Storytelling can be thought of as a primitive tool for making sense of things. At first glance, myths seem to be pure fantasy, but if we look through a certain lens we can see that they are telling us about something very real.
Myths tell us stories about reality. One such reality that is often alluded to in myths is the reality of the psyche: “the human soul, mind, or spirit”. One such myth is that of Perseus, Pegasus and Medusa.
This is a story about accessing our own creativity. The primal creative force lives within the unconscious of the artist, scientist, engineer or entrepreneur. It lives within us all.
The hero of the story is Perseus, the son of the god Zeus and a mortal woman, Danae. Incidentally, Zeus got around. He had several mortal and immortal girlfriends.
Actually, most of the heroes we know best were the half-mortal children of gods…. Hercules, Achilles, Jesus †, Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and on & on it goes...The Song remains the same.
Perseus sets out to slay Medusa. Medusa is a half-human , half-beast serpentine monster of the underworld. What makes her formidable is that fact that you cannot look at her without turning to stone.
On his journey down into the lair of Medusa, Perseus encounters the aid of the goddess Athena who gives him a shield that is a reflective mirror. From here Perseus enters the cave of Medusa.
While she and her sisters sleep in a dark cave, a terrified Perseus approaches guided by the reflection in the shield of Athena. Gazing at her reflection in the mirrored shield, he cuts the head off Medusa.
From the decapitated body of Medusa springs forth a crowd favorite, Pegasus, the winged and famous horse. Pegasus then flies up to the heavens amongst thunder & lightning and strikes The Fountain of The Muses for a nice fireworks finale. Tah-dah!
Let’s start with Perseus and his parents. As I said earlier, many mythological heroes are half-human/half-god. This speaks for our nature of being both spirit and matter. Or if you prefer, both mind and matter. To be human is to be both. This motif is a nod to our own transcendent origins.
And why is Medusa half-snake? The symbology of a snake can be found much earlier than ancient Greece. We often find snakes in creation myths. The most famous of which is the biblical myth of the Garden of Eden.
Among other things, the snake is a symbol of primal creativity/life force as well as the unconscious within us. Why are snakes symbols for the unconscious? Because snakes are known to live in the dark, and in the ground underneath the world, out of sight.
Athena is commonly known as a warrior goddess, but she’s also known as the goddess of awareness. The shield she gives Perseus is a symbol for the reflective nature of our conscious mind. Perseus “defeats” the unconscious through conscious realization.
So you have 1) the unconscious Medusa, 2) the positive ego-hero Perseus, and 3) the reflective shield of awareness. This myth is a play of ego, awareness, and the unconscious. The mirror-shield is a tool to gaze upon Medusa in the same way that our conscious mind is a tool to gaze into our unconscious depths.
Why does Pegasus spring forth from the slain body of the serpent? On the one hand, horse and snake are both animals of nature. They both represent our natural and instinctual creative forces. The difference between a horse and a snake is that horses are tamed.
Pegasus is tamed primal creativity. He arises out of the unconscious underworld of Medusa. His wings are a symbol of heaven, spirit, consciousness, and liberation. In some obscure academic circles, he is known as a symbol of the “chthonic-phallic”, which literally means “boner of the underworld”. But he’s a woke and winged boner.
If you’re an artist, this will be especially important for you. Pegasus is the show we’ve all been waiting for. Actually, Pegasus is the reason we have shows in the first place because he is the symbol of creative acts.
After jumping out of a dead snake, the brilliant Pegasus flies straight to the heavens and strikes The Fountain of The Muses. The Fountain of The Muses is the fountain of all creative inspiration and ingenuity. Pegasus is the raw power of creativity in it’s conscious form.
By reflecting upon the unconscious, Perseus liberates the creative forces upon the world. Who’s unconscious is he gazing in? Well his own, of course. And Greece isn’t the only wisdom tradition to speak of this process. In the ancient Indian text The Bhagavad Gita, there is a similar idea from Krishna, “Curving back within myself I create again and again”.