/their evil intentions he/she/they may set against me, cast in stone the heart and mind of NN and drink his/her/their blood with your forked tongue!  Do this, Goddess, and I will serve You as Your station demands! By Your will and mine, the deed is done!” 

In this incantation Hekate is evoked as Mother of the Gorgons. She is often used in ancient spells as a Gorgon Herself, and is mentioned interchangeably in certain charms, such as making protective amulets out of red coral which is to be inscribed with the face of Hekate or head of a Gorgon. She is also evoked to bring a spectral guard to protect the witch while conjuring this especially malicious form of Medusa. You may choose to forego this step but I do so out of respect for Medusa, that She isn’t treated as harmless, or unfrightening. 

Once the working is done I offer Her incense, honey, milk, blackberries, black cherries, and or black figs. The milk and honey are pretty typical offerings to appease malevolent deities, and blackberries, cherries, and figs have a lot of lore connecting them with diabolical forces, but also as evil averting fruits. When working poppets you can take the juice of crushed blackberries and cherries and put it inside the doll to sweeten sinister entities you are working with to the taste of the target’s blood. When you are done it is important to flatter the Goddess so She returns to Her guardian aspect:

“Empress Medusa, Lady of Snakes, Mother of the Golden Blade, I beg You to return to good form, and keep me in Your favor, as You are in mine, as Your humble servant. I am pleased with You and wish You well. Adamantine Guardian, enthroned in every kingdom, most powerful sorceress Who can destroy all curses, Whom none can conquer, not even Death, by which You gained Your divinity. Accept these sweet offerings as I sing praises in Your name! Hail Immortal Medusa! Hail the Guardian Queen!” 

The next thing I want to cover is Medusa’s vessel. Those familiar with my work know I do a lot with spiritual vessels and Medusa is no different. Her vessel not only stores Her dynamis but it is an active ward for protection. This particular vessel is based on the myth where Athena gives Herakles a snake lock from Medusa’s head in an urn. For this you will need the following (*indicates toxic herbs and should be handled at your discretion preferably with gloves, and can be omitted):

  • An urn type vessel with a lid (I use either antique sugar bowls or terracotta cantarito cups that I cap off with small terracotta planter dishes which can be easily painted, legend mentions it as a bronze urn).
  • A taxidermy snake head, widely available in souvenir or oddity shops, or a bronze snake figure that will fit inside your vessel.
  • Serpentine root (Scorzonera hispanica)
  • Wormwood
  • Black snake root
  • Henbane*
  • Belladonna*
  • Sea sponge that has been cut flat so it may rest at the bottom of the vessel
  • Rue
  • Parsley leaves
  • Coral
  • Malachite
  • Lodestone or strong magnet
  • Cobalt blue Evil Eye charm
  • Medusa Incense
  • Black chime candle
  • Red string
  • Honey
  • Bee’ wax
  • Dry eggshell
  • Dirt from a basement or cave
  • A small bronze object
  • Sweet red church wine
  • The crushed heads of three matches
  • A fireplace match, lighter, or other implement that can hold fire and reach the bottom of the vessel 

At night at your shrine or altar to Medusa, light the black candle and incense and conjure the Goddess:

“Medusa Phorkynis, Guardian Queen, You Who dwell at the edge of the Stygian Sea, I conjure You to appear in good form to my witch’s rite. Fair-cheeked Gorgon, be present! Hail and welcome!”

Gorgoneion charm example based on a gem inscription drawn by Rev. C.W. King for the bottom of the vessel.

Take the vessel and fumigate it in the incense three times. On the bottom of the vessel draw a Gorgoneion and around it write “I protect NN”. You will add your name and the names of anyone you want protected that resides in the home or place. You can also simply put “I protect this house” or “…this building” or so on. Fumigate again with the incense then whisper into the vessel “Empress Medusa, protect NN” (3x) saying whatever you wrote and gently blow into it three times. Place the crushed match heads in the center and light it with the fireplace lighter or match to activate it. Next add a layer of the basement or cave dirt, then rue, followed by a bed of parsley leaves, and place the sea sponge over this. Take the snake head and place it on the sea sponge so it faces toward the front of the vessel. If its mouth is open, place the lodestone in the mouth, if not put it next to it. Splash a small amount of church wine onto it as well as a small amount of honey. Around the outer edge arrange pieces of the eggshell. Place the coral, malachite, and bronze around it and add another layer of parsley leaf, rue, then the dirt. Melt and carefully pour in the bee’s wax so they are covered and let cool.

Next mix the serpentine root, black snake root, wormwood, henbane*, and belladonna*. Take the Evil Eye charm and fumigate it in the incense. Place half the herbal mix into the urn and add the charm, then cover with the remaining herbs. Splash a small amount of wine and honey as before, restore the lid and seal with bee’s wax or other sealant so it cannot be opened. Leave this on the altar until the candle burns out but before the sun rises, and place it somewhere close to your front door. The urn itself can be painted bronze, and decorated with a Gorgoneion or large glaring eyes on its front (mini mirrors on the iris is a great idea), and or Evil Eye charms. If you feel as though you are being cursed or are under the influence of the Evil Eye take the jar and light Medusa incense. Walk around your home and in each room raise the jar three times then say “Medusa protects NN!” repeating until you end at your front door.

The last thing I do with Medusa is make a potion called ‘The Blood of Medusa’, which is actually two separate potions. According to legend Athena gave Asklepios Medusa’s blood. The blood from the left side was poisonous and used to destroy people, but the blood from the right was restorative. Here are my recipes:

The Blood of Medusa (Left) *Toxic

  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar glaze
  • 9 crushed blackberries
  • 1 tsp crushed black pepper
  • 1 tsp bittersweet nightshade*
  • 1 tsp parsley
  • 1 tsp henbane*
  • 1 tsp wormwood
  • ½ tsp mandrake root*
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp black iron oxide
  • Snake shed (add based on your availability)
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp black salt

This potion is not to be consumed but added to poppets or other tools for cursing. If you are handling it with your hands, wear gloves. ****This is highly toxic, especially to children and animals. 

The Blood of Medusa (Right)

  •  ½ cup pomegranate concentrate
  • 9 crushed black cherries
  • 1 tsp elderberry that has been boiled in spring water
  • 1 tsp dandelion root
  • 1 tsp coltsfoot
  • 1 tsp hawthorn berry
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chamomile
  • 1/8 tsp real saffron 
  • Snake shed (add based on your availability) 
  • 1 cup red vermouth
  • 1 tbsp honey

This potion is consumable and can be added to teas, but it can also be used on poppets or other tools to heal, cleanse, and restore. 

Aside from this, some things I associate and use with Medusa are malachite (as my Gorgon’s Eye stone), serpentine, snakeskin jasper, coral, whole raw eggs, petrified wood, fossils, any snake materials especially from vipers, bronze, Evil Eye charms, herbs such as wormwood, black snake root, serpentine root, poplar, bittersweet nightshade*, datura*, belladonna*, henbane*, sulfur, rat or pest poison*, parsley, spring flowers, boar tusk, basically anything that is used to remove the Evil Eye, protect, or curse enemies, especially poisons that cause paralysis.

I hope this helps add to your practice, and clarify some of the things I do with monstrous Gods such as Medusa. She is incredibly powerful, and since I have started working with Her, She has removed a lot of things and people that have been holding me back. Allan and I have been free of unnecessary drama or problems from our enemies which has been miraculous to say the least! I highly recommend inviting Medusa into your practice if you find yourself in need of some of the strongest protective energies the Inferno has to offer. Of course I have a lot more but I could write an entire book on it! Until next time, Nocturnal Blessings! 

Franz von Stuck ‘The Head of Medusa’ 1892