Thursday, May 28, 2015

Hera: Goddess of the Sacred Marriage

Hera: Queen of Heaven





Let us sing now of Hera, the women's goddess,
she who rules from her throne of gold.
Let us sing now of the queen of gods.
Let us sing now of the most beautiful goddess.
There is no one more beloved than you,
womanly Hera, no one we honor more.
-Homeric hymn


Patriarchy has rewritten most of the stories of the ancient goddesses, but the Great Goddess they maligned the most was Hera and her gift of partnership. Known to us from Greek mythology as the vengeful and jealous wife of their supreme god Zeus, Hera, the Queen of the Gods, is the Goddess of Marriage, women, childbirth and family. Hera was also worshiped as the Roman goddess Juno, and the month of June (the most popular month for weddings) is named in her honor.

Hera was the Queen of Heaven, a powerful goddess in her own right long before her marriage to Aryan Zeus, the mighty king of the Olympian gods.  Hera ruled over the heavens and the Earth, responsible for every aspect of life. Hera's power was enormous. She knew all, and she was absolutely just. All seeing, all pervasive, she ruled the stars and the winds. This included control of the seasons and the weather, indicating her more cosmic attributes, since it is the movements of the Earth, Sun, Moon and planets that create the seasons and cosmic weather. 
Hera’s all seeing eyes are symbolized by her sacred bird, the peacock. Peacocks symbolize wise vision or watchfulness, integrity, nobility, guidance and protection. In the myth, the giant Argus was Hera’s watchman. He had 100 eyes so he never fully went to sleep. Argus was called lord of the herd and means lord of the land. (Hera was also a cow goddess like her Egyptian sister goddess Hathor). Argus was Hera’s steward. When she set him to guard Io, the great heifer whom Zeus desired, he was killed by Hermes, who enchanted his eyes to sleep so he could kill him. In tribute to her loyal servant, Hera put his eyes into the tail of her totem, the peacock.

Hera’s orchards were the resting placed of the exalted dead. It’s interesting that the peacock is also associated with the Phoenix, the bird of resurrection and rebirth. The Garden of the Hesperides was given to Hera by Mother Gaia as a wedding gift when Hera accepted Zeus as her husband. Hera’s sacred garden or orchard provided the Olympian Gods with the golden apples of immortality. According to ancient Greek mythology eating one of the golden apples could made a mortal human immortal. As the Great Goddess, Hera presided over all births—so this aspect of rebirth is also hers, for if our souls do get reborn over and over again, we are truly immortal.
Honoring her deep capacity for nurturing the world, her name translates as the Great Lady, referring not only to the power of Mother Earth but also of the Moon and the heavens. Our word galaxy comes from the Greek word gala meaning mother's milk. Legend has it that the Milky Way was formed from the milk spurting from the breasts of Hera, Queen of Heaven, as she feed her hero-son. 
 
Hera Teleia, the Universal Mother and Creatrix sat in the heavens with the Earth at her feet nursing her infant son Heracles. As she sat in contentment watching her son, her milk let down in her breast. She watched as Heracles suckled eagerly at this new abundance and she began to laugh. Heracles let go and watching her, began to giggle. As they both laughed together her exposed breast sprayed milk across the heavens and formed what we call the Milky Way.
While Greek myths tell us of Hera’s hatred of the hero Hercules (his Roman name, while his original Greek name was Heracles, the ‘glory of Hera’), perhaps the real story is that he was originally Hera’s son and the 12 labors that she set for him were his initiations into higher consciousness, as represented by the 12 signs of the zodiac. As a matriarchal goddess, it would be Hera’s responsibility to bring men to higher consciousness and individuation. 
 
In Greek myth, Heracles’ mother is Alcmene and she is described by the writer Hesiod as, “the tallest, most beautiful woman, with wisdom surpassed by no person born of mortal parents. It is said that her face and dark eyes were as charming as Aphrodite’s, and that she honored her husband like no woman before her.” That could very well be a description of Hera herself, especially the honoring of her mate part, since she’s the Goddess of Partnership. 


 
Hera is portrayed as a stunningly beautiful, regal woman, even topping the beauty of Aphrodite. Hera took great pride in her looks. Her sandals, chariot, and throne were all of pure gold. She wore a high, cylindrical crown, the polis, which was an axis or pole, which would make her the World Tree or center for her people.

Hera’s real power was very different from the picture we have of her from Homer and other male writers. For one thing, Hera’s temples were some of the earliest built in Greece, dating back to 800BCE. The greatest and earliest enclosed, free-standing temple to Hera was the Heraion of Samos, while on the Greek mainland Hera was worshipped as Argive Hera at her sanctuary that stood between the city-states of Argos and Mycenae. At Hera’s temple at Olympia, Hera's seated statue was older than the warrior figure of Zeus that accompanied it. Hera was the Great Goddess before Zeus and his Olympians arrived on the scene.

In ancient times Hera was revered as the only Greek goddess who accompanied a woman through every step of her life. Hera blessed and protected a woman's marriage, bringing her fertility, protecting her children, and helping her find financial security. Because no matter what the Aryan invaders believed about marriage and the role of women, Greek women still had an example of feminine power and leadership in Hera.

These aspects of a woman’s life would certainly be the values around which a matriarchal society that honored the feminine would evolve. Unfortunately, patriarchy would not let Hera retain her power as the leader of the community or the marriage, giving her lip service as Queen of the Gods, but making Zeus the real power.

Relationships and partnerships are all sourced in Hera’s archetypal energy. And when these energies are out of balance, bad things happen. This has been the source of most of our marital issues—the domination of the masculine and subjugation of the feminine—the imbalance of power between men and women. We are discovering that in a matriarchal society, women and men were seen as equals. Women did not dominate men in the same way that patriarchy encourages men to dominate and violate women.



In almost every story about Hera, we see a goddess jealous of Zeus’ lovers and children, determined to destroy both lover and mother. We hear that Hera curses the pregnant Leto so that she can’t give birth on the mainland or any island, and prevents the midwife coming to her to stop the births of Artemis and Apollo. We hear how she tricks Zeus’ lover Semele into demanding to see Zeus in all his godly glory, ending her life although Zeus saves her son Dionysus. Hera supposedly turned another lover, Lamia, Queen of Libya, into a monster and murdered their children.

And yet, Hera is the goddess not only of marriage but also of childbirth and family. It seems to me that there’s some double-speak going on here. The very magic of Hera is withheld from the women Zeus desires and the children they conceive? That is not the way of the Great Mother. That is the way of patriarchy.

Perhaps these stories are a reflection of the fact that since Hera was a great goddess of the matriarchal society in Greece before the Aryan’s gods were forced upon her, her jealousy and hatred was directed at the patriarchal form of marriage—including ownership of the children—these Aryans brought with them. Perhaps Hera’s jealousy was really rage at what this patriarchal culture was doing to her sister priestesses, goddesses and women.

Perhaps Hera’s continuing rage is her unwillingness to give in to this unbalanced form of relationship. If so, she’s my HERA!

Hera, Great Mother Goddess of the Sacred Marriage


 

Hera was the Goddess of the Moon, revered as the Virgin, her daughter/self Hebe, as the Mother/partner Teleia, and as the Crone Hekate. She was honored by her people with festivals and games similar to those of the Olympics and her mysteries were honored by women, for her true concern was women. Although most of Hera’s stories portray her as the Matron, the queenly figure of power and authority, Hera exemplified the different aspects of partnership as the Maiden, the Wife and the Widow or Divorced One. So we see that Hera is concerned with all aspects of partnership, especially the sacred marriage.

Hera most especially embodied the energy of the Full Moon, and she was called ‘the Perfect One’. As her partner, Zeus was called ‘the Perfector’, the energy that is supposed to bring to perfection the awareness of the Full Moon. The Full Moon brings us awareness of the issues in our lives. When the goddess’ partner does not fulfill his function, there is trouble. The Greek stories of Hera’s jealousy and rage give us a picture of a troubled marriage, which arises from the basic inequality between men and women under patriarchy. And of course, this inequality still persists today. 

 

Partnership entails issues of where the appropriate boundaries are with another person, i.e., how much sharing is appropriate versus holding back. When partners refuse to ‘perfect’ each other, there are always issues of bitterness and jealousy, or projected authority and control onto the other person, and this lack always affects our intimacy needs. Women today are feeling this lack of true intimacy with their partners, which so often leads to divorce. Patriarchy has not helped men to be ‘the Perfector’ of their woman’s needs and insights. 

The way to heal this outer inequality is to first heal it within ourselves. The sacred marriage between the Divine Feminine and Masculine, between right-brain feminine consciousness and left-brain masculine consciousness cannot take place if our rational intellect does not listen to and complete/perfect what the feminine imagination brings up to consciousness. We have to make sure that feminine, right-brain consciousness is the foundation while masculine, left-brain consciousness serves to manifest what is needed.

Hera’s partnership gifts to us are diplomacy, tact, cooperation, and mutual trust. When we own our freedom and confidently believe in our own equality, her gifts draw true partners into our lives. In owning ourselves, we can accept another’s truth or opinion without having to control the outcome, and we can honor and support others in their choices and decisions.

Hera teaches us to be our own authority, to own our womanly instincts and to hope for that partner who will perfect us!



Prayers to Hera

Mother of showers and winds,
from thee alone, producing all things, mortal life is known:
all natures share thy temperament divine, and
universal sway alone is thine,
with sounding blasts of wind, the swelling sea
and rolling rivers roar when shook by thee.
Come, blessed Goddess,
famed almighty queen, with aspect kind, rejoicing and serene.
-Orphic Hymn 16 to Hera


I praise you, great Hera
Fair bride of mighty Zeus,
Mother of stout Ares
And skillful Hephaistos
Beautiful queen who walks
Olympos’ golden halls.
Magnificent temples are yours,
Glorious Goddess;
With libations and festivals
Are you honored,
Hera, with your fathomless eyes,
Your even gaze,
Your measured step, your poise
And grace beyond compare.
To each wedding day you bring joy,
Most honored one;
By your will do lovers join
In lawful marriage,
As partners form a household,
Begin a family.
Brilliant and strong-willed
Defender of marriage,
Great Hera, I honor you
And ask your blessing.



Stately Hera, glorious queen
Of fair Olympos,
Comely you are,
Your shining beauty unsurpassed.
Great daughter of Kronos,
Defender of cities,
Deep-eyed goddess,
Chosen bride of thundering Zeus,
Mighty guardian
Of the marriage oath and bond,
Graceful one, vital one,
I praise and honor you.
Sublime Hera, swift of thought,
Certain of action,
I pray to you. Grant me
Strength of will, o goddess,
Help me to know my worth,
To act with confidence
And passion, to risk wisely,
To freely speak my mind.
Bless my marriage bed,
My vows, my devotion.
Peerless Hera, watchful one,
I ask your favor.



Glorious Hera, fair one, noble one,
Beautiful Hera with eyes as deep and full
As any well, as bright as distant stars,
As clear as the cloudless sky, I praise you.
Peerless Hera, queen of high Olympos,
Chosen bride of thundering Zeus, only you
Could match his might, his wit, his every step.
Dear Hera, guardian of marriage, of love
Between partners, of constancy, of faith
And of faithfulness, your blessings you give
To those who hold together against the world;
Who build together a family, a haven,
A life; who grow together into a fond
Old age, ever ardent, ever devoted.
Shining Hera, sublime goddess, I honor you.

1 comment:

  1. Everything around me is ever changing, ever dying, there is underlying all that change a living power that is changeless, that holds all together, that creates, dissolves and recreates. That informing power or spirit is God....And is this power benevolent or malevolent? I see it as purely benevolent. For I can see that in the midst of death life persists, in the midst of untruth truth persists, in the midst of darkness light persists. Hence I gather that God is Life, Truth, and Light. He is Love. He is the supreme Good. http://www.lady-christine.com/my-shop/

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