Medusa Tattoos: The Ancient Greek Myth And Current Symbolism

Are you looking to get your own Medusa tattoo? Or are you just curious about the meaning behind them?

Of course, you don’t have to get one for the meaning, but it is important to know the modern representation of them and what they represent in the present day and age.

We are going to discuss the origins of Medusa and when and why people started to have them tattooed.

Tattoos don’t always have a meaning but with certain images they have a specific meaning and connotation – Medusa being one of them.

We best know her for being an evil villain that needs to be defeated, someone who turns people to stone with just a single glance – but have you ever considered her life before she became the snake headed creature we learn about in Greek history? 

Not all tattoos need to have a meaning, but when it comes to a Medusa tattoo, there is a very specific reason why people are getting it in the present day.

The Medusa tattoo now represents something and has a meaning, rather than just being a cool-looking tattoo.

For this reason, you should probably know the current connotations before getting it tattooed yourself – to avoid any confusing questions. 

So, let’s get into the history and symbolism of Medusa tattoos, and what they mean to people who have them today.

History of Medusa

History of Medusa

Almost everyone has heard of the tale of Medusa – if you haven’t, where have you been? Originating in ancient Greece, she is most recognizable by the crown of snakes she has in place of hair.

As the myth goes, if anyone looks into her eyes she will turn you to stone. She represents an evil that deflects other evil.

The most well known tale of Medusa is her encounter with Perseus, the Greek hero.

In the story, a dishonest king orders Perseus to bring him the head of Medusa. In the end, Perseus ends up defeating Medusa.

She is often represented as a villain, someone who deserved that fate. But why are people using Medusa as a tattoo and what does it symbolize to them?

Is there more to Medusa’s story than the one we are more often told?

Meaning of Medusa Tattoo in Modern Culture

Medusa is portrayed in Greek mythology as a symbol to ward off the negative and protect. She has also been the symbol for female rage.

In modern culture however, people view her as a victim not a villain – someone who went through a trauma and uses her power to protect herself and others.

In the modern day, a Medusa tattoo symbolizes someone who has been a victim of sexual assault. The thought behind this is that by having her tattooed you are once again empowering yourself, just like she had.

She is a symbol of fierceness and fearlessness, which people are using to represent themselves.

She is used to combat the culture of victim-blaming rape victims – she represents taking the power back from the abuser. 

In Greek mythology, the feminine qualities of Medusa and her beauty is what ‘lures’ the men to look at her, and ultimately become her ‘victims’ when she turns them to stone.

This however could be interpreted as a metaphor: that it doesn’t matter what one looks like, if there is no consent you should face consequences.

This is where it has become the symbol for victims of sexual assault. They view Medusa in the way that she is the victim and she is only punishing those who do her wrong.

Before Medusa was a monster, she was a Goddess.

It was through tragedy that she turned into the snake headed woman we know her to be. As a goddess she was known for being beautiful and hard to resist.

Even after being turned into a monster, she was hard not to look at but by doing so you’d be turned to stone.

Various versions of Medusa’s story tell of her rape by Poseidon, which is what caused her to turn into the monster she is.

She turned into this creature because of what happened to her, and her need to protect herself from that happening again and also her anger at what happened.

This is why she is a victim to those in modern culture. She represents the aftermath of evil. She herself is not evil – what was done to her was.

She turned into the gorgon to protect herself and to stop men from taking advantage again. This is the story why sexual assault survivors choose to have her tattooed.

That is what she represents to them. 

Another way Medusa can be interpreted is through the way that her image is intended to terrify those who look at her.

Those who get her tattooed may want to give the impression that they are unapproachable, just as Medusa was. It is a symbol of protection.

She is a symbol of fearlessness, and strongness though at heart she is a victim of abuse.

Medusa can appear in many ways. She has been drawn throughout time in many different states. These range from her beautiful goddess self, to the haggard snake-ridden woman.

In some versions she is still very beautiful even with her snake hair and eyes that will turn you to stone.

In other versions she has lost her beauty entirely. It all depends on what style of drawing you want when you get a Medusa tattoo – but the most prominent when representing sexual assault victims is the image of her in her beauty and snake hair.

Because it should not be what you look like that causes assault. It should not be because you are ‘beautiful’ or ‘irresistible’.

Medusa represents that reasoning that some assaulters give – a reasoning that should be invalid. 

Medusa tattoos can represent a lot of meanings, and in fairness it is up to your own interpretation of the legend of Medusa.

It can mean and symbolize whatever you need it to. It is however becoming a huge part of sexual assault victim’s culture, and symbolism for those who have gone through that ordeal.

Medusa is empowering them once again, just as she empowers herself in the myth. 

Final Thoughts

So, it is up to you what you think of the Medusa tattoo, and it is up to you what she represents to you specifically.

To many in the present day she is a symbol of empowerment and is important to sexual assault survivors.

It is important to understand the history of Medusa herself and how she came to be this symbol. She went from Goddess to gorgon to a symbol of empowerment. 

Of course, you don’t have to be a person who relates to this meaning of Medusa to have her tattooed on you. Perhaps you just want it because it looks cool, or for another reason entirely.

At the end of the day it is up to you what you put on your body, and it is up to you what she represents for you. 

Medusa who was once a villain to all of us, has been reclaimed and remade into the strong, empowering and fearless woman that she has always been – and those who choose to tattoo her have a constant reminder of that. 

FAQ

What does a Medusa tattoo represent?

Medusa can represent many things, most commonly she is a feminist symbol in the present day.

What does Medusa look like?

It changes with every interpretation, but she always has a head of snakes in place of her hair and a very beautiful face, that with a single look can turn people to stone. 

What was Medusa the God of?

Medusa, before she turned into a gorgon, was the goddess of philosophy, beauty and art.

Max Peters