Thursday, April 3, 2008

Hera, Goddess

Hera, queen of Gods and Men. August Queen of Heaven. Goddess.

Hera, as a Goddess, was worshipped throughout the Greek World. Her place was cemented as Queen of Gods and Men in the mythos as wife of Zeus, great and victorious conqueror. But lo, behold that there is a quality to Hera that is often neglected when considering the reality of her Godhood, and that is that Hera also chose Zeus, he didn't simply stake his claim to her, she chose him.

Hera, it is said, refused Zeus as a mate. He was unworthy. Young, brash, and a little too violent, she saw him as beneath her, though he was, according to the Hesiodic myths, her brother, child of Kronos and Rhea just as she was. In the divine sphere, however, such relationships are essentially irrelevant, and they could often differ from myth to myth.

That Hera would consider Zeus unworthy is telling. Her stature as a divine being must be high indeed, and it is said that after three hundred years of turning down his advances, Hera finally gave in, falling in love with him and his persistence, for he caused a great storm and disguised himself as a disheveled cuckoo and endeared himself to her and then wooed her with great passion and vigor.

Hera, it seems, elevates the status of Zeus, making it possible for him to stand as equal to his brothers when they draw lots to partition the world. He wins the heavens and the earth as his right, and in doing so both he and Hera are elevated further to the roles they would be worshipped under.

But this is myth, and while myth is the means by which mankind relates the essentially unknowable or incomprehensible forms of the divine world, they cannot fully explain the nature of divinity and why it relates to us in such wondrous ways.

Hera is a goddess by her very nature, she is worthy of worship for another reason, and that is her influence of the cosmos and us, in particular. As Queen of heaven, she is part of the divine light. The divine power that enlightens and grants great purpose. Hers is a presence vast and powerful, and one that can be hard to grapple with because the Greeks themselves did great damage to her mythos and character. Unlike the much beloved Athena, the Greek poets seem to have taken great delight in maligning her, almost as if she represented something that threatened them. The power of woman, perhaps, or the need to be wary of their own treatment of woman.

When I meditate on Hera simply as a goddess, I am often surprised that I find myself at a loss for words. Because I do not know her as I should, though I offer her my prayers, and am thus left bereft of a capacity to understand her.

While that is not strange when considering a goddess, such being beings so hard to grasp, it is strange when considering one of the most powerful goddesses of the Greek world, and one who was worshipped throughout the whole land.

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