Greek Gods

An Introduction to Hera

Hera, wife of Zeus and queen of the gods, is one of those deities whose surviving mythology does not really do her justice. She is primarily known as a goddess of marriage, specifically of the legal/contractual aspects of marriage, and is especially to be called on at weddings. However, she is also a powerful sky goddess, and fully capable of defending those cities, such as Argos, which held her dear.

Myths and Stories

Many of Hera’s known myths, unfortunately, have to do with her jealousy and her poor treatment of Zeus’ other women, such as Semele, or of his children by these women, such as Herakles. As she is a goddess of marriage, this certainly makes some sense, but it is surely a partial representation.

She is also known for her relationship with her son Hephaistos, who may or may not have been fathered by Zeus (in some myths, he was the child of Hera alone). In one version of Hephaistos’ story, when she gave birth to him and discovered that he was imperfect–lame–she threw him out of Olympos immediately.

Hera is known as well for her patronage and protection of Jason and the Argonauts.

Names and Epithets

Like many of the gods, Hera was addressed under different names or epithets at different times and under different circumstances.

Hera Gamelia (Hera of Marriage). This epithet references Hera’s role as a goddess of marriage.

Hera Parthenia (Hera the Maiden). This epithet may refer to the tale in which Hera regained her maidenhood each year by bathing in the Argive spring Kanathos.

Hera Teleia (Hera the Matron). Refers to Hera as a mature or adult woman.

Hera Antheia (Hera of the Flowers). This name was used for Hera at a temple at Argos.

Hera Argeia (Hera of the Argives). Refers to Hera’s close relationship to the city of Argos.

Festivals

Hera was widely worshipped all over Greece, particularly in Argos and in Samos. The greatest, earliest known temples were hers. She was honored in various festivals, including:

Gamelia, a festival honoring the sacred marriage of Zeus and Hera

The Great Daedela, held every sixty years in Boetia, in which an altar and wooden statues are constructed, used, and entirely burned

Heraia, a new year festival celebrated in Argos

Symbols

The peacock is sacred to Hera, as is the cuckoo. She is often depicted in art holding a staff tipped with a lotus flower.

Categories: Greek Gods, Greek Gods 101, Hera

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