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Hera: A Force of Nature

August 23, 2010

 

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Card 2 – Hera

Identity: Wife of Zeus. Queen of Olympus.

Descriptive archetype: Queenly, aristocratic lady. Faithful, though jealous wife.

Nature: Introvert.

Polarity emphasis: Anima

Symbols: Sceptre surmounted by a cuckoo. Pomegranate. Peacock

The Greek Myth

Zeus had several romantic attachments prior to marrying Hera, notably with Metis and Themis, but certain prophecies concerning the possible power these goddesses might have over the Father of the Gods caused him to fight shy of securing the matrimonial knot with them. Although there are many legends concerning the divine courtship of Zeus and Hera, Pausanias’ account is probably the best known.

In this he describes how Zeus visited her in the form of a cuckoo in distress, upon which the kindly Hera took pity. Renowned for getting his own amorous way, Zeus promptly changed back into his Olympian form to claim the fulfillment of his desire. Hera, however, resisted and it was not until he promised to marry her that she finally succumbed to his advances. Although the wedding was solemnly celebrated on Olympus, it by no means put an end to Zeus’ inclinations, and Hera’s jealousy and constant efforts to thwart her husband’s affairs are well recorded in the classics.

Upright Meanings

Fidelity. Dignity. Endurance, Perception. Conjugal love. The matriarch. The supportive partner. Self assurance when dealing with difficult people or situations. The ability to get one’s own way. Strength and support for those who are respected, but should anyone prove less than useful they will soon be politely, but firmly, dropped. The need to compete with the partner.

Reversed Meanings

Marital infidelity. Lack of responsibility to commitments once the objective has been attained. Paranoic jealousy that can be self-destructive as well as harmful to others. Spitefulness or vindictiveness manifesting strongly if the person feels threatened. Vengeance. Total lack of consideration for those who are no longer of immediate use. The employment of any means, ethical or unethical, to right a wrong, genuine or imaged.

Psychological Comment

The Hera card expresses the anima through the role of the strong, dominant woman who is capable of using her femininity in a having and holding way. When crossed, Hera-types can be ruthless, but as friends they can prove invaluable. In a woman’s reading, Hera represents feminine stability in a male-orientated society, her only line of defence being her marital status. The myth of the cuckoo is suggestive of women down the ages who have had to trap their men into marriage by subterfuge.  Hera is the faithful wife and mother, forever hovering in the background, but nevertheless angered by her husband’s infidelities, about which she appears to be able to do very little. Likewise Hera-type men are noted for their jealousy and possessiveness, and are likely to demand an account of every minute their partners spend other than in their company.

Hera people of either sex made bad enemies. The lesson they need to learn is that spite or revenge is not the ultimate answer to life’s hurts. More is to be gained in intimate relationships and psychological well-being by rising above difficulties and retaining one’s dignity in all situations.

Jung divided women into four main archetypal categories. Mary, the Mother; Eve, the Temptress; Helen, the Heroine; and Sophia, the Intellectual. This theme is echoed by Edward Whitmont in The Symbolic Quest, in which he suggests that all women unconsciously identify themselves with the Mother, the Hetaira or Courtesan, the Amazon, or the Medium. Hera’s place in both of these categorizations is obvious, which says much for the interpretative meaning of this card.

~ Words Murry Hope, Olympus: An experience in self-discovery, 1991, The Aquarian Press.

Musings on Hera

 As a young child, I lived for Sunday afternoons and “Epic Theatre” on TV, which was dedicated to screening all those English-dubbed, Italian movies about the Ancient Greek and Roman myths. I particularly remember the movie, “Jason and the Argonauts”, and Hera guiding Jason through the figurehead of his ship, Argo.  I didn’t much care for Jason, just a glorified thief really, yet it was fantastic movie.

In 2003, when I read Sue Monk Kidd’s, The Secret Life of Bees, I was struck by the similarity in the narrative motif of her Black Madonna ship’s figurehead that is central in this novel;  and that of the ship’s figurehead of Argo, that protective Hera spoke through.

This aspect of Hera, described by Murry Hope, has greatly help me understand the psychological dynamics of women of my mother’s generation: women who were born between 1920-1940. Women who are the mothers of the Baby Boomers. 

Of course, there’s a little bit of Hera in all of us, and for me, personally, the story of the Loch Ard Shipwreck and the amazing survival of the beautiful Minton peacock sculpture, is strong evidence that Hera is indestructible. 

The Gods of Greece are cruel!

In time, all men shall learn to do without them!”,

~ movie quote, Jason and the Argonauts

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2 comments

  1. A great flaw in Jungian thought is its reflection of the sexism of Jung’s time. Nowhere is this greater than the misunderstood character of Hera, castigated essentially as a shrew and a nag. It seems to be no different here — Zeus disguises himself as a wounded little bird in order to attempt rape and HERA is the archetype of women who trap men into marriage by subterfuge? Typical!

    I much prefer Jean Shinoda Bolen’s thoughts and insights about Hera and “Hera women” in Goddesses in Every Woman. Hera women do not hold their men responsible or accountable for their bad treatment — they misdirect their anger at “the other woman” and thereby let the cheating husband off the hook. This characteristic can set Hera women up for a lifetime of thwarted unhappiness.


  2. The essence of Hera is in the having and holding of spite and bitterness; the inner subterfuge.



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