Finally, this association of Medusa with castrating woman is very evident in a passagein (1952) by Queneau: 'Severed head, evil woman/ Medusa with herlolling tongue/So it was you who would have castrated me?' However, the myth reveals --and this seems to be obscured by the Freudian interpretation -- that woman's 'castration'is a result of the violence imposed on her by the original hero. Woman only appears in thestory divided by separative decapitation, casting off the feminine in the remote depths ofthe world. Cast down, the feminine remains unrecognized within its innermost recess and itis this 'abject' void which maintains the theatre of the world and the logic of thetalisman. In this theatre, woman occupies the two opposite extremes of evil (castration,sorcery) and their cure (the phallus, the Virgin), i.e. of the abyss and the Ideal. Thatis why, despite her terrifying power, she is fascinating. 'Fascinum' means 'charm' and'evil spell', but also 'virile member'. Between the 'emptiness' and the Idol representedby the division of woman, yawns the gulf of male Desire. This persistent ambiguity can befound in the classification of the creature called the medusa. It owes its name to itsresemblance to Medusa's head (Apollinaire, 1920), but is included in theAcephelan category. Medusa keeps her secret behind the ambiguous mask. Although she is'representable', she is never 'presentable' and even Perseus only sees her reflected inhis shield. She is the hidden presence, absent from the world, which enables the scene tobe played out. In his 'heroic comedy' (1986), Ristat showsPerseus searching for the Gorgons and meeting Hermes, the 'Guardian of Resemblances', whoproves to the terrified hero that 'Medusa herself is only a shadow'.
From this point onwards, the myth of Perseus takes on a new psychological meaning. Ittells of the exploit of the hero who, because he has conquered castrating' woman andarmed himself with the talisman of Medusa's head (seen here in its comforting, phallicrole), is able to conquer Andromeda, the terrifying virgin, and kill the sea monster whichrepresents the evil aspect of woman. This motif is also found in the Christian legend ofSt George (Jacques de Voragine, (1264) as well as in theanthropological legends concerning the fear of the 'dentate vagina'. A 'sacred' man mustperform the first sexual act with a woman.
So incurable is the hatred of the seed of the serpent against that of the woman; so deceitful and desperately wicked is the heart of man without the grace of God, Jer 17:9.
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Although it may have become less intense, the battle of the sexes was not resolved. Thefeminine continued to remain a source of fear for men, and the association of women withMedusa, evoked an aspect of the sex which was both fascinating and dangerous. Medusa oftenappeared in Renaissance poetry, e.g. Ronsard's (S. 79,1555), but the stare which turned men to stone was often only a conventional metaphor forthe lover's 'coup de foudre'. The comparison took on a deeper meaning during thenineteenth century. Baudelaire's (1857) and 'decadent' literaturesuch as Lorrain's (1901), provide illustrations of the dangerousfascination exerted by woman, with her deadly stare and mysterious hair. But it wasGoethe's PartI (1808) which supplied the real significance of thisconnection. During the 'Walpurgis night, Faust thinks he sees Margarita butMephistopheles warns him that it is Medusa and explains that 'magic deludes every man intobelieving that he has found his beloved in her'.