This will be the first post for this Month of Devotional Thought dedicated to Hera. Today I will answer the first question of the list, which is to write a basic introduction of this Goddess.
Hera is the Queen of the Gods and rules alongside Her husband Zeus from atop Mt. Olympos. Together they also govern the area of Marriage, Hera especially so, and she is also a protectress of married women. Besides these domains of Government and Marriage, she is also an atmospheric Deity. In the Orphic Hymn to Hera, She is described as the “mother of rain” and “nourisher of winds” (my translations). On top of this, She can also be associated with warfare, and She did fight a few Giants during the Gigantomachy.
She was born to Kronos and Rhea and was subsequently swallowed up by Her father, like her siblings. Eventually, She and the others were rescued by Zeus, and They joined His rebellion against Zeus. During or after the Titanomachy was ended with the victory of the Olympians, Hera became Zeus’ wife, and She is credited with inventing the institution in the first place, and claiming it as Her domain.
Many of the myths about Her involve Her persecution of Zeus’ many lovers and their bastard children by Zeus. Whether the lover was mortal or divine, none escaped Her wrath. Famous examples include Leto, Io, and Semele. The major examples of her persecution of Zeus’ illegitimate offspring are Herakles and Dionysos. Some others however show Her as a Goddess who guides Heroes, such as the Argonautika, where She supports Iason’s quest for the Golden Fleece and orchestrates many events to aid Him, such as asking Aphrodite to send Her son Eros to make Medea fall in love with Iason, and even appearing in person when the Argo threatens to take a wrong turn when they sail across the mythicised version of the Danube.
While She was widely worshipped and honoured, She had two major centres of worship. The polis of Argos on the Pelopponesos and the island of Samos. Both claimed to have been where Rhea gave birth to Her and both had splendid temples to her. the Samians claimed she was born underneath a lygos tree (Vitex agnus-castus), for which her cult image would be bound with lygos branches during the Toneia festival. In fact, Her temple on Samos is among the oldest Hellenic temples and shows many construction phases, going back the Geometric period (8th century BCE) or even earlier. Even at Olympia, site of the Olympic Games, She received a temple before even Her husband Zeus did.
The origin of Her worship is lost in time, but we do know She was already worshipped by the Mycenaean Hellenes of the Bronze Age. Her name appears in the syllabic Linear B script as “e-ra”, which appears on tablets found at Pylos as well as Thebes. The etymology of her name is uncertain, however. Some suggest a connection to ὥρα (hora), which means season, and may refer to being ripe for marriage. Platon, however, suggests an etymology as ἐρατή (erate), beloved, as Zeus married Her out of love. Meanwhile, Plutarchos suggest it being an anagram of ἀήρ (aer), air, referring to her celestial and atmospheric domain. A modern theory by John Chadwick, a decipherer of Linear B, proposes that Her name may actually be related to ἥρως (heros), hero, and thus relate to Her as a Guardian Deity of Heroes.
This will conclude this post for now.
Praise be to Cow-Eyed Hera, Buxom Wife of Zeus!