Daughter of Titans, wife of Zeus, goddess of marriage…holder of grudges. To say Hera was an intimidating diety would be an understatement. Although her notoriously proud and stoic demeanor seems to have been her nature, the more I read about her, the more I discovered that this vengeful figure of Greek mythology had more than a little help getting that way.
Let’s start at the beginning, when Hera had nothing but love for both animals and other beings. There she was, just living her best life, in her boldly righteous way, when her brother, Zeus, king of the gods, decided that maybe he wanted to get with all that.
Actually, there was no maybe about it. It took six wives before Zeus realized a strong king needed a strong queen by his side, and now that he discovered the obvious choice had been right in front of him the whole time, he had to have her. The problem was, she was as serious about her virtue as she was about her opinions. Basically, girlfriend had better things to do than to play second fiddle to Zeus, and he knew it. Also? She’d never agree to an unwed roll in the hay. So, he tricked her.
Using her soft side against her, Zeus turned himself into a cuckoo during a storm and then flapped around helplessly outside her window. Of course, Hera rescued the poor little bird, pulling him into the safety of her breast. Once tucked against her, you guessed it, Zeus turned back into his big, brawny self and overpowered her. Hera did not take it well. To add insult to injury, Zeus informed her that, now that they’d done the deed, she was his seventh wife.
Naturally, she was enraged at being told what she was and was not, but she was as cunning as she was beautiful and saw a way to come out the winner. Do you want to know why I think she finally agreed to marry Zeus? Payback.
There’s no greater proof that Hera and Zeus’s relationship was dysfunctional from the get go than their infamous squabbles. Maybe it was the thrill of the fight, but the more Hera got pissed at him, the more Zeus had hearts in his eyes for her. The meaner she was, the more he liked it, and she could be downright awful. It’s said that even the king of gods (yep, the one who could wield lightning) would cower when Hera was in one of her moods.
Case in point: She blinded the priest Tiresias when he sided with Zeus over who receives more sexual pleasure, a man or a woman. Poor Tiresias said women did, nine times more. This caused Hera to lose the argument… and her shit. She thought it only right Tiresias lose his eyesight on account that if he didn’t see things her way, he wouldn’t see them at all.
Revenge is a dish best served cold…
Hera had several children by Zeus, so she wasn’t a prude. She was, however, a stickler when it came to fidelity. In fact, Hera was involved in so many divine bar fights over her man’s wandering eye, to list them all would make this a very long post. Here are the cliff notes on but a few:
One of Hera’s more well-known beefs was with the goddess, Leto, Zeus’s sixth wife. Hera did a bunch of things to prevent the birth of twins Artemis and Apollo, including kidnapping Eileithya, goddess of childbirth, so that Leto could not go into labor. This was in addition to the world-wide ban that stated Leto could not give birth anywhere under the sun on “terra firma”, the mainland. The twins were eventually born, but Hera was not happy about it.
Next up is Lo. In order to hide his sexcapades with the beautiful mortal, Zeus turned Lo into a white heifer. Hera was not fooled, however, and demanded that Zeus give the heifer to her as a gift. To avoid dealing with her wrath, he handed over the cow. Hera then had Argus, to whom she gave 100 eyes, watch over Lo so Zeus couldn’t change her back.
And then there was Alcmene, another one of Zeus’s lovers. When Hera found out how excited Zeus was that the world would soon have another hero, Hera went into Oh Hell No mode. After seven days and nights of agony, Alcmene stretched out her arms and called upon Eileithyia. While Eileithyia did go to Alcmene, she was instructed by Hera to clasp her hands tight in order to prevent the birth. Galanthis, a maid of Alcmene, observed Eileithyia’s behaviour and, to put an end to her mistress’s suffering, announced that Alcmene had safely delivered the baby. This surprised Eileithyia so much she unclenched her hands, releasing Alceme from the spell long enough for Hercules to actually be born. As punishment for deceiving Eileithyia, Hera transformed Galanthis into a weasel.
When Hera discovered Semele, another mortal who Zeus was sleeping with, was pregnant, she disguised herself as an old crone and visited the girl. When Semele confirmed that her lover was indeed Zeus, Hera planted the seeds of doubt in her mind, which led Semele to asking Zeus to grant her a wish. Eager to please, Zeus agreed, but when Semele said her wish was for Zeus to reveal himself to her in all his glory as proof of his divinity, he begged her to change her mind. She could not be persuaded, and so Zeus was forced to show his true form to her… and she done burnt to a crisp right there on the spot.
Zeus did manage to save his unborn child and sew him into his thigh, though. And that, my friends, was how Dionysus was born. If you know anything about the god of wine, you know he led a rather debauched life, full of wine, sex and crazy demented groupies called maenads. But more on Dion in the next post.
So there you have it. Some of the reasons why Hera is depicted as a matron with a mad case of resting bitch face. I dunno. I kind of don’t blame her. Do you?
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