(also published by awarehousebooks.com)
The story of Hera we generally hear is of a shrew: that of an “argumentative, nagging, and ill tempered” Goddess. Not only that, but in Greek mythology she is portrayed as vindictive and vengeful, a victimized personality whose need for fidelity is continuously violated by her husband’s infidelity. Hera’s mythologies include countless examples of her taking her pain out on the other woman, Goddesses and mortals whom Zeus has either seduced or raped. The reader often feels aghast by her ruthless and violent ways, appropriately analysing her actions as cowardly, misdirected, and down right mean, especially when she punishes those who’ve already been violated. The sad truth that aspects of Hera’s myths serve to highlight the pattern of victim blaming that still exists in modern-day society is an important one to understand and grow beyond; however, exploring that aspect of Hera’s myths is beyond the scope and intention of this blog. Calling on the support and wisdom of Hestia, Goddess of the Sacred Hoop, I’d like to offer a focus on how Hera, as an archetype that lives in all of us, expresses an essential medicine that can help us move beyond our inherited stories of victimhood and into a wavelength of mutual empowerment, and the practice is called commitment to love, aka The Sacred Marriage.
The concept of the Sacred Marriage and mutual empowerment has been increasingly explored in each of these Goddess blogs. Without a doubt, it is the end I’ve had in mind from the outset, and thus it has bled its way colorfully into each of my creative pieces. But how specifically does Hera inform this vision of mutuality? Hera, along with Demeter and Aphrodite express the three central points of the Great She. Where Demeter represents the She that is manifest, the Is of being (Is-is…Isis), and Aphrodite the great stir that is attraction and alchemical transformation, Hera represents the power of partnership, the necessity and reality of polarity and complimentary duality. The difference between a Hera refracted through a patriarchal lens, versus liberated in free consciousness, is that in the first frame we get the portrait of a vengeful shrew, and in the second the ecstatic lover for immaculate co-creation to be and become. Hera’s potency reflects the same qualities engendered to Mother Mary, the archetypal wedded-Feminine who co-creates immaculately with God. The fact that we frequently misunderstand the archetype of Mary is of the same reason we misrepresent Hera; both Goddesses are portrayed through the purview of patriarchy.
What feels disappointing about the Greek Hera myths is the way they set the feminine up to fulfill the self-serving belief system of the ideology filtering the story (“the hand who holds the pen writes history”- Collette, 2018 movie). Patriarchy is premised on the belief that the masculine is dominant by design, and Greek mythology is set up to affirm this. Two of the three central aspects of the feminine, in Greek mythology, are the “vulnerable goddesses [who] were victimized… [and who] showed psychiatric symptoms” (p. 135). We can see this reinforced in stories where Hera acts out her anger and pain “irrationally”, taking her unruly emotion out on the other woman. These stories and their consequences are in harm-ony with the frequent and harm-ful judgement that having a uterus means your inclined to emotional excess and instability (including the risk of hysteria, which was once the main rational for removing a woman’s uterus: hysteria-ectomy). However, is it fair to expect either of the polarities, be it the Feminine or Masculine, to behave well and healthy in a diseased paradigm? And this is just what a patriarchy is, an expression of imbalance. In almost all Greek myths neither Gods nor Goddesses behave optimally, and so perhaps we should interpret these myths for what they truly are: cautionary tales whose wisdom provide insight on how NOT to be, as well as the consequences of agreeing to an imbalanced paradigm to start with.
So, if we choose to interpret these tales as cautionary, how do we take positive action to create the outcome we desire? Firstly, we need to accept, feel, discern, and honor the feelings these stories manifest in us. Then, from this living awareness we can become conscientious objectors, say “No” to the diseased paradigm, and set our intention to open our consciousness to the new stories, mythologies and ways of being that honor the Sacred Marriage: balance and respect between the complimentary opposites, and thus mutual empowerment. There’s also a good chance we will need to be the change and live with purpose to co-create an entirely new mythology based on these core values. At the end and beginning of the day, we will need to choose to stand firmly in our resolve to grow beyond the power over/under, aggressor/victim model that the imbalanced system (be it a patriarchy or matriarchy) set us up for.
Hera, as a Goddess of marriage, carries with her a healing remedy: the medicine of Love & Commitment. The essence of marriage is an agreement between beings who commit to love. Erich Fromm in his book “The Art of Loving” states: “Love is a decision, it is a judgement, it is a promise. If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever”. In talking about marriage and love, I am by no means predominantly referring to the “I Do’s” stories; I’m also talking about the commitment to loving our selves, our personal commitment to love the life and time we’ve been giving. I’m talking about the commitment to love this planet, and humanity, nature, and all our relations. Fromm goes on to say: “The main condition for the achievement of love is the overcoming of one’s narcissism”. For me, this echoes the definition of love offered by Dr. Marshal Rosenberg, author of Living Nonviolent Communication. He offers that “Love is not denying ourselves and doing for others; rather, it is honestly expressing whatever our feelings and needs are and empathically receiving the other person’s feelings and needs” (my emphasis). A commitment to love means a commitment to seeing and feeling our own needs, but not at the cost of other’s by being complacent, self-centered and wedded to righteous indignation. A commitment to love means agreeing to co-create a win-win reality, believing that coherence is possible, and remembering that Love is the true center of the universe. Though we each are a precious part of this Love and Universe, so is everything and everyone else. We are unique but of equal value. This is the essence of why we need to transmute our story of aggressor and victim, because the truth is if you lose, so do I. The only way to win is if all our relations abide in peace, if we commit to love within and between us.
May all beings be happy,
May all beings be safe,
May all beings be peaceful,
May all beings be free.
Love and Peace,