The Shape of Things: Athena’s Curse

The first focus of my researches was the name ‘thyroid’, which comes from a particular style of ancient Grecian shield.

Satin thread, gold thread and bone bead on satin ground.

I’ve always had a fascination for how these conditions have traditionally been understood – and the naming of the thyroid gland for a Greek shield reminded me of the references to maladies such as epilepsy being considered curses of the gods.

The experience of hyperthyroidism is, in short, the fight or flight mechanism being turned up and left on maximum – the bulging eyes to better identify threats, the constant adrenaline and feelings of apprehension are all part of this. There’s a constant sense of feeling like you’re readying for battle, and this along with the origin of the name made me feel that, if this was a god’s curse then that god would be Athena, Goddess of warcraft and needlework.

Athena struck fear into Olympus when she burst fully armoured from her father’s head, and I could easily imagine her cursing women who challenged her to be ever vigilant for a fight which would never come. This was the basis for this piece of needlework – a classical shield shape and a stylised diagram of the the gland, with it’s lobes evened out and nodules represented with bone beads, padded to refer to the swelling of the goitre.