I tell a tale of ancient days – a Tale of Love and Blindness.
Once there lived in Athens a young woman. Her parents had named her Medusa, and one evening, alone in Athena’s Temple, she met a God.
By ill fortune, the God that found Medusa was not Athena. Rather, it was Athena’s rival – Poseidon.
Poseidon looked down upon the maiden and smiled his dark smile. He found Medusa beautiful. She was beautiful.
But she was also devout – and unwilling to give herself to him no matter the practiced flattery that flowed like the water from his black beard.
To Poseidon – or indeed any Olympian – the unwillingness of women was scarce an inconvenience. It was almost expected. And it was easily dealt with.
And after Poseidon had despoiled Medusa – and the temple of his ancient enemy – he returned to the dark sea, leaving Medusa where he had found her.
Naked, broken, and bleeding.
Medusa wailed and cried – until no more sound would come.
And then, in the dark of the moon, she heard the wings of an owl.
At last she saw her God, and she hoped. For justice. For kindness. For mercy.
But Athena was angry.
“You have lain with Poseidon. You have desecrated this – the most holy temple of this great city – MY temple.”
Medusa – in ragged whispers – sought to explain, but Athena would hear nothing.
“You are a monster, and so you shall bear a crown of serpents. Never will anyone gaze upon you – be they mortal or God – else they become as stone. Now, be gone!”
And with that, Medusa was gone. Banished to the far reaches of the country.
This is a story that you have heard, yes?
Have you heard also of Tiresias? The seer born to the shepherd Everes on the nymph Chariclo – favoured of Athena?
At some times a woman, oft times a man? But here, my tale charges ahead of itself….
As a youth, Tiresias, while visiting their most fair and felicitous mother, chanced upon Athena.
Such chance might be counted as a blessing, but to see Athena bathing… this was no blessing at all.
No man may see the Goddess in her totality. Nor woman either.
Athena blinded Tiresias at once.
But the nymph Chariclo spoke to Athena as only a true friend and companion might.
Athena would not undo what she had done, but she granted unto Tiresias the Great Staff and the language of the birds – the foretelling.
With staff in hand, and birdsong in his ears, blind Tiresius walked with slowness and care back through the fields of Thebes.
Tiresias walked alone guided by birdsong, until all sound had gone.
It was then Tiresius heard great wings, but no song to attend them.
Tiresius leant on his staff, listening to the wings until at last the beating of wings was stilled.
Then, a voice – as beautiful as its question was strange.
“Can you not see me?” the voice asked.
“No. I can none” Tiresius replied.
“Do you not fear that which you cannot see?” the voice asked.
“Not at all. I have been given sight of the future, and would know if you were fiend or monster. You are not a woman to be feared, despite your wings. You are beauty itself. And power. And a sort of kindness finds itself also in you.” Tiresias replied.
“Athena has made of me a monster. None may look upon me and live,” the voice said.
“Then I shall not look upon you at all. And I will judge what is monster and what is beauty,” Tiresias said.
“My crown is of serpents made” the voice said.
“My staff is darkest cherrywood. Do you adjudge it different from the bright cypress? Lesser is it or greater?” Tiresias asked.
When Medusa made no answer, Tiresias said, “Beauty, will you walk with me for a time?”
Have you heard this story too?
How two kind, passionate, and accursed youths came to love one another?
Despite the Gods above them, yet because of those same Gods too?
How Medusa, in time, birthed Tiresias’ most beautiful daughter, Manto?
How then Medusa was slain, and in death birthed Tiresias’ son Chrysaor, and the winged Pegasus too?
How Zeus and Hera later submitted themselves into Tiresias’ judgement?
How Tiresias lived the span of seven lives – always in the memory of Medusa’s love.
Like many, it is a strange tale. And a sad one.
But I think a glad one also.
There may be something important in it.
Something to remember.
I think so.
But then, I am a monster.