‘I BIT YOUR HEART THE PROPER WAY’
“I killed for you and gave birth for you / My heart-ﬂesh My memory My love /
Give me back my blood from your veins / The theater of my death was open
when I stood between the mountains / I felt my blood draining from my veins /
And My body transformed into the landscape of My death...“
Heiner Mueller, Medea Material; Landscape with Argonauts
Just as the ship Argo which took her from Colchis together with Jason, the Argonauts and the famous Golden Fleece, Medea has also been in the limelight for centuries, for more than three thousand years. For more than three thousand years the mythical biography of Medea has been written, painted and sung in countless ways and every landscape of her story always contains the same motive. Why is this story still alive, inspiring and intriguing? Why does a story about a woman who killed her children in order to get even with Jason because of his inﬁdelity excite our imagination and raise our interest?
When we enter her name today, ‘three thousand years and one day’ later, we also enter her time, her solitude, the history of her losses, her terrifying passion, her voyage along the edge, where every thought becomes a blade and wounds do not heal any more. We enter her lonely
garden, where no child will ever play again. A precise analysis of Medea’s character shows an amazing palette of psychoanalytical material, opening an endless number of questions about the personality of a woman who dared to be herself until the very end, who had a power that no one had suspected she had and this is why she became a criminal, a killer of her own children, a mother and an ‘un-mother’. Besides, in the fragments and cracks within the text itself, be it in the myth, or in Euripides’ or Seneca’s interpretation, or in the re-interpretation in Christina Wolf’s novel, we feel the presence of layers which have outlived time and which represent an ontological memory, whereas its truth remains a riddle. In discovering these layers of Medea’s story, her silences emerge as completely new stories. A story about love and passion, mother and woman, exile, emigration and foreign lands, drama of birth and death, memories and amnesia. Was everything that she did an act of love? How did she become what she is now? Did the Golden Fleece which caused it all mark her life and her death? Paradoxically, to Jason it brought neither might nor power, and it was fatal for Medea; as if the motto of the mystic esoteric noble order from the 15th century which carried the emblem of the Golden Fleece (as a symbol of being the chosen ones and a symbol of divine temper aswell as the curse of destruction): Pretium laborum non vile. (The reward for work is not cheap.)
What is Medea’s end like? Betrayed and ashamed, with snakes in her soul (Seneca), is she looking for salvation, some other life? Is she looking for her grandfather Helios’ chariot or a chariot of snakes as a deus ex machina solution or a time machine, life or death in another reality, salvation in a different sea or a space where there are no gods? It is clear that the death of her sons stopped her bloodstream; she bit Jason’s heart ‘the proper way’, and she bit herself even more so. The vows of the wedlock of Jason and Medea, who are controlled by passion instead of reason demanded Jason to be loyal to the gods and Jason, a man with only one sandal, is nor Loyal nor Just. He will be killed on the empty shores by his own mission, the Argo ship, which he thought would bring him the life of a hero. Medea is the one whose body has the mark saying: ‘I am different’ and who wins despite the crimes she committed, at least on the surface. For there is no greater punishment than the loss of a child, even if the child was killed by one’s own hand in order to prevent others from doing so. She is left only with her silence and silence is her food.
After three thousand years Euripides’ Medea is equally complex and full of contradictions, she is a foreigner difﬁcult to understand, divine and mortal, who tries to justify ‘everything’ with her crimes committed in the name of ‘love’ (the murder of her brother, Pelias and her sons). This is why, from today’s perspective, Medea who looks back onto a three-thousand-old myth is not just an anthropologic recount of the myth nor a simpliﬁed story about the relationship between a man and a woman, nor is it a story about a betrayed woman. It is the study of sheer power, operations of power and of the way a human being behaves under pressure – when possessed by power. The walls surrounding time periods are extremely close to one another and this is why Medea’s story is still alive today; it reﬂects and resonates as if it
were set in a tunnel full of mirrors. In a single day which she got to ﬁnish her plan, she became a heroine. One of those eternal women who are artists’ constant source of inspiration.
In 2011 in Madrid there was a big exhibition entitled Heroines. Medea was also represented among those historic women, women who stood out based on their work, their intellect and by the very fact that they existed. They were grouped according to their characteristics: Lonely, Caryatids, Maenads, Athletics, Magicians, Mystic women, Sufferers, Those who read, Painters, Warriors. There is Medea by painter Evelyn de Morgan (1889) who is neither magician nor warrior, but a woman who is peacefully preparing for revenge. It could also be Marina Abramović as Saint Theresa hovering over the kitchen with her arms spread, or Edward Hopper’s lonely woman in a hotel room (1931) or Medea by August Sandys (1869) or Antoin Gros’ Sappho (1801) suffering on the coast of the sea or Angelica Kauffmann’s self-portrait (1775).
Medea’s demonic aria, her decadent imagination, search for truth and unconditional love, the murder of her sons as the end result on the emotional, social, political, religious and mythical level opens up a complex stream of today’s perception and reception, irrational gestures and
archetypal images painted by today’s civilization.
“Rivers ﬂow towards their source
Justice moves backwards
Everything is wrong
Oaths are worth nothing
Old song will not be sung anymore
To you, nothing is sacred
There is no shame
It has ﬂown into the sky”
MEDEAS´ NEW STORIES – TRACES OF MEMORIES
„Every crime which can be perpetrated, will be perpetrated.“ Camille Paglia, Sexual Personae
„The only sin I have never committed is the one I knew nothing about.“ St. Augustin, Confessions
On the end of her own history, the Medea of today will look back at the world, which lasts one day, one night an four thousand years.
What does her crime signify in the vastness of all this time? Did it actually happen? Was it important to anyone, longer than one generation, which accuses and forgives?
Four thousand years and one day of today ... the Medea of today has her day today, and she doesn˙t remember a thing. She painfully tries to remember four thousand years of her story. It is hard to distinguish between what actually is her story and what was read into it by others.
And who actually are these others?
Nameless beards, myth-makers. Writers, famed names of great works. Readers and observers, commentators and dealers of strangers´ stories.
In the one day she has, our Medea will come to know four thousand years of herself. Why did the generations remember only her crime? Did the crime actually happen? If yes, why was it more important than everything else?
Long before the crime, in the beginning of the story, in a time older than myth, Medea was only an innocent girl hoping for love. With the power of pure hope she created Jasons´ world. The male world of power and authority.
She wasn´t afraid of sacrificing herself for a stranger. She didn´t do it because of the stranger, but because of love. Then, in her Colchis, she didn´t even fathom a word such as “stranger”. She will learn it later, when the Argo already set sail. And for the following four thousand years she will be only a stranger. She wasn´t afraid even then. Jason was the first to succumb to fear.
Men run away from fear only to stumble into another fear, but women run because they are interested in something completely different from fear. Medea knew: only if she can outrun her fears, she could face her freedom. Nobody is free if he has no choice between what to think. Medeas´ power lies in the fact that she always knew what she thought.
She loved Jason, sacrificed everything to him and gave birth to his children.
What we see when we look at other people, is the same as when we look into a mirror, it depends on what we know of the world, on what we believe, on what we can remember, if we gaze into the past, the present, or into the future. That is why Medea the girl saw in Jason only a youngster in love ready for an adventure.
In time she will learn to see the many other Jasons. As years have past, she saw Jason the ambitious conqueror, Jason the leader, Jason the manipulator without scruple, Jason the wavering politician, Jason the indulging coward and finally Jason the old man and helpless loser. She will learn to remember many different Jasons. And she will learn to forget them. For four thousand years she remembers all of these Jasons, and each one has a different face, a different voice, a different memory ... Four thousand years she marvels how she could think, then on the beach at Colhis, that he was the one she dreamt of without knowing his name. But we cannot recognize our soul mate if we don´t know our own soul. Medea the girl didn´t know that then. She just wanted Someone. The fear of loneliness is a chain that hinders, like poverty, like birth, and transforms the dream of freedom into a nightmare.
Onboard the Argo, Jason already forgot to notice her. Indifference is the worst crime with which you degrade and kill the person you care for. Medea tried to understand his burden – the goal which was greater than him. Compassion brought her more frustration than fear and rage combined. Her tragic story grew slowly, through thousands of years.
She was and stayed only a Stranger. To Jason this was the most beautiful thing about her. We need strangers to show someone our true face without fear. But among the Greeks, a Stranger, a Barbarian became a burden they were unable to carry. That is why the Greeks spat at her with hate and slander for centuries. After them other nations cursed her as a child-killer for thousands of years. Because great poets have cursed the Stranger, and poetry being a kind of magic, well groomed verses have acted like spells. But in the end, the exile exhausts his oppressors. Today we are no longer sure how it happened. She doesn´t remember either. Her story is a museum of frail fragments, giant and minute pictures.
There exists great tales of the nation and the state. But the unwritten tale of a refugee, a traveller and exile is greater than all of them together. The whole noise of history is flavoured with their exiled silences.
Today, in this silence, four thousand years and one day after Jason arrived on the sandy beach at Colchis, Medea in her banished silence tries to remember a few things, the faces and pieces of the story. To us who think we know everything about her, her silences are entirely new stories.
MEDEA - THE JOURNEY OF THE GOLDEN LEGENDS FROM THE EAST TOWARD THE UNIVERSE, BUT ACCROS THE BALKANS.
Medea is the central figure in one of the fundamental myths of the world, THE ARGONAUTS and THE GOLDEN FLEECE. The secret of this myth has not yet been lifted; the veil of mystery still surrounds it. The myths mystery remains unsolved till this day, although the protagonist of the story, the ancient hero Jason, actually cannot exist without Medea, whose love toward her has made him the true character of the story, more so than his heroic voyage with Argo, in the quest for the divine Golden Fleece, the source of his power and authority. Paradoxically – the acquisition of the Golden Fleece did not bring Jason neither the kingdom nor the power he wanted. In the same way his forerunners have lost them by trying to acquire them through the Golden Fleece. It is difficult to foretell if the sorceress Medea knew this, when she betrayed her father and brother in order to enable the foreigner Jason, with whom she was madly in love, to acquire it. As a sorceress she might at least have sensed what great secret the Dragon in the holly forest holds. Escaping with his beloved and the Golden Fleece from their pursuers (her own brother) Medea traveled with the Argonauts and their ship Argo a miraculous voyage, which some of the researches of the Balkans determine as the possible cultural and political borders of the Balkans. Medea, in love, betrayed and forced into a bloody vendetta, betrayed her father and brother, killed her own children and her adversary, but couldn’t gain Jason’s love. She also helped him with her magic skills to acquire the Golden Fleece, the symbol of power and authority. But the promised power was unattainable. In order to gain it by deceit and by selling his own body (marriage for interest) Jason caused his tragic downfall, flew as an exile to the Mediterranean shores and died forgotten under the shipwreck of the Argo. The Argonauts are remembered for the Olympic Games, their monumental voyage, that drew the borders, which will be the object of endless political struggle for the years to come. One would remember Jason if it hadn’t been for Medea who gave him everything: love, their sons, power – yet he couldn’t repay her not even with a touch of human kindness. She sacrificed everything for him: her fatherland, her people, her parents, her name and honor. For her he couldn’t even sacrifice his dream of power. Medea is remembered in the tragedy of Euripides, on the basis of which other dramatists wrote their´s, such as Seneca, Ovid, Corneille, Grillparzer and Anouilh. Medea´s story is in its essence an intimate tragedy of an ungrateful love.
Is in the Balkans, where today travels the spirit of Medea to question why Jason had to set sail toward Colhida at all. The answer is being eagerly awaited without knowing where the Argonauts failed. But there are no answers. The Balkans hold their breath in the dark of its plains, in the fog of its forests and in the murmur of its waters. The gaping answer doesn’t cease in its own scream for a thousand years.