The Honest Queen
Oaths, Marriage, Fertility, Childbirth, Heirs, Truth
Cuckoo, Peacock, Pomegranate, Lioness, A lotus-topped staff
"Gods have loved their sisters; yes, indeed! Why Cronus married Rhea, his kin by blood . . . and Zeus, married Hera. But the gods above are laws unto themselves."
When Zeus became King of the Gods, he attempted to woo his sister Hera to be his queen. She was not interested but this did not deter him. He transformed himself into a handsome cuckoo and allowed himself to be caught by Hera. The goddess intended to train the bird as a pet but when she realised who the bird was she found herself in love over such a humble act. Hera and Zeus married in a glade near the city of Knossos and a small temple to their vows now stands on the site.
To begin with, Hera’s marriage was a happy one that gave her Ares, Hebe, Enyo and Eileithyia as her children. However, it was not long before Zeus grew tired of monogamy. He first slept with the Titan goddess Metis. The product of this affair was the goddess Athena, though in odd circumstances.
Despite the deep fractures his first affair had on their marriage, Zeus continued to philander. He fathered many children with deities and mortals alike. Each betrayal was a blow for Hera and she lashed out to punish Zeus through her actions to others. She worked to spite the children of Zeus' affairs, most famously Herakles. Hera sent snakes to kill him as an infant and set obstacles and traps for him during his twelve tasks. Zeus was furious at Hera for her attempts on his favourite son's life, and punished her by hanging her upside-down from the sky.
This act broke their marriage and Hera declared herself divorced. To continue to call Zeus her husband was a betrayal of herself and the worship given to her as the goddess of marriage and oaths. Zeus has no power to force her to stay married and no moral authority to banish her. She has retained her title as Queen of the Gods.
Hera's most famous champion was Jason. He was a prince of the kingdom of Iolcus but he nearly died as boy when his uncle Pelias stole the throne. Pelias killed Jason's mother and sisters in a temple of Hera, outraging the goddess. She saved the boy and planned a suitable punishment for Pelias.
When an adult Jason returned to Ioclus, Hera ensured the downfall and punishment of Pelias for his crimes. The goddess made an oracle tell Pelias of his impending death by a man wearing one sandal. Hera came to Jason disguised as an old woman wishing to be carried across a river. As he did so, he told her his story and she advised him not to reveal his identity. Just before reaching the river bank, he stumbled under Hera's weight and lost a sandal in the mud.
As he arrived at Pelias' court, Jason remembered the old woman's advice and refused to give his name. The usher announced Jason simply as a man with one sandal. A terrified Pelias attempted to buy time by agreeing to relinquish the throne if Jason could return with the golden fleece of Colchis. With Hera's aid he recovered the fleece, regained his kingdom and married his love, the sorceress Medea.
The Heraean games are dedicated to the goddess Hera and are open to girls aged twelve to sixteen. They are held at the stadium of Olympia. The games are organised by a council, called The Sixteen Women, after the original founders who were peacemakers from Pisa and Elis.
The girls compete in three age groups, on a track in the Olympic Stadium that is five-sixths the length of the adult track. Rather than compete nude as the adults do they wear a tunic that reaches to a little above the knee, and they bare the right shoulder as far as the breast. The champions win olive crowns and statues or portraits of themselves are placed in Hera's temple.
As someone who personally fought in the Titanomachy Hera has no desire to see the Titans freed, knowing that Cronus would imprison her in return. Her champions are commanded to watch for the Titans' agents and to attack on sight. She believes that order protects the gods and mortals and maintains it by promoting stable loving marriages and keeping people to their oaths.
Hera uses her champions to promote her realms, either as midwives or punishers. Some of her champions are wise women who roam the land assisting in births, especially royal births or those where the mother has been wronged. Her other champions have a fearsome reputation as agents of Hera's wrath who hunt oath-breakers on behalf of the slighted party.
Hera appears as a middle-aged women of grace and beauty, wearing courtly robes. Flighty and prone to mood swings and temper tantrums when she was younger, Hera has mellowed and become wiser. After her divorce she reinvented herself, promoting the image of the powerful and dignified goddess befitting the title Queen of the Gods. While still disposed to anger she prefers carefully planned revenge over tantrums but has no tolerance for those that break their vows. Having spent so long troubled by her lying husband, Hera has now also chosen to take on the realm of truth, to better enforce honesty in others.
As Queen of the Gods, Hera commands great respect. Worship of her is common all over Greece and her temple at Olympia is one of the oldest of any god. Hera is invoked during childbirth in her role as protector of the mother and marriages are carried out in her name. Hera's most prestigious temple is on Samos, dedicated as the place of her birth. The site is a pilgrimage, not just across Greece, but across the eastern Mediterranean. It open to the sky and features 155 stone columns arranged with the altar in front of them.
The city of Argos is considered to be her favourite city. It is where Jason began his expedition and it has remained loyal to her. Her temple outside the city was destroyed in an unexplained fire a few years ago. A new temple is under construction and Argos is sparing no expense in the name of their patron goddess.
At Stymphalia in Arcadia, a triple shine exists that worships Hera as the girl, as the married woman and as the separated divorcee. The shrine is sited on the spring Hera used to ritually cleanse herself of her marriage and start anew. In commemoration of the event the cult here is dedicated to renewal and it is where Hera's champions are ordained. Anyone who wishes to serve Hera may come here and supplicate for her acceptance. If she accepts them they are led by a cuckoo to the spring for their bathing and renewal.