Portrayed as majestic and solemn, often enthroned, and crowned with the polos (a high cylindrical crown worn by several of the Great Goddesses), Hera may bear a pomegranate in her hand, emblem of fertile blood and death and a substitute for the narcotic capsule of the opium poppy. A scholar of Greek mythology Walter Burkert writes in Greek Religion, "Nevertheless, there are memories of an earlier aniconic representation, as a pillar in Argos and as a plank in Samos."
Hera was known for her jealous and vengeful nature, most notably against Zeus's lovers and offspring, but also against mortals who crossed her, such as Pelias. Paris offended her by choosing Aphrodite as the most beautiful goddess, earning Hera's hatred.
There has been considerable scholarship, reaching back to Johann Jakob Bachofen in the mid-nineteenth century, about the possibility that Hera, whose early importance in Greek religion is firmly established, was originally the goddess of a matriarchal people, presumably inhabiting Greece before the Hellenes. In this view, her activity as goddess of marriage established the patriarchal bond of her own subordination: her resistance to the conquests of Zeus is rendered as Hera's "jealousy", the main theme of literary anecdotes that undercut her ancient cult.
However, it remains a controversial claim that primitive matriarchy existed in Greece or elsewhere.
The Young HeraEditHera was most known as the matron goddess, Hera Teleia; but she presided over weddings as well. In myth and cult, fragmentary references and archaic practices remain of the sacred marriage of Hera and Zeus, and at Plataea, there was a sculpture of Hera seated as a bride by Callimachus, as well as the matronly standing Hera.
Hera was also worshipped as a virgin: there was a tradition in Stymphalia in Arcadia that there had been a triple shrine to Hera the Girl (Παις [Pais]), the Adult Woman (Τελεια [Teleia]), and the Separated (Χήρη [Chḗrē] 'Widowed' or 'Divorced'). In the region around Argos, the temple of Hera in Hermione near Argos was to Hera the Virgin. At the spring of Kanathos, close to Nauplia, Hera renewed her virginity annually, in rites that were not to be spoken of (arrheton).
Emblems of HeraEdit
In Hellenistic imagery, Hera's chariot was pulled by peacocks, birds not known to Greeks before the conquests of Alexander. Alexander's tutor, Aristotle, refers to it as "the Persian bird." The peacock motif was revived in the Renaissance iconography that unified Hera and Juno, and which European painters focused on. A bird that had been associated with Hera on an archaic level, where most of the Aegean goddesses were associated with "their" bird, was the cuckoo, which appears in mythic fragments concerning the first wooing of a virginal Hera by Zeus.
Her archaic association was primarily with cattle, as a Cow Goddess, who was especially venerated in "cattle-rich" Euboea. On Cyprus, very early archaeological sites contain bull skulls that have been adapted for use as masks (see Bull (mythology)). Her familiar Homeric epithet Boôpis, is always translated "cow-eyed", for, like the Greeks of Classical times, its other natural translation "cow-faced". In this respect, Hera bears some resemblance to the Ancient Egyptian deity Hathor, a maternal goddess associated with cattle.
Behind the Curtain: Hera and SemiramisEdit
Hera, the Queen of Heaven, may also be based on a real person, the black queen of Babylon -- Semiramis. Semiramis was Nimrod's mother, his wife, and the mother of his child -- Tammuz (the prototype of Apollo). It is through Semiramis' manipulations that she had herself declared Queen of Heaven, and her son -- Tammuz; to become the sun god. Semiramis is also Eostre, the Goddess of Spring and New Birth. In India she was also attached to Kali, the terrible goddess of Creation and Destruction -- wife of Shiva.As Eostre, the Israelites and Canaanites left in the land would mate with virgins on altars nine months before Eostre day. The babies born from such unions would be killed, drained of their blood, and eggs dipped into the babies' blood to symbolize new Spring and new Birth. It is from this evil practice that we get our tradition of coloring Easter eggs. This stems from the idea that Eostre is a bird, transformed into an egg laying rabbit, and finally a human goddess.
Semiramis is also Astarte, the Canaanite Goddess of Venus. Semiramis is represented as Cybele, Brigit, Freya, Isis, Ianna, Ishtar, and a host of other goddesses throughout Asia and the Middle East. Including (possibly as) Chuang-Mu, the Chinese Goddess of sexual delight.