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HERA AND THE ROYAL MARRIAGE
The Mythic Enactment of Our Mating Instinct
from PANTHEON: Archetypal Gods in Daily Life, Iona Miller, 1983
Hera is a variation on the theme of the matriarchal Great Goddess. The Great Goddess had many lovers and was extremely independent until the arrival of the partriarchal northern culture in the Mediterranean area. They brought their sky religion with its chief exponenent, Zeus. This struggle for supremacy is recounted in Reisler's The Chalice and the Blade.
After a 300 year courtship, the fusion of patriarchal and matriarchal cultures was consummated by a hieros gamos or Royal Marriage of Zeus and Hera. Hera settled into her new role as exemplary wife, giving up her polyandrous lifestyle, but not her personal independence. She became the pattern for all good married women, whose pasts are forgiven if not almost forgotten. Hera is therefore the patroness and guardian of the institution of marriage, as well as the legitimate spouse of Zeus.
Her authority over the marriage came from her originally wider interest in the lives of women in general. She is also associated with certain aspects of fecundity and childbearing, even though her mythical union with Zeus was not characteristically fertile.
She combines both earthy and lunar aspects in her personality, which makes her both practical and soulful. Hera has a deep shadow nature, and she has the dubious distinction of being the most jealous character in mythology.
It may seem strange to link Hera with the tarot card The Hierophant, but not when certain elements are considered. The sacredness of marriage is stressed in all the major religions of the world as a means of channeling the instinct of sexual desire, and fulfilling the mating instinct.
The Royal Marriage of Zeus and Hera also symbolizes wholeness of the individual personality. The Hierophant exemplifies this male-female wholeness. This prefigures the spiritual marriage of the soul with the celestial Lord, where the human soul is likened to a "bride."
The Hierophant is associated with the astrological sign Taurus, and shares traits with Hera. In her original cult-forms she was known as the "goddess of the yoke," "rich in oxen" (Taurus being the Bull), who kept sacred herds of cows. She is "cow-eyed" for her large brown eyes. As "goddess of the yoke" she prefigures the devotion to the sky principle seen in modern participants in Yoga (which also means "yoking").
On the physical plane, Hera manifests as the mating instinct, childbirth, parthenogenesis, and the flow of adrenaline especially in jealousy. Emotionally she reflects the dual faces of marriage when perfected or thwarted. Divorce is the cognitive notion associated with her, while her spiritual myth is the sacred marriage.
As an Olympian, Hera was the daughter of Cronos and Rhea. She was the sister of Demeter, Hades, Hestia, Poseidon, and Zeus. She was mother of Ares, Arge, Discordia, Eleithyia, Hebe and Hephaistos, and probably Typhon. Hera was famous for her tirades against her husband Zeus because of his philandering.
Hera is a goddess distinguished by her great antiquity. Her name means simply "Lady," and her original consort was known simply as "hero," or Lord. It is interesting to note that the very first temple at Mt. Olympus was hers. It dates from the second half of the 7th Century B.C. to 1000 B.C.
She is also the official patroness of the Olympic Games, which were originated by her muscular hero, Herakles (Hercules). The fact that his twelve labors were in service to her iss shown by his name being derived from her own.
The stories and rites surrounding Hera indicate an instinctual background as the mating instinct. The antiquity of the goddess shows the instinctual nature of her origin. This instinct seeks fulfillment of a particular sort which will not be sublimated to other goals. It has very little to do with lust or sex, per se. If this instinct is forced to deviate from its goal, it will instead turn negative, as Hera's personality shows.
The wifehood of Hera seeks as her essential mode-of-being the required marital union with her spouse on many levels or dimensions. She is not concerned merely with his physical fidelity (although it would be nice), or his ability to father children upon her, or be a responsive parent to the children.
Rather, she is driven by a compulsive necessity to be perfected through conjugal union. The instinct for a multi-level intimate relationship is natural and Hera is behind it. She wants to know the ins and outs of her spouse, not just share space and lives. Their union must be intimate at the physical, emotional, psychological or intellectual, and spiritual levels to be whole.
Curiously, like many ancient historical "royal couples," Hera and Zeus are both siblings and mates. This royal marriage was literalized in ancient Egypt, through sibling consorts for the pharoah. This symbolism of brother/sister love represents the restoration of bisexual totality. It is a psychological resolution of original brother/sister duality. They are aspects of the same essence. Their re-union is expressed in an alchemical verse:
White-skinned lady, lovingly joined to her ruddy-limbed husband,
Wrapped in each other's arms in the bliss of connubial union,
Merge and dissolve as they come to the goal of perfection:
They that were two are made one, as though of one body.