Hera’s Month of Devotional Thought: Day 6 – Other Related Deities

Χαίρετε πάντες!

Today I am going to discuss some Deities related to Hera, not by family, but by function.

The first functionality-based relationship Hera has is with her husband Zeus. They are both protectors of the State, Laws, Justice, Governance, and so on. But as the Divine Royal Couple, they are also Gamelioi Theoi, Gods of Marriage. They are honoured as such during the Theogamia festival in the Athenian month of Gamelion, a festival celebrating the anniversary, if you will, of Zeus and Hera’s Divine Marriage. Besides her husband, her daughter Eileithyia is also considered a Gamelia Thea, for a Goddess of Childbirth she aids married women in giving birth to children. Producing legitimate heirs was the primary reason for marriage, thus Eileithyia is indispensable for married couples.

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Aphrodite surrounded by erotes (love-gods), Apulian red-figure krater C4th B.C., Dallas Museum of Art. Taken from Theoi.com.

Besides them, there are various other Gamelioi Theoi who are involved with Marriage. The primary one is Aphrodite, the Goddess of Love and Sexuality. She brings people together and rules over the sexual act, the “Works of Aphrodite”, and as such also plays a role in the begetting of children, of heirs. She blesses couples with harmony in their relationship and makes them desire each other and unite their bodies together. The relationship of Hera and Aphrodite is so close that each has the other one’s name as an epithet, indicating their coöperation in the field of marriage. Aphrodite Hera is the Goddess protecting fiancées and brides, Hera Aphrodite of the married women. Important to know here is that the ancient Hellenes only considered a female to be a women once she had been with child for the first time. Even if she had a miscarriage, even if the child was stillborn, even if the child died in infancy, only when she had been with child was she considered a completely adult women, initiated in the Female Mysteries. As the marriage is concluded, the bride passes from the domain of Aphrodite into the domain of Hera.

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Eros, the winged god of love, plays a tune on a double-flute. Attic red-figure lekythos, ca. 470-460 BCE. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Taken from Theoi.com.

Aphrodite’s son, Eros, is also a Gamelioi Theoi, the God who makes people fall in love with his golden arrows. He is also a God of sexual desire, regardless of whether it is allowed. He is the God of Lust, who incites sexual desire and rules over the hormone “high” people have when first falling in love. Through his mother and Hera, this is channelled into “appropriate” expressions, i.e. within a married relationship.

Another Gamelios Theos is the God Hymenaios, a God of the Marriage Hymn that would be sung by the party as the groom leads his bride towards their new home. He has a very specific role and is not honoured beyond wedding ceremonies, blessing marriages with happiness. He is one of the erotes (love Gods) and is thus depicted with wings, but also he carries the bridal torch.

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The apotheosised hero Heracles leads his bride Hebe in a wedding procession through Olympus. They are flanked by two Erotes (love-gods)–Eros who holds Hebe’s veil and Hymenaeus who leads the procession with a flaming torch. Attic Red Figure Pyxis, ca. 450-400 BCE, University of Pennsylvania Museum, Philadelphia. Taken from Theoi.com.

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Peitho (Persuasion) and Aphrodite, Apulian red-figure krater C4th B.C., Dallas Museum of Art. Taken from Theoi.com.

A final Gamelia Thea is Peitho, she is the Goddess of Persuasion and a handmaiden of Aphrodite. Peitho can be both an epithet of Aphrodite as an independent Goddess, though she is closely related to Aphrodite either way. As Goddess of Persuasion, she induces harmony in the marriage by settling differences between the husband and wife by persuading the other. Usually, this was viewed as the husband persuading the wife, and the wife obeying her husband. In ancient Hellenic, the verb peithein (πείθειν) in the active voice means “to persuade”, whereas the medial voiced peithesthai (πείθεσθαι) means “to be persuaded, to obey”.

In more contemporary views of marriage as an equal partnership, we can reinterpret this as both partners’ ability to persuade each other. This can be persuasion in various matters but perhaps most notably to persuade the other partner to have sex, so seduction is also part of her domain. Peitho is usually depicted with a ball of yarn and a dove, which are her attributes, and usually in scenes where she is in the act of persuasion, or fleeing the scene of a rape. As a Goddess of Persuasion and persuading the other person to have sex, it is only natural she would abhor rape,  where no persuasion takes place, but only force.

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