What happened to Medusa’s head after she was beheaded?

Medusa was absolutely lovely and beautiful. She was undoubtedly one of the most beautiful women in Greek mythology, up there with the likes of Helen of Troy and maiden deities like Artemis and Athena. Medusa being punished for the atrocities of Poseidon epitomizes what many people like to call rape-victim blaming.

Image: Medusa by Swiss symbolist painter Arnold Böcklin, circa 1878

After Perseus beheaded Medusa, her head retained its petrifying power, turning anyone who looked directly into its eyes to stone.

Perseus utilized the head as a weapon in various situations, including:

  1. Battle Against King Phineus: During the conflict at the wedding of Perseus and Andromeda, Perseus unveiled Medusa’s head to turn his adversaries, led by Andromeda’s former suitor Phineus, into stone.
  2. Saving Andromeda: Perseus used Medusa’s head to rescue Andromeda from the sea monster Cetus. By showing the monster the head of Medusa, he turned it into stone.
  3. Encounter with Atlas: On his travels, Perseus encountered Atlas, the Titan who held up the sky. When Atlas refused to offer him shelter, Perseus showed him Medusa’s head, turning him into a mountain range, which is now known as the Atlas Mountains.
Perseus with the Head of Medusa

Perseus with the Head of Medusa by Italian sculptor Benvenuto Cellini (1554)

After completing those quests, he did not keep Medusa’s head for himself. Instead, he presented it to the goddess Athena.

Athena, who had provided guidance and assistance to Perseus in his quest to slay Medusa, affixed Medusa’s head to her shield, known as the Aegis. This addition served as both a symbol and a functional defensive tool, as the head’s petrifying gaze continued to deter enemies.

The image of Medusa’s head on Athena’s shield became an iconic representation in classical art and mythology. It symbolized divine protection and the goddess’s might, serving as a potent reminder of Athena’s power and the dangers of crossing the divine.

Were there any consequences or curses associated with possessing Medusa’s head?

In Greek mythology, there are no specific consequences or curses associated with possessing Medusa’s head as mentioned in the traditional myths. Once Perseus beheaded Medusa, he primarily used her severed head as a weapon and a means to turn his enemies into stone.

The Medusa’s head central to a mosaic floor in a tepidarium of the Roman era. Museum of Sousse, Tunisia

READ MORE: The Myth of Medusa and Poseidon

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