Sunday, January 26, 2014

Zeus and Hera, the Hieros Gamos of heaven.

Though there wasn’t any kind of established orthodoxy in Hellenic religion with regard to theology (or anything really, except at extremely local levels, it seems) the mythological corpus seems to imply a few things about the ancient religion that were, it seems, accepted as being true by the majority of Greeks. One of these seems to have been the concept of the Hieros Gamos, which translates as Sacred (or Holy, perhaps) Marriage.

The division of the world into domains, such as Sky, Earth, Sea, and Underworld meant that those domains also had Lords, as the Greeks interpreted the Gods as being a monarchy, and Ladies, since the Greeks also saw the Gods as having relationships of a human type. This meant that the Lord of the Sea, Poseidon, also had a wife who was the Lady of the Sea, Amphitrite, and these domains could be seen as kingdoms, making Poseidon not just Lord, but King of the Sea and Amphitrite his Queen.

In the realm of the Underworld it was Hades who was King of the Underworld, and Persephone was his Queen. But among the realms, none was more powerful as that of Sky, and its King was also king over all the other domains, like an Emperor, and that king was Zeus and his Queen none other than Hera. This was a marriage celebrated by the Greeks as both sacred and holy, and the union between the two was of great importance to the entire mythos, as so many figures of myth owe their lives to Zeus (he fathered so many of them) and their adversity to Hera, who is said to have hated so many of them due to their illegitimate births.

But this is not a blog about myths and their details, but rather about the Gods and me, and so I seek to understand here, and in January, the month of the Theogamia, a feast celebrating the Hieros Gamos, how this affects me, a single gay man in 2014.

Together, Zeus and Hera form the divine marriage of heaven, and as such, they are also the divine couple to which people should make their vows of marriage, but Zeus is also a God of Oaths, and Hera is a punisher of oath breakers, and as such it is not just this bond we call marriage (which had a different meaning to their culture than it does for ours today) but oaths of all types.

Never promise something you know you can’t deliver on, and certainly never vow to do it, and absolutely never do so in her name. Failure is one thing, we all sometimes fail to do things we really tried our best to do. Do not fear that you have failed her, or that she will be angry with you. Your attempt, if it was true and not your own lame self justification, was what fulfilled your promise.

Since as a gay man in a state not likely to allow me to marry any time soon, and since I am not likely to have anyone in my life wanting me to marry them any time soon, that aspect of the Hieros Gamos would seem to be illegitimate to me, but it isn’t, because the Hieros Gamos is not just about marriage, but rather it is also about the marriage between two divine forces. In this case, the marriage of heaven and earth, for in this case Hera can very much be identified with the earth, is of paramount importance to all of us for these two divine forces are about us all the time. Under our feat, in our blood, in the very air we breathe, and not just literally but spiritually as well.

There is a fundamental universal set of forces at work here, and while they are surely more complex a matter than just a “marriage” it is important to here understand that term, marriage, as meaning the complex interaction of things as they join or are joined by other forces.

We human beings, and all life really, is intimately reliant on the marriage of forces that surround us. From gravity and the interaction of matter with its environment to produces different states of matter to the forces of evolution and behavioral norms we must all abide with as a species, these things all marry, they combine and interact, to produce us.

Think about that the next time you think of Hera as “Goddess of Marriage” and understand the magnitude of that simple statement.

So it is that I celebrate the Hieros Gamos, divine marriage, sacred marriage, and understand that it applies to me not only at a human level, where the promises I make are sacred obligation to try my best, but also that at a cosmic level, which I also see as a spiritual level, it is responsible for the state of the universe itself from the broadest of perspectives to the smallest.

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