Today I will speak about how Hera represents the values of ancient Hellas.
Hera’s primary way in which she represents ancient Hellenic values is as the Divine Wife. As Goddess of Marriage and together with Aphrodite a quintessential Women’s Goddess (not to say men can’t worship her just as devoutly, but they will relate to her differently) she represents the various life phases of women, from girl (Pais) to Widow (Khera). Since in ancient Hellas it was common for women to be married to men who were their seniors, it was, after all, more likely for a woman to survive her husband than the other way round, unless of course, she were to die in childbirth.
She represents what the ideal wife should be in ancient Hellenic thought, a sovereign mistress of her household, as Hera is the sovereign mistress in the Divine Household, which is the Kosmos. A strong leader who commands the slaves/servants, who balances the check books, who keeps the larder supplied, who ensures the cleanliness of her house, who ensures the domestic Gods always receive their proper offerings, who makes sure her children are healthy and well-fed and do their chores, etc. She represents how a woman should strive to be, in public as well as in private: majestic and solemn, commanding respect from those around her, yet also being modest and not without mercy and forgiveness when she is wronged.
A tidbit of insight I had last night as I was trying to fall asleep but had thoughts of these blog posts mauling in my head is that Hera and Zeus are shown in myth to quarrel quite a bit. My thought was that this is another way in which their relationship mirrors that between mortal spouses, as even the happiest of couples will quarrel, sometimes quite severely. Yet in the end, they always reconcile and make amends, as they are both each other’s love of their Divine Life. I read an article some time ago that even argued that couples that have slumbering unsolved issues between the partners were the happiest, as it provided something to regularly let off steam in quarrels and annoyances, which helps harden the couples against greater quarrels and prevents them from all-too rashly separating or divorcing. So, in a way, the quarrelsome relationship between Zeus and Hera in myth can be seen as an ideal relationship model, one that is tested but is strong enough to survive time and time again.
As Goddess of the State and Protector of the Polis, she represents ideal rulership, not taking any bollocks, but also not without mercy if amends are made. She can be tough or kind as the situation requires, and can suffer hardships if need be. She commands the respect of those she rules and shows herself worthy of that respect as Queen.
These are ways in which I believe Hera represents Hellenic values. Some of these can be adapted. In our modern world, it is not uncommon for both spouses to work, and ideally, they will also both do an equal share of the household chores to ensure it runs smoothly, and if they have children share that burden equally. While this is the ideal, I think it’s clear we’re far from achieving this ideal, as to this day often the wife still has the greatest part of the household and child-rearing duties under her auspices, in addition to her job, even if both partners have a full-time job. I am certain that Hera supports a striving towards equality in this between the spouses, though I am equally certain not all couples will seek to change the traditional gender roles – if they both feel comfortable with them – or even switch them around. These will, in my opinion, also be supported by Hera, as will same-sex couples and the various divisions of tasks.
I think that’s quite enough for today.