I’ve been reading the Herstory over and over recently and as I say when I read it out at my Moonsong workshop, if you have heard it or read it before, when you do so again and again, the next layer is revealed to you… and so as the next layer reveals itself to me this time, I hear again but with more relevance –
“Women became the property of their fathers and husbands.i” – I hear it especially in terms of how this has affected us all today –
- how the modern woman relates to the masculine, within and without,
- how the modern man relates to the feminine within and without,
- the ‘pornographication of our culture’ and how women are portrayed and ‘expected’ to look and the lengths some women (are encouraged to) go to, to look this (eg surgery and especially labioplasty),
- and in terms of the way Feminism, in each of its waves is portrayed,
- AND in light of a recent discussion had within the School of Shamanic Midwifery about Goddess archetypes in our lives and the plight of the Goddess archetype of Hera, the Goddess of Marriage.
Hera seems to me to be one of the casualties of the modern woman. Hera – Missing in Action, was how one of the women referred to her. As another way the wounded feminine shows up, many of us cannot bear the idea of being defined by our relationship as wife. And of course Hera defined as wife of Zeus is the story of Hera from the patriarchal perspective, the Greek myths, and there is a deeper, older story…
We work with the Goddess archetypes a lot in the Four Seasons Journey (4SJ) of The School of Shamanic Midwifery. I learned about them 20+ years ago in my 30’s when I read Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book ‘ The Goddess in Every Woman”.
Using seven Greek Goddesses, and the archetypes (constellations of behaviours, beliefs, and mindsets etc) they represent, with a Jungian perspective, creates a map for how to understand your psychology. The stories of the Goddesses come from the Greek myths and include:
Aphrodite, Artemis, Athena, Demeter, Hera, Hestia, and Persephone
I learned so much about myself from seeing how these Goddess archetypes showed up in my life, who my dominant ones were, who my least dominant ones were etc. In fact it wasn’t until I found how high in the ranks Hestia was for me that I stopped giving myself a hard time for wanting to have a clean and tidy hearth. I thought I was being obsessive, rather I was being true to the Priestess/homemaker archetype within me. Another piece I learned back then, and have found very helpful in working with women, is that there are so many ways the feminine shows up in our lives. Our culture prefers and encourages some more than others, as do our families and our subcultures. And learning who’s boss, and who’s not, in our inner court, so to speak, is really helpful in terms of understanding ourselves.
There are some questionnaires online you can use to find this out for yourself.
Try this one: http://goddess-power.com/index.htm
The most often dominant Goddess archetype amongst the students and graduates of the Four Seasons Journey is Artemis, and that’s no wonder actually as a lot of our time together is on the Earth, in tents, in the ‘wild’ as it were, Artemis’s homeland. Then Demeter, Hestia, Aphrodite, Persephone and usually the least dominant ones are Athena and Hera. Your most dominant Goddess gives you the clues for your ‘modus operandi’, what is most important to you, and what your priorities are. And your least dominant Goddess seems to show up as an antagonist in your life, the voice in your head that lets you know about what you can’t do so well, or so you think anyway. Because of course She may be calling you toward another way of being that you haven’t found yet.
There is a deeper, older story for many of the Goddesses from the pre-patriarchal time and these stories are very different to the patriarchal version. The Greek myths as represented by this model I have mentioned here, are the patriarchal stories, they speak of female ways of being that are usually defined by their relationship with a man, or not in some cases. The older, pre-patriarchal myths tell a story of a different feminine energy. This alone is an interesting thing to know, the plight of the feminine through the ages as seen through the patriarchal stories.
A conversation between the women of the School of Shamanic Midwifery started recently with one of the students struggling with the disparate, difficult, seemingly impossible relationship between two of the Goddess archetypes, Artemis the wild and free, and Hera the committed and devoted wife, and how they showed up within her.
“Artemis within me hates the idea of sharing space with Hera! I can’t seem to find much good stuff about her. I read the Hera myth, and think, who the f*** would want to be her, forever cuckolded by her husband? What gold is there in her story?? She always seems so vulnerable, always trying to restore herself… perhaps always alone, until she’s entirely pulled herself together and doesn’t need anyone anymore… ah the irony… “ Bec
“I don’t identify as a wife and even get annoyed when my man calls me his wife, even though we are married. Like you, I find myself thinking why would you ever want to have any Hera qualities, and I am struggling to find positives too. Vulnerability, possessiveness and feelings of being trapped are what I associate with Hera.” Vivienne
“As a very strong Artemis I have struggled and fought with the concept of Hera. I pitied her and was disgusted by her neediness and subservience. My mother has a very strong Hera quality that I have found so confronting since Maidenhood.
I’m still working on healing Her but have learned in recent times that there is a nobility and pride that needs honouring. Her strength is in her giving and sacrifices.
I find those qualities easier to access in Demeter and I think it is because of the deep wounding of the Feminine as a result of the patriarchy. It is easier to give and sacrifice for a child than it is for a man!” Jaia
I’ve been thinking some more about Hera…and that She (that aspect of women) is a casualty of the modern women in the patriarchy…an aspect of self sent packing, sent away, by the rebel of the patriarchal ways , She is now MIA...as Melody put it.
I’ve just read the brief chapter on Hera in Charlene Spretnak’s book “Lost Goddesses of Early Greece – a collection of pre-Hellenic myths”:
“In Olympos Hera seems merely the jealous and troublesome wife. In reality she reflects the turbulent native princess, coerced but never really subdued by an alien conqueror.” JHC
“Firstly, Yes, Jane, I came to see and feel her as “a casualty of the modern women in the patriarchy” which was confirmed in my reading today “When Zeus claimed Hera (the Goddess of Heaven), he was not simply taking a marriage partner, but incorporating within his ruling domain, the entire Matriarchal world, previously headed by his new bride” (Mythic Astrology)
In my own wounding she plays out as “the internal rage, which develops and combusts when the vows of (my) marriage of devotion (= for me; being received, seen, felt and understood) are not met” (MythicA.)
The last paragraph in Mythic Ast. on Juno/Hera “At worst, feelings of victimisation or jealousy in relationship due to an overwhelming surrender of one’s power for the sake of the relationship, and at best, a power truly centred in oneself, revealing charisma and magnetism that emanates out to all who come into contact with it” Kristan
“Just as background info I’m from Brazil where the Hera archetype is still quite prevalent even nowadays in many places. My mum and my mum’s generation has played much more the shadow aspect of this role and as a result of that my generation – specially those raised in big centres like Rio and Sao Paulo like myself – rebelled totally against any Hera trait. The result of that has backlashed into Demeter, even. Most of my friends don’t give of themselves in that “subservient way” not even to their children and they carry a certain pride in their perceived carefreeness. Most women like myself (attachment parent, co-sleeper, extended breastfeeding and the whole lot) is very much perceived as a ‘subservient type” in much the same way as we perceive Hera to be a “weakness”. I have given before from both empty and full cups and have felt completely different about the giving. That makes me conclude what we all already know: true and selfless giving can only happen when our own cups are full. The way we embody Demeter and Hera would be very influenced by how our inner state is. I have to say that when the role dynamic is played in a healthy way I very much enjoy the dance btw yin and yang, male and female. I find that the male can nurture the female and by receiving it we empower them the same way that they empower us by acknowledging and receiving our care. “ Adriana
“It’s the Queen aspect of Hera that seems to make the most sense, and makes her more accessible. Queens are power-full, leaders in their own right and with a King ‘by their side’, sometimes they are even more powerful… Of course power isn’t the whole story, and vulnerability can be accessed when you feel safe and protected, which is what a Queen will do best with….the yin and the yang, the balance … and remember it’s the Hera you are to yourself as well….” JHC
“I too, struggled with Hera and it was her Queenly aspect that made me see her and love her. Last year at 7Sisters, inspired by the same book you’re reading, I asked the women to form an aisle (so about 15 on either side) and got each one to take her turn. At the top of the aisle they had to say, “Hera takes her crown” and hold their hands above their head, put on an imaginary crown and then walk down the aisle, being witnessed by all the other women. The power and the poise and presence bowled me over, time and time again as each woman walked in Hera’s steps – phenomenal. So she’s no fading violet that’s for sure. I’ve come to understand the modern Hera’s way is one of loving support rather than subservience but am still learning and am not yet very good at it!!! The final part of Hera I’ve thought a lot about is her wrath. I think she has something to teach us about sisters betraying sisters. But that’s as far as I’ve got…still have more thinking to do on that one so will share more insights if/when they arise.” Charlotte
“In my head there feels like there is a strong connection between Hera and Lilith. Both Queens expected to submit, both paid the price, one paid with her staying and one paid with her leaving…” Kerri
“Some (all?) of the wounding of (my) Hera is around having an external focus (my man, whoever) and these words, and all the stuff about being a Queen, helps me reorient back towards myself and my strength and my own direction… Perhaps the vulnerability I feel (which I hate in myself and Hera sometimes) is that, historically, women have been abused and killed for being so oriented! So on the surface, in this patriarchal culture, Hera feels like a lose-lose archtype! But I can feel that shifting, as I sink into the wound a bit more…My culture doesn’t actually hand out any of the Queen stuff – I have to forge that for myself…” Bec
“I really felt the deep truth of “our vulnerability is our strength”…..and the amazing, often agonising but inevitably powerful karmic threads that lead us to be linked with partners who will so perfectly trigger our stories of wounding (over and over again!) to offer us opportunities to claim them and hopefully heal ourselves in the process….” Melinda
“Vulnerability, receptivity, surrender may come easily as breath or may be most hard won battles. For some of us needs must parry places most difficult and painful. These tender places as are uncovered may potentially hold some of our deepest sources of truth and our most honest source of power?” Nymh
“Like the myth of Persephone and Hades, after reading this my nose smells the rat of patriarchy seeping from the corners of the story we have all come to know and believe as Hera’s ie. jealous, vindictive, possessive, needy wife, dependant on her disloyal man…..and through this I can make so much more sense of why the struggle to embrace her is felt by so many……the native princess (priestess) of Herstory has been concealed from view (AGAIN) and in her place a silly, easy to exploit and ridicule character put forward as replacement prop…..(interestingly as I’m typing this I’m having an aha moment around the same type of de-facing / devaluing of the Maga (as Queen archetype) being so apparent in our world right now).
Reframed with this new information come to light – the story of Hera and Zeus seems almost like the perfect mythological storytelling of the Patriarchal overthrow of the Matriarchal cultures from times long ago….right down to the guts of the tale whereby the traditional ritual marriage of the Native Princess (Priestess) and King (at Beltane) is found…and if we continue to unfold the story from this perspective we can see the Herstory of the “natives / wise ones” taken into the rulership of the “King” (insert church, powers that be who sat behind him) and their culture being rewritten to conceal the Old Ways (of earth based worship and matriarchal leadership and female land owner rights etc)…….
And when She (Hera – Priestess / Daughter of the Goddess) sniffs the oppression and begins to fight in resistance to this betrayal (not necessarily of herself or her marriage – but of her people and her culture) – the propaganda campaign begins to unravel whereby she is transformed from a powerful, connected, knowing Native Princess to an Angry, Vindictive, Spiteful and Jealous Queen and frequently vilified whenever she dares to raise her hand or voice in protest to the patriarchal overthrow she is bearing witness to (mythologised as Zeus having affairs / raping / mistreating many other women / goddesses aka Fucking over the Matriarchy)…………here I feel pain and anguish around the memory of the lies and deception of the Inquisition arise in my Being……..and I can feel the justification of Hera’s rage……and the tragedy of her story and identity being conveniently re-written to whitewash the truth…….
And in this realisation I can see the potential distortion and bastardisation of Zeus’ character too – from the perspective of him very likely beginning as the innocent young king (think Arthur in Mists of Avalon) brought forward as the chosen one to join in sacred union to the Goddess (as young Priestess) and over time manipulated (by the patriarchal powers) to betray this pledge and stand up in representation of the Sun God theory……..just as much a victim of the myth as Hera herself, however this not being as tangible because his distortion of character seems to showcase him as ever powerful and triumphant………although when we reflect on the bad press so often projected on him from the “sisterhood” (for his reported mistreatment of women) we can feel his own vulnerability at the mercy of the HIStory that was written….
And here I feel the circle come full as I reflect on the significance of the resistance felt by myself and my fellow sisters towards this archetype of Hera the sacrificial wife as being an instinctive knee-jerk to the possibility of finding ourselves at the mercy of the same patriarchal overthrow in our own lives, marriages, relationships with the Masculine…..feeling the cellular memory of the Herstory whispering in our ears to not trust, to not surrender, to not sacrifice ourselves to man for fear of betrayal of our Priestess selves……
And yet here too I feel the vulnerability of the men in our lives as they wrestle to keep open soft places within so as not become type-cast as Dominator / Perpetrator in their role as husband or partner and at the same time often struggling to keep intact their masculinity and King-ness in the face of a Queen who wants to wear his pants and crown……
Ahhhhhh…..how powerfully we each hold the wounds and truths of the past within us…….men and women with the ancient archetypes (Herstory) alive in our being wrestling to make sense of the History that has informed the culture we have been raised in.
In summary of this midnight oil essay of mine, I can feel the healing gift of these realisations to be a calling to Re-member the ancient face of Hera as Native Priestess “daughter of the land” (Artemis) willingly wed in sacred union as Queen to her King in sacrifical service to the Goddess and the preservation of the Old Wild Ways. There she is standing strong and tall in ceremonial robes with crescent moon on brow, walking forth in absolute trust of herself as the Goddess meeting man as God and together in divine balance of masculine and feminine they hold the potential to serve alongside each other as King and Queen of their united destinies.
So in this reality – neither being seen as weak or needy in their reliance of the other for balance – but rather so honoured for their choice to embrace the invitation for co-creation of the highest divine order of the Masculine and Feminine.
What a beautiful vision to aspire to Sisters.” Melinda
“The Hera archetype seems inherently about self-worth. Taking responsibility for ourselves and believing we deserve to wear a crown. Not undermining ourselves with self-sabotaging behaviour, and actively working for a balance of power and respect in all relationships. Recognising and claiming our power, and actively tending to the stoking of our sacred fire within, from where we can give with the fullness and richness of Queen/High Priestess.” Bec
Hera is the goddess who has suffered the most at the hands of those who dabbled in Greek mythology. Summed up and dismissed as a shew and a nag, Hera was in fact the most powerful of all the Olympian goddesses, the queen of the gods. Before that she was the primary divinity of the pre-Hellenic Greeks who honored her through festivals similar the Olympics.
Long before the Indo-European Hellenes came down from the north to occupy the land and islands of Greece, a Mediterranean race, speaking a language different from the Hellenes, occupied Greece. The older race which are called Minoan and Early Hellenic, had customs and codes different from those of the incoming Hellenes. The older culture was, for example, matriarchal. Society was build around the woman; even on the highest level, where descent was on the female side. A man became king by formal marriage and his daughter succeeded. Therefore the next king was the man who married the daughter. Until the Northerners arrived, religion and custom were dominated by the female and the Goddess.
Hera was the chief divinity of this culture; she was their queen and ancestral mother, and she ruled alone, needing no king to back her up. The earliest evidence about her describes her as Queen of Heaven, great Mother Goddess, ruler of people. In these images, she was associated with the bird, the snake, and the bull, suggesting connections with water, earth, and life energies.
HERA’S TRIPLE PHASES
The ancient Hera passed through three stages: youth, prime and age. First she was the maiden Hebe or Parthenia, called virginal not because she avoided intercourse but because she had no children and was free of responsibility. In this stage she was also called Antheia (‘flowering one’), symbol of both the flower of human youth and the budding earth in springtime. Next she revealed herself as the mature woman, Nymphenomene, (‘seeking a mate’) or Teleia (‘prefect one’)’; she was the earth in summer, the mother in her prime of life. Finally she showed herself as Theria (‘crone’), the woman who has passed through and beyond maternity and lives again to herself.
In all these stages, she represented the epitome of woman’s strength and power. Far from being spiteful and malicious, she was generous and self-assured. The ancient Hera was so beloved that being recast in such negative aspects in the myths created by the conquering northern Hellenes, she was still worshiped and revered. It seems the women refused to give her up entirely. In spite of the slanderous tales about her, she would emerge at festivals in her honor as a goddess who cared for women.
Her character, as described by Homer, is not of a very amiable kind, and its main features are jealousy, obstinacy, and a quarrelling disposition, which sometimes makes her own husband tremble.
The heartless, jealous, loyal, and sometimes caring
The mother of Ares
The lover of Argos her favorite city, Zeus her husband, and revenge
She feels angry and jealous
She needs revenge, everyone to have good marriage and love
She fears she will lose her husband
She gives respect, help and her children the best
She would like to see that she has the right place for a queen, unconditional love and Zeus love for her
Resident of Mount Olympus
AKA the queen of heaven
To Hera at Theogamia
Gracious Hera, wife to the Thundering Zeus,
You who have shown nothing but faithfulness to Thy mate,
And are angered by those who would defile Your sacred union.
You, the Blessed Queen of the Gods.
I come to this blessed shrine to honor Your sacred vows,
To pay my respects to what this union means.
Gracious Hera, bless me with a lover and mate that is as faithful as You.
Let him honor our union as you honor Yours.
Blessed Hera, I give Thee thanks and honor!
Her character, as described by Homer, is not of a very amiable kind, and its main features are jealousy, obstinacy, and a quarrelling disposition, which sometimes makes her own husband tremble..
The way Hera shows up today in her wounded feminine way is “demoted from her queenly status and disparaged as a jealous, vindictive and quarrelsome wife.ii
The nagging wife, the unsatisfied, unhappy, suspicious partner of a successful man. This archetype is a typical representation of the wounded feminine of our modern culture, where the focus is on the masculine and what gets in ‘it’s’ way. Reclaiming the healed version of Hera, women and men can find partnership with equal status, which can only really be enjoyed if there is honest communication and trust. And the feminine has been so ‘done over’ by the masculine in our patriarchal culture that for many women and men it’s a long way back from the wounded space. It is possible, of course, and is the healing we all require, individually and collectively and also in terms of our species relationship with Mother Earth.
i Herstory – a Womanifesto by Jane Hardwicke Collings