Page:Folk-lore - A Quarterly Review. Volume 14, 1903.djvu/243

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
217
A Solution of the Gorgon Myth.

ally beautiful, but had been punished by the gods by being changed into frightful ugliness of face. Later, her hair developed into snakes. These statements can be supported by examination of a large number of Greek as well as later Roman examples to be found scattered through the museums of the world.

As a prophylactic charm against the Evil Eye, certainly no single object has ever had such a wonderful popularity as the Medusa's head. No other object has had anything like so many representations in all kinds of materials and in all kinds of places. Indeed the original myth, whencesoever its origin, brought by the immigrants to Magna Græcia, so established itself there, that in Pompeii, and even now in modern Italy, it is still the favourite and by far the commonest device upon the boss, to be seen on house-doors, round which the knocker swings. The notion is, as it has ever been, to provide an antidote to the first malignant glance; no place then could be so appropriate as the outside of the door of a house, where every visitor must inevitably first look upon it. The persistence of popular belief, even when the origin and meaning of the object preserving it have long since been forgotten, is shown by the fact that even here, in modern England, the commonest and cheapest form of door knocker sold in the ironmongers' shops is, like the Pompeian, a female face, but of cast iron, surrounded by a ring forming the knocker. How few people recognise in it the Gorgon's head! and realise that it is, like so many other familiar objects, a world wide protector against the fatal glance.

My first illustration is a photograph of four heads (Fig. 4, Plate VII.), once the ornaments of door-handles at Pompeii, of course of a late type. These are all of bronze, and now preserved at the Naples Museum. They are the undoubted prototypes of those sold to-day in our modern shops. They are no longer to be seen side by side at Naples, for the reason that the whole museum has been