The following informant is an 12 year old. In this account he is explaining who Medusa is and how is father used to tell them stories about her. This is a transcription of our conversation, he is identified as J and I am identified as K:
J: Our dad used to tell us the Medusa story. It’s about a women, like an evil evil women, and she has like… snakes for hair… and if you look in her eyes you turn to stone. And it happened to anyone that looked into her eyes, children, adults, anyone and you would turn to stone
K: That sounds like a scary story, how old were you?
J: He has been telling us this story for about like around 5 years old… and yeah it was more scary and had jump scares! He would tell us in a dark room and out of nowhere he would start tickling us. But it doesn’t scare me now.
K: Do you remember the story he used to tell?
J: Well no, he changes the details every time … but it always was about a women with snakes for hair that would turn you to stone if you looked in her eyes
Context: He and his sister took turns telling me stories
This reminds me of the Oral Formulic Theory, in that for the story to be effectively scary, the character of Medusa needs to remain the same. By using the mythical being and changing the formulaic (little details) the dad was able to adapt the tale as his son got harder to scare.
For another version of Medusa, here is a clip from Percy Jackson & the Olympians – Medusa’s Garden https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPjZKKV37do
“How bout Icarus? How bout a myth? Icarus? You know Icarus? So I always heard this myth, Icarus and his dad….were imprisoned– I don’t really know why. But, they just worked for the wrong people, anyway they went to prison……. Oh now I remember. His father was an architect– a famous architect back in Greek mythology, and he had built a labyrinth for the king or whatever back then– the emperor. But they locked him up though, after he built it, they locked him up cause they didn’t want him telling anybody the key to the labyrinth, they wanted it to be secret. They were afraid that if he were out in the public, he would tell people how to escape from it and I guess it was meant to…um, keep people in. So he was shut up in a tower with his son, Icarus, and but he was a really skilled guy and they were up in a tower and they had windows around them but they couldn’t get out because it was so high up, but the birds would fly around and sometimes feathers would drift in. So they spent– Icarus’ dad had an idea that they could use the wax from their candle if they collected enough feathers, they could maybe make wings to fly out of the tower. So they collected– every time the birds flew around they collected all the feathers that fluttered into, um, their prison, at the top of the tower, and they finally collected enough that they were able to create these wings. But Icarus’ dad said, “Listen, these are made out of wax and, you know, you see the candles, and when wax gets hot it melts and so when we fly out of here you cannot fly too close to the sun. You must stay low. Follow me, follow me. And so, Icarus, the day came and they’re very excited to jump out of this tower and fly away from their imprisonment. And Icarus’ dad says another time, “Don’t fly too close to the sun….or you’ll fall.” So they start out and they’re doing wonnnderfully, they’re flying out of it and it’s exhilarating and so exciting and, um, Icarus is following his father, but he just gets so carried away with being able to fly that he starts kinda flying around his father, and then he gets a little higher and then goes down a little bit, then he gets a little higher again and he comes down and he keeps getting a little higher and his father is saying, “Icarus, don’t fly too close to the sun!!” And… Icarus starts to lose a few feathers….and the wax gives way on his wings… and the feathers fall off of his wings and he plummets to the earth and dies. Cause he flew too close to the sun. So the message is, he indulged– what is it– he indulged his whimsy which led to his demise.”
I had heard the myth of Icarus before, but it was nice to get a refresher. This tale follows the traditional structure of a Greek myth. You have an individual pushing his abilities and boundaries to unattainable levels. The individual is then punished for his excessive ambition.
Megan is a sophomore in my french class. I’ve known her for a year. She’s a sweet, very soft spoken intelligent girl. She loves horseback riding. She’s majoring in creative writing and wants to be a screenwriter for Pixar one day.
When I first introduced this project to her she got real excited because she loves mythology. Megan is not religious but spent a lot of time trying to figure out of she was when she was little. When I brought up examples to her, in explaining folklore more in depth, her ears sang when I mentioned “Greek Mythology”. She starting spewing out how much she loved taking basic latin in middle school.
When she was in middle school, her latin teacher assigned all the students new names for the few weeks they would be in the course. Each student was given a God or Goddesses’ name for the duration of class. Megan got assigned “Athena” goddess of War and Wisdom.
“I took this, and just…ran with it.” She laughed. She got very interested in greek history and mythology. She started looking up elements that were important to the gods. Sacrifice, prayer, and loyalty. So she started talking to friends and asked those that had religious affiliations or religious backgrounds what it is they did for sacrifice, prayer and loyalty. She took these influences and her own and came up with her own nightly ritual to her favorite goddess Athena.
She would lay in bed, hold her hands together and close her eyes. She would start off with “Dear Athena…”. Megan says that most of the time she would ask the goddess for superpowers or a letter from hogwarts. Very pre-teenage-ry thoughts. She then closed the prayer with “Amen.” then Megan would drink a glass of water. She drank the glass of water for three reasons. One, she wanted to prove her loyalty to the goddess. Water is as valuable as life itself. Ending the prayer with a sip of water let her know she truly believed in the goddess. Two, she thought it was most likely to make her “wish-prayer”come true. And lastly, she would drink water at night and not drink with her food in the morning as a way of sacrifice.
Analysis: It’s really interesting how she composed this Pagan-Christian-Harry potter religion. She took pieces from all the religions that she simply learned from some of the friends around her and came up with this new unique style of worship. A worship to a goddess that had a religion and had a way to worship her properly. I think it’s great that she took something taht everyone makes a large deal about in life – religion – and made it her own. Religion is a huge part of how cultures exist. By her transforming it she’s making it truly personal; between her and her goddess. Which is all that mattered in religion in the first place. That golden relationship between you and your God.