Hymn 12 To Hera.
Of golden throned Hera I sing!
She was born of Rhea.
Queen of the deathless ones
She is foremost in bearing.
Sister and wife
Loud thundering Zeus.
Glorious she is,
And all the blest
Of high Olympus
Stand in dread of her.
And they honour her
Equal with Zeus
Who delights in thunder.
Hera is an old god, attested to in Mycenaean tablets as E-ra. Her name
is open to interpretation. Maybe related to Hora, or season, to show
that she is ripe for marriage. One of her roles is the Goddess of
marriage. She is often represented (as is Demeter) in a three fold
aspect. The Girl (Pais), The wife (Teleia, which also can mean the
perfect, the fulfilled, without blemish), and finally the Widow
(Chere). In this she shows a history the live of women. Is it also
representing the yearly cycle spring, summer, winter? Every year she
regains her virginity by bathing in the sacred stream Kanathos, in
Samos her anionic plank was washed in the sea.
Chadwick sees her name as being the feminine version of the word
hero. Or maybe it is the feminine version of master, that is
mistress. Regardless her temple at Samos is the first enclosed temple,
dating back to 800BC. Before this she is represented aniconicly as a
pillar in Argos, and a plank of wood in Samos. Argos being one of the
cities she loved best, the others being Sparta and Mycenae.
Was she a remnant of earlier matriarchal religion and society? Rather
than seeing myth as 'other people's religion', it may be better to see
myth as other people's history. Was her marriage and subordination of
Zeus, as well as her frequent opposition and jealousy to Zeus an echo
of this great overturning? Do not the frequent punishments that Zeus
feels he has to mete out to his wife point to the period of struggle
that must have arisen from an overturning of matriarchy, and could the
overturning have proceeded any other way than by violence? I do not
know enough to be able to give an firm answer, but my 'feeling' would
be yes, this is what happened and the marriage of Zeus and Hera is a
record of the rise of the patriarchy.
We can look at for example her hostility to Herakles, her hostility to
the many 'affairs' of Zeus, and also his response to her infidelities.
Many beatings and once even tying her to a cloud, with anvils on her
feet. The punishments of her lovers, Kalypso, complains in book 5 of
the Odyssey about the unfairness of the male gods taking lovers, and
punishing the females for doing the same thing. Could we also see
echos of this in her various epitaphs, such as (Iliad 8.209) Aptoepes,
fearless in speech, as well as Neikei, fond of quarrels or strife. How
many women toady to are referred to in these shrewish terms? Does all
this point to Hera as being a woman who is oppressed and yet still
striving for her freedom?
Cows are sacred to her, as are peacocks. She is also often shown
holding a pomegranate or an opium poppy. The pomegranate, as well as
being the symbol of Kore, is the symbol of the ancient Great Goddess.
In my translation I down played her beauty and tried to reinforce the
idea of her being equal to Zeus. I hope I did not do too much violence
to the originate poem.