A Medusa is a horizontal piercing of the philtrum, the indent above the center of the upper lip between the cupid’s bow and the septum. It’s usually done with a labret/monroe stud in either a fourteen or sixteen gauge, so that the base of the jewelry rests inside the lip unseen and the ball or gem is visible just above the bow. Piercing of the philtrum can also be done vertically, and in this case both ends of the jewelry are visible and the piercing is called a Jestrum.
The Medusa is a bit of a mystery in terms of timeline. While it’s clear that piercings of the area around the upper lip were being performed for many centuries, what we think of as the modern Medusa and Jestrum piercings are believed to have caught on around the late eighties to early nineties in the US and UK. After being around long enough to gain a little momentum, the piercing was finally given the name “Medusa” in the mid nineties, reputedly by a Toronto hairdresser. Since then the piercing has still been known by others names in specific areas of the world, including “philtrum piercing,” “cleft piercing,” “upbret,” and “cupid’s bow piercing.”
Like all labret and monroe type piercings, a Medusa must be cared for with proper oral care and piercing skin care, as the jewelry worn in it extends both inside and outside of the mouth. This type of piercing usually heals fairly well within about twelve weeks, with full internal healing ranging up to around the six to eight month mark. For Jestrum piercings, this time may be extended to the more fragile nature of the lip tissue that it has been pierced through. Special care must be taken for both piercings in terms of placement to ensure that the gums, lips, and connective tissue inside the mouth don’t get irritated.
If you haven’t heard of the Medusa or Jestrum, it’s probably because both piercings still find their highest concentration of fanbase within alternative cultural sub-groups. Popularity is still rising amongst underground and grunge musicians, belly dancers and burlesque artists, and in the younger set amid proponents of “scene” and emo lifestyles. It may not have the most attractive name, but as far as ambiguity goes, the Medusa may just be one of the coolest piercings you might have never heard of.