Lilith

Lilith by John Collier

The story of Lilith and Medusa has been kicking around in my head for a while.  You know the adage "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" which I consider to be the energy of Chiron...  well for Lilith, "what doesn't kill you gives you PTSD", mental torture and obsession over festering wounds.

The story of Medusa in general is that she is a beautiful virgin who serves at the temple of Athena, is raped by Poseideon in Athena's temple, then punished by Athena who curses Medusa and transforms her into a Gorgon - a terrifying entity with venomous snakes for hair.  On initial reading, the injustice lies in blaming the victim and choosing a weaker scapegoat (a female mortal rather than the powerful god Poseidon) to pay for the crime of defiling Athena's temple.  It is no wonder that rape and subsequent punishment - a double whammy of victimisation - would create a monster of bitterness, rage and hate.

Athena may have been political in her decision not to take on Poseidon, or she may indeed have been jealous of Medusa's ravishing beauty, but I don't think Athena's curse is necessary to explain Medusa's transformation. 

All the goddess of 'wisdom, craft, war, diplomacy' needed to say was "Medusa, you're not a virgin anymore.  Only virgins serve in my temple.  You have to go" and Medusa's devastation is compounded.

We can survive a rape, but what about the subsequent shunning because of the rape? How do we feel when the community that gave us a sense of belonging, decides to reject instead of help or at least comfort us?  We are suddenly alone in a dark world, and the only person we can trust is ourselves.  This resonates with the symbol of Libra 15-16 A Boat Landing Washed Away.  Further, the disappointment we learn towards our previous authority figures, who we may have served so faithfully before, moves us to rebellion and a desire for destruction of their hollow, hypocritical social structures.  In the case of Medusa, how little did the worship as a virgin at a great goddess' temple protect her from Poseidon's rape?  Some would say that the crisis of faith is a test, others would say it is a revelation of truth where we cannot go back to our earlier ignorance - where we now believe we were used or conned. If the authority figures are parents or like parents, our inner child is deeply scarred, as inclusion into the family structure gives the inner child a sense of belonging crucial to wellbeing.

And finally, we cannot help but be punished again by an inner voice that says we deserved this, that we are somehow bad.  This voice responds to the evidence of our rejection from a community we loved, and will torment us continually. Another voice will react to the first voice, telling us how it is all unfair and that we did nothing wrong, and provide invective against all those who have wronged us.  It is these two voices inside us in conflict, that provide the constant loop of mental torture, and all we can do is replay a loop inside our heads ad infinitum, never releasing the building toxicity of our thoughts.

Medusa escaped to a cave to be with her Gorgon sisters - the only ones who could understand her - and she lives in unending bitterness, rage, hostility - her venomous serpent hair protecting her from those who would abuse or kill her.  For the time being, her hostility and rage are useful, in that they deter and remove any threats to Medusa, protecting her vulnerable inner child. Every man she turns to stone is society's payment for her wounds - however she does not seek out her victims, they come to her cave.  She just wants to be left alone, like Lilith, with her nightmares. This illustrates how projections and victim narcissism require solitude to eventually realise that it is our own mental state (projections, thoughts) that continues to punish us.  When everyone is no longer available to be projected onto, what is left but the realisation that what we have projected originates from within us.  Poseidon had no further dealings with Medusa, but she likely relived the rape many many times, reliving her own helplessness and excoriating herself for the event.  Each visitor to the cave (and yes, they have harmful intentions) puts themselves in the path of Medusa's terrifying projections - how she sees them as representative of all crimes against her - so they look in her eyes and are turned to stone.  For those of us who have to deal with others' projections, having our hearts twisted and frustrated by other people's stubborn and unaltering perspectives, can feel like a trap, like banging your head against a brick wall.

Medusa herself is raped endlessly, first physically by Poseidon, socially by Athena and  community, then by Medusa's own haunting memories afterwards. However the rapes occurring in her mind, inside her cave, are the rapes that she can actually stop.

When Perseus kills Medusa, he does so by cutting off her head, releasing from her body Pegasus (the winged horse representing power and freedom) and Chrysaor, a giant wielding a golden sword.  To me, this represents the freedom that comes from removing the mental loop and the need to either literally forget about the past (amnesia, dementia etc), or somehow forgive that it happened (which needs self-acceptance).  It also represents hope that we are capable of beauty, power and light after damaging events.  Mythology states that Pegasus and Chrysaor are Poseidon's children, implying that there is good and bad in all things.  I hesitate to say there is a "good" side to rape, however in this story, Medusa does learn that the personal authority she gave away to Athena was misguided and she saw a dark side to her community (as I always say: if you are blaming one person, you are not looking at the whole family).  She experiences truth, at the cost of her own beauty.  Nonetheless, in her dark place, where she sees and feels ugliness, Pegasus and Chrysaor are waiting to be born, waiting for Medusa to remove her tormented mind to embrace the other gifts within her.  Chrysaor's sword is a symbol of how we will never be victimised again, that we can easily protect our own boundaries from trespass.

It is interesting that once Athena receives Medusa's head, she mounts the head onto a shield as protection.  It seems the terrifying Medusa experience is also a gift  - the gift of fear, and a protection that Athena had not been able to provide before.

Medusa by Caravaggio

So about Lilith - according to mythology she is Adam's first wife who refuses to lay beneath him as she and he are both of clay and equal.  She wants to be left alone, refuses to come back to stay with Adam, and is considered a demon, sexually wanton and eats babies.  Like Medusa, there is a strong F$*& YOU energy that they embody, overwhelming and driving their behaviours.  For Lilith, I see the man-eating and baby-eating as representing her desire to overcome these aspects of herself - the masculine side and the innocent, vulnerable side.  If she can dominate these in others, she can repress it further in herself.  Why these aspects?  Our vulnerablity exposes us to harm, and is where our wounds are keenest.  The patriarchal side, in women, cuts them off at the knees, reminding women of their "place" and stops them from achieving success.  Controlling babies and men (her own projections) gives Lilith a feeling of power over the personas within her that give her the most trouble, and feels like victory.  Lilith is similar to Kali although I do not feel I need to psychoanalyse Kali who is pure destructive and creative energy.


Lilith interpretation at astrotheme.com

In terms of astrology, Lilith has many interpretations - and so your Lilith symbol could be the signpost of your Medusa-like journey, or how you express your dark side, or how you will liberate yourself from situations that do not honour you.  My Lilith is on Aries 12-13 An Unsuccessful Bomb Explosion which describes my responses to situations that do not honour me (and bouts of PMT). 

The wonderful thing about Lilith in astrology is that we own our Lilith and we understand everybody has Lilith within them.  There is a line that we dare not cross within ourselves, there is a limit to our dishonour.  In a sense most Hollywood movies that show the hero journey are also describing a part of the Lilith journey, though the latter has no applause at the end, no validation by others, no veneration by society.   The healing after the Lilith journey requires a hard-won self-acceptance, the step towards peace. As I have mentioned for Medusa, the journey is a lone one - even those of us who have lived and understand these experiences also know the dangerous emotions of another who is in the throes of this experience.  Having had my own Lilith/Medusa journey, I personally know that for all my understanding, I am very careful about putting myself into someone else's projection line-of-fire and its potential treachery.  I am only human and therefore limited.  I can only offer as solace that this journey helps us to stand in our own authority rather than giving it away, and that there is no need for external validation as we realise that only our own personal, internal validation matters.

Lady Lilith by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, sedated by the poppy
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