That Strange Sicily Symbol

Sicily has an odd symbol that you see frequently. That’s it on the purse that was for sale in one of the shops that we passed by today. Called the Trinacria, it’s been the symbol of Sicily for hundreds of years. It is so old, in fact, that the precise meaning of the symbol seems to be shrouded by the mists of time. Everyone seems to agree that that is head of Medusa (who was supposedly born in Sicily) in the middle, but what the heck is the point of the three legs? One website says the three legs represent three promontories in Sicily; our guide today said it was because Sicily is in the shape of a triangle. And the fact that the three legs are rotating in the same direction is supposed to convey movement.

That explanation is fine so far as it goes, but it leaves a lot of questions unanswered. Like, why would you want to have the head of a Gorgon who could turn men to stone with a glance as part of your national symbol? And why would you want to have disembodied legs rotating around as the backdrop for that snaky head? The resulting image is disturbing and seemingly designed to promote nightmares about being chased by a monstrous three-legged creature. And maybe that was the point. Hundreds of years ago, the Sicilians may have reasoned that any potential invaders would think twice about tangling with a place that would think it was appropriate to enshrine a petrifying serpent-haired head and bodiless legs as the national symbol.

Of course, that doesn’t explain why you would want on a purse.

The Wrath Of Gorgon

I had heard that we were due for some cold weather and snow today, so I checked the Weather Channel website to try to get some details on timing of the snowfall.  There I learned that it wasn’t just any snowstorm heading our way — it is winter storm Gorgon that is bearing down on us and will be bringing heavy snow and a few days of bitter cold.


Apparently last year’s constant discussion of one “polar vortex” after another wasn’t sufficient.  “Polar vortex” apparently is too abstract.  Now we’ve started naming those brutal winter storms, just like we name hurricanes and typhoons.  And we’re not messing around and giving them regular people’s names, either.  Instead, we’re giving them names of monstrous creatures from Greek mythology whose glance could turn a person to stone.

This is a good idea, when you think about it.  If you want people to bundle up against the approaching cold, telling them about winter storm “Ernie” probably isn’t going to do it.  But limiting winter storm names to terrible inhuman beings from Greek and Roman mythology is too limiting; given the regular appearance of bad winter storms, eventually we’re going to run out of names, just as has happened with naming celestial objects.

So I suggest sprinkling in some popular culture references, too.  Let’s start with the names of James Bond villains, Star Trek evildoers, and comic book and movie supervillains.  Oh, yes — we’d definitely pay attention to news about winter storm Draco, polar vortex Khan, snowstorm Ultron, or the approaching icy clutches of Megatron.