If you follow #TattooTok (as 1.5 billion people do), you may have come across various Medusa tattoos, particularly on women. While anyone can sport the design, the Medusa tattoo is commonly seen as a symbol of survival from sexual assault or abuse. In today’s society, Medusa is frequently referred to as the snake-haired monster with green skin whose eyes could turn you into stone;however, she wasn’t always like this and her story is one of the first examples of victim blaming.
The story of Medusa
According to Greek mythology, Medusa was a young and beautiful woman who served as a virgin priestess of the goddess of war and wisdom, Athena. One day her beauty caught the attention of Poseidon, the god of the sea. While retellings vary, the most common one reads that she was brutally raped by him in Athena’s temple. The goddess of war and wisdom was so furious at Medusa for desecrating her sacred spacer that she transformed her in to a gorgon, a winged female monster with snakes for hair that could turn anyone to stone with just one look.
What does the Medusa tattoo mean?
“The Medusa tattoo can mean many things, but it’s generally a symbol of survival, strength, and overcoming assault,” says tattoo artist Ruby Rose. “Medusa has become a figure of protection to women who have experienced sexual assault or assault on some level, particularly by men.”
While it’s generally a symbol of survival, Rose notes that many, including herself, have the tattoo, purely from an artistic and historical standpoint. “Medusa is an extremely trendy image that people love just because of the aesthetic, loving snakes, portraits, or Greek mythology,” she says. “Art isn’t a thing to be gatekept. The best thing about the tattoo industry is that it’s open to everyone.”
Why is it gaining more popularity?
One potential reason why the Medusa tattoo has risen in popularity over the past few years is thanks to the #MeToo movement, which helped remove some of the stigma associated with sexual assault and abuse in general. “Current statistics reveal that one out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime,” according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network). Another could be the prevalence of people sharing their Medusa tattoos on social media—the hashtag has nearly 23 million views and counting.
Regardless of the reason, Rose has witnessed a rise in popularity. “I’ve tattooed around 30 Medusas over the past six months,” she says. “I also have seven Medusa tattoo designs available online, all of which have been sold hundreds of times to people across the world.”
Tips for clients wanting a Medusa tattoo
“It’s important that you feel safe and are in a safe environment when getting tattooed,” says Rose, who has over 1.1 million followers on TikTok. “Research your tattoo artist first as there are many, especially women, who specialize in Medusa designs.”
Rose also says to consider where on your body you’re getting inked. “Think about the implications that may come with it,” she says. “If questions and comments may be uncomfortable, think about placement. Just remember, it’s your body and your right to get whatever you need, deserve, or like.”
Tips for artists tattooing a Medusa tattoo
Getting a tattoo is a very vulnerable experience, so every client should be treated with respect, feel safe, and be listened to, Rose shares. “Make sure your client feels safe, especially if it’s a female, a minority, or someone getting tattooed for the first time,” she says. She also notes to keep things professional and not assume that a client wants to talk about the meaning behind their tattoo.“Don’t pry or ask why, if they want to tell you their reasoning, they will.”