Olympian Goddess Hera. Jealous or Just Queen of Heaven?

Mischaracterised as jealous instigator in Homer's war epic Iliad, Olympian Goddess Hera's problem-solving is patience not impulse.
Text title Hera, Olympian Goddess

Summary of Contents: Hera in Mythology | Arrival and Appearance | The Cruellest Human | Observation on Happiness | What I Learned of Hera's Nature | Truest Test of Character

Festival Day - 7 July

Goddess Hera in Mythology

Queen of Heaven was Hera’s title in ancient times, patron goddess of family and marriage. In Hesiod’s listing in Theogony she is the eldest daughter of Titan god Cronus and goddess Rhea. Hera is generally related as wife of Zeus.

Homer's epic Iliad told a story of the Greek - Achaean - war mission to Troy city, some five hundred years or so even before Homer’s life-time. Claimed the city’s destruction was insisted on by Hera. Reluctantly Zeus agreed her request to Troy’s fall even though he favoured and respected its king and people.

Mythological references to Goddess Hera

Goddesses, Gods and You

What kind of Heaven do you expect. Soft fluffy paradise of eternity, or oblivion of nothingness? Out-of-body survival expert Margo Williams discovered a surprisingly simple system of management and afterlife recycling.

There are many goddesses and gods in the community. Speaking their name aloud evidently sends a signal; creates a link to wherever they are at any given moment. If it works for you as it worked for Margo, and they respond, be respectful but be yourself. Honesty and thoughtfulness are appreciated.

Sacrifice nothing but your time. Most of them seemed approachable and appreciated being remembered.

The ancient temples that still can be found in some places, although mostly broken, are huge monumental structures; impressive sacred spaces, their scale designed to impress, to be worthy of divine visitation.

However, it is not the size and splendour of any sacred space but the sincerity of the person seeking contact.

Anywhere can be a temple.

Photo image of Margo Williams in Africa
Margo Williams in Africa
"Hera is portrayed by Homer as a dangerous and jealous female, careless of collateral damage. Is that accurate?" Nick Hammond asked out-of-body survivalist Margo Williams.

Hera's Arrival and Appearance

"Hera’s jealousy and ruthless retribution was literally the bitter source of legend and with trepidation I awaited her arrival.

A glowing orb of pink light appeared. Exploded, fragmenting through the room; wisps of light zipped in every direction then gathered into a female figure. Some of the light embroidered into a pale blue robe; silvered wisps swirled over the floor weaving into silver sandals.

"I thought I had sunk into oblivion in the minds of mortals, yet here are two who remember me," she said interestedly. "I accept the honour paid me. Thank you for your welcome."

Some of the light remained as a tiny wisp of veil that concealed her face, though I could see dark red-brown hair worn 'taken up'. Her robe long to the wrist; its design draped at neckline and waist. Hera had the full figure of a mature female.

I sensed great power, authority in her presence, in her voice, soft though it was.

She leaned forward and kissed me on the lips. "You have had much to learn in so short a time. I will return again when invited." And then she vanished.

Sometimes first encounters were as brief as that.

The Cruellest Human

Hera’s second visit occurred two weeks later. Second visits generally were challenging.

Tiny silver stars rained down on the altar, their light intermingled and whirled around the room to the accompaniment of a ssshhissing sound; golden beams of light burst from each corner of the ceiling.

"You see my essence." I heard Hera's voice but couldn’t see body, only light but felt her take hold of my hand. She pulled. "Come."

We arrived on a sidewalk pavement in a suburb street lined with houses. I recognised it as my world, the street signs English but where, I didn’t know.

She had removed her veil, revealing bright knowing eyes and gentle rose-bud mouth. Hera appeared older than most other goddesses though not elderly; a tough-when-necessary but friendly face.

"Tell me which of these mortals is the cruellest," she gestured.

An apple tree rich in ripe fruit stood in the front garden of one house. An elderly woman approached the gate, lifted its latch, pushed it open and walked to the house door. She knocked, it opened.

A white middle-aged man peered out at her. From the garden fence we watched and heard the exchange. The woman pointed to the apple tree, windfalls lay on the ground. She wore raggedy boots and a dirty old coat; it looked like she spent most nights sleeping rough.

The woman said she had no money and asked permission to pick some apples from the ground. The man told her to get lost; he chased her out of his garden through the open gate. We followed her for a while until she turned a corner into another street and was gone.

Hera's Observation of Happiness

A quarter mile away, Hera stopped at a low wall between houses. Two women either side engaged in conversation; of roughly similar age but I guessed one was the poor neighbour for the clothes she wore suggested hardship.

I heard her say she was applying for a job and had an interview but possessed only old clothes to wear. She asked to borrow a smart dress for two hours but her neighbour’s reply was 'No.'

I had my answer ready but Hera didn’t seem interested in hearing it. Instead she continued walking to the end of the street.

We came to an open ground area, grass and trees, a leisure park with swings and benches busy with adults and children. A warm late summer’s day, people sat on the grass; some with picnics, others played with frisbees and footballs.

Two women stood close by the park entrance, both hand-holding a young child, engaged in an emotional exchange. One in distress, weeping, asked the other to look after her child for an hour. 'It’s an emergency,' she explained and spoke of a mother ill in hospital. But the answer was 'No.' The woman hurried away leading her child.

"Tell me. Which of those mortals was the cruellest? Have you made up your mind?" Hera asked me.

I had not. In fact I dithered over my choice. Hera looked irritated by my hesitation. The park woman who declined to look after the other’s child; she was the cruellest, it was obvious, I thought then changed my mind. "In my view all three were cruel," I replied. "There is nothing to choose between them. It meant much to the girl to look smart; it meant much to the woman to get apples to eat; and it meant much to the woman whose mother was ill. I consider them equally cruel."

Hera’s attention was not wholly focused on me, she watched a group of women and their babes; smiled for the first time. "This is happiness," she gestured. "Innocent, harmless happiness." She turned back to me. "You did well, you showed wisdom. So, I give you more."

illustration of decorative figurehead.

What I Learned of Hera's Nature

Hera’s tests mostly were choice-based. Next included consequence of war. We arrived unseen in a small African community where groups of young men clustered, armed with knives and guns.

"Which of these children would you give a home to?" We came to a rough-cut tin shack with wooden steps. Two children sat on the steps, two boys, one of about nine years of age; the other younger, perhaps five years old.

Close between them lay a rag-bound infant, only six to eight months old. The boys looked unwashed, dressed in little more than rags. The eldest boy suffered an amputated leg but held a walking-stick. The baby looked underfed but not so bad as to be near-death starving.

The third child, the boy of five years, still had the use of both arms and legs but there was something in his expression suggestive of pain, though I could not tell what that might be.

"The baby is healthy but she needs a home." Hera next pointed to the uninjured child. "This boy has recovered from an accident caused through war. He will not hear again. Choose which of these children would you help? You may choose only one."

I thought it an impossible choice. I would choose them all. One? Adoption and prosthetics for the baby and eldest were possibilities, I guessed but if I had to choose one only: "Mighty goddess," I replied pointing to the deaf child. "Although he could learn to lip-read he will never hear the sound of birds, or music; or the sound of the wind in the trees; the bark of a dog or purr of a cat, or the laughter of other children. He would be my choice."

I don’t know if I correctly passed all of Hera’s tests. I answered as best I could, and perhaps gained some insight into her nature, as she did of mine; and so drew my own conclusions.

Hera showed me what was of most concern: the cruelty of poverty and lack of help by those who have the resources to make things better for others. We visited many countries, including my own. In the slums of India we visited the tin shacks and rubbish mountains where hungry children worked; and in South America to witness the women of the favelas raise children in crushing poverty.

Hera showed me the harshest conditions in which women raised children and that, so far as I could tell, was what most concerned her.

Some goddesses and gods showed little interest in humanity but Hera did seem to care about what happens in our communities. In Africa she showed me scouring poverty; families forced to flee burning homes; hungry women carrying children through scrubland and desert in search of food and refuge. She showed me war-torn villages, conflicts that had nothing to do with vengeful goddesses inciting mortals to violence.

As war is probably the greatest cause of suffering for women and children, it seemed an unlikely choice for her vengeance.

Most communities are home to mothers and children, every city, town and village; and Troy must be included in that list. Such carelessness over collateral did not seem in any way characteristic of Hera.

Truest Test of Character

Many stories featured Hera’s ill-tempered jealousy but I saw no evidence of that during all our time together, nor trace of it in any of her responses. In older stories than Homer’s, Hera was honoured as the 'Great Mother'.

This is how I would best describe Hera, based on my experiences in her company.

The legend of Argonaut Jason, on his way to Iolcos journeying to Pelias’ palace, told of how he came to a fast flowing river, and saw an old woman in raggedy clothing sitting on a rock. 'Alas, who will carry me across?' she asked the hero-to-be.

Jason’s mentor, Cheiron the centaur, taught him to help those in need; so he lowered shoulder and was surprised how nimbly she jumped up on his back and thought it no trouble to carry such a light load, and then waded into the cold river.

Each step took him dangerously deeper; the water heaved high around his throat and by then the old woman felt so much heavier. She thrashed and yelled in his ear; made him wonder whether he shouldn’t just shake her off and save himself. He stubbed his toe on an underwater rock and felt his sandal come loose.

Jason made the dangerous river crossing minus a sandal; carried the old woman up the riverbank. When he set her down, her wrinkles vanished, raggedy dress turned into jewelled robes. 'Yes,' she said to Jason. 'I am the Queen of Heaven. Your selfless service to someone in need is noted. You may now call upon me, and so shall you see how a goddess can be grateful.'

Sometimes Hera's tests were of that kind, a choice to be made to save someone in a dangerous situation. Sometimes those choices were easy, sometimes not but through them I discovered how it is only in the middle of the river that the truest test of character takes place.

Thank you for your company on this short introduction to goddess Hera. If you would like to know more about Margo Williams' experiences and suggestions for how to survive in the hereafter, read this book. Now available from Amazon.

Book cover link to purchase Olympian Goddesses and Gods Consequence
Olympian Goddesses and Gods Consequence now available from Amazon.co.uk
Useful Links

Homer's Iliad