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.

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