Sunday, June 22, 2008


Heraian religion is not something I am all that familiar with in terms of my knowledge of her cultus and civic festivals. Like Athena, Hera had very strong religious importance to the people of Greece, and like Athena, she was also seen as a Patron Goddess in parts of Greece, including the Argolid. Unlike Athena, however, Hera was not seen with kind eyes in the mythos of the Greeks, and this remains, to me at least, one of the great mysteries of ancient Greek myth.

Why, for example, do the myths of the Greeks show Hera to be an almost vile creature. A horrible nagging wife whose vengeance against anyone who dared intrude on her territory was, even by mythological standards, harsh and inhumane.

Hera is what many would term a “Great Goddess”, that is, a Goddess who appears to have been worshipped before her place in the mythos was set in a way that was very different from that which we come to know through myth. A Goddess who was preeminent among her worshippers and for whom a mate was a subordinate divine figure. Thus, as the culture of Greece changed during the Indo-European invasions and the Doric and Ionic migrations, her place as a preeminent deity was seen differently by the warrior culture of the Hellenes and the native peoples of Greece.

Neither is bad or good in its own, the two peoples simply saw the divine differently, wrshipped differently, and had a different cultural interpretation of the divine sphere. But the Greeks themselves continued to worship Hera and evidence shows that they held her in high esteem. Her worshippers offered to her, prayed to her, sought her out in times of urgency, and if the myths show anything it is that Hera is not particularly kind to humanity.

It is a shame that the mythos does not include greater detail about the actual beliefs of the people and focused instead on the later besmirching of her reputation by the often misogynistic poets like Homer and Hesiod, both of whom have left beautiful examples of their work while the every day worshipper did not.

But myth is not an absolute dogma, nor should it be, not in our religion, not in any religion. The mythos of the Greeks is, in our faith, the basis for the epithets and forms that the Gods took among them, but it is not dogmatic because we understand that myth is subject to human interpretation and manipulation. Myths, plays, philosophy, and modern scholarship in fields like anthropology, history, archaeology, and language give us much deeper levels of understanding of the nature of the ancient religious sphere, but the one thing it cannot give us is feeling.

That feeling of religious faith, piety, etc., can only really be achieved through personal exploration. One must experience the Gods to understand the Gods in a religious context, or, I should say, at a spiritual level.

Therefore, it is difficult for those of us who worship and pay honor to the Gods to offer explanations about what the worship of the Gods is like. We do not have an authority that tells us what we should be thinking and feeling about the Gods, nor do we have an authority that can accurately describe for us what our ancient forefathers were thinking and feeling either. That is simply something modern science is not capable of doing, and which, perhaps, it should never be capable of doing since it would remove that most important aspect of our religion, our personal gnosis, our personal interpretations, and our personal experience of they for whom the religion works.

You see, in spite of our assertions about ours being a orthopraxic religion, all religion is about feeling. All religion is about the heart and its need to understand that which is greater than itself and, in the end, that which can provide it with a feeling of belonging. The Gods are the heart of that religion. That which makes us all seek to be better people lies within us, and it is that self same heart, that self same spirit that believes and hopes, and it is there that we find them, it is there that we find her, Hera, Queen of Gods and Men.

Monday, June 16, 2008


The Gods are an overpowering presence.

Hera is an overpowering presence. A presence that inspires and frightens. Mythically, she is often like a "Mary" figure, but she is not, to me, such a figure at all. Perhaps only in the wide spread love of her is she like Mary. She was highly mistreated in myth, but the Greek people loved her. They had a sense of her that was very different from the texts that describe her, and this can be a problem in a religious sense because as separated from her worship as we are in the modern world, we have to rely on those myths to get a sense of her. That failing, we must rely on academic works which leave us with someone else's interpretation of her.

One of only a few stories from ancient times, and a Hellenistic one at that, is the Argonautika by Apollonius Rhodius. In it, Hera takes on a very different aspect from the vile shrew she is often shown to be in myth. She is helpful, and the Argonauts, especially Jason, seem to have a strong bond with her. The story itself is far more ancient than the source that tells it. of course, as Jason and his voyage are referenced in several places other than the Argonautika, but it is in this play that we see the role that the Queen of the Gods played in this expedition.

The Goddess Queen of Heaven is a creature that is both near and far, helpful and an impediment, and this is actually true of all the Gods, but with Hera and the character the mythos gives us of her, these become ever more pronounced. Like an Earthly queen, the Queen of Heaven demands a certain level of subordination to her will and power, but unlike a mortal Queen, it is not a matter of pride or entitlement, but of divine grace.

What do I mean by this?

The Gods are divine beings. To say they are superior to us is like say a man is superior to a virus. Sure, on one level it is true, but the virus exists on its own, in its own little world, at a level of existence that is, for it, like our universe is to us. That as a type of life the virus has managed to survive millions of years is testament to its inherent strength as a life form. The gods exist on a totally different level of existence from us, they are of the ultimate level, that 11th dimension, that divine world that encompasses all others within it. If the Gods notice us and take it upon themselves to act on our behalf, or to counter us, it is through their grace. A word that often has misleading interpretations in our modern world.

The grace of the Gods is manifest in all that we see around us. The Gods shower gifts upon the world all the time, and like a virus, we don't really take much notice of them. By Hera's grace, mankind knows the holiness of union with another human being. Of that bond of trust and love that allows two people to create a family and defend it against all ill will. It is not that procreation would be impossible without her, life does that as a matter of course, but her influence allows man to act in accordance with a higher level of emotion and spirit with regard to our young, to our lovers, and to our progenitors.

In realizing this, I am overpowered by her.

I admit, that at this time in my life I have given up on finding that bond. I have loved and lost in my life, but the truth is that I know that it is not something that will ever happen for me. In a sense, I am rejecting part of Hera's domain outright, but in another, I am acknowledging its importance and refuse to be one of these people who takes it far too lightly and rushes in to love and marriage simply because I feel a desperate need to be "married."

I am overpowered by her.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


May has been a month of sadness.
Too many prayers have I laid at the altar of death.
Too many friends and family have gone.

Dear Susana, passed in pain, your children at your side.
Too many fond memories now haunt me.
Too many tears I have shed for you, dear aunt of mine.

Dear Mark, passed in loneliness, you tears of bitterness your only companions.
Too many times did I seek to help you.
Too many times was I rebuked as were we all.

Dear Trey, passed with friends and loved ones around you. 
Too many times did I neglect your friendship.
Too many times did you make me laugh, if there can be too much laughter.

Dear Tim, though gone you are not, you lie in pain at death's door.
Too long have I not seen you, or your husband who sits at your side.
Too many prayers for you have I said to them who deal in life and death.

Let me deal with grace.
Let me deal with hope.
Let me deal with compassion.

Dear Zeus above. 
Dear Poseidon all about.
Dear Aidoneus who hides underneath.

Bless those left behind in tears and longing.
Bless those left behind in sorrow and pain.
Bless me with the memories of their smiles and good hearts.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


But the incense burns and the prayers flow from me to her regardless of how small I often feel in her presence. The reasons for this are shrouded in a little mystery for me, because part of me wants to not recognize that part of how I see Hera is also part of how I was trained to see "God" as a child.

You see, I was brought up Pentecostal. Now, luckily, though my mother took us to church and prays to this day to all mighty God for my soul, she was never a zealous Christian fundamentalist type, so when I felt I no longer liked church, she did not try to force me to go. Eventually, she too gave up going, always claiming that she thought the majority of her fellow church goers were hypocrites.

The way I was taught to see "God" was as a distant yet ever present being who was watching every step you made and writing it all down to decide if you were good or bad, kinda like Santa Claus, but also that he was so vast, so overwhelmingly "other" that I was essentially just an insect in his presence.

Now, to contrast this, the Olympian Gods are vast, they are ever present, and they are amazingly "other" but unlike the version of "God" I was taught about as a child, they were also always accessible to the people. The Greeks had no holy writ that needed interpreting for them by an authority. Each household, each person, each city, each nation, could approach them. The head of the household, the father, husband, etc., bore the responsibility for much of the family's obligations to the Gods, but in essence, each person was responsible for his or her own relationship with the Gods. And these relationships were close ones.

Mythically, the Gods spoke with man directly, and while I don't actually believe that the Gods were walking up to houses for tea, I do think the mythic relationships between men and gods did represent a very real sense among the Greeks that when they prayed to the Gods, the Gods were listening. That they had a sense that the Gods were there, beside them.

This sense that the Gods were not just very enormous "others" was very appealing to me, and yet, there are some Gods, Zeus and Hera among them, who do give off that vibe of being so vast, so very much "other" that the relationships we build with them, or I should say I build with them, must always retain a certain distance.

Yet, Hera is to man a very powerful bonding deity, and as a result she is also there at our most intimate moments. When we realize we love someone and want to bond ourselves to them, Hera is there as much as Aphrodite. When we realize for the first time that a friend is a true friend, the kind of friend that will be with you forever, Hera is there too. And when a friend dies and you are left with that nagging feeling that you wish you had talked with him more, visited him more, or maybe told him you loved him more, Hera is there to help you deal with the loss of a bond that is beyond human comprehension.

I lost a friend this week. A friend I wish I had been better to. A friend I wish I had gotten to know a lot better. Now to deal with that...

Monday, June 2, 2008

In practice

Putting the various discoveries I am making about the Gods and my relationship with them into actual practice is not something I can speak of as many others do because I am very much a solitary. There are no other Hellenistoi in this area that I can think of and for me to put my beliefs into practice as ritual has therefore become very simple.

Prayer, the burning of incense, the making of simple offering at the altars of the Gods, etc. are the core of all my practices. The blessing of my home with incense smoke while invoking the Gods is something I do when I am preparing to celebrate any festival through fasting or making special offerings, etc.

Putting my ideas on Hera into practice was something I had already done. Placing her altar at the entry way to my home, invoking my idea of her as a protecting goddess and offering to her there in that aspect. Making a statue of Hebe my representation of her, for I see Hebe as an aspect of Hera that represents the goddess' maiden aspect, an aspect that to me represents potential, both lost and to be fulfilled, and in reference to the ancient ways, an aspect that represents a certain sadness as women were so often treated with such disdain and with attitudes of ownership, and one has to wonder how Hera, the Goddess, must have railed against these attitudes among Greek men. Along with Hera, her altar includes an image of Mother Earth, who I do not see as an aspect of Hera, but who also represents here the chthonic aspects of Hera. Aspects that are often connected to death, war, and the defense of self at the expense of another and for another, as warriors did in the defense of their cities.

When I invoke Hera, however, it is usually as Queen of Heaven, and this is an aspect that requires more than the usual simplicity of an incense burning. It requires a certain humbling of the self. It requires putting oneself in a mindset that one might when meeting the Queen of England, except this is a Goddess, and while the Queen of England is just a human being like you and me, this is the Queen of Olympus, the Sky Queen, a deity. It causes awe in me to think of her, and this awe translates to a feeling that my practice is simply insufficient to her majesty.