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...

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