Hera (lady) In Greek mythology, pre- Hellenic goddess, later said to be the wife of Zeus; sister of Demeter, Hades, Hestia, Poseidon, and Zeus. In Roman mythology, she is called Juno. Her four children by Zeus are Hephaestus, Hebe, Ares, and Ilithyia (Eileithyia). She was the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, according to Hesiod’s Theogony (454). Hera’s main function was as goddess of marriage and the sexual life of women. In many Greek myths she always appears at odds with her wandering husband Zeus, constantly persecuting his numerous mistresses and their children. Like Zeus, she was swallowed at birth by her father, Cronus, and rescued by Zeus, who later, in the form of a cuckoo, seduced her. Hera is portrayed in Greek and Roman art as a large, majestic woman, fully clad, wearing a diadem (in Greek archaic art sometimes a polos). Among her attributes are the crow, the cuckoo, the peacock (because she set the 100 eyes of the all-seeing Argus in its tail), and the pomegranate (symbol of fruitfulness). Hera was worshipped throughout Greece. Her most famous temples were at the Heraeum at Nemea in the Argolid, the great temple on the island of Samos, and the temple at Olympia. At her Greek festival, the Heraia, a shield was given as the prize in an athletic contest. Her most common Homeric epithet is “ox-eyed,” and she is also known as Parthenia, referring to her role as a bride. In Spenser’s poem Epithalamion he asks for the goddess’s blessing on his marriage. Hera also appears in Tennyson’s Oenone.
From the Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante
Hera is the Queen of Greece. In classical Greek myth, Hera is Zeus’ older sister. He tricked her into marriage by taking the form of her sacred bird, a cuckoo caught in a rainstorm. She pitied the little wet, bedraggled bird and held it close to her bosom, at which point the bird transformed back into Zeus.
Their marriage was initially very happy. Their honeymoon night lasted three hundred years: sex was that good. Hera was assigned the functions of goddess of women and marriage. Sexual fidelity, however, was not in Zeus’ vocabulary. He had liaisons with goddesses and mortal women alike. His children with other mothers became deities and heroes. Hera is frequently portrayed as a bitter shrew: she pursues Zeus’ lovers, punishing them fiercely and keeping a vigilant eye on Zeus so that he is obliged to be extra-sneaky when conducting his affairs.
Mythologists in tandem with archaeologists suggest that there’s more to this story: Hera was one of the most significant pre-Olympian indigenous Greek goddesses. She is Greece’s primordial sacred cow and Great Mother Goddess of matriarchal pre-Hellenic culture. Hera was initially worshipped as a Lady of the Beasts, a goddess of abundance and fertility. In approximately 600 BCE, she made a major transformation. Emphasis was placed on her roles as wife and mother rather than her original functions.
Dorian invaders married her to Zeus to confer legitimacy on his rule. Many myths emphasize her subjugation by Zeus. Much of what is portrayed as shrewish may be desperate attempts to retain her autonomy and power and to protect her own children’s birthright as Zeus’ multitudes of otherchildren by other wives gained power. Hera, together with Poseidon, also an indigenous spirit incorporated into the Olympians, led an unsuccessful rebellion against Zeus. Zeus punished Hera by hanging her from the clouds with anvils tied to her feet. Depressed, Hera wrapped herself in deepest darkness and wanders Earth in the form of a frail, decrepit old woman. She always returns to Zeus.
Hera was struck in the right breast by one of Heracles’ arrows, inflicting a wound that never heals. She may be the precursor of the image of Our Lady of Sorrows, the beautiful, wounded Madonna.
Hera’s name may be interpreted as “lady” or as the feminine form of “hero.” Alternatively, her name is not Indo-European and has yet to be translated. Hera seems to have first emerged as a primordial snake goddess in the Greek city, Argos. Each spring, she bathes in the sacred spring of Kanathos near Argos, emerging fresh and youthful like a snake with freshly shed skin. Hera is described as “renewing her virginity.” This ritual may be in preparation for performing the Great Rite. Hera may be invoked in cleansing rituals intended to heal spousal and sexual abuse as well as any past bad history.
She is an oracular spirit who has the power to fulfill virtually any petition. Hera punishes by striking those who displease her with sudden madness.
Favored people: Women in general; people born under the zodiac sign Cancer
Manifestation: Hera is a radiantly beautiful woman, shining like the sun; however she is also a shape-shifter with many forms. She notoriously disguises herself as a humble, old beggar woman but still expects to be treated like a queen. Woe to those who fail to treat even the humblest with respect. Hera has a fast temper and is quick to administer justice.
Iconography: Hera is depicted wearing a diadem and veil.
Colors: Yellow, gold
Birds: Cuckoo, dove, peacock, carrion-crow
Animals: Cow, snake, dragon, crab, snail, and other shelled creatures
Mount: Peacocks pull Hera’s chariot.
Plants: Vitex agnus-castus, lilies, poppies
Sacred site: Her sanctuary at Argos, a seventh-century BCE temple built over an earlier shrine, is among the oldest Greek temples. Her temple at Olympia was older than Zeus’ and always distinct. Ancient Greek altars were originally open to the air: Hera’s temples may have been the first to be roofed.
Offerings: Honey, flowers, incense, perfume, pomegranates
See also: Amphitrite; Apollo; Artemis; Asteria; Callisto; Dakini; Dione; Dionysus; Dioscuri; Europa; Ezili Freda Dahomey; Ganymede; Hebe; Hekate; Helen of Troy; Hephaestus; Heracles; Hermes; Hesperides; Horai; Hybla; Hydra; Io; Iris; Kedalion; Ladon; Lady of the Beasts; Leto; Maia; Olympian Spirits; Poseidon; Prometheus; Scylla; Semele; Siren; Themis; Typhon; Zeus
From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.