Saturday, September 20, 2008

Goddess of the Week: Hera

Hell hath no fury like a goddess scorned. Hera, the wife and older sister of Zeus, is immortalized in the Iliad and elsewhere as a jealous and vengeful wife, although Zeus is clearly no prize himself. They spend much of the story bickering between themselves.

Hera was the queen of the gods and the goddess of women and marriage. She was also associated with the sky and starry heavens. Her familiars included the lion, the hawk, and the cuckoo. The cow and peacock were sacred to her.

She was also the jealous wife of Zeus. Her children with Zeus included: Eris, Hebe, and Ares. But Zeus had Athena with Metis, and so Hera gave birth to Hephaestus without Zeus or any father. Later, Hephaestus (god of metallurgy like Vulcan) trapped her on a magical throne after being rejected by his parents for being so ugly. Clearly, this was a somewhat dysfunctional family.

Hera's main problem with Zeus was that he had a number of affairs and illegitimate offspring. When he impregnated the Titaness Leto, Hera sent the Drakon Python to torment her during the pregnancy. When she caught Zeus with Io, he turned the priestess into a cow, who Hera caused a gadfly to pursue across Europe. Zeus later turned the princess Callistro into a bear after seducing her, and Hera had Artemis shoot and kill the bear.

Of those myriad illegitimate offspring of Zeus, Hera particularly hated Heracles and sent two serpents to kill him while he was still a baby in the crib. He strangled the serpents in the crib. Hera tormented him for years after until, finally, he achieved immortality, and Hera forgave him. She also had a problem with Dionysos, another bastard child of Zeus.

Her life was not all fighting with Zeus and his bastard children. In the "judgment of Paris", Hera competed with Aphrodite and Athena for the prize of the golden apple.

When Ixion tried to rape Hera, Zeus had him tied across a wheel on which he was forever turned by the winds.

Hera did like Jason and assisted the Argonauts in the quest for the golden fleece.

The Samos Museum contains items from the Samos Herion, offered to Hera.

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