As a Pagan witch devoted to other deities, it came as a surprise when Hera reached out to me last year. Her interest took me by surprise.
Why? Well, I have never really “liked” Hera in the past (blame Hercules: The Legendary Journeys). And I thought she must know this, so why would Hera want to work with me?
Well, there are reasons. But, before I get into that story, allow me to tell you a bit about the Olympian Queen of the Gods.
Hera – Queen of the Gods
Who is Hera? Considering she is iconic in her role as Queen of the Greek gods, I’ll keep this brief. She is the daughter of Cronus and Rhea, making her the oldest female sibling of Zeus who tricked her into marriage. Yep. Hera is a literal sister-wife to Zeus.
Some of her traditional areas of influence include family, women, weddings, marriage, childbirth (but not motherhood), children, etc. Ancient Greeks also associated Hera with nature, the sky, stars, and the moon. She even became conflated with Ceres, Diana, and Proserpina.
Hera is associated with the diadem, pomegranate, and scepter. Lillies are her flower. Sacred animals include the cow, the cuckoo (that’s because of Zeus, ironically), and the peacock. But much of her mythology is defined by the troubled relationship with her wayward husband.
Zeus had a habit of sleeping around and having illegitimate children with humans and non-humans alike. As a result of his infidelity, Hera lashed out against the kids and moms. Herakles (aka Hercules) is just one example. She also did not tolerate beings crossing her. Therefore, she became defined in mythology as jealous, aloof, and vengeful.
Hera – More To Her Story
However, there is more to Hera than mythology implies. Her prominence in Greek culture and religion cannot be understated. She alone holds the seat beside Zeus. She is revered as an equal to Zeus by the other Olympians.
According to one myth, Hera proved her ability to create life on her own without Zeus. Hephaestus, whom she then rejected. Listen, she is not a “mother goddess” for a reason. Nonetheless, her power is proven equal to Zeus, who is said to have birthed Athena on his own without Hera.
Indeed, I wonder if her portrayal as a vicious shrew might have been more about elevating a male deity over a mighty goddess.
Ancient Greece is known to have been patriarchal. Women had zero autonomy, regardless of their station in life. Even so, Hera would not be subsumed into Zeus through their marriage. She retained her voice and authority.
Her temples are among the most ancient in Greece and show her influence to have been prominent throughout the region. Additionally, Hera’s temple at Samos provides evidence of religious pilgrims traveling from places such as Armenia, Babylon, Iran, Assyria, and Egypt to make offerings to the great goddess.
Despite her portrayals in Homer and Hesiod’s works as jealous, vain, or just plain mean, some poets (such as Sappho) record Hera in a different light. Regal. Gracious. A goddess who listens and provides help to those who seek her aid. Revered as a protector. And this is the goddess who I now have come to know.
A year ago, while shopping at a pagan store in Michigan after participating in their annual psychic fair, I noticed a small statue of Hera. She came as part of an Olympian collection. I had seen her among the images in the past and thought nothing of it.
However, this time I felt a strong urge to purchase this tiny statue of Hera. I’ve learned to follow such leadings a long time ago. So, I bought the statue and found a space for her on the main altar. Over time, I began including her in my morning ritual of lighting a candle and saying a “hail” to my deities.
Then, the unexpected happened. Finally, I understood why she reached out to me. My life changed overnight and it is Hera to whom I prayed for strength and guidance. Because after 33 years, my marriage has come to its end. We have chosen the way of intentional uncoupling but it is still painful.
And it is Hera who has comforted me when my heart feels broken. It is Hera who challenges me to stand on my feet and move on with my life.
Hera, who helps me work through complicated emotions, gives me space to express myself in prayer and ritual. The goddess of marriage, overseeing its dissolution. Allowing me to walk each day through the process of divorce without fear. Reminding me that I define my path and presence in this world.
Goddess For This Age
One would think that as a Hekataen, it would be she who I sought out. Hekate is the goddess who has helped since I began a devotional practice with her, as she did when my mother died. Not this time, apparently.
Hera is the goddess leading me through this challenging time. Yes. Her mythology has been problematic for me. Now, I see these myths explore what people experience in life, giving an opportunity to learn from choices made and consequences experienced.
I’m glad I chose to follow my intuition, buying that small statue of Hera. I look forward to learning more about her, beyond the information Homer and Hesiod provide.
Thank you, Hera. Great Queen of Olympus, who reached out to me unbidden. You knew the guidance I would soon need if I chose to accept it.