Wednesday, May 28, 2008


I have recently had the experience of having to defend my faith. I normally don't care about doing such things, no faith in the world is any more or less ridiculous than any other. All religions put faith in things that seem, from a logical perspective, to be flawed or even comically stupid, and ours is no different, but it often strikes me as comical or stupid to hear Christians speak about other religions and the very points they use to bash another religion are seen in abundance in their own.

I was having a conversation with a friend and the subject of a fast I was undergoing came into the conversation. I said that I was doing the fast for several reasons, and when pushed about those reasons I said that part of it was to honor the Gods. It was like I had told her I had murdered a child.

What Gods? She asked. I told her. Why do you pray to idols? She asked. Why do you pray to a cross? I asked. What kind of God would demand that you starve yourself? She asked. What kind of God would demand that you not work on Saturdays and not eat meat on Fridays?

That sort of took the air out of the sails for a second, and then showing a level of knowledge about Greek Myths that I wasn't expecting, she said that she thought it was silly that I believed in mythical Gods that had children with mortal women and that had stories like Jason and Hercules.

Herakles, I corrected, and then told her that she was being a little hypocritical. After all, God impregnated Mary, Samson destroyed a temple, and Moses parted a sea. If you want to look at the religions of others and find fault, try looking at your own first to make sure you aren't just as "silly" as they are in your own beliefs.

Truth is that we all do it, we all find certain aspects of other's religious beliefs to be silly or ridiculous, but unlike Christians, who en mass might be considered a threat to the religious rights of non-Christians, I believe whole heartedly in the idea that we are all free to practice whatever religions we want or feel the need to follow.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hera, protector.

In my little Mantra to Hera, the penultimate line reads:

Κυρία προστάτισσα - Kyria prostatisa

This means Lady Protector, and in the mythos there is clear evidence of Hera as a Polias and Poliouchos type goddess the same way as Athena. These aspects are of the goddess in question as a protector of cities, protector of the people, and protector of the institutions of the people. But as is clear in the myths of Jason, for example, Hera is also a protector of Heroes, and by extension of humanity.

As persecutor of Herakles she is instrumental in the creation of his mythos, his legend, his fame into history. In a very real way she makes him immortal by making him the most famous of all the heroes of Greece even while she is said to detest him. In many ways, she purposely sets out to set him up as a hero for the people to admire, to worship, to adore and in so doing she sets about setting up a means for man to aspire to greater things.

In my home, when you walk in, the first thing you see is an altar to Hera and Gaia which has a statue of Hebe, who I see as the youthful aspect of Hera herself, and as cupbearer, as an aspect of protection and purity. I set it up there a long time ago, maybe as much as eight years ago, and always found that it was exactly perfect. That in a way, perhaps symbolically, Hera was there to protect my home, and as I have grown in my understanding of the Gods, and of Hera, it turns out I was right to place her altar there.

Σας ευχαριστώ, η κυρία μου!

Monday, May 12, 2008

On the nature of Hera, continued... Conclusions and future ideas...

So, as I have sought to get closer to Hera I have been rebuffed. Hera has reminded me that she is not my friend, not my lover, not my mother. She is Queen of Heaven and the boundaries between us are rather absolute. Not that I cannot seek her out, mind you, but that I need to start showing some more proper respect toward her position and power. That I need to try to see the boundaries she has set for us and respectfully approach them rather than trample up to them like a petulant child.

I have learned to that Hera is not done with me, that while my understanding of her role has been somewhat clarified, my understanding of her underlying nature has not, and until I come to a better understanding of that nature I must continue my meditations on what she means to me and why.

Hera is not like Athena, who moves like wind through the world, touching and affecting almost everything she comes across in an almost playful yet always purposeful way. Hera is more like the wall that prevents the wind from toppling you. She is protector and avenger of wrongs because she sets the very boundaries that are a "sin" to trespass upon. Hers is a power beyond my current ability to comprehend, perhaps because I tread lightly when it comes to the Gods, or because I fear that running too far afield of the accepted forms will label me something I am not, an eclectic.

But if I am to approach the limits of my own understanding of Hera, I must also seek to push a little on the boundaries I perceive between myself and the Gods. After all, even with the enormous walls between us, between the mortal and the divine, we are all part of the same cosmos. We are all part of the whole that makes the cosmos run, and that being the case, perhaps I can claim a certain right to know. A certain right to understand even as I seek to understand the limits of that knowledge, for knowing the limits is in itself a form of knowledge.

Apollo tells us to know ourselves. Hera tells us to know our limits. Athena tells us to fight up to those limits even as Dionysos tells us to rage with our power, our grace, and our very beings against the status quo. Contradictions? I don't think so...

So, come the future, I must allow myself to perceive her with a certain eye toward what she wants me to see rather than what I want to see in her.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

On the nature of Hera, continued... Her Avatars?

But Hera is the Queen of Gods. Her position in the divine hierarchy places her at the pinnacle of the cosmic curve. That, to me at least, says that unlike other divinities, her role in the balance between mortality and immortality is one best viewed from a distance. Unlike Zeus, whose strong chthonic aspects require him to have become Herakles, we see in that myth that at no time does Hera lower herself to becoming less than what she is, a powerful divinity.

Hera does not, under any circumstances, seem to become one with the mortal, rather she becomes part of how the mortal world works by imposing order upon it, an order that may require divinity to learn from it's own limitations in understanding. She opens the door between the mortal and the immortal, between the divine and the mundane, and Gods have walked through it to our world, to our level of existence, but she is not one of them.

When I speak of an avatar, I should make it clear that I do not mean epiphanies, but rather true mortal incarnations of a divinity in the mortal world. All Gods have epiphanies present in the world. These are moments in man's experience when we have experienced the Gods directly in some way. The sun as an epiphany of Helios, the moon as an epiphany of Selene, etc., and these are all things that have independent existence. The moon is not literally Selene, but it represents her. An aspect is different as well as it is a representation of a specific aspect of the nature of a deity. Hebe, as an aspect of Hera, represents the virginal and youthful aspect of her nature.

Hera is said to appear as mortals in the world, but unlike other deities, she is never said to bear the child of a mortal. She bears children on her own, and with Zeus, but never with a mortal.

To be continued...

PS: I should point out that I consider any child of a God to be a potential aspect of that God, and any mortal child born of a union between mortal and immortal to be a potential avatar of the divine figure.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

On the nature of Hera, continued... Life and Death

I said that the one boundary that Hera seems not all that concerned with was that between life and death. That there are others, like Hermes, Hekate, and our much beloved Persephone who are much more interested in that particular boundary. But the Gods all have an interest in this boundary in some way or another, and I think that the small interest in it that Hera seems to show is one between mortality and immortality, rather than life and death.

We already spoke of Herakles, whose name means Hera's Glory, and how in the mythos this great Hero of the Argolid became one of the immortals, an honor only paid him in all the mythos. Other beings in the mythos are spared death, set into the heavens as stars, made servants of the Gods on Olympus, etc., but none but Herakles is ever truly made a God. None but Herakles has the very mortality burned from his body and made from mortal to God.

Dionysos, for example, is never truly born to a mortal woman. He is, rather, born to a divine figure, be it Persephone, as some myths imply, or from the thigh of Zeus. Thus his form is truly divine right from the beginning.

In the myth, Hera seems to not just be torturing Herakles, but guiding him toward something. She is preparing him to ascend the bonds of mortality and become an immortal. She is preparing to raise him from the pit to the heavens.

My personal belief about this myth is this, that it represents a transitional period in the divine sphere. I think that the myth of Herakles represents a shift in the cosmic order, as the will and work of the Gods became more and more ordered and the shift in the cosmic fabric became more delineated between the mortal and the immortal. That lines became drawn and the Gods, traversing these lines, went forth into the cosmos and forged the links between these parts of the cosmos, and it is my belief that Hera and Zeus were instrumental in the firming up of the lines between the highest and the lowest levels of the cosmos.

Herakles must live, as a mortal, in order to transcend that line between mortal and immortal, he must establish that link between the two worlds so that the Gods themselves can traverse it. Being a myth, of course, it is made into a myth within the scope of humanity's world, and within that mythic system, we are lead to another boundary, that between life, death, and the immortal.

Unlike mortals, the Gods are not directly linked to death. They do not die. They cannot die. They must have little conception of death in any way that you or I could ever relate to, but they are aware of it. They understand its need and purpose in ways you or I cannot relate to either. We human beings, however, have an innate understanding of death because it is part of us. Every moment of every day we are dying. Parts of us are decaying and being rebuilt. Molecule by molecule we are in a constant state of flux, always changing, always being reborn, and, if you ask me, the Gods needed to understand this.

In order to understand that which was part of them, us, the Gods became us. They incarnated, some of them did, as mortal forms. Whether those forms were human or not is up for speculation, but I do think they did this and, perhaps, will do so again. The Hindu concept of the avatar, the hero of the Greeks, the Christos of the Christians, all point to the possibility...

To be continued...

Monday, May 5, 2008

On the nature of Hera, continued... Boundaries

So, as Queen, or Empress, Hera establishes boundaries. Boundaries of law and order. Boundaries that both regiment how we act and feel toward each other and also guide us. When we speak of gentile behavior, of treating each other with the respect due our positions, we are talking about boundaries set down by Hera, because she, of all the Goddesses in our Mythos, seems to be the one that fights the hardest, most fiercely, and sometimes most viciously, to have her own position respected. She is Queen of Gods and Men, and you had better not forget that.

Think about the positions of heroes like Herakles and Perseus, both of whom hail from the Argolid. Perseus was destined to be a king in the Argolid, but Herakles was destined to rule the Argolid almost like a God. Zeus planted his seed in Alkmene, who was also a grand daughter of Perseus (some three or four generations removed) and promised that the first boy child born of the family of Perseus would rule over the lands. To Hera this was unconscionable, Zeus was attempting to usurp her influence in this land, the Argolid, which had for a long time seen her as the most potent of all forces, their Queen, their Great Goddess, and in doing so bring her low before her people. Zeus was attempting to usurp, if you will, the power of the feminine in a land founded by the descendants of his own seed.

This, to me, signifies in the mythos a time when the more matriarchal or matrilinear culture of the area was giving way to the overtly, and often viciously, patriarchal culture that would arise in Greece.

Now, Hera decided that she would hold Zeus to his divine promise, for he could do no less, and certainly not before her, and dispatched Eilytheia to prevent the birth of Alkmene's children, causing instead that a child of an uncle in the family of Perseus to be born first, and this child was Eurystheus, the King who would put Herakles through his labors.

Step one of her imposition of her place is set in motion, and then step two would follow as Herakles grew to vibrant manhood, married and had children. Hera placed in him a madness, and he murdered his own wife ad children, a crime for which he would seek absolution that could only be given through his virtual enslavement to Eurystheus.

Through his trials, Herakles would suffer, and it is through this suffering that Hera's place is set in stone among the people of the Argolid. She may not be pleasant to deal with, or one to deal with lightly, but she will set you in your place, and perhaps, in the end, allow you a transcendence. For at the end of his trials, when his life is at an end, Herakles would find his mortality burned from him in pain and despair and his immortal soul, which he gets from his father, and enters the company of the Gods and marries the goddess Hebe, who is, in most ways, just the young aspect of Hera herself (Herakles being an aspect of Zeus, one could say).

Hera sets both Zeus and Herakles in their places. Zeus should have known not to try to usurp the power of Hera among her own people. Herakles was a mortal, though a great hero, and never should a man attempt to think himself a god, even the son of Zeus (this is something Zeus boasts, not Herakles himself) and the boundaries between God and Man are to be respected, but so are the boundaries between man and woman, faher and son, mother and daughter, etc.

The one boundary that Hera does not seem overly concerned with is that between Life and Death, and that is likely a boundary set forth by another.

To be continued...

On the nature of Hera, continued...

So, now that you have a slight idea of my conception of Hera as a force for balance between the genders, between opposing forces that are more alike than we like to think, and as a force capable of enforcing that balance. However, it should also be implied by what I say that the Gods do not force us to maintain their desires of will in our world. Their power over nature itself is absolute, but their power over our will is not. They do not force us to do as they wish, they want us to want to do it for ourselves.

In my estimation, and perhaps as a way to help me connect to Hera, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to relate to Hera is on a somewhat impersonal one. Not as a friend or co-worker, but as an Empress of Queen. Why, you may ask is this? Well, because unlike some deities whose influence always seems so close, accessible, and personal, hers always seems to be a bit far away. Like Apollo, she seems to be more about watching and judging and guiding you lightly in the right direction rather than moving you to action, to passion, to madness.

Not that Hera is not a Goddess who can drive you to the brink, I think the mythos tells us that clearly enough, but if we really think about that mythos, is it really that she hates Perseus or Herakles or any of the other children of Zeus, or is it that those children of Zeus turn their eye away from her? Do they refuse to acknowledge her power? Do they refuse, willfully, to acknowledge the rights and power of women?

Hera, a Goddess, a feminine power, must stand up for her power in a world in which the term "god" is almost synonymous with masculinity. Where God is seen not as a potentially androgynous being, but as a male. As a male myself, I must admit to a certain bias toward my own gender in many things, which I suppose is perfectly natural, but as a modern man, a gay man, and a man who has experienced life as a minority in America, I cannot allow those biases to guide the way I treat women. I, personally, think this is why the pagan movement in America, and perhaps the world, are so much more likely to draw men who are liberal of mind when it comes to gender, more open to alternate ways of seeing gender and sexuality, and men who have an ability to respect the feminine power inherent in the world around us as well as the tumultuous masculine powers of sea and sky.

Hera seems to me like an Empress who rules, who creates a system of laws and rules that must be obeyed, but who does not really micromanage the Empire. She has her pet peeves, she requires obedience to certain rules and will punish those who do not follow them, but in general it is up to us to establish the ways in which we regulate ourselves, and to do so we must find her and establish some kind of rapport with her.

to be continued...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

On the nature of Hera

OK, so Hera is a goddess. She, that eternal spirit we call Hera, is a deity. Her divine nature is not something you or I could ever truly comprehend in its totality. But what about the nature of the goddess we worship as Hera is understandable. How much of herself has she allowed us to see in manifestation and epiphany.

For starters, Hera is seen in the mythos of the Hellenized world in several forms. As daughter of Kronos and Rhea, as a young goddess in love, as a wife, queen, and enraged and vengeful woman. These manifestations of our Queen are as much influenced by the way the ancients saw themselves, and women, as it is a reflection of the nature of the goddess revealed to them through centuries and even millennia of worship and contemplation.

In modern times we tend to look at the various forms the goddess takes in the mythos as aspects of her. We tend to see them as representations of a sublime nature that is interpretive. The youthful Hera is seen as virgin, and thus pure, the wife as dutiful, and thus devout, and the queenly avenger of wrongs as powerful, if frightening in her intensity. She can be seen, by modern neo-pgan parlance, as a virgin, mother, crone archetype, but one with a variation that makes her a little different from the more often invoked Hekate or Artemis.

I bring this up because we do not live in a world unto ourselves, and while I tend to think of our Hellenic religion as being fairly self contained, it is seldom if ever that, and the various ways in which our gods are seen by people outside our traditions can force us to take closer looks at our own ways of seeing them.

So, I am going to try to explain how I see the nature of Hera, and likely fail, as the concepts in my head are so often beyond my own ability to convey them that it makes me a bit angry.

First, a goddess or god is not a piece of statuary. Not a super-human being. Not a superhero or just stronger than us. A deity is an eternal being, one of several, that manifests in our world in a vast variety of forms. When you think of a God, think of a powerful person in your community. You know them from their speeches, their public appearances, and what others have to say about them, but do you really know that person?

Second, the manifestations of the Gods are open to interpretation. Imagine that same powerful person in your community and then picture that you have only allowed the words of others to form your opinion of them. Your view of him or her is likely skewed and your appreciation of their nature is misinformed and therefore only partly correct.

Third, the Gods are not interested in our petty quibbles. They are not there to give us lottery numbers or luck or even heal us from our ills, but they do, by their presence in the world and through our willingness to reach out to them, inspire us to help ourselves. We gather strength from our willingness to touch them, to meditate on them, and to let them in to our hearts. This desire and ability to reach out to powers beyond ourselves for help, even if it is just emotional support, is part of how we have always helped ourselves.

Fourth, the hierarchy of the Gods is one that is both reflective of our own society and nature (we are a tribal kind of species) and reflective of some kind of divine order that is both hierarchical and egalitarian at the same time. I think the idea that Zeus and Hera are King and Queen of Olympus is a reflection of a set of positions in the divine realm that is agreed upon, not taken by force. Zeus and Hera are "King and Queen of Heaven" because the divine realm requires them to be, because they are chosen to be by the totality of that realm, not strictly because of their nature. In other words, Zeus is King because he is worthy of that kingship, not because he is supposed to be king.

Fifth, Hera, as Queen of Heaven, is perhaps the most powerful force in human affairs. Humanity requires the kind of influence she offers. Requires the kind of loyalty to oaths and respect that Hera demands between the genders. It is a sad thing that man has, for so long, denied this and that only now do we see strides to attain the kind of equality of power and will that the Queen of Heaven has called on us to bring to the fore.

So, my interpretation of Hera is that as a force in human affairs, she has long demanded that the wives of the world stand up and take their rightful place as the equals of their husbands, not their property, and that man has long demeaned and denied this in the myths they told of her.

To be continued...

Thank You

I just spent a couple days in hospital. I went in to the ER where I was treated for pneumonia and sent home. I was getting better until Tuesday, when I awoke unable to breathe, panicked, and hypoxic. I was lucky to have a friend who could rush me down, for I could not have walked the 2 blocks to the ER again.

This time I was quickly treated and further examined and admitted to the hospital. An acute Asthma attack had left my lungs a mess.

I, of course, turn to prayer of various types at times like this. I pray that I pull through, but also for the people I love who are so far away should something befall me, for I do not want them to feel guilt or undue hurt when I am gone.

But once the Gods saw fit to pull me through, with the help of the great nursing staff at Grandview Hospital, of course, I was prompted to write a thank you. The thank you to the nurses will be personal, to the Gods is as follows, hope I am not being too much of a drama queen...

You were there when I called to you.
You kept me from the darkness.
As I crawled to it on my belly.

You heard me when I prayed.
You kept me from despair.
When my mind was crazed with fear.

For this today I thank you.
O Lord of Light.
For this I thank you.
O Queen of Heaven.

When I needed breath, you sent it me.
When I needed solace, you sent it me.
When I needed companionship, you sent it me.

For this I thank you.
O Lord of Light.
Gracious Lord of Healers.

For this I thank you.
O Queen of Heaven.
Regal Lady of Vows.