One Monday morning, we had a class from Solei. The days have been running into each other so I can’t remember which Monday it was. Solei was a storyteller. He described visual tales that sparked our creativity. He did a creative visualisation exercise with us, in which we entered our creative land and met our creative creature.

We meditated, his words guiding us towards our creative land. We visualised a door. Mine, wooden and painted off-white with a crystal doorknob, was floating in front of me. After opening the door, I entered paradise. Beautiful lakes and trees, rainbows and waterfalls lay before me, and I felt calm. I’m not usually a calm kind of girl; I’m more of a storm that occasionally settles. 

In front of me was my creative creature: a pink, glittering mermaid. She seemed pleased as she looked right into me with her big, honey eyes. My family used to call me the little pink mermaid. Maybe they could see my creature before I could, or maybe subconsciously my creative creature was shaped by this.

Trying to shake the feeling of reality, I sunk deeper into my thoughts. My world started spinning, and I found myself in complete darkness. Emptiness. I knew the calmness couldn’t last forever. Even if I wanted it to. My graceful mermaid turned into a grim Medusa ghost who whispered seduction into my ear. I spun around to see what she looked like, as she turned to me. I can’t remember what she said, but when my eyes opened I could still hear her whispers.

I wondered what all of this meant, so I did what any other creative would do and researched:

Mermaids are symbols of danger, seduction and sexuality, yet they also represent independence, freedom, mystery and going with the flow. Mermaids represent magic, yet they are trickster souls. They are happy, joyful, and alluring, but very dangerous. They are naturally angry, due to the awful things done to them. They symbolise duality, which is expressed by their physical form – half-human, half-fish. They represent the balance between purity and abundance as well as whimsicality and unpredictability.

Medusa is arguably the first goddess of a matriarchal society. In the myth, Medusa, the graceful beauty, was raped by Poseidon. Athena was so furious she turned Medusa into a monster, with snakes for hair and reptilian skin (symbolic of the natural cycle of birth, death and rebirth), which caused any man that looked at her to be punished with death. This in itself is a horrifying story, which is still relevant in today’s society, where victims are often blamed for being sexually assaulted.

However, some feminists believe that Athena gave Medusa the ultimate power against men – the power to both punish and avoid the male gaze, regardless of the rank or status of the man daring to look at her.

Medusa, in effect, became the archetypical femme fatale: a conflation of femininity, erotic desire, violence, and death. Freud even considered that as a result, she became the unapproachable woman who repels all sexual desire.

So what did this mean to me? I saw two different characters with the same characteristics. Medusa represents an opposed form. Her story begins with independence, as a free and beautiful young woman, quickly tricked by Poseidon and losing part of her power. Athena, whether or not she did it because she loved her, which some theories suggest, took away Medusa’s beauty and gave her the ultimate power against men, making her invulnerable, and empowering many women being sexually assaulted today. 

The duality of Medusa is reflected in the duality of the mermaid. Both represent beauty, mystery, transformation, danger and femininity. Do I represent Medusa or a mermaid of some kind? Or was the image I created sparked by the anger I have for men? Maybe it represented the transformation I’m going through myself. Mermaids tell the story of feeling lost, healing, then revelling in beauty and mystery. Medusa tells the same story. And maybe one day I will too.

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