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...

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