Most of you will know Hera, as the jealous manipulative wife of Zeus. For this is how she is portrayed in the written accounts of the Greek Empire. But Hera is older than the Olympian Myths of Zeus. She comes from the time before, and the times before that. Hera was and is, a powerful Goddess of women and fecundity. She is associated with the tripple phase aspect of the moon, and of woman. She is the life, death, life cycle. She is worth remembering. Here is a story of Her.
At dawn, on the first day after the dark of the moon, the women of Argos would leave their homes, and walk down the stony paths out of town. All the women who had come of age would walk together. They would move towards the rising sun, stopping when they reached the banks of the Freeing Waters stream. Here they would bathe, submerging themselves in Her cleansing waters. After bathing, the women would dry themselves, robe again and then collect branches of the Lygos tree*, which grew in generosity all around the stream.
These would be placed on Her sacred ground in circle. Often times the circle remained from the previous gathering, and the women would add only what they needed. And then they themselves would gather in circle, sitting with their mothers’ clan, to honour and bless the cycles of life, the regenerative power of their blood, and of their Goddess, Hera. Their blood which would begin to flow freely now, was a gifting back to Her for all that she gave them. It was their ritual acknowledgement of the cycles living and alive in their bodies.
During this gathering the women would fast, and remain in circle, talking, sharing, laughing and crying. Tales of their children, their loves, their loss, and their harvest would be shared. Each woman had an opportunity to speak, and to listen many times over. At twilight when the veils between the worlds are thinnest, the Elders, the Wise Ones whose blood now recirculated within their own body, would share of the mysteries, leading the women in sacred song and chants. They would praise and call Her name.
And when the first silver image of Hera appeared as the new moon rising in the night sky, they would light a fire in Her honour. They would call her name, Hera, Hera, Hera. Her songs would ring out in the night sky rising in tempo and volume. The women would clap and shimmy and flow with Her precious blood, singing the praises of the renewed fertility of each woman whose blood flowed in Her name. and this celebration would continue well into the dark night, it would continue until it was time to depart. And then the women of Argo, could be seen with torches aflame, returning down the stony paths, towards their homes, renewed and reinvigorated.
This is a retelling I have created based upon the Hera myth found in Charlene Spretnak’s Lost Goddesses of Early Greece. She tells us that “Hera was venerated at many sites in Greece, particularly on Crete and on Samos, but the chief centre of her worship was at Argos….On Samos, the sanctuary built for Hera was never exceeded in size by any temple in Greece.”
Spretnak, and Harrison** reminds us that the images and stories we have of Hera, are from the later periods of the colonizers who no longer worshiped a Great Goddess but introduced a patriarchal mythology, which diminished the powers of the Goddess…At the same time, we can understand these more modern stories of Hera, reflect Her as “the turbulent native princess, coerced but never really subdued by an alien conqueror” .
* lygos tree, is commonly known as the Chaste Tree.
**Harrison, Jane Ellen, Mythology, New York, Harcourt and Bruce.
The image is actually Orpheus with his music nymphs reclining on the bank of a stream by
But the temple is a temple to Hera at Agrigento in Italy.
More on Hera to come.
Many Blessings Sarah xx