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...

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