Where Some Ideas Are Stranger Than Others...
CHAPTER EIGHT: HERA
Adamasteia - untamable; inexorable
Admete/Admetus - untamed
Aedon - nightingale; the songstress
Aegophagos - goat eater; title at Sparta
Aeigenetes - immortal
Agestratos - leading the host
Aiolobrontes - wielder of forked lightning
Aiolomitres - with gleaming belt
Aiolopis - of the gleaming face
Aiolothorax - with gleaming breastplate
Akraea - of the citadel or highest point; the ever powerful; worshipped on high
Alalkomenia - war cry; Moon strength
Alexida - averter of ills
Alkais/Alkea - mighty one
Alkidameia - tamer of might
Alkmene - strength of the Moon; originally independent Goddess
Alkyone - queen who wards off (storms)
Alphesiboea - white cow; bringing many oxen
Ambologera - delaying old age; Spartan title
Ammonia - of the city of Ammon; identifies Hera with Isis
Anastasia - she who stands in heaven; more literally, she who stands up
Anaxo - queen; often given as the name of Alkmene's mother
Anesidora - sending up gifts
Antheia - blooming one or flower Goddess; used at Argos
Aphrodite - foam born
Aphesia - releaser
Archegetis - leader of the original settlement; used at Samos
Areia - warlike
Argeia - brightness; title from which Argos takes its name
Argeopis - bright eyed
Ariontia - Goddess of the high Moon; originally separate Spartan Goddess
Arktophylax - bear keeper
Aspis - of the place of the shield; used at Amorgos
Astrarche - queen of stars; originally independent snake goddess worshipped in a grove during the Diasia
Auge - sunlight
Augusta - oracle; revered; increaser
Aulias - protecting cattlefolds
Basilas - queen; events held in honour of Hera under this name included throwing a spear at a target, flute playing, and sacrifices
Bathukarpos - the Goddess of abundant fruits
Boeopis - cow eyed; later glossed to 'dark eyed'
Boeotia - rich in cattle; originally separate Goddess of the region, sometimes called mother of the Hyades
Boulaios - counselor, upholder of the law
Bouraea - of the hill; from the Cyrenaic Wood
Bousbastos - of the speeding bulls
Budeia - Goddess of oxen
Buphagus - ox eater
Cecilia - lily of heaven
Chalinitis - restrainer
Chelone - turtle
Chera - gravely voiced; Hera as wise old woman
Cherikos - widow
Chloris - green
Chromia - embellisher
Chrusoaspis - with a golden shield
Crete - strong Goddess
Daedale - bright, cunning worker
Danae - she who judges; used in Greece
Danu - she who judges; used in Anatolia
Danuna - she who judges; used on Crete
Dia - Goddess
Doris - bountiful
Dorusthenes - mighty with a spear
Egersimache - battle stirring
Eileithyia - she who helps women in childbed
Elektra - amber; later is a title for Alkmene
Elemon - merciful
Enkheios - Goddess of the spear
Ennosigaea - shaker of the Earth
Epaphus - holy cow; derived from Egyptian deity
Ephippos - horse riding
Epikarpos - bringer of fruits
Epilemenios - she who is by the harbour
Eriopis - wide eyed
Eriphyle - many leaves
Euboea - rich in cattle
Eubosia - good pasture; originally a Goddess in Asia Minor which was particularly well known for its priestess-queens
Eugertea - the benefactor
Eupraxia - doer of good deeds
Europa - full Moon; wide eyed
Eurybia - great strength
Eurydike - wide justice
Eurynome - wide ruling
Euryopes - far seeing
Eurythoe - very nimble
Evarete - kindly
Eve - life
Galataea - milk giving Goddess
Galinthos - weasel; originally separate Goddess
Gamelia - patron of marriage; wife
Ganymeda - rejoicing in wisdom
Genethe Panton - origin of all things
Hebe - youth; downy one
Helikoblepharos - quick glancing; originally title of Alkmene
Hellotis - bright shiner; plane tree
Henioche - charioteer; used in Lebadeia
Herkina - defender; also used at Lebadeia where a spring was dedicated to her
Hermione - queen of the pillars
Hespera - evening star
Hippia - horse Goddess
Hippo - horse
Hippodameia - horse tamer; Hera as Moon Goddess
Hippolaitis - horse priestess
Hippolyta - of the stampeding horses
Hippothea - horse Goddess
Histoponos - working at the loom
Hoplosmia - armed Goddess; used in Elis
Hyade - rainmaker; had temple on Mount Acharnon
Hygeia - healer
Hyperchemia - Goddess whose hands protect; used in Sparta
Hyperippe - heavenly mare
Imbrasia - gold flecked, possibly gilded; associated with Imbrasus river
Ino - she who makes sinewy
Io - Moon
Iole - Moon flock
Iphianassa - mighty queen
Iphinoe - mighty intelligence
Ipoktonus - grubkiller
Iris - rainbow
Kalias - Goddess of the grotto; originally separate Samothrakian deity
Kalligyne - with beautiful women
Kallirhoe - fair flowing
Kaliste - the most beautiful one
Kallistephanos - beautifully crowned
Katagogis - she who leads to the underworld; she who leads downward
Katanikandra - subduer of men; victorious one who brings down men
Keoteja - she who lays down (the law)
Keramyntea - averter of evil
Keraunia - thunder wielding
Kerouessa - fate Goddess
Keroulassa - horned one; used when Hera was represented by the crescent Moon
Kithaironia - likely means 'kithara-player'; most famous for being the name of the mountain at which the battle of Plataea occurred
Kleidouchos - holding the keys; guardian
Kleoboea - famous cow
Kornopion - lotus of the Moon
Koryphaios - leader
Kremnophylax - watcher from the sea cliffs; used at Troezen
Kurotrophos - nourisher of children; originally independent Goddess
Kydippe - glorious horse
Kudros - most honoured
Kyrianassa - queen of the chieftains
Lakinia - of the Earth; used among the Oscians of the Southern Italian Greek colonies
Lakonia - lady of the lake
Lamia - night terror; originally an independent snake Goddess
Lampetia - glowing
Laonome - law of the people
Laosoos - rouser of nations, a title Hera shares with her daughter Eris
Lebadaea - holder of the reins
Leiontochlainos - clad in lion's skin
Leiontodiphros - in a chariot drawn by lions
Leiontopales - wrestler with a lion
Leiriope - lily face
Leukone - white queen
Libya - dripping with rain
Limenia - of the havens; source of birth
Liparothronos - bright throned
Liparozonos - bright girdled; bright belted
Lucina - light giver
Lygodesma - bound with willows
Lysippe - she who lets loose the horses
Megaera - anger
Megistonassa - greatest of queens
Melia - ash tree
Melon - of the apples
Methydrias - from the waters
Metieta - counsellor
Mideatis - of the mead; used in Argolis, originally title of the independent Goddess Alkmene
Monogisene - having no neighbours; unparalleled
Mykenae - of the Earth, vase or cave; originally separate Goddess
Neia - new
Nephele - cloud, obscurity; originally separate Semitic Goddess
Nereis - wet one
Nike - victory
Nymphenomene - seeking a mate; young woman of the new Moon
Nymphia - bride
Oenothea - wine Goddess, from the Cretan word; Hera as source of ambrosia, innkeeper
Onca - pear tree; used in Thebes and Phoenicia
Olympia - divine
Orolytus - running free in the mountains; used at Kameirus
Orsotraina - wielder of the trident
Ossa - the divine voice
Ouranoarche - queen of heaven
Ouranobatea - skywalker
Pais - girl, maiden
Pamona - apple mother
Pandokos - innkeeper
Pandora - all giver
Pangkrateutes - all powerful Goddess
Panoptea - all eyes
Panteleia - perfect to all
Parnopos - averter of locusts
Parthenia - virgin; associated with Samos which was originally called by this name
Pedio - Goddess of the plains
Pelagia - sea
Pelasgia - sea; used at Iolcus in Thessaly
Pero - leather bag (of winds)
Phaedra - bright shiner
Phaedrosopos - of the gleaming countenance; Sun Goddess title used in Argos
Pharygaea - lighter of the Earth; used at Pharygia in Lokris where Hera had a temple
Pherusa - one who carries (the light)
Philomena - Moon lover, lover of wisdom
Phlegra - burning
Phoebestratos - striking fear into armies
Phoronis - receiver of tribute
Phratrios - lawgiver
Polias - of the city
Pontia - of the deep sea
Presba - honoured
Prodromia - advance guard; used at Sikyon
Prokathegeomai - forerunner
Proodegos - pioneer
Prosymna - addressed with hymns; lofty; Hera as psychopompe who leads the Moon and the Sun from the underworld; this was an Argive title, and the Argives considered her the Goddess of religious song
Pythionike - victorious serpent
Pythone/Pythia - serpent (of Delphi)
Regina - queen
Rhamnus - of the buckthorn
Rhoeo - the pomegranate; originally separate Goddess with a dove totem
Scylla - she who rends; puppy
Selene - Moon
Semele - Moon
Sige - silence; originally independent Phoenician Goddess
Sphinx - throttler
Sterope - lightning; of the stars
Strateia - Goddess who goes with the army
Symmachia - the Goddess who is allied in war
Syzygia - the joiner; Hera as patron of marriage
Telchineia - enchantress; used at Ialysus on Rhodes
Teleia - full grown
Telete - far reaching, working from afar
Tethys - disposer
Thaumas - wonderful
Thetis - disposer
Thekla - famous
Theire - crone
Theria - wild she beast
Theophane - appearance of the Goddess; revelation of the Goddess
Thrake - burning Earth; possible reference to volcanoes, hotsprings, or gold mines
Tritopatones - of the ancestors; originally independent wind Goddess
Tymborychos - Goddess of groves
Urania - celestial
Xenia - ally
Zemla - Earth
Zerynthios - rich in game
Zeuxidia - the charioteer; used in Lebadeia, Boeotia
Zoodoteria - the giver of life
Zosteria - girded for battle; used in Thebes, Boeotia
Zygeia - joiner
SYMBOLS AND ASSOCIATIONS
Meaning of Her Name:
1. 'our lady' may have been a title like Despoena (mistress) rather than a name
2. 'courage' from the meanings of its present derivatives, e.g. heroine, heroic
3. 'holy one' similar to Hiera, title of priestess-queens who ruled in her name
4. from 'He era' the Earth, the mature woman to Rhea's crone
5. from Erua or Eriu, Babylonian Ruler of Heaven, considered an avatar or alternate name of Ishtar
6. 'protector' from Herwa
7. F. Max Mueller derives 'Hera' from Svara 'Sun'
Hera and hora are linguistically related words, the latter meaning 'season' or 'hour,' once routinely calculated from phenomena in Hera's domain, the sky.
Centres of Her Worship:
Stymphalus, Lerna, Libya, Thrake, Sparta, Argos, Samos, Korinth, Troy, Antioche, Olympia, Mykenae, Poseidoena, Mount Thornax (Cuckoo Mountain), Nemea, Argolid Mountains, Argolis, Troezen, Epidaurus, Pheneus, Smyrna, Pthiotis, Athens, Boeotia, Krete, Paestrum, Tegea, Plataea, Italian Falisca, Lindos, Termessos, Lokris, Alexandria, Euboea, Attica, Sikyon, Pelloponese, Kos, Megaera, Delphi, Thebes, Tiryns, Lemnos, Phaestos, Perakhora, Lesbos, Sybaris, Eleusis, Olympia, Delos, Lacinium
Other Terms Derived From Her Name:
Heraeon - Hera's great athletic festival
Heraion - temple, sacred grove, any place sacred to Hera
Heraeum - temple built to propitiate a woman's spirit; a sacred figure representing Hera
Hera or Heroine - a brave woman who persists against all odds to succeed; a defender of women and children; the word 'hera' predates 'hero'
Hero - never a male version of a heroine until modern times, the term was once a synonym for ghost because it was a title for men who were sacrificed to her in patriarchal Greece; prior to patriarchy, it may have been a term for male ancestors; both female and male ancestors were once considered sources of help and wisdom from beyond the grave
Here - ancient Greek term for a female landowner
lion, weasel, snake, dragon, cuckoo, peacock, horse, cow, ox, turtle, goose, ram, boar, dove, birds in general, bull, stag, cat, nightingale, diver bird, dolphin, fish, cow, calf, pig, goat, butterfly, moth
pomegranate, lily, lotus, poppy, rush, trees in general, oak, apple, pear, willow, almond, myrrh and olive in particular, mistletoe, orris, buckthorn, honeysuckle
ocean, Karnathos spring, mountains, Moon, rivers, lakes, sky, Sun, marshes, pasture, forests, cities, caves, openings in the ground
Powers and Qualities:
beauty, wisdom, power over thunder, lightning, and storms, philosophy, literature, sports, shapeshifting, controller of winds, weather, strength, leadership, rainmaking, giver of eternal life, purification, prophesy, healing, timekeeping, grace, guile, air, fire
Sun, stars, Moon, headdresses, leather, crown, Moon sickle, labrys, gold, ivory, lightning, bow and arrow, javelin, numbers three and nine, apples, olives, eggs, figure eight, pelta, thunder, constellations of Heraklaea, Aquarius, and Cancer, summer, autumn, poppy seed, mural crown, sacred medallions, bracelets, sceptre, malachite
Patron or Defender of:
women, women's sexuality, horse riders, defensive war, religious freedom, priestesses of sexual mysteries, astronomers, warrior women
Goddesses Similar to Hera:
Juno, Lat, Leto, Lada, Leda, Nemesis, Hippodameia, Akko, Argeia, Thetis, Tethys, Akraea, Budeia, Boeotia, Plutos, Europa, Io, Kyrianassa, Akalanthis, Harpalyke, Uni of Etruria, Ione, Jana, Helen, Helle, Hekate, Eileithyia, Danae, Danu, Danuna, Don
Daughter of Rhea the personification of the Earth, sometimes Hera was said to have been born by the Imbrastos river, under a willow tree. This a late gloss, for her earliest worshippers were on Samos and Krete. More probably she was born in the Styx, the river representing the Earth's birth or menstrual stream, while her earthly birthplace was the city of Mitylene, on Samos. Hera had no father and as the Sky Goddess completed the Earth-Sky-Sea trinity with her mother and the Sea Goddess Thetis-Tethys.
FESTIVALS OF HERA
For the Heraeon, see Aspects of Hera, 'Hera as Triple Goddess.'
- Last Three Days of the Moon of March-April
The Diasia, a word tentatively translated 'feast of the Goddess,' but may mean 'to pass over without speaking' as ghosts were thought to do. It was one of two major festivals concerning the dead and rebirth in the month of Anthesteria in Athens. Ceremonies were held outside of the Athenian citadel and did not require animal sacrifices, both clues to its antiquity.
Festival rituals recognized Hera as the underground snake deity who ruled all creation. There were careful preparations and the laying to rest of the dead in spirit, the old year was cleared away along with debris from the house cleaning, and preparations made for crop planting. Offerings to Hera usually included grain, fruit, cakes in the shape of animals, and blood from the animals cooked for the communal feast. In some places pigs were sacrificed to her, paralleling rites of Demeter. Gift giving was also an important part of the Diasia, especially to children.
- Full Moon of March-April
The Anthesteria 'festival of summoning back the dead' is unusual in that it was fixed on three particular days of Anthesterion, the 11th, 12th, and 13th. Most other several day festivals were allowed to shift at least a few days, specifically to allow them to be set by the phase of the Moon. Originally Anthesteria began when the first shoots appeared in spring, but this became problematic when it and the Diasia were added to the Athenian calendar, forcing a stricter determination of when it should be held.
Anthesteria also absorbed a Full Moon festival of vine pruning and the fermentation of the first vintage. Like the Diasia, it was at root a festival to which the dead were invited, a special series of rituals helping to bring and extoll the new growth and continue the cycle of rebirth. At its end, the dead were asked to return to the womb of the Earth and wait for their next becoming.
Day One: Pithogia 'jar opening'
After a great procession, priestesses opened and mixed the first wine. Hera's altar was covered in first fruit offerings and everyone participated in ritual wine tasting. The day ended with sacred music and dance.
Day Two: The Choes
Jane Ellen Harrison explained in 'Prologemena to Greek Religion that 'Choes' was originally 'Choe,' funeral libations. Not only does this match Hera's origins in Krete convincingly, where pouring liquids was a major part of ritual, it neatly explains several customs on this day of the festival.
Wine, water, or mead were poured into clefts and other natural openings in the Earth. Each adult wore a crown of flowers and received one of Hera's sacred pitchers with characteristic trefoil mouth, symbolizing her sacred wood and Triple Goddess nature. It is from this pitcher the confusion over the day's name comes. The first such pitcher was presented at puberty, recognizing a young person's right to participate in rituals independent of their parents.
The spirits of the dead were also visiting the living at this time, which didn't inspire dread as the idea does now. In fact, there were considered times of potential good fortune for a family. Accordingly, the house was purified, the doorways painted with pitch, and members of the household purified themselves by chewing buckthorn and bathing. An unprepared house might turn away the ancestral spirits. Dinner arrangements included places set and plates filled for them. Following the meal family members exchanged gifts of perfume. Flowers are frequently associated with the flow of menstrual blood, so this may not be as obscure a choice of gift as it first appears.
No business was done and no oaths were taken, perhaps out of concern the dead would take word of all such transactions to the Earth Goddess, which would then invoke the fullness of her wrath on oathbreakers or cheaters at the marketplace. Just which Earth Goddess had become a confused muddle by Classical times. Lerna's temple of Demeter Limnatis was the only one open, yet the Choe was associated most closely with Gaea, Rhea, and Hera.
As a snake deity Hera had a strong chthonic aspect later subsumed in favour of Demeter Chthonia. This change of roles and recasting of Hera's nature and concerns created the supposed 'enmity' between the two Goddesses. If each Goddess had a temple in a town or city, when one temple was open, the other was closed.
Day Three: Chytroi 'earthen pot'
Again, Jane Ellen Harrison's analysis sheds light on the activities on this final day of Anthesteria. Chytroi is a masculine word form, and typically referred to a hole in the ground, while the feminine form chytrai referred to clay pots women made. That the first potters were women shows in many legends of the Goddess who invented the technique, the use patterns of pottery, and linguistic evidence like this. The typical pithos was intended to be buried in the ground as a food container, cistern, or grave as the situation demanded. When used as grave jars, they became synonymous with the womb of the Goddess. Pots of seeds were often kept in the house, representing ancestral souls.
On this day of Anthesteria, a special meal of cooked seeds, be they barley or beans was cooked. Part of the meal was put aside for the dead. The rest was probably eaten by women alone, on the theory that since seeds were soul carriers, by eating them they could potentially give dead family members new life.
Fourteen priestesses of Hera had been busy since the night before, performing various rituals, some holdovers from other Goddesses like Erigone the Hanged One, and others including circle dances. The hieros gamos was also part of the previous night's events.
The next morning young girls carried out the ceremony of Hydrophoria by pouring water into openings in the Earth to commemorate the birth waters of Rhea. Offerings of wheat and honey were left for the dead, who were politely invited to eat. At nightfall they were believed to finally return to the Earth's womb, ending the festival.
- April-May Dark Moon (tentative)
The Torea 'festival of the one who shapes,' the name may also be translated 'festival of the Earth mover.' It was the great religious festival of Samos, a celebration of Hera's tree epiphany and arrival as mistress of animals. It's name, which relates to terms for carving, well boring, piercing, and working materials suggests it may refer to Hera as Creator. There were music and sports competitions, and some worshippers camped overnight around Hera's sacred tree, but the central rite resembles an Easter egg hunt. Hera's statue, presumably still a traditional wooden image, was carried out of her temple by priestesses who hid it in the forest, tied to a lygos tree with the tree's own flexible branches.
The rest of the worshippers then set out to find the image with offerings of cakes and possibly bread. The first person who found Hera's statue doesn't seem to have rushed off to tell everyone else. Instead each person may have searched out the statue for themselves, giving each one a few moments with the Goddess. An important aspect of the festival was that each woman left her hair loose, holding it back only with a circlet or headband. Yet another translation of Torea, 'roping' may then refer to the control people once believed women had over the world by tying and untying their hair.
- Full Moon in June-July
Gamelia 'festival of the married woman' or 'festival of joinings,' still invoked when couples choose to marry in June. It was considered the best time for starting any sort of partnership or long term responsibility. Unfortunately, apart from vague notes about marriages, concrete information on ritual during the festival is slight. Beyond the expected dancing, feasting and singing, there were probably libations and ceremonial knot tying. There may also have been special rites in honour of Hera as Snake Goddess, since she was ruler of becoming and the burgeoning power of two.
- Summer Solstice (tentative)
The Daedala 'festival of the bright and cunning one.' Ultimately Daedalus and his ill fated son seem to have been literary inventions, an attempt to explain things in a manner acceptable to Greece under Dorian rule. The name comes from a title of Athena and Hera as Goddesses of the Sun and the light of intelligence and wisdom. The festival was completely Hera's, however.
It must have required considerable preparation, because not only was Hera's great image driven around the countryside in a cart, numerous small wooden images of her were carried everywhere. Each wooden figure helped bring Hera's blessings to the land, and may be related to the other Southern European festivals in which the Goddess' benign gaze was prayed for and her images hung from trees at the points of the compass.
One image, most likely the original statue from the temple was eventually driven to the Asopos 'clever in all things' river. There the priestesses lifted Hera's statue from the cart and bathed it in the river before carrying it to Mount Kitharon for a sojourn in her shrine there. The end of the festival was marked by a great bonfire fuelled by the smaller wooden figurines. They were too sacred to keep the year round, and were returned to the Goddess.
- Winter Solstice (tentative)
The Hekatombaea, often translated 'offering of one hundred oxen' but more probably means 'she who works her will from the belly' from Hekate 'she who works her will' and om 'belly.' In the latter case, the festival would again be involved with the feminine powers of menstruation, giving birth, and later retaining menstrual blood. All of these were once considered times when women were particularly powerful. The Hekatombaea was the greatest festival of Argos, and has sometimes been confused with the Heraeon, which contained some similar contests and ceremonies.
The event ritually ended and cleaned away the old year and began the new one. The city hearth fire was put out, the hearth cleaned out and stacked with new fuel, then relit. Hera's statue was washed and dressed in a new robe, just as Athena's was during the Panathenaea. Every fifth year running races were held for Hera's great bronze shield. The shield was carried eight kilometres away from Argos to Prosymna prior to the races, probably because the city's patron Goddess was one of Hera's childhood nurses.
Just as Athena had to vie with Poseidon for rulership over Athens, Hera competed with him for Argos. Apparently having learned nothing from his previous loss, the god offered brackish springs and earthquakes. Hera promised to provide rain when it was needed, and taught rituals to the Argive priestesses so that they could call upon her if necessary. At this point, Io was apparently still considered a separate Goddess who was actually Hera's ally. They fought together against Zeus and Hermes in the Mykenaean Grove, and ultimately seem to have won each year. Half hearted attempts to make Io sound like a mortal failed, because even in the new stories, she was transformed into a cow with peculiar powers, changing the colour of her coat from white, to red, to black. And Argos never ceased to worship Hera as its great patron Goddess.
The Argive festival of Hera Phaedrosopos, a pageant of artistic displays and demonstrations. The Full Moon of this month was considered the day of the Heraeon. A week or so before the New Moon was the festival of 'illegitimate children' originally probably a thanksgiving for any children born to Hera's priestesses. The fertility of the priestesses was supposed to be a reflection of the fertility of the land.
Another Argive festival, the Lecherna 'festival of the couch.' The resting place of Hera's statue was carefully strewn with branches, a ritual misinterpreted by later commentators. However, it seems to reach back to some of Hera's original shrines, simple stone or wood images placed in sacred groves.
Beginning of Winter
The Korinthians had an annual 'feast of lamentation' Penthemos Heortes. It centred on Hera as the Snake Goddess who goes into hibernation in winter, taking warm weather and daylight with her.
10th day of the Moon in November-December
Triesperos 'three days,' a celebration of Hera's conception of Heraklaea.
FRIENDS AND PRIESTESSES OF HERA
Adamanthea 'Unyielding Goddess' her worshippers were purified by swinging since to be so suspended was to leave behind Earth, Sea, and Sky. On returning to the ground, ill deeds, ill health, and so on were considered left behind in a place that was no place. Her rites were similar to those of Hanged Artemis.
Aegilaea 'of the sea shore'
priestess-queen of Argos, whose line still ruled during the Trojan war. The king abandoned Argos to fight at Troy and died there. In a set up reminiscent of the Amazons, she had two co-queens, Argeia 'brilliant,' and Deipyle 'defender of the gate.' Their 'mother' was Ampithea 'all surrounding Goddess,' transparently a sea deity.
Aerope 'sky face' formed a Kretan trinity with Klymene 'famous might,' and Apemosyne 'one who joins in throwing out (light).' They were Sun Goddesses, Aerope the rising and setting Sun, Klymene the blazing noonday Sun, and Apemosyne the waning and waxing light before sunrise and sunset.
Aglaea 'Moonlight,' Moon Goddess and friend of Hera.
Akalanthis/Akanthyllis 'unwearied' Makedonian Goddess of the hunt and Lady of the Beasts. her totems were the goldfinch, horse, and her herb. The latter was a frequent decoration on buildings, especially after the Second Peloponnesian War. As patron of song she was strongly associated with Pierus of Muse fame.
Akeso 'cure' sister of Hera, associated with Iaso and Panakhea.
Akmenes 'at the right moment' Goddesses worshipped at their own altar long after all but their status as Moon Goddesses was forgotten.
Alalkomenia 'Moon strength' part of a triad with her sisters Thelxinoea 'charming the heart' and Aulis, 'protecting cattle.'
Alkidameia 'tamer of might' high priestess of Hera at Korinth.
Alkimede 'mighty in cunning' Thrakian patron Goddess of wisdom and strategy.
Aloeis 'of the threshing floor' warrior who imprisoned Ares in a bronze jar, a clear indication he was originally a storm or wind god.
Aniketis 'unconquerable' daughter or Hera.
Anthippe 'horse rival' Goddess of the Chione, a Thrakian tribe. She was a hunter, owned a sacred wood, and could outrun any horse.
Areto 'virtuous rule' Amazon Goddess of justice, teacher of Heraklaea.
Arganthene 'strength of light' Thrakian lady of the Beasts who was also worshipped at Mysia.
Argeia 'brightness' daughter of Hera, a Goddess of hunting who could take the form of a deer.
Argiope 'bright face' Thrakian Sun or Full Moon Goddess eventually absorbed by Hera. She was symbolized by a cow with a white disk marked on each flank.
Asterion 'Sun' or 'star' Cretan Goddess, friend of Europa.
Astydameia 'tamer of the city' member of a triad with Perimede 'encompassing wisdom,' and Anaxo 'queen,' all daughters of Hippodameia 'tamer of horses.' Hippodameia was a Moon and City Goddess, hence the gates of the city were synonymous with her 'yonic gate.'
Atlantia 'impossible to ignore' Goddess of the stars in the sky, her colleges of nine priestesses called Atlantides were famous throughout Greece. One such college included Hippodameia 'tamer of horses,' Rhodia 'rosy,' Kleomatra 'glory of her mother,' Asteria 'of the stars,' Glauke 'owl,' Hippomedusa 'horse wisdom,' Gorge 'grim,' Iphimedea 'mighty wisdom,' and Rhode 'red.'
Budeia 'Goddess of Oxen' also called Buyzge, Goddess of Boeotia. her priestess-queen fended off an invading Theban army so effectively they were forced to pay one hundred head of cattle in tribute.
Chelone 'turtle' Maiden Goddess remembered best for refusing to support the attempt to force a marriage between Hera and Zeus.
Chrysis 'the golden' a priestess of Argive Hera for over 54 years.
Diwya/Dios 'Goddess' Mykenaean Sky Goddess, later absorbed by Hera.
Elektra 'amber' Sun Goddess sometimes considered mother of Iris.
Epaphus 'holy cow' Originally Au Set or Ba'at (better known as Ma'at) of Egypt, she arrived in Greece to become a friend of Hera or one of her alternate forms.
Eresides/Heresides 'followers of Hera,' priestesses of Hera at Argos.
Eriphyle 'many leaves' Hera as Tree Goddess, served by the priestesses Euryale 'wide wandering' and Demonassa 'queen of the people.'
Europis 'full Moon' or 'wide eyed' Goddess of Troezen later absorbed by Hera, her temple existed into recent times.
Galinthos 'weasel' friend of Hera Alkmene and Hekate. She was a Midwife Goddess.
Ganymeda 'rejoicing in wisdom'source of continued life and growth for the gods. (Goddesses could renew themselves.)
Haliae 'woman of the sea' a Goddess of the Aegean islands, a major shrine was eventually built for her in Argos.
Hemithea 'half Goddess' a Thrakian Heraklaea of the Chersonese, daughter of Chrysothemis 'golden wisdom,' sister of Tenes 'strip or tendon' the founder of a colony on Tenedos island. She was strongly associated with caves and other openings in the Earth.
Historis 'well informed' friend of Hera, helped her give birth to Heraklaea.
Honos 'honour' a priestess of Hera-Juno named for the Roman personification of honour.
Hydra 'of the waters' guardian of the underworld and the constellation of Cancer. It was she who saw to it the Crab remained in place, preventing the end of the world.
Hylorhoë 'forester' a female centaur.
Iaso 'the healer' sister of Hera, had a temple at Oropus.
Idaea 'she who comes from Mount Ida' priestess-queen of Thrake.
Ino 'she who makes sinewy' with her sister generals Autonoe 'knowledge itself' and Agave 'high born,' she led a tribe of Theban 'Maenads' to freedom and safety in the mountains after king Pentheus declared war on them.
Io 'Moon,' priestess of Hera, originally the name of an independent Goddess.
Iphinoe 'mighty intelligence,' Iphianassa 'mighty queen,' and Lysippe 'she who lets loose the horses' warrior-priestesses of Hera involved in a civil war in the course of which Iphinoe died in battle.
Iynx 'wryneck' priestess of Hera whose totem bird was believed to help lovers.
Kallirhoe 'lovely spring' Goddess of a Kalydonian spring whose name was borne by Thrakian priestesses of Hera and officiating priestesses of the Heraeon.
Kalybe 'cabin' shepherd Goddess of Thrake. A priestess of Hera was later named for her.
Kampe 'she of the turning point' a Goddess who maintained the division between the world of the living and the world of the dead.
Keroessa 'fate Goddess' daughter of Io 'Moon,' Mother Goddess of the priestess-queens of Byzantium
Krete 'ruling Goddess' deity whose name was eventually given to the island and mother of the Sun Goddess Pasiphae 'shining for all.' According to some myths, the island was originally called Idaea for the Goddess later called Rhea.
Kydippe 'glorious horse' priestess of Hera whose sons refused to allow her to walk to the Goddess' great festival and instead drew her chariot for her. When she asked Hera to give them a reward, Hera advised her they should sleep in her temple that night. The next morning they had been made heroes, for they had died in their sleep.
Kymothoe 'nimble wave' servant of Hera, defender of the Trojan fleet.
Laethusa 'rushing stone' a famous Thrakian queen who defended women. Her most famous act was to bring to justice the king who raped Philomena 'lovely melody' sister of Prokne 'the eldest.'
Laonome 'law of the people' daughter of Hera Alkmene.
Molione 'warrior queen' friend of Hera, named for the Elean Moon Goddess who was a patron of athletic games. She led her people against an invading Dorian army, which was routed.
Mykenaea 'of the Earth, vase, or cave' eponymous Goddess of the people and eventually a region in Greece who was sometimes confused with Hera.
Nephele 'cloud, obscurity' Rain Goddess reputed to be of Semitic origin. Among her gifts to her centaur children was the power to shapeshift. She is related to Nifl 'mist and darkness,' the Scandinavian Goddess who owned the first land ever created, cold, dark, and misty Nifelheim. Nephele may also be a relation of Magog, the deity whose horse riding Amazon followers were hated and feared by the patriarchal Semitic tribes.
Nerio 'valour' a Latin Goddess best known for being a minor deity of the Romans.
Palaestra 'wrestling' Goddess who invented the sport.
Pallene 'brandisher?' a Thrakian queen and priestess of Hera.
Pero 'leather bag (of winds)' one of the titles of a pre-Hellenic Moon Goddess, mother of Alphesiboea 'white cow.'
Philomela 'lovely melody' Thrakian weaving Goddess whose totem was the swallow. One of her priestess-queens was raped and abused by a king in the region, leading to his demise.
Philyra 'lime or linden tree' Centaur Goddess, friend of Hera.
Platanus 'plane tree' friend of Hera. Stands of her totem tree graced Lerna and Sparta.
Plutos 'riches' underworld deity, daughter of Rhea 'Earth,' source of riches and fertility.
Proetides 'generous ones' priestesses of Hera as Cow Goddess.
Prokne 'the eldest' sister Goddess of Philomela whose sacred bird was the nightingale.
Prosymna 'addressed with hymns,' Akraea 'of the citadel,' and Euboea 'good for cattle,' all City Goddesses and considered nurses of Hera. Akraea also had a hill named for her across from Hera's main Mykenaean shrine.
Python 'serpent, dragon' the Serpent Goddess daughter of Hera.
Strymo/Strymon 'harsh' River Goddess of Thrake.
Tarpeius/Tarquinia the Sabine and Etruscan names respectively of this probable Warrior Goddess to whom battle survivors dedicated their shields and those of their defeated enemies. The Romans tried to claim that she was merely a 'traitorous girl' based on the actions of one of her namesakes, a woman who supposedly betrayed the city to the Sabines. However, this is clearly a story meant to denigrate a powerful patron deity of a tribe who were perennial enemies, mythically due to the kidnapping and rape of the Sabine women. She never had a Roman name, although her name was eventually Latinized into Tarpeia. Nevertheless, two early kings of Rome bore a form of her name, suggesting she was a Goddess of royalty, and criminals were thrown to their deaths from her 'hill' implying connections to justice and law. One of her statues continued to hold a place in the Capitoline temple, a curious honour for a supposed traitor.
Tethys 'disposer' Goddess of the ocean, she created the world with Rhea 'Earth' and Nyx 'night.' Scott and Liddell suggest that her name is related to 'tethe' all-mother or grandmother and 'tethis' the sister of a person's mother (later also father) that is, an aunt. Like Nereis, she had numerous daughters, the Naiades who could heal, inspire, or grant prophetic powers. Rather than list them here, their names can be found listed in the Appendix.
Teumessa 'she who works' in a rather puzzling story, Herakles' foster father must capture the totem fox of this possible Trickster Goddess, ostensibly because the fox was destroying Thebes.
Theophane 'appearance of the Goddess' Ewe Goddess who birthed the golden fleeced ram.
Thetis 'disposer' like Hera, a Goddess of women and a shapeshifter. There is disagreement over whether Thetis and Tethys are the same Goddess or not. Thetis had two titles, Argyropeza 'silver footed' and Procharisia 'first in kindness.'
Thrake 'burning land' her name may refer to gold deposits or geothermal heat, perhaps even to the famous volcanic plain Greeks called 'Phlegra' in the midst of her lands. The Goddess ruled sorcery and possibly the Sun and New Moon. A famous healer bore her name and through use of herbs and other techniques became so revered that she was considered an earthly manifestation of the Goddess.
Venilia 'gracious one(?),' one of Hera's sea priestesses.
'Let us sing now of Hera, the woman's Goddess, she who rises from her
throne of gold... child of Earth, daughter of that most ancient of
- from 'The Goddess Path'
by Patricia Monaghan
The greatest deity of the Peloponessus, creator of the world, ruler of the sky, wielder of lightning bolts... was always Hera. The daughter or maiden aspect of Rhea, she was sometimes a Triple Goddess in her own right. All seeing and all pervasive, for she ruled the winds and stars, Hera knew all and was absolutely just. Ambrosia, her menstrual blood, was the source of immortality for the gods, since the Goddesses were able to renew themselves like the Sun and Moon they shared. Later, her Scandinavian incarnation Eire gave sovereignty by handing a golden cup of red wine to the person she had chosen to rule. Hera never had a consort, and ruled all mortals, symbolized by her sacred crown or headdress, high and conical like Cybele's. Worship of her expanded beyond the Scandinavians to the Saxons and Irish, who called her Freya and Eriu/Eire respectively. Above all, Hera was Goddess of Women, their personal freedom, and concerns. Her magnificent thrones were covered in gold and ivory, and in her older pictures she descended from the sky on a figure eight shaped shield, a shield repeating the shape of the Moon's apparent path above and below the horizon throughout the year.
Crafty ruler of the stars, various stories sometimes called hieroi logoi 'sacred words' gathered around Hera to connect her to all the places she was worshipped. She came to have no fewer than three birthplaces, including her own apple gardens in the Far West. In Boeotia she shared a temple with Leto, who seems to have been a Goddess of the night sky to Hera's day, and she could be seen with the Charites and the Sirens. The Nemean lion was her creature, watched over by her friend Selene who carved out the lion's double entranced lair. Aster flowers grew all around Hera's temples, the flower's shape reminiscent of the star and the lotus, symbolism harking all the way back to the Great Goddess of the East. Revered as the queen of the Mysian Amazons on one hand, Hera was called the patron of Libyan Amazonia on the other. She was Goddess-Queen of Tiryns and had a famous sanctuary at Thespiae.
Unlike Athena or Artemis, but similar to Aphrodite, Hera has strong connections to the Middle East, where Goddesses were frequently represented in the form of pillars. All of her early statues were carved from wood, often from the pear tree. Before these more elaborate images with possibly uncarved bases there were simple boards, as at Samos, a pillar at Argos (later with a small statue of the Goddess seated on top), or a part of a tree trunk as at Thespiae. Plataea's carved oak column, the Daedala, was known throughout Greece. Each of these wooden representations was draped with appropriate clothing to reemphasize their purpose.
Also like her Middle Eastern counterparts, Hera often filled the role of City Goddess such as at Hermione, Sparta, Bura, and Knossos. Prior to Demeter's arrival, she was the ruler of the harvest and the underworld, resulting in later confusion the Greeks were never able to resolve, instead resorting to opening the Goddesses' temples on alternate days. There was little such confusion in Argos, where Hera was considered the founder of civilization and corn ears were referred to as 'flowers of Hera.'
A list of Hera's high priestesses in Argos was the base chronology for Greek historians in the same way that lists of pharaohs would later be used by archaeologists. The Ionian historian Hellanikus composed a three volume work, 'The Priestesses of Hera in Argos,' of which only fragments remain, covering just under a thousand years. Those few fragments mention Chrysis, who was priestess of Argos for at least forty eight years, and Alkyone who was in the twenty-sixth year of her tenure in the third generation before the Trojan war. This use of the priestess-listing clearly indicates a need to create an approachable temporal framework for a history, but also corresponds coincidentally with the strong connection between Hera, her priestesses, and timekeeping. To Hera's priestesses was attributed the observation of the twenty-eight day sidereal month. Since Hera ordered the seasons, she may have been one of the earliest Fates as well. Even into the latter half of the twentieth century Greek folk tradition held that Hera continued to attend births with Artemis and the Moirae, choosing destinies for each new child.
It was late before the new priests of Zeus succeeded in suppressing the initiatory ordeal undergone by each of those priestesses, hanging from a tree by the wrists, sometimes with weights attached to the ankles. It served the same purpose as the position of the Hanged Man in the Tarot deck, suspended by one foot from a tree branch, a ritual humiliation and mock death, allowing rebirth into a new spiritual journey. Regardless, priestesses of Hera still carried branches in processions in honour of their Goddess, and the Akraean premonitory continued to be home to a college of her prophets, although their rites had otherwise been forced almost completely underground. There proved to be no way to simply usurp the priestess' right to wear cow's horns in honour of Hera, so they were recast as 'cuckold's horns' and used to mock her male worshippers.
All of the new demands for obeisance to Zeus and the claims Hera was no less and no more than a sort of super Harpy changed none of the rituals of her typical worshippers. Argive women still purified themselves regularly at the Eleutherian stream and wove themselves garlands of marjoram ragani, carrying sprigs of it to the Goddess' temple as offerings. The festival honouring her as Triple Goddess continued, especially since Argos, like Troezen, was made up of three former towns: Iason, Pelasgikon, and Hippobaton. Choruses of women sang hymns to her, and games were held in her honour all over Greece. The Argives held two festivals suggesting her original Amazon nature: one included a contest to knock down a target at a distance (often a shield) with a javelin in honour of Hera as Hurler of Lightning Bolts. The other was the Heraea, a pageant featuring Hera and her figure eight shield. Sacrifices, flute playing, and processions of women carrying jars of sanctified water rounded out the contest for the shield, which represented the cycle of becoming. Her worshippers maintained the great Heraion at Olympia in Thessaly, and insisted that the storytellers remember to acknowledge that all deities rise in respect when Hera enters a room.
It is a telling detail in mythology that Hera is not only Medea's champion, but she too has a life regenerating cauldron. In fact, Medea's story, like that of the vote choosing the patron deity of Athens, reveals how different Greek society was before women were locked inside their own homes. During divorces, women placed their children under the protection of Hera Akraea, sending them to live in her temple if the break up proved particularly acrimonious. She wasn't present only at the ending of unions, of course. Every marriage ceremony had to be performed in her presence with the cooperation of Artemis and Aphrodite.
Up to early Classical times, Greek girls were involved in sports and hunting, and received at least some education. Ionian women in particular were famous for their full participation in boar hunts, wielding spear and net. The Heraeon, all female games celebrated long before the Olympics, allowed women from wherever word of the games could reach to show their skill in sports, weaving, and carving. No men were involved, not to carve the votive statues, referee, or any other function. Olympia was originally the site of one of Hera's greatest temples, a temple long preceding Zeus', and when the name was used as one of Hera's titles she was serenaded with hymns on the mountain by priestesses who each served for a year in the shrine. There she was Lion Hearted Hera, clothed in a lionskin. Another temple of Hera Olympia was at Elea, and its inner sanctum could only be entered by women. Male commentators learned the sanctuary was the home of a sacred serpent that defended the city, and declared the snake must be male, in defiance of Hera's own snaky nature.
Just as a snake was believed to be immortal, renewing itself by shedding its skin, Hera periodically bathed in the ocean or a spring, restoring her youth. The Greek practice of scraping the skin after exercise in the baths with a strigil may have some relationship to this concept. The snake's prophetic abilities reflected Hera's own, for she was second in sight only to her mother the Earth, and had an oracle at Pegae. A crowned snake was synonymous with the Goddess, as was any snake guarding a sacred spring or tree of life. In fact, her snaky form sometimes was the tree of life, or the life taking whirlwind. Heroes weren't believed to go to a sort of heaven. Instead their souls were embodied in snakes living beneath Hera's temples, ready to give advice and oracles. The golden chains later priests claimed to have fastened about Hera's forearms were in fact her golden snakes. Zigzags, spirals, and circles evocative of both water and snakes decorated Hera's dress, while a net pattern adorned her robe, similar to Diktynna or Penelope.
Linguistic studies have shown that the roots of the word 'dragon' have a feminine gender in Indo-European languages. The terms derived from this root, like those developed from 'Gorgon' are frequently applied to peculiar mountain caves that periodically belch smoke and flame, things Hera was particularly associated with. The earliest dragons were not flying lizards, but great flying snakes, incarnations of the Goddess who gave oracles from mountain shrines like Ida, a place dedicated to Hera. Like Delphi, the shrine was rich and respected until it was razed and robbed. Modern archaeologists were later surprised to find two magnifying lenses in the sacred cave, not so surprising if one is aware of the skillfully carved gems and rings found in similar caves on Krete. Both Troy and Minoan Knossos were manufacturing centres of convex lenses, and could easily have produced the mysterious magnifying lenses as well.
Hera's worshippers often included skilled artisans and artists who left behind masterpieces of carving, potting, smithing, music, and poetry. Some of her most famous smiths were Thrakian, because they often worked in the gold so easy to find in the areas they lived in. Modern day tools reproduce their concave cups and bracelets only with great difficulty. Unfortunately, the best known descriptions of the Thrakians come from later observers, who considered them little better than barbarous horse herders who fought and killed each other for sport, worshipping Hera as a winged Mare Goddess in wild drunken orgies. Like the Amazons, how they were regarded changed significantly several centuries after the present version of Homer was compiled. During that earlier time, Thrakians were considered brave, honourable warriors, all the more so because they fought for Troy. Also like the Amazons, they learned to ride horses before the Greeks did. They were famous for music and poetry, so much so the Muses were numbered among their ancestral Goddesses. They even had their own Muses, the nine Pierides.
At the height of their cultural prosperity, the Thrakians were considerably more than rustic horse herders. Thrakian trade connections have been traced to every East Mediterranean civilization, including the Phoenicians, whom they first encountered around 2000 BCE. There were Thrakian colonies on Lemnos and Samothrake, stubborn centres of Goddess worship into Classical times. The Pelasgians, another Hera-worshipping people may have been related to them. Besides having expertise in the use of horse drawn chariots and gold mining, the Thrakians were excellent astronomers and mechanics. Their religious colleges may have had some Amazon connections. Amazons were always victorious and powerful in Thrakian art, fighting off gryphons single handed or sending Herakles running. Later Greek writers recast the colleges as hundred handed monsters who endangered Greek men.
Thrakian religious iconography is typically reduced to a few figures interpreted as 'Herakles' and two main deities, a snake god and a wolf god. In fact, the Thrakians worshipped Hera as Sun, Snake, Tree, and Wolf Goddess. The Sun in their art was typically one of Hera's breasts, filling the sky with beams of light. Other times the Sun was many breasted as Artemis' statue at Ephesus was sometimes thought to be, where Hera also had a famous statue. Unusually, the Greek city of Chalkis portrayed Hera as Sun Goddess as well, although more anthropomorphically. Coins from the city show her crowned with sunbeams, a torch in one hand. Sacred groves played a large role in Thrakian religion, as did the sacred axes they shared with Amazons and ancient Kretans. Hera in three aspects was often shown standing by a leafy tree, another likely source of the misinterpreted story of the 'judgment' of Paris.
To see the connections between Hera and the Amazons more clearly, it is necessary to begin at Samos. The labrys first appeared in Anatolia around 5000 BCE, and Hera was shown helmeted with a labrys in one hand and a spear in the other on Samos, just off the Anatolian coast. Before it was called Samos, it was known as Parthenos, for the Goddess worshipped by the Amazons and their allies all along the coast of Anatolia to the Black Sea, the Siren Parthenope. The later name appears to mean 'death' or 'chthonic' reappearing in the name of the British Goddess-queen Samothea 'Death Goddess.' Eventually Samos or Samia was called Parthenope's mother – and a vague yet persistent connection was made between Hera and the Sirens.
The island's capital was named after Mitylene, famous sister of Myrine, and was considered Hera's earthly birthplace. Amazons ran in full war gear in footraces for her sacred shield, a contest still held after Samos had ceased to be an Amazon colony, called in Greek the Hoplitodromos 'armed footrace.' Similarly, Samian women continued the tradition of going out to the forest to sit on rings of lygos branches during the festival of Thesmophoria 'law bearing.' The branches of the willow-like tree encourage menstruation. During the three to seven day retreat into the forest, each attendee built herself a hut of pine or willow branches and returned her wiseblood to the Goddess, renewing themselves and increasing the fertility of the island. Greek men knew only the most minimal details of the women's activities during the Thesmophoria; when women spoke together in the course of the festival they so filled their speech with ribald talk and foul curses, men were baffled as well as put off by the usurpation of their 'right' to speak similarly. Puzzled by the central role of the lygos branches, men soon began exchanging stories of a mythical lygos plant that flowered in three colours by the Imbrasos river, which was on Samos.
The Argives later tried to claim they were the first and foremost worshippers of Hera, going so far as to annihilate Mykenae when the city refused to agree... or perhaps, to give tribute. The Mykenaeans could lay claim to being the most ancient worshippers of Hera on the Greek mainland, and it is possible that the priestesses titled anemonijeira who were in charge of managing the winds were hers.
Ultimately the position of 'first and foremost worshippers' proved more troublesome than it was worth to the Argive war leaders. Clashing with the Samians in order to treat them to Mykenae's fate led to embarrassing defeats. Then the Samian tradition of armed processions of men and women carrying Hera's sacrifices to her temple began to nettle sensibilities, since Greek women were not supposed to wield arms. The Argive women were as well trained as their Samian counterparts, however, and went so far as to rebel against the king Anaxogoras. They were so successful they forced a division of the 'kingdom.' What this division consisted of isn't clearly indicated by the records, so it may have led to the founding of a new city, or the women may well have left Greece to join the Amazons. The records do clearly record that the women won.
Hera warned the Amazons when Herakles came to steal Hippolyta's belt. Her most famous daughter was herself an Amazon and defender of the Amazon Nation. The Greeks despised what this daughter stood for, but liked the idea of an invincible warrior. So they stole her name and masculinized her into Herakles, who rather than defending a besieged people, violently forced the new patriarchal system onto others. His pathological hatred for Amazons was matched only by Belleropheron, and like his counterpart he was ultimately destroyed by an Amazon.
At Sparta, Hera was worshipped with Aphrodite as one of the patron War Goddesses of the city. They seem to have been considered different aspects of each other, because they shared names. Often she was accompanied by Tyche or Nemesis, and on some Samian coins she was shown being carried by the former, a rather curious bit of symbolism. Like her Amazons, Hera opposed Dionysus because he encouraged chemical addiction and the negative channeling of spiritual energies in women. The preeminent Horse Goddess of the Thrakians and Amazons, Hera owned the white wave horses of the sea, and created the horse shoe to invoke her protection and blessings.
Hera was also ruler of pasture, especially when shown with hair curling like snakes and horn shaped eyebrows. No one claims Isis' long horns belong to any animal but a cow. Yet the Kretan horns of consecration are almost invariably referred to as bull's horns, even after explaining how Europa was a Cow Goddess of Krete and aspect of Hera who wore literal cow's horns or the horns of the Moon. The ram with its curling horns were also once sacred to Hera, as they were to Athena. In fact, the connection between cattle, horns and the Goddess was so strong that the Greeks were astonished when they encountered the hornless cattle of the Scythians, and the accompanying lack of a Scythian Cow Goddess.
Another point of similarity between Hera and Isis is her sacred throne, with which she was synonymous. Merely speaking of 'the throne' or painting the throne invoked her, in much the same way referring to 'the throne' in Britain or Canada means 'the Queen.' A high priestess who sat in Hera's throne became imbued with her authority and wisdom, a concept later stolen by the Vatican for the popes, from which it devolved into the fetish of 'father's chair.' Hera's golden throne marked her as one of the first solar deities and an apple keeper before the upstart Apollo. The Delian Heraeon dates from 700 BCE, preceding Leto, Apollo, and Artemis there. She was shown until late seated in her throne while Zeus stood awkwardly to the side. Sometimes her throne was flanked by lions, or she stood between two lions like Cybele. On Delos she was shown standing, seated, reclining, or winged in any of these positions. Of all the deities on Olympus, only Hera could drink from the cup of Themis, suggesting it may have been like the 'sige perilous' in tales of Camelot. Her figurines have been found from Babylon to Italy. Linguistic evidence suggests that Hera is related to Semitic Eve 'mother of all living.
Like any other Great Mother Goddess, Hera had a number of parthenogenetic children. Sometimes they included a version of the Charites and Hebe, who was often considered Hera's younger self as Kore was to Demeter. The Horae helped Rhea raise her fiery daughter, and later Hera was numbered among the Goddesses who danced with them and the Muses. Each year, Hera restored her youth and virginity by bathing in the Kanathos spring, and she could delay or speed childbirth, both also characteristics of Great Mother Goddesses. Her connections to childbirth in particular led to Eileithyia and Hekate, themselves Midwife Goddesses, to be numbered among her children. Eileithyia, titled Artimides 'best of fortune' shares Hera's Kretan connections. Hera even makes an appearance in the Bible like so many other Great Goddesses. Mount Ararath, one of the most sacred sites of the Middle East is named for her.
Ares is perhaps Hera's least liked child, while Eris and Hephaestus are among the most misunderstood. Probably Ares was better liked before the Greeks remade him into a war god, since he was in fact a snake tailed storm god. He may even have been the original Boreas, personification of the Northern winds sometimes said to have raped the Amazon Oritheia. Interestingly, the Argive Heraeum was oriented based on the rising and setting of the star Antares, neatly implying that Hera was herself the opposition to this rather chaotic god. His sister is another complex figure whose original role was lost. Eris embodied discord and conflict, and like Ares was conceived when Hera spent a time
in contemplation of her divine lily. Often conflict is considered negative, but of course whether it is or not is dictated by human response to it.
Hephaestus has been misunderstood through a combination of rewriting and remarkable mistranslation. He was a rival thunder god to Zeus, and was finally hurled off of Mount Olympus for defending his mother. His title Amphigyneis means 'surrounded by women' in clear Greek, yet has been regularly translated 'lame in both feet.' Apparently the Greeks, like the Hebrews, understood smiths to be Goddess worshippers, or at the least, Goddess supporters.
Hera had many totems, and as such was truly omnipresent. She and Aphrodite shared the sphinx and the griffin. Honeysuckle, lilies of the valley, these could be seen everywhere. The peacock was more exotic, its colourful plumage representing her many eyes in heaven and her shimmering sky robes. The birds were even raised at her Samian temple. The cuckoo, herald of the spring, represented the season's promiscuity and new abundance. A major ceremony invoking Hera as rainmaker involved both men and women, since the need for rain and water was universal. The ceremony was a great rain dance, in which men imitated woodpeckers, another of Hera's sacred birds. Their pecking was believed to be an invocation of rain in itself, and the English name of the bird has provided a common modern slang term for male genitals.
Women imitated cows crazed by heat and thirst. Or, a priestess might drive a bronze wagon full of buckets of water, while other women clacked bronze castanets. The noise and spilled water was believed to encourage a sympathetic reaction from the Goddess, bringing rain and relief from the heat. The castanet clacking was used in the same way to encourage a fever to break. Entire colleges of Hera's priestesses specialized in digging and maintaining wells and irrigation works, serving in the first regular union of engineers. Their rainmaking rituals, from letting water run through sieves to sprinkling water with willow twigs were referred to derisively and recast as punishments... but were not suppressed for fear of drought and crop failure. Like the Shi'ite Muslims, the ancient Greeks seem to have harboured a belief that disrespect to the Goddess could lead to the withdrawal of her bounty.
Hera's temples are late additions, as they are for all Goddesses and gods alike. None existed on Krete or in Mykenaean Greece. Instead, the Neolithic practice of maintaining domestic shrines, sacred caves, and sacred groves continued. The arrangement strongly suggests spiritual and secular life as such were not valid concepts, that no line was drawn between the two. Sanctuaries in nature used by older women and Amazons were gradually established in valleys, forests, on marshy plains where waters met, or on the seashore. Pasture for cows or horses was included wherever possible. The entire island of Euboea was once dedicated to Hera alone, and may have begun as an Amazon colony.
'Hera' was apparently not the name of a Goddess aspect solely worshipped by women, which seems paradoxical given her main interests. This is perhaps the best evidence for the name being a general title, rather than an appellation.
Eventually temples began to replace some of the sanctuaries, such as the Heraeae at Argos, Tiryns, and Mykenae. They represented a sort of communal votive offering or expression of love for the Goddess in the same manner as numerous 'Churches of Our Lady' across Europe. The temples could provide medical and educational facilities much like modern universities. The library in Alexandria was just such a temple. They were bases for priestesses specializing in various arts and sciences. Like the interiors of groves and caves, the inner temple corresponded to Hera's genitals and womb. The pillars on either side of the temple doors varied in symbolism. Among non-Amazonian tribes, they represented the gods of the halves of the year. Among Amazons they represented the guardians before Hera's gates, Kerberus and the Hydra... a three headed wolf, and a three headed snake.
Just as their shrines were often near each other, Hera and Athena's temples were placed in close proximity, such as in Sparta. At Paestrum, Hera had two temples dating from 550 to 450 BCE, with a temple of Athena nearby. Later the temples were forcibly converted into temples of Poseidon, showing Hera was also considered a maritime deity. The Athenian Acropolis echoed Hera's older one at Argos. The value and spiritual power of these great temples did not end after they were completed and staffed, however. When the warring Thrakian and Thessalian tribes of Boeotia finally agreed to a ceasefire, they gathered up their war tokens and carried them to the temple of Hera Erioboea. There the objects were locked into a bronze vessel by a high priestess.
The journey of Goddesses from their ancient prominence to modern times is often convoluted, and Hera's may be among the most tortuous. Despite her ill reputation in Greece after the official change over to patriarchy, she came to Ireland as Eriu, a beautiful woman who could wear the shape of a grey crow. She lived on a hill in the centre of the island, and was so powerful a magician she could literally make the Earth fight for her. The connections between Hera and Eriu have often been ignored, however, and modern portrayals are consistent only in showing her as a spiteful, evil Goddess. She is a villain for her anger and unhappiness, resistance to an absolute ruler only being allowed when Herakles is involved in it. Her feelings hardly seem villainous when Greek myth records Hera as having suffered rape from a god she was later forced to marry who then continued to abuse her. It should be no surprise Hera strives continuously against Zeus' rule.
'I protect the young and weak; I control the powerful and mighty. I
protect women especially, because they do my divine job –
creation of new citizens. When women take consorts, I am there to
bless the union. When they conceive their children, I am there to
bless the seed so that it will be healthy.'
- from 'The Grandmother of Time' by Z. Budapest
DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF HERA
Tamer of Horses
A major factor in the continued popularity of Horse Goddesses was the ongoing value and prestige carried by the horse in many Indo-European cultures. Divine horses, some but not all avatars of Goddesses, created various springs or left crescent-shaped imprints on rocks with their hooves. Most famous of these may be the winged horse Pegasus 'the springs,' who created the Hippokrene spring by pawing the ground with one hoof. Horses were the premiere drawers of the Sun chariot on its path across the sky, guided by a Horse or Horse-Headed Goddess. Female worshippers of Horse-Headed Demeter and the Goddess Leukippe made many of the same associations. However, the most famous Horse Goddess was Hera, and her followers were remembered as 'man-eating mares,' colleges of warrior women who used horse masks in their rituals and were expert in horse riding. The best known story of such a college is that of the Thrakian priestesses Podarge 'swift footed,' Lampo 'shining,' Xanthe 'blonde haired,' and Deino 'fear, terror' whom Herakles was ordered to enslave. The locals revered them so deeply that in the story they unhesitatingly fought the demigod despite his reputation for seeming invincibility.
Pasture for cows or horses was usually maintained around Hera's temples, and the Goddess was fervently adored by many Thrakian tribes. She was skilled at chariot driving and horse training. The sacred pastures on Mount Olympus, thick with trefoil were prime grazing ground for Hera's horses, and she allowed Artemis to graze her horses there as well. As a horsewoman and charioteer, Hera was a particularly Amazon Goddess, and worshipped by many Amazon tribes on this basis.
Hera as Moon Cow
Several of Hera's titles are different names for this aspect, including Europa 'Full Moon,' Io 'Moon,' and Galataea 'Goddess who gives mother's milk.' Galataea began as an independent Triple Goddess. Her Cow Goddess aspect was the benign mother, but as Maiden or Crone she was a fierce, unapproachable Amazon, an aspect assigned to Aphrodite. The first two titles gave Europe and Ionia their names. Troy and Antioche were both founded 'where cows led' which makes some metaphorical sense, since early townsites were generally chosen with cropland and pasture in mind. One version of the creation of the Milky Way is from Hera's milk in this form. Wherever the drops touched the Earth, lilies grew. The Moon cow was sometimes tied to a tree in the Nemean grove, where it changed colour, from white, to red, to black. It was the original 'cow that jumped over the Moon.'
Hera and the Snake
One of Hera's oldest statues, found in the Argive Heraeum, shows her as a tall, stately woman in a peaked headdress. It is made of Hera's sacred pear wood, and her arms are snakelike, curling around her body. The statue is among many pieces of evidence used by Dr. Marija Gimbutas to show that Hera is descended from the Snake Goddess of the Neolithic period. Ares, who began as a snake-tailed storm god, and Python of Delphi then become unsurprising, as does the guardian of her apples, another serpent.
Snakes were believed to be all-wise, because they lived within the Earth. They were especially prophetic, lending the title 'pythia' to Hera's Delphic priestesses. Each year, like a snake shedding its skin, Hera's statue was stripped of its robes and bathed in the ocean. Hera gave the power of prophecy where she pleased, sending her two holy snakes to lick the ears of those she had chosen, or for the particularly fortunate, going to them in the form of a snake herself.
Many medicinal and sacred plants belonged to Hera, some of which she used to conceive her children. Others could take or restore life with a touch, hence the tales of snakes reviving their slaughtered mates with them. Worship of Hera as Snake Goddess probably came to the Greek mainland from Krete. The sacred rodent-eating snakes (apheritikoi) kept in the grain bins were considered her sacred children. The Lithuanians once kept a small ringed snake called the zaltys in the same way, and believed it to be an alternate form of their Goddess Aspelenae. She was always friendly, and also guarded the home and holy hearth fire. Similar beliefs probably accrued around Hera, who may even be the same deity.
To spare the life of any snake was once an act as sacred as kissing a cross in a church. The festival of Diasia, centring on Hera as Snake Goddess was celebrated until late with offerings of clay snakes left at her altars.
Hera, Keeper of Apples
Hera and her apple and pomegranate orchard of the far West seem to derive from Hebat of Anatolia, who became Hebe in Greece and Eve among Semitic peoples. The apple tree is also the most common host of mistletoe. In ancient Greek, Hebe means 'spring growth' and only later 'virgin,' and may once have meant 'life' as Eve does now. The golden apples from Hera's orchards could grant immortality and were guarded by her sacred snake or dragon, which may have been a form of Hera herself. The apples worked their magic in two ways: by acting as a replacement heart in the afterlife, or by revealing holy knowledge to insure rebirth, knowledge beginning with Rhea's sacred pentacle hidden within each apple. Eventually it was said only mermaids could eat the apples, perhaps because they were the only ones who could reach them.
Hera was sometimes shown offering an apple to her followers. Another showing Hera or Hekate as crone ultimately inspired the famous scene in Snow White, in which an old woman offers a younger woman, possibly her younger self, the apple of immortality. The apple was not poisonous until the introduction of christianity.
Besides Hera and her maiden aspect Hebe came the Hesperides, who were a trio of Snake Goddesses who helped tend the apple orchards. Considered daughters of Hespera, Hera as the Evening Star, they also tended herds of sheep (clouds). Other times they were called daughters of Nyx. Like other groupings of sacred female beings, they always helped to tend and secure holy things.
Usually their names were Aegle 'brightness, Moonlight' Erytheia 'scarlet,' and Hesperathusa 'sunset glow.' Each was associated with a soul tree, elm, poplar, and willow, respectively. Some writers considered Hestia 'hearth' a Hesperide as well. Finally, like the Gorgons of Libya, a land known for its orchards, they were approached by passing through a grouping of tombstones. Hera's orchards were, after all, the land of the blessed dead.
Hera as Triple Goddess
Worshipped especially at Stymphalus were Hera's three forms representing the stages of a woman's life. Besides the Stymphalian temple, there was also the great Heraeon, ancient precursor to the Olympics held each Full Moon in August-September, the month of Parthenos. Hera's name or title changed in each stage, starting with Hebe 'spring growth,' Parthenia 'virgin,' or Antheia 'blooming one,' then Nymphenomene 'young woman of strength,' or Teleia 'perfect, completely fulfilled, the fulfiller' and finally Theire 'crone' or Chera 'gravelly voiced.' Jane Ellen Harrison connected these three stages to the three seasons of the agricultural year in the Mediterranean, referring to Hera as the very embodiment of the year whose "...winter desolation reminds us of the mourning of Demeter."
Hebe, also called Dia 'Goddess' was a great pre-Hellenic deity, able to reverse the aging process. She is descended from the Anatolian Sun Goddess Hebat, so clearly her power to make people young again reflected the Sun's power to start the buds of spring after a long, grey winter. Ivy cuttings and some of the first buds and shoots of spring were collected and dedicated to her at a temple in Phlius in Argolis. Storytellers liked to describe her dancing with the Muses but at best only mentioned that she helped Hera harness her horses. Probably her fleet footed, lightly clothed, pale haired image was absorbed by Artemis.
Hera's second stage was concerned with creation as well as relationships. Apple blossoms and petals were thrown during the joinings she presided over, and children were often placed under her protection. If she had borne a child herself, she retreated with her or him to an Amazon tribe or a secluded home with only a few women. During this stage, Hera could also be ruler, law maker, and city builder. Accordingly, she wore the polos (turret) crown, open at the back, held on the head by a circlet. Hung from the back of this headdress was a veil or cloak, referring to the veil of the future and Hera's impending cronehood. On Samos this crown was synonymous with Helike's Axle, the axis upon which everything turned. Polos is cognate to both telos 'fulfillment' and kyklos 'cycle, circular.' The Spartans crowned her their queen with a circlet of golden flowers instead, calling it the puleon.
Where before the Horae had opened the gates of heaven for Hera as she drove her chariot out into the world, now they watched as she walked, cloaked and hooded. Now the holy crone, one who retains her wiseblood, Hera retreated from general society in order to prophesy from one of her mother's sacred caves. Hera's vicious behaviour during the Iliad is actually a confused rendition of her as Crone Goddess, bringer of both destruction and re-creation. She could also spend time in the underworld, as suggested by her connections with the pomegranate. Sometimes Hera the Crone worked mainly as a psychopompe, at others she passed through ordeals in the land of Persphone.
The Heraeon was instituted to celebrate these stages in 1000 BCE by the priestess Hippodameia. Held every year in the month of Parthenos with a greater festival every four, the oldest events were the 160 yard races (approximately 150 metres). Run on a great field near Argos by women divided into the appropriate three age groups, each participant ran with her hair loose in tunics that ended above the knee.
Winners were crowned with olive wreaths, allowed a portion of the cow sacrificed in Hera's honour, and titled Hippodameia in honour of the founder of the games. They were also allowed to have a statue of themselves set up in Hera's shrine. The two highest winners of all were placed in the zodiac, and were believed to be Heraklaea 'Hera's glory' and Melanippe 'black mare.' The older women who served as Hera's mantic priestesses, the Thyiades were not just prophets and weavers but dancing shamans and peacemakers whose college had origins so ancient they had become mythological. Each had a city named for them, and each city was purified by spring water and pig's blood during the festival. While officially the number of matrons in Greek records is sixteen, only nine are named: Hippodameia 'horse tamer,' Astydameia 'tamer of the city,' Lysidike 'dispensing justice,' Hippothoe 'impetuous horse,' Eurydike 'universal justice,' Alkmene 'Moon strength,' Nikippe 'victorious horse,' Antibia 'opposing force,' and Archippe 'dominant mare.' The other seven may have been the 'Seven Pillars' of the temple, dancing priestesses like the Karyatids, or the reference to sixteen priestesses may be to a different group, one of the choirs of sixteen women who sang hymns at the games.
The culmination of the festival was 'the Shield' a procession of the participants in the games led by the winners carrying their prizes, escorted by shield bearers. The quadrennial Heraeon included extra events celebrating Hera of the Amazons. They included chariot races, javelin and discus toss, and probably mock combats.
Lady of the Pomegranate
This aspect of Hera, later absorbed into Juno and then into the christian Virgin Mary became extremely controversial shortly after the Greeks took over Samos. The island had regular celebrations in honour of Hera of the Pomegranate, making hundreds of model versions of the fruit to leave in her temple. The practice continued in spite of all shouts against it by the Greek overlords until it was forcibly suppressed. Pausanias commented on Hera and the pomegranate, showing how strongly the prohibition was enforced:
'The statue of Hera sits on a throne and is great in size, made of gold and ivory... and on it is a crown, having the Charites and the Horae worked on it, and in its hands it holds a pomegranate fruit and a sceptre. And so regarding the things of the pomegranate – for the story is forbidden – I will not speak of it.'
What could the pomegranate's story possibly have been, that it was so violently suppressed, and an often otherwise chatty gazetteer choose to say nothing about it?
The pomegranate was another example of powerful female genital symbolism. In particular, it invoked the womb and uterine blood, the original blood of life. In some languages it was called by terms meaning 'to give birth.' One of the greatest rites, perhaps even the original Great Rite, the so called hieros gamos was when the god earned the chance to drink the juice of the Goddess' pomegranate, ritual cunnilingus.
It appears to be a central tenet of patriarchal philosophies that women's sexuality must be suppressed and controlled at all costs. Any act demonstrating respect and reverence for a woman's sexual pleasure and genitals was effectively a cardinal sin. A person's sexuality and accompanying feelings about it fundamentally guide their sense of self-respect and personal power. If sexual pleasure is the sensation of approaching the divine, and both women and men may feel it, the strongest possible reason to subordinate either gender, the concept of spiritual inferiority, disappears. This in turn demolishes the basis of any societal organization based in the idea that one gender must be superior, and each type of person can be graded and set on yet one more lower rung on some figurative ladder.
Such utterly subversive ideas as the rites of Hera of the Pomegranate represented then had to be suppressed by whatever means necessary by the Greek overlords. Ultimately to no avail. It has always been impossible to fully repress ideas and beliefs that empower women, because they are not exclusively beneficial to them.
The oldest shrine dedicated to Hera is on the island of Samos, extant and actively used from at least the 10th century BCE. The Samians believed Hera's own descendants established it, and Greek poets noted carefully that worship of Hera on the island was not Greek. No influence from the followers of Zeus occurred until late, and was enforced by violence. The Argive shrine is the second oldest of the Heraean shrines, built as the first part of an effort to co-opt the Goddess' power for Zeus, although this backfired and the Argives came to revere Hera over Zeus as consistently as the Samians. Even before the establishment of Samos' central shrine, as in many ancient Neolithic villages and on Krete, the first shrines dedicated to Hera were house shrines. Every three or four houses would be a house clearly used for ritual purposes, containing things like votive objects and iconic and aniconic representations of the Goddess.
The early Samian central temple was, like Artemis' Spartan temple by the Eurotas, long, narrow, and made of stone. The earliest altar was not unlike typical Greek altars, a simple shaped block of stone. The wooden plank embodying the Goddess was at the far end by the altar, and the only light came from the single doorway at the opposite end. The building was modified and rebuilt on the same plot of land from the early Geometric period to the late Bronze Age. The Imbrasos river always flowed through enclosure, and Hera's exceptionally sacred tree was nearby. The Samians believed she had been born beneath the tree, and it often played a part in their rituals. Over time, the altar was built into a serpentine form, and the temple became longer and larger. Wooden columns were set up around it, creating the largest temple of its time and a great centrepiece to the island. The Samians were justly proud of their Hekatompedon 'hundred foot temple' and used its dimensions to set the official standard for the measure.
All of this care and labour was carried out because Hera was considered the island's sovereign protector, preserver of its cities, its defender in war, and the source of its fertility and riches. She began, as previously mentioned, as a Snake and Tree Goddess... symbolically they can be identical... accordingly, Samian statuary representing her generally had round, trunklike bases. They could be simple roughly carved or uncarved planks, or cylindrical figures marked with a yoni on the front. The latter type of carving also graced Hera's Delian temple. After the annual ritual washing of the roughly carved image used in most major festivals, the Samians often suspended it from Hera's sacred tree outside the temple. This was an ingenious means of solving the problem of allowing the people to have their annual moment to gaze at the Goddess and be gazed upon, while maintaining the sanctity of the statue.
By the Archaic period, Greek influence had forced the addition of a new stone statue of Hera, clothed in a white garment. It was referred to as the Goddess Behind and placed in the temple, while the original wooden statue, with its colourful, fringed clothes and shawl was placed in the new proanos. Originally, women's clothing was colourful and sacred just like that placed on the wooden image. The change in placement of the wooden statue has been interpreted as a demotion, however, this depends on where it is viewed from. The Greeks no doubt considered the wooden statue primitive, and by removing it from the inner temple they expressed their belief that it was not as holy, or perhaps as perfect as the stone it had been replaced with. However, the Samians themselves probably considered the change a great insult to their Goddess. Another aspect of their worship of Hera as Lady of the Pomegranate may well have been that the Samians continued treating the wooden statue with reverence, and simply ignored the Greek addition.
The Samian festivals in honour of Hera contributed many details to later Greek events. Samian women led great circle dances, dances later also taken up by the Argives. Officially, the Goddess' statue was of course, removed from its sanctum once each year to be washed in the Imbrasos. Then it 'arrived' again by horse drawn chariot where flowing waters met, in imitation of Hera the Sky Goddess returning from her sojourn on her islands beyond the west. The Samians put on huge choral works, worshipping with dance, music, and poetry. Originally these works were not competitive, although the athletic events and torch races were. Horses, oxen and other cattle were the main animals sacrificed to Hera, but more often they were dedicated to her as votive offerings. Other such votive offerings included models of shrines, pomegranates, female figures with exposed vulvae, and figures of women riding horses.
One of the most peculiar of offerings to Hera at first glance were wooden spits used once as cutlery and then left in her temple. New light on this is shed by the work of Judy Grahn in her book Blood, Bread, and Roses: How Menstruation Created the World In it, she theorizes that when the earliest human women began to menstruate, the apparent relationship between the menstrual cycle and the changing shape of the Moon also demonstrated for the first time that a human being was not an ordinary sort of animal. After all, no ordinary female animal made a connection between the cycles of her body and external phenomena. In effect, menstruation was the first experience that helped women, and later men, realize that certain phenomena were external at all. It made humans self aware. To bring home this point to the young female menstruating for the first time, it was necessary to demonstrate this by forcing her to notice when she was affecting the world around her. So she couldn't simply scratch herself, or pick up a piece of food with her fingers. She had to use some stick for that purpose.
Hera's Samian shrine was built to mimic a vagina, the Imbrasos river representing her menstrual flow. The entire island could be seen as her body. She was considered the maintainer of all cycles, and like every other Snake Goddess, was directly concerned with menstrual mysteries and rituals. The very first worshippers who dedicated those sacred wooden spits were probably all female. Only much later would men participate in the same ceremonies, in one of many ancient examples of men usurping female ritual and magic in an attempt to feel more powerful. The same symbolic and spiritual meanings didn't exist for them, and especially once the Greeks had taken over the island and begun to impose their new pantheon, since the rituals had no real meaning for the male rulers, they were declared meaningless for everyone. Then of course, the rituals soon weren't participated in at all.
Still, before all of those changes, Hera's priestesses remained. She was supposed to have speeded the birth of Admete in order to insure a Greek priest would not be allowed to preside on Samos. The Dorian Greeks lifted this for their stories of Herakles, claiming she insured his cousin was born before him, and so prevented him from becoming a king.
In her Anatolian images, Hera held out her hands in a gesture of blessing, each wrist decorated with long strands of wool strung with beads. A knot was carefully tied between each bead, and the resulting 'fillets' may refer to time keeping, measurement, memory, or the blessings believed to pour from her hands. It is also possible that they are related to the streamers tied onto the regalia of shamans in parts of northern Asia such as Mongolia. The symbolism of the streamers varies with where they are tied (left side, right side, midline of the body), and are considered maeans of tying souls to the shaman so that they are not lost or shaken off. Today it is still common practice in some religious systems to tie strips of cloth to trees, bushes, or statues in sacred places. Therefore, one of her priestess' most important duties was attaching these fillets to the Goddess' image. Hence they were called Kleidouchoi 'binders of fillets' in Argos during the Geometric period. The Mykenaeans titled them Klauiphoroi 'holders or bearers of the ties' in Linear B. The ties may have been those holding together the matrilineal clans and by extension those holding together the universe.
GODDESSES AND PRIESTESSES ASOCIATED WITH HERA
Aegea - bright, pleasing
Agdistis - rocky one
Amma - mother
Anchiale - sea girt; possibly an older name for Crete
Anesidora - sending up gifts
Anteia - light or precedence; approachable by prayer
Berekynthia/Berekunthia - running Goddess of the Mountains; Goddess of wisdom
Brimo - angry one
Britomartis - sweet virgin
Carmenta - singer of prophecy; enchanter
Diktynna - lawgiver
Epistephanos - eminently crowned
Eurynome - wide ruling
Hygeia - health
Ida - forested mountain
Ilia - of Troy, also the name of a type of thrush
Koronis - crow, raven
Krete - Ruling Goddess
Labrine - of the cauldron; double lobed (tentative)
Nikostrate - victor in battle; an alternate name used in pre-Roman times, when she was especially revered as the bringer of religion, poetry, and agriculture
Panacaea - all healing
Pandora - all giver
Panorma - universal mountain mother
Posidaeja - water Goddess of Ida; worshipped especially by the Pylians of Mykenae
Potidaea - water Goddess of Ida
Rha - red one; used in Southern Russia where red coloured 'Easter' eggs were placed on graves as part of her feast of the dead
Silvia - of the woodland; used in Rome, first Vestal Virgin
Titania - sovereign queen; presumably of the Titans who embodied 'elemental' forces; the female Titans are usually listed as: Tethys 'disposer,' Themis 'order,' Phoebe 'Moon,' Dione 'dove,' Mnemosyne 'memory,' and Thea 'Goddess'
Throughout Anatolia, Phrygia, and many lands further east, the greatest Goddess was a mountain mother, embodied in awe inspiring peaks that later people would work obsessively to climb. In India one of her names was Gauri Sankar; in Tibet, Chomo Lung Ma; in Anatolia and Phrygia, Cybele; and on Krete, Rhea. Given the pronunciation of her name, an initial aspiration followed by a rolled 'r' and the vowel sounds, her name and Hera's are all but identical. She may even have come with Hera to Celtic lands, her name rendered Rhiannon 'Moon Goddess' (Rhea-Anna). The two Goddesses are quite similar, the Welsh Rhiannon being an underworld Goddess who owned an impossibly fast horse, and magic birds that could raise the dead or put the living to sleep for seven years. She was also horse-headed, an eater of raw flesh, similar to the previously mentioned 'man-eating mares.'
Rhea has Anatolian origins, as evidenced by Mount Ida on the Troad and its later named counterpart on Krete, and the traditional name of her first priestess 'Melissa.' A hunter, warrior, and Lady of the Beasts, Rhea had no consort, and was part of a variety of holy trinities. One was with Britomartis and Diktynna, in which case she was a lawgiver and founder of civilization. The trinity she formed with her daughters Hera and Plutos was concerned with Earth, Sky, and Underworld. Plutos is actually the original mother in the trinity including Persephone the Destroyer and Kore the Virgin.
Like Gaea, her counterpart and possible descendant on mainland Greece, Rhea was the Earth, the arbiter of its fertility, and the first and foremost prophet. Evidence of her was to be seen everywhere, from the Sibyls who beat bronze drums in front of holy caverns and pronounced oracles, echoing Rhea herself, or the five pointed leaves of the ivy vine or plane tree, called her 'hands.' Birds like the thrush, crow, and cerberus were Rhea's special familiars, and their flight movements were watched for omens. It was always good to see them fly from her sacred cave on Mount Ida, which may have been a volcanic vent, given its predilection to mysterious outpourings of smoke and flame.
Any hunting on Rhea's sacred mountains was prohibited, for there the animals belonged solely to her. Their end was by her flint edged Moon sickle of Time and Fate, never by human intervention. Visitors to the holy mountain took care to remove their footwear, believing they could best absorb Rhea's blessings and wisdom through their bare feet. They may have seen her priestesses carrying her labrys-sceptre, bass drum, and torch. Other times the priestesses may have pointed out a few of Rhea's other, less familiar totem animals and plants, such as the dove, snake, mountain lion, and oak tree.
The people of the Aegean islands, Krete, and Greece may have been most acutely aware of the disparity between the amount of water they could use and drink, versus all the ocean surrounding the lands they lived on. Rain water, dew, and fresh water springs were considered the Goddess' gifts. Only a god was believed to be unhelpful enough to create springs of brackish water. Rhea was famous for striking a rock with her labrys or spear, causing a freshwater spring to burst from it. One of her alternate names was Potidaea 'Water Goddess of Ida,' known better under its Mykenaean spelling, Posidaeja. Later the title was stolen and masculinized to create the consort of Da, Poseidon. Da eventually became Demeter, whose Eleusinian mysteries could not be participated in if Rhea's 'lesser' mysteries were not attended first.
Greek myths are peppered with tales of springs and their attendant nymphs, many of whom began as priestesses of Rhea who guarded them. Still others presided over incubation temples, where people slept in order to have prophetic or healing dreams. Healing priestesses were named for Rhea's breasts, Hygeia 'health,' and Panacaea 'all healing'... a name which, spelt with a 'k' for the Greek kappa rather than the Roman 'c' Panakaea, suggests 'Panachaea' may have begun as the same title. The shrine of Titone was dedicated to her under her names Hygeia and Koronis, a recognition that there can be no life without death.
Today the term crone usually conjures up images of ancient, ugly, often personally unpleasant women. Yet it actually derives from Rhea's title Kronia 'time,' Crone Goddess of wisdom who also brings about death and dissolution, allowing creation to begin again. The sparse details of her great festival, also called Kronia suggest she may have been worshipped with the same joy and fervour Kali is today in India. During the festival, the general population participated in music, dancing, and processions. Patriarchal rules were ignored, and the end of the harvest was toasted. Rhea was celebrated as the Great Reaper who gathered the souls of the dying in the same way people gathered sheaves of wheat. Rituals honouring the dead were probably also performed, such as setting a place for the recently deceased relative and filling the dishes with their favourite food and drink.
The Galaxia ' feast of mother's milk' included a feast, libations poured into clefts in the Earth, and a special porridge of barley flour boiled in milk and eaten by all the festival participants. Held in February-March, people also exchanged gifts of candy and offered golden containers at Rhea's temples.
Most of all, Rhea was remembered for her children, who besides Hera and Plutos, included ten other parthenogenetic children, the Daktyls. In this aspect she was called Anchiale 'sea girt' a possible early name for Krete, and the name of a city on the Kydnus river founded in her honour. The Daktyls were the deified founders of Rhea's colleges of priestesses who taught her great inventions: writing, law, smithcraft, pottery making, weaving, creating images of deities, and so on. Sometimes they were born when Rhea threw two handfuls of dust into her cave on Mount Ida. Other times they were said to have been born from the Earth her fingers pulled up as she gave birth to Hera. They were often associated with the omphalos.
Names of the Dactyls:
Ida - wooded place, mountain
Angerione - mortar
Celmis - smelting
Aknome - pestle
Epiridea - harbour of Mount Ida
Iasa - healer
Damamene - taming strength
Paeonia - deliverer from evil
Heraklaea - glory of Hera
Akesida - averter from Mount Ida
Pre-Hellenic Goddess of Earth, Dawn, and Sea. She was a Fate Goddess, as evidenced by the meaning of her name, 'she who judges' and her alternate names Kameira 'sharer out' and Abantias 'confronting purity.' Her name has also been translated 'dawn.' Lerna was one of her great holy sites, and the Argive tribes were known as the Danai. The Danaids were her fifty priestesses, all charged with protecting and maintaining the water supply that preserved Argos from drought. They were especially associated with sacred district of Lerna, which was considered an entrance to Tartarus and was especially fertile, likely due to its high water table. They tended and dug wells and irrigation systems, and their sieves once represented a wise woman because of their knowledge of engineering, stonecraft, and the rain charms they performed with them. Linguists have determined that words used by the ancient Greeks for stoneworking and building are culled from a non-Greek, even non-Indo-European language.
Another reason for their reputation as wise women is Danae, like Hera, is a Snake Goddess. Although Danae was reduced to mortal status in Greece, she too seems to have been carried by fleeing worshippers to Celtic lands, where she became known as Don, ancestral Goddess of the Welsh, and Danu 'knowledge' of the Irish and the Aegean. In Gaelic her name gave rise to the words dán 'poem' and d´na 'brave, daring.' The Welsh called the constellation Kassiopeia Llys Don 'Don's Court'. Irish legend records that Danu's people were driven out of Greece and travelled across Europe, through Denmark and across the sea to the island's shores. Other of Danae's worshippers may have fled to Rhodes, where she became the head of the Triple Fates of the island, Kameira, Linda 'binder with a linen thread,' and Ialyssa 'wailing woman.' India also has a Goddess named Danu, her name a word used specifically to refer to precipitation. She is the mother of Vitra, who has since been demonized, and in ancient texts is compared to a cow.
Ancient Greek legends still record two Amazonian Goddesses associated with Danae, Hypermnestra 'of heavenly fame' and Amynome 'blameless one.' Amynome created a spring called by her name at Lerna by... of course... striking a rock with her labrys. Expert wielder of spear, bow, and arrow, she hunted deer by moonlight. Before patriarchal revision, Hypermnestra seems not to have been an accomplice in the Greek takeover of her homeland, but a participant in the resistance with the rest of her 'sisters.'
Abundantia/Abundita - abundance
Amphiprosopos - the double faced
Angina - she of throat infections; curer of sore throats
Antevorta - looking backward
Augusta - revered; prophetic; one who increases
Avernuncus - originally separate midwife Goddess; name may refer to psychopompe function
Bona - good; Goddess of female characteristics
Caprotina - of the fig tree; patron of erotic love
Cardea - heart; ruler of door hinges, guards all users of door hinges from evil, especially children at night; her symbol was a white thorn and her festival day was June 1
Carna - body; ruler of the internal organs, seems almost synonymous with Cardea in terms of festival days and other concerns
Cecilia - lily of heaven
Ceres - of the corn
Cinxia - one who loosens the girdle or one who dresses the bride
Coinquenda - Goddess of All Trees
Collatina - Goddess of hills
Columba - dove
Conciliatrix - the persuader
Covello - aspect of Juno called on as the month starts (on the calends)
Cunina - protector of children in the cradle
Cupra - giver of copper, a name applied to Juno in Etruria; began as a separate Goddess of gentle death and personification of light
Curiata - of the court; used when Juno took part in affairs of state
Curitis - primeval mother of the clans; used particularly for Juno as fierce mother who defends her clan; Romans initially had the same name as their mothers because it was the mothers who were believed to carry the clan soul
Domidusa - one who guides across the threshold; leader in the home
Domina - she who rules
Empanda - generosity; once name of separate Roman Goddess of generosity with food and protection, her temple was constantly open to provide food and refuge
Eutychia - happiness
Fatum - unchangeable necessity
Februa/Febris/Februlis - fevered, heated, she who drives away evil spirits; concerned with the heat of fever and sexuality, originally a separate possibly chthonic Goddess. The month of February in general was originally the last month of the year, when the dead were sent on their way to rebirth by a combination of purification and ritual sexuality. The second of February (Februalia) was the day on which offerings were made to the dead and was dedicated to Februa. She also presided over the February 19 festival of the dead, the Feralia. No fewer than three temples were dedicated to her in Rome, her main temple sited on the Palatine Hill. Later the Lupercalia 'day of the wolf,' a festival of sexual license and calls upon the Wolf Goddess for safety held in February was dedicated to Juno under this name.
Ferentina - 'she who quickly comes to help' originally a separate Goddess of Ferentium, possibly a deified city founder
Feronia - wolf; related to the Goddess Tellus, her name may mean Earth; originally a separate Sabine and Faliscan Ancestral Goddess of the Earth and forests; her province was healing by external heat, including by bathing in hot springs like thse in Central Italy; each November 13 slaves were set free at her temple on the Campus Martius; a particularly ancient clan in Rome carried out her ceremonies and performed feats such as walking across burning coals
Fluonia/Fluona/Fluvonia - Goddess ruling the flow of menstrual blood
Fors - she who bears or brings
Fortuna - the Fate
Fulgora - flash, lightning; Goddess of lightning
Gamelia - patron of marriage; the Roman festival of Gamelia was on January 1
Hippona - ruler of horses; later made into a separate Roman Goddess
Hora - hour, time, season; Roman Goddess who rules time and space; from this association Juno became symbolized by the six-spoked year wheel
Inferna - of the underworld
Interduca - in the midst of the house
Iuna - dove
Jana - of the gateway; gatekeeper; originally a separate Goddess
Juga/Jugalis - uniter
Junonis Stella - Goddess of the planet Venus
Juturna - she who turns (?); originally a separate healing Goddess whose sacred spring provided the waters for many Roman sacrifices; her festival was also celebrated on June 1
Lacinia - promontory, flap
Larunda - House Goddess; originally a Sabine deity with a festival day on December 23; she was an underworld deity associated with Lara 'ancestor,' Morta 'death,' and Tacita 'silent, secret, private'
Libitina - Burial Goddess; formerly a separate deity; a death register and funerary equipment were kept inn her temple
Luceria - of the daylight hours
Lucetia - light bringer
Lucina - of celestial light; may be related to Etruscan Lusna 'light,' her totem was was the red ladybug
Lucinda - lightbringer
Martinalis - virgin mother of Mars; literally 'warrior'
Mater Matuta - morning mother; absorbed by Juno, protector of sailors and harbours because she controlled the ocean; worshipped from central Italy to northern Africa
Matri Regina - queen of mothers
Matrona - protector of women throughout their lives
Megale - the greatest
Moneta - advisor, admonisher; called mother of the Muses in this aspect; worshipped on the Capitoline mountain away from the capital proper
Mors - death; originally a separate Latin Goddess
Muliebris - Goddess of Women
Natalis - Birth Goddess
Noctiluca - she lives by night
Nuxia - one who perfumes the doorpost
Obstetrix - midwife; she who stands before
Ossipagio - strengthener of children's bones
Pamona - apple mother
Parthenos - virgin
Populonia - of the people; involved in affairs of state
Portunda - protecting harbours
Postverta - looking forward
Prema - one who goes before; usually considered presider over newlyweds
Primatana - she of the first day; Juno was specially worshipped on the first day (calends) of each month
Pronuba - arranger of marriages
Prorsa - born head first
Quartana - she of the fourth day; originally an alternate name for Feronia
Quiritis - of the spear
Regina - queen of heaven; had a festival on June 2 centred on her temple on the Aventine hill
Rumina - provider of mother's milk
Saturnia - bountiful one
Servatrix - she who preserves
Sispes - progenitor; alternate title for Juno Sospita at Lavinium where she had absorbed a War Goddess of the area; in this aspect Juno wore a goat skin with the head still attached and arranged over her own together with distinctive shoes with upturned toes and carried a small shield and a spear
Sororia - growing up with women; sister; Juno as companion of girls through puberty
Sospita - the preserver; new shrines were built for her each February 1st; a sacred cave and probable original sanctuary of Juno Sospita was also the home of a sacred snake
Soteira - saviour, preserver; Juno as fierce protecting mother
Tertiana - she of the third day
Thana - of the shrub; Etruscan name
Thekla - famous one
Tutela - Goddess of the city
Ultrix - she that avenges
Unxia - Goddess of the anointing oil
Ursimnei - she who speaks, orders; Etruscan title of Juno
Virginalis - the untouchable
Viriplaca - the appeaser; Juno as peacemaker in marriages, had a sanctuary for women on the Pallatine
Before the forcible addition of Jupiter, the Capitoline hill was ruled by the maiden-mother-crone triad of Juventas, Juno, and Minerva. Juventas, Goddess of healing and literal youth who was embodied in the fountain of youth has almost completely disappeared. However, like Juno and Minerva she probably had Etruscan origins. The Etruscans built the original triple-sanctuary containing shrines the Romans later adapted for their own use for their Triple Goddess. Minerva was also a Healing Goddess, and like many Crone Goddesses, presided over death and rebirth. Titled Mensa 'measurer of time' she developed from the Etruscan Goddess Menrva, who, like Athena, ruled wisdom and war. The lunar calendar was her most famous invention. More information remains on Juno herself because she was made the unwilling wife of Jupiter, yet was never completely assimilated to Hera.
Long before Rome was established, the Etruscans were the major cultural group in Latium, which is itself named for the Cow Goddess Lat. She may have been an aspect of Uni, whose name is the root of 'universe.' The word may be translated 'word of the yoni' or 'word of the dove,' for Uni and its various cognates tend to mean both. The first meaning of her name was probably yoni, of which the dove was a symbol. What her name does not mean is 'one' and may be best translated as 'unity of all.' Uni's sacred flower was the lily, and she was also a warrior, thrower of lightning bolts in defense of her people, and she was a special protector of cities and city dwellers. Many statues and pictures of a helmeted Goddess with a spear in former Etruscan territory may depict her or Minerva.
From this Etruscan Goddess Juno inherited her name, the dove, peacock, cowrie, her bolt hurling warrior aspect, and the great yoni shrine of Port Pyrgi in Caere. She was never belittled and pushed aside in Roman culture the way Hera was in Greek culture, until the later violent persecutions attending the institution of patriarchy. This in spite of the fact the Roman patriarchs seem to have lifted the Greek dysfunctional, male dominated pantheon and almost completely annihilated what preceded it. For this reason Juno's priestesses, titled Junona, continued to wear the toga even after the female clan heads who had first worn it were banned from doing so. Elite Romans attempted to deter the practice by claiming that only 'promiscuous' priestesses wore the toga, but the claim seems to have convinced no one. The Roman flamen dialis (high priest) promptly lost the office if the Roman high priestess (flamenica) divorced him or died before he did. The systematic cruelty and propaganda used to 'convert' Rome, by the patriarchal Romans who worshipped Jupiter and later by christian fanatics mirrors events long before in Greece.
Like Hera, Juno was Goddess of women, and many of her ceremonies were for women only. She ruled all of a woman's creative life, from children to art. Every woman had a soul, referred to specifically as a juno, a literal 'idea,' a Goddess within. Each woman's birthday was a feast day of Juno, in honour of both her and the little juno, source of life and sexual drive. Terracotta lamps were often given female genital shapes with the wick orifice placed in the position of the clitoris, where sexual fire lives. Both Juno Lucinda and Diana Lucifera (or Lucinda) brought sexual knowledge as well as light.
Juno also had no consort, and her son Mars, the embodiment of the harvest, was conceived from her own lily. He, like many dying gods, was conceived when a Goddess consumed one of her own yonic symbols. The idea was later applied to Mary in thoroughly bastardized form, by dropping its mythical qualities and Mary's divine nature and adding ludicrous images like the angel Gabriel using it as a funnel for god's semen. Mars was conceived on March 25th, the original Roman new year's day. He died with the harvest, was stripped naked (husked), and placed in the cauldron of rebirth by Minerva. Nearby was a three headed dog, an independent version of Kerberus.
During the winter months, Mars' soul was carried by a magpie, an oracular bird. The movements of birds in general were used to make predictions, especially about the weather in the earliest forms of augury. The first augurs were priestesses of Juno Augusta who were mothers. In this form Juno controlled the harvest and was a prophet and wise woman. While her month of June was considered best for weddings, her month of August was considered best for births. The harvest was ripening, and the swelling of life and power in nature was believed to bring riches and luck to a child.
The month of February was also dedicated to Juno, under her title of Febris or Februa. At the Full Moon or forty days after winter solstice, both meanings of being fevered were acknowledged, and perhaps 'cabin fever' as well. Respect was paid to the dead, and there were numerous sexual rites, possibly with a view to reincarnating dead relatives. Juno was also the giver of the apple of immortality and ruler of the dead, recognized at the end of every meal with a final course of apples. Modern Valentine's day is an oddly displaced version of the Roman Lupercalia, also held in February. Oddly displaced, because Roman festivals were always scheduled on odd numbered days which were considered particularly lucky, possibly because the resulting number does not lend itself to being split in two halves. Such symbolic splitting is a poor omen for rituals that are meant to bring people together. Since the Lupercalia particularly invoked the Goddess as giver of sexual pleasure, the origins of the 'heart' symbol seem less mysterious. Betty Dodson has noted, "When we realized the heart design was the shape of a woman's genitals when she held her outer vaginal [sic.] lips open, St. Valentine's day suddenly had a whole new meaning."
Although Minerva was the original ruler of the menstrual cycle and the Moon calendar, these were absorbed by Juno. The calends at the end of each month, once corresponding to the New Moon was women's particular time to worship her. Armed with shield and spear, this was the Warrior Goddess aspect worshipped by some Amazon tribes.
The winter solstice was the festival of Juno Lucina. She brought back the Sun's light after the longest night, just as she did inspiration and enlightenment. Juno Lucina opened every newborn's eyes and cared for each person's eyesight throughout their lives. The garish peacock was her chosen psychopompe, oracle, messenger, soul carrier, and vehicle of apotheosis for her female worshippers. The Romans sometimes attempted to use peacocks for augury, and Roman priestesses carried fans made of peacock feathers in Juno Lucina's honour. The constellation of Aquarius was sometimes rendered as a peacock or even a goose for her as well. The more common red ladybug was another of her psychopompes. Juno Lucina's image is still familiar today, although she has been aged and her red gown changed to a frumpy outfit trimmed with fur... now she is called 'Mrs. Claus.' On Sicily, where Romans once believed the Sun kept one of her homes, 'St. Lucy' is still a favoured and widely worshipped saint.
Juno's greatest festival was the Junonalia on March 7th, when two statues of her made from cypress wood were carried around Rome. Behind the statue bearers came twenty seven young women or girls singing hymns to her, and behind them still others crowned with laurel branches and robed in red. The statues were finally enthroned in state, presiding over a dance held in an open field. The main festivities complete, Juno's likenesses were returned to her temple.
Under her title Moneta, she protected the city of Rome. Her sacred geese were said to have foiled an invasion attempt, while Juno's voice boomed from the sky to warn the city of an earthquake... a legend that has lead to the enduring, unfounded belief that a rumbling sound generally precedes a large earthquake. Like Athena, she warned her followers against fighting for any but just cause. In fact, Juno Moneta may have represented the old system of matrilineal descent and blood relationship, once the greatest deterrent from violence. Curiously, the Roman mint was in her temple, the geese acting as a sort of security system, a not entirely ludicrous idea. Geese can be notoriously aggressive. It is by this quirk of circumstances that the word money means literally 'warning.'
Three other great festivals of Juno persisted into late Roman times. One on July 7th, a day of mock fights 'under fig trees' by female servants, a remnant, albeit a pale one, of Amazonian games. The other was at the beginning of March, called the Matronalia. On that day, women demanded respect for their Goddess from the men in their households. History records only that they demanded the men give money offerings, but their tasks were probably more extensive. What the women did is mainly unknown. Men were barred from their rituals, and the women left no known records of them. What little is known is that the women's rituals centred on Juno's Esquiline temple, where women were always specially blessed and left gifts for the Goddess. On the 'nones of the fig tree' Nones Caprotinae, on July 7, both free and enslaved women feasted beneath fig trees and wore crowns of fig leaves.
Adamantaea - unconquerable
Amphiprosopos - double faced
Anassan - mistress
Angelos - messenger; used in Sparta
Antaea - addressed with prayers; Goddess of speeches
Apanchomene - the hanged one
Aphrattos - unspeakable one; used at Tarrentum
Arkuia - bear
Argiope - savage face
Astikos - of a city
Azostos - ungirt
Basileia - queen
Baubo - frog, belly
Bolos - far shooting or far throwing
Boukolos - ox herder
Brimo - angry one; the roaring
Chthonia - of the underworld
Chrusoandeimopotichthonia - Goddess of the underworld who wears golden sandals and drinks blood
Eileithyia - she who helps women in childbed
Einalian - marine one
Empylios - of the gate
Enodia - gatekeeper; first a title of Hekate gradually attributed to Artemis, Selene, Persephone, Brimo, and Bendis
Epaine - awesome
Epipyrgidia - of the tower; used on Athenian Acropolis
Eukoline - good tempered
Eurippa - horse finder
Genetyllis - protector of births
Hegemonen - guide
Helike - willow
Hersechthonia - speaking from beneath the Earth
Hexacheira - having six hands or six ways
Hipparete - horse speaker
Hippos - horse
Kalliste - most lovely one; used in Athens
Kelkaea - wearer of half length boots
Kerket - Goddess of the powers of night; part of the Heliopolitan Egyptian religious pantheon, she sometimes had a frog head and as a result was absorbed by frog-headed Hekate
Kleidouchos - guardian of the gate, often a high priestess title; Hekate's keys were to the underworld, which she could open at will
Kore - maiden
Kourotrophos - nurturer of youths
Krateis - strength; associated with the sea
Krokopeplos - lady of the saffron robe
Kyno - bitch, originally a complimentary title
Laginitis - creator of the hare at Idrias, which was formerly called Hekatesia
Lampadophoros - torch bearer
Leiana - lion
Lillith - screech owl, lily
Limenoskopos - overseer of the harbour
Lochais - aiding during childbirth
Maera - glistening
Mageus - one who kneads
Meilinoe - soothing one
Meisopomenos - labourer of the Moon
Moera - older than time
Monogenes - born alone
Munychia - Moon Goddess
Nykterian - nocturnal one
Nymphe - bride
Obstetrix - she who stands before
Oistroplaneia - causing the ravings of madness; originally may have meant 'blessing with the power to prophesy'
Oreobazagra - of the mountain of the bards(?); Moon Goddess title
Ouranian - celestial
Ouresiphoites - wanderer in the mountains
Oxythymia - quick to anger
Panopaea - teacher of all
Pantos Kosmou Kleidouchos - keeper of the keys of the universe
Perseian - daughter of Perseis the Sun Goddess
Perseis - destroyer
Pheraea - she who brings forth; originally a separate Goddess associated with sheep
Phileremon - lover of solitude
Phoinikopeza - ruddy footed (from painting with henna)
Phosphoros - lightbringer; used when Hekate carried torches
Phryne - the toad
Polyboteira - generous giver of nourishment
Prokathegetis - she who goes down before, psychopompe; Libyan title
Propulaia - she who stands before the gate; Kraus suggests that before Perikles Hekate was the regular steward of the Acropolis
Prothegetis - leader; Lykian title
Prothuraea - before the door
Psychopompe - guide of souls
Purphoros - torch bearer, fire bearer
Rhododaktylos - rosy fingered
Selene - the Moon
Skylakitin - lady of the dogs
Soteira - savior; used in Phrygia
Tauropolos - bull killer; occasionally rendered bull herder
Tergeminus - of the triple birth
Therobromos - of the cry of the beast
Trevia - of the three ways, originally 'of the crossroad' because crossroads in ancient Greece were where three roads met in a 'Y'
Triaucheros - having three necks
Triformis - having three faces
Triktypos - triply resounding
Triodotis - of the three ways; worshipped where three roads meet
Tymbidian - sepulchral one
Early in Egypt's history, each tribe was led by an older woman called a heq, hag in English. Due to her age, wisdom, and knowledge, it was the heq who determined tribal law, insured important knowledge and skills were handed down, and helped maintain the health and well being of the tribe. The heq was the mortal avatar of Hequit, Goddess of magic and midwifery, giver of wealth and wisdom. Also spelled 'Hekat' by Western scholars, her name meant 'the great magician' or 'she who works her will.' Budge considered her an avatar of Nut (Neith). She could take the form of a frog or a frog headed woman, and was also called Akka or Akko. Long before Osiris, she was represented by grain which seemed to die and begin to rot before sending up shoots. Hequit presided over this miracle, the creation of life from death and the cycle of renewal. Grain was measured in 'heqats,' an amount represented by an eye now known as 'the eye of Horus.' At creation she patiently touched each person with an ankh to give them life, then gently cleared their mouths of birth fluid with her little finger... both rituals long repeated by her priestesses. The later 'Ceremony of the Opening of the Mouth' was the version of the mouth clearing ceremony for the dead, usurped by priests. Fearful of touching the dead with their hands, the priests used a tool usually described as an 'adze.' It mimics the shape of a hand in profile, a scythe, and the Big Dipper, one of Hequit's sacred, seven star constellations. The entire ceremony derives from the process of reanimating the dead performed by Hekate herself, as shown by the models of her totem frog found in every tomb in Egypt from every period before the invasion of monotheistic religions.
The phylactery, a ubiquitous charm among the ancient Egyptians and Hebrews has a name that means literally 'amulet of undertaking, amulet of protection.' The first version of its contents was a lodestone carved into the shape of a heart and engraved with Hequit's image.
The Egyptians believed Hequit came from Nubia, and Herodotus believed she came to Greece by way of Colchis, and that the Colchians came from Egypt. In Greece her name was rendered Hekate, still meaning what it did in Egypt. Some Greek writers tried to find meanings in their own language for this non-Greek name, altering it into forms like Hekatabolos 'the far off one.' The way the Old Europeans worshipped Goddesses similar to her was not lost after the arrival of Indo-European peoples, and Hekate was long remembered as the Goddess who inspired wild, ecstatic dances later attributed to Maenads. Just as her name hardly changed when new people began to worship her, Hekate remained a crone, psychopompe, and sorceress.
According to Greek myth, Hekate had a daughter named Skylla 'she who rends' or 'puppy.' Skylla ruled the prophetic seabirds, could take bird form, and was also associated with Egypt. Occasionally she was titled Petraea 'the rocky one.' She allowed none into the underworld but those her mother deemed worthy and usually performed the task of separating out the unworthy in the form of a three headed dog with blazing eyes, a form Hekate was known to take herself. In fact, the dog was a common alternate form of Hekate's priestesses, including Hekuba, who served Hekate under her title Lampadophoros. When dogs were sacrificed at all, they were sacrificed only to Hekate at two of her temples, and nowhere else. The second of her sacred, seven star constellations was Canis Major, which includes the 'Dog Star' Sirius.
As Hekate travelled further from her homeland she was made part of various trinities or considered a literally three headed being. Sometimes she appeared with Helike and Helen in Troy, a major part of the religious framework there. Other times she was teamed with Hebe and Hera, or Persephone and Artemis. More often she was the Crone to Demeter the Mother and Kore the Maiden. The reason for Hekate's role in the story of Demeter and Kore was lost in confusion after it was rewritten to include Hades. Originally entering the underworld to face death was part of Kore's initiation into priestess/Goddesshood. Hekate was the psychopompe who guided her into the underworld. She preceded Persephone's chariot with a crown of rays on her head for that reason, being also the embodiment of the Sun at night, and eventually became the former Goddess' eternal companion. In Egypt she was regularly present when Isis performed her greatest magical feats, many of which involved the initiation of the Nile flood and the return of the fertility of the land, so it seems Hekate’s connections to the drama of the seasons is exceedingly ancient.
The theme of liminality, of belonging to places that themselves belong to neither of the places they join is the second major thread in Hekate's mysteries and nature after magic-inventing and wielding. Such places are typically referred to as 'chaotic' and as such have inspired both fascination and discomfort, the latter especially in proponents of dualistic philosophies and religions. One such group, the Middle Platonists of the 1st century BCE advocated the dualistic concepts of Plato. To these philosophers, there were two worlds, one Sensible (understood with the senses and one Intelligible (understood by philosophy, that is the mind). The two worlds were so strictly separate that the only way to connect them and so make Middle Platonic ideals achievable was through the ever-liminal Hekate, whom the Middle Platonists represented as the Moon, which marked the 'threshold' between them. In fact, this may even be the ultimate source of Hekate's association with the Moon, which can't be verified until this time, when the waning and dark times of the month were dedicated to her, a bare gloss over her real concern, the dark underworld associated with the dead.
Hekate is also queen of the daimones, beings who go between mortals and deities. In 'Hekate Soteira' Johnston considers these daimones to be the replacements for deities now considered separated from the world of mortal beings. Yet even before she was ruler of the daimones, Hekate was queen of the restless dead caught in between the underworld and the earth because they had died young or died by violence. These souls actually seem to be the same as the daimones initially, acting as temporary psychopompes when called upon, then receiving a makeover and a name change as the deities became distant and disembodied.
Hekate was a major calendar Goddess, her three heads representing the seasons of the year. The heads could be a lion, dog, and horse, or serpent, horse, and dog. Kerberus, the three headed dog or monster may have been her avatar or an alternate name for Skylla. By the time Hekate became established in Rome, she was called an aspect of Venus or Juno.
Inventor and perennial user of magic, Hekate granted magical powers only to those who treated her with respect. Her temper was fierce however, and storms came or left as she ordered. It was always best to treat old women with respect, for they could easily be the Goddess Herself. Angering her could bring storms and ill fortune. Also a prophet and protector, travellers, athletes, communicators, and fishers called on Hekate's guidance and protection. Yet another embodiment of Fate, Hekate could alter any aspect of a person's life she wished. Women and children were her special charges, whom she protected whenever they left home. Shortly after birth children were presented at crossroads to receive her blessings. Women's household purification ceremonies 'oxythumia,' using broom, incense, and water were always carried out in her name.
Hekate was the prototypical witch of fairytales in all but evil intent. The frog, once a common symbol of the fetus was sacred to her; to be turned into a frog was to be granted rebirth. She took the form of a frog herself to retrieve the Sun in the form of a golden ball or glowing apple each day from where it had fallen into the underworld. A version of this begins the story of the 'Princess and the Frog.' The broom, a symbol most strongly associated with her in Rome, represented Hekate as marriage maker and midwife. The Wiccan handfasting ceremony, which includes jumping over a broom to symbolize sexual and emotional union derives from Hekate's marriage rites. After each birth, Hekate swept the threshold to chase away illness and negative energies. Her wand and mirror represented her as magic user and prophet. The apple, later shown as poisoned, was the apple of immortality given by the Goddess herself. Finally, Hekate was always represented on Earth by older women, often priestesses.
Like Artemis, Athena, and Hera, Hekate absorbed a variety of similar Goddesses, including: Pheraea, a Thrakian Shepherd Goddess, the Hearth Goddess Hekale of Attica, and Arkadian Maera 'the shining,' the region's first Goddess of the Dog Star. From these Goddesses came other totems connected to Hekate besides the dog. They included the female wolf, horse, snake, poppy, mandragora, smilax, and aconite. She was as likely to ride a chariot drawn by snakes as horses. Hekate was eventually worshipped from Troy to Thessaly and Ephesus. She entered Thessaly by absorbing the local chthonic Goddess Enodia, whose priestesses were famous for their knowledge of herbs and drugs. Her mystery rites were held on Aegina, and may once have also been held in Idrias, formerly called Hekataea. There was a great Hekataion at Karia in Lagina, possibly a pilgrimage site for worshippers in Galatia, Lydia, Lykia, Pamphylia, and Paphlagonia. The Goddess Medea visited Hekate’s famous herb garden according to the Orphic Argonautica, due to its complement of herbs and minerals.
She was especially well loved in Byzantium, a highly strategic city because it could control the movement of grain from the Black Sea region to Athens. During the siege of the city by Phillip II of Makedon, the desperate Byzantines prayed and sacrificed to Hekate, pleading for her intercession. When Phillip failed in his attempt to take the city, the Byzantines danced in the streets and changed the sigil of the city to the star and crescent that even today marks the national flag of Turkey.
It was difficult for later Greeks to reconcile the crone Hekate with both the deadly wolfbane, formerly called hekateis, and the healing willow. It was easy for them to connect an older woman with death, but not with birth or life. So they separated Hekate's title Helike from her and built a new Maiden Goddess around it. Helike became the willow's custodian, very nearly a dryad. So the wands representing the Pole Star around which the heavens seemed to turn were called 'Helike's Axles.' Grain baskets made of willow strips used in processions were also dedicated to her. In thoroughly contradictory fashion, Hekate was believed to preside over the welcoming ritual for a new child, always performed seven days after her or his birth.
Called the amphidromia, literally 'running around,' the midwife and her assistants washed their hands. One of them, perhaps chosen by lot, was delegated to carry the new baby around the family hearth in the centre of the house. This ritual marked the official end of the sixth day of special ceremonies and rites, when the priestesses finally rested, a practice later absorbed onto the 'sabbath day' of several other religions. Well wishers sent gifts of food, especially octopods. Octopii and cuttlefish may have derived their suitability for this purpose from Krete, where they appear to represent dynamism, health, and strength. Three days later the baby’s official naming ceremony was performed, and the family had the largest party that they could manage, sacrificing an animal for the feast if they could. Finally, Hekate's head midwife-priestess hid the child’s umbilical cord, likely by burying it under the house to protect it from harm.
Hekate as Goddess of the Dark Sun helped Persephone rule the underworld, understood by early Greeks and many pre-patriarchal peoples to be a land of rebirth. During the festival of the dead, Hekate allowed ghosts to leave the underworld to visit their kin, sharing wisdom and oracles. The rest of the year she kept them beneath the Earth, ready for their next rebirth. Her power to drive away malevolent energies was such that women placed her image on their doors to drive away intruders, in company with the family watchdog, the Goddess' familiar.
Hekate's few children were all famous. There was the aforementioned Skylla, who was actually an Amazonian Goddess and watcher over the gates of the underworld rather than a cursed mortal, and the funerary Sun Goddess Kirke. Helping her in the underworld were the Empusae, so-called 'forcers in' who were sometimes centaurs, sometimes women with the hindquarters of a horse, beautiful women, dogs, or cows. They may have helped as Hekate, garlanded with snakes and oak leaves, wielded her whip and cord. The cord was for both measuring and binding. Sometimes Hekate carried a snake or sword instead, ready to prophecy or to cut the thread of life.
Hekate's most enduring symbol is the crossroads and the equal armed cross, the latter still preserved today in mathematical symbolism as the plus sign. Road intersections were generally where three roads met in a 'Y' until the beginning of industrialization, so her original symbol may have been that letter rather than the equal armed cross. One of her shrines initially graced each road intersection in much of Greece and Italy. In Greece and Thrake, each Full and Dark Moon was when offerings of small cakes and candles were left at these shrines, where she would collect them, accompanied by her dogs on her nightly travels, easy to tell from Artemis by the torch she held in each hand, or her garland of oak leaves. Her sacred number was not four, but five, from the sacred pentacle, the basis for the pagan self blessing, tracing a pentacle over the forehead and upper chest. Eventually patriarchal Greeks tried to claim crossroads were sacred to Hekate because she had been left to die at one as an infant, and survived because 'shepherds' happened to find her. A curious acknowledgment of the wandering priestesses and Amazons who rescued many such unfortunate children.
Hekalesian Rites were held at Marathon each year around August 13, and may have included the well known Hekate suppers, which were usually a part of funeral ritual and included the sweepings from the house as it was ritually cleansed after a death inside it. Prior to the meal, a censer made from an unfired clay pot was used to purify the house. It would join the usual cakes and candles, and the remnants of the evening's meal as offerings in one of Hekate's shrines, and because it was unfired would dissolve away along with the meal itself under wind, Sun, and rain. During the meal itself, held late at night, magic was taught. Women held further ceremonies afterwards, painting their hands and feet with Hekate's sacred henna. Sacrifices to Hekate were typically of black animals such as sheep or dogs, and embalming materials like honey. The entire animal had to be eaten or used after the sacrifice, otherwise the participants were tainted with blood guilt for wrongfully ending the animal's life. At this time of year new images of Hekate were also hung on housefronts and before gates and temples to invoke her protection. Garlands of protective garlic may once have called on her as well, because bulbs of the herb were often dedicated to her.
Worship of this powerful Crone Goddess had been forced mainly underground by Roman times, although there were ways to find her covens. Romans unwittingly gave directions to the knowledgeable by warning them not to visit the fountain of Hekate Trevia when the Moon was at its height. Such a visit would force a person to return again and again.
Powerful high priestesses of Hekate, considered her avatars and often ruling as queens only faded away after the fall of Troy. One such woman, Hekabe 'moving far over the sea' or Hekuba 'moving far off' was the last ruler of the doomed city. Her name was originally Kubaba, another name for Cybele, so she may have been named for a form of Cybele or a Cybele-like Goddess. All priestesses of Hekate were believed to be capable of stopping the Sun, Moon, and planets in the sky and lengthening the day or night as they pleased
Acting as leading prophet and sorceress of her order, Hekuba's curse doomed Odysseus to his wanderings. Ultimately, the curse was never broken, for it wasn't long after he returned to Ithaca that he was driven out again. To be cursed by a priestess was to be a pariah from any village or city where a person could attempt to take refuge. Hekuba was considered Phrygian (daughter of Eunoe 'good wisdom') or Thrakian (daughter of Euagora 'good gatherer,' Telekleia 'far reaching fame,' or Glaukippe 'grey horse'), areas famous for Goddess worship. The college of priestesses Hekuba led included: Laodike 'justice of the people,' Kreusa 'queen,' Polyxena 'friendly,' Kassandra 'destroyer of men,' Medusa 'female wisdom,' Medesikaste 'one who becomes wise through ascetic practice,' Lysimache 'releasing war,' and Aristodeme 'the best of the people.'
Argeia - bright
Dendritus - she of the tree
Helanaus - ship destroying
Helandros - man destroying
Helepolis - city destroying or light of the city; also a title of Iphigeneia
Kynopteros - swan plumed
Rhigidenes - she who makes rigid
Sparta - sown one
A complex pre-Hellenic Goddess whose name is enshrined in the tribal designation 'Hellene' and may be related to the name Hella, Goddess of Krete's oracular caves. Cultural complexities are such that Helen and Hella could well be the same Goddess, just as Esther was the same as Ishtar, the former name being merely a Hebrew pronunciation. Other forms of Helen's name include Hellene, Helene, and Selene. One of her alternate names was Sparta 'sown one,' mother of Eurydike 'universal justice,' and Danae 'she who judges.' Sparta is of course, a name also given to one of her great cities, and each Spartan queen bore her name. She was an Amazonian Sun and Healer Goddess, one of her oldest temples was at the former Mykenaean site of Therapne, and another was in Argos. Nillson considered Helen to be Mykenaean, but is is quite possible that she is older than that. Some writers called her an attendant of Aphrodite, and one of her good friends was Astyanassa 'Strong Goddess' a writer of erotic poetry. The telltale 'assa' in her name shows she was from Krete.
Helen's name means 'bright one, light, Sun, fair,' 'spring' when speaking of Helen as a Harvest Goddess, and 'destroyer.' Like all Goddesses of the Sun, Moon, or Sky, she was hypnotically beautiful, another quality she shares with Aphrodite, who was sometimes erroneously called her mother. Under her title of Dendritus 'she of the trees,' she ruled both trees and gallows, and was worshipped at Spartan Dendra and at Rhodes. Her tree festival was celebrated annually at Platanistas, and a 2nd century BCE image of her from the area shows Helen with offering fillets hanging from her wrists. Helen was worshipped on the island until the late nineteenth century. As Rhigidenes 'she who makes rigid' she ruled death of all kinds, including the orgasmic death of the penis. Sparta revered her under this title as well, and the combination of characteristics suggest she may have begun as a Pillar Goddess like Asherah or Aphrodite, adored with ecstatic dance and sexual rites. She was also a Swan Goddess, for the Swan Goddesses Nemesis and Leda were added to the list of her mothers. The Dioscuri were hatched from an egg laid by one of these Goddesses, and embodied the two halves of the year.
Helen's most widely worshipped form was as Sun Goddess, ruler of the ocean. Helle's 'fall' into the Hellespont is a transparent rewrite of how the Sun or Moon seem to look as if they fall into the sea as they set. The sea of Marmax was originally named for her, associated with the mares that drew her chariot through the sky. She was the Full Moon to Hekuba or Hekate's dark, wearing a magic necklace of the wandering stars. Helen was 'of Troy' because she was a Goddess of that city too. The Greeks would have found her there even without Paris supposedly kidnapping her, starting the infamous war.
Eventually Helen was confused with Artemis, from the rites of Hanged Helen on Rhodes led by Polyxo 'itchy,' and her sacrifices in Lakadaemon. The rites of the Hanging Goddess are still celebrated wherever Helen was known in antiquity. 'Helens' priestess-queens of Lakadaemon who performed the sacrifices were considered Amazons or the descendants of Amazons. The Amazonian nature of their Goddess was demonstrated by her ability to force enemies to drop their weapons with a mere glance. Protector of Sparta, her statue was the locus of her power there and could not be removed. An amphora painter of 500 BCE depicted Helen as a Thermodontine Amazon.
Later her mother was supposed to be the Amazon Chrysippe 'golden mare,' or the more famous Kleita 'invoked, sound.' Stories of Troy recorded that its Helen lived for a time on Mount Ida on the Troad with Kleita's sister, the prophetic Goddess Arisbe 'forceful warrior.' Perhaps the mountain shrine was one of the refuges of her followers. Her own daughters seem to proliferate over time. First there was Hermione 'pillar queen,' then the fierce Amazonian Goddesses Iphigeneia and Melite of Corcyra. The latter was revered by the Melitaeans of Thessaly as the founder of their city.
Sparta and its environs continued to worship Helen so long that commentators from other parts of Greece were scandalized. The women of Sparta owned most of the land, and unmarried women were free to participate in sports and weaponsplay, in the first naked like the men. Each year the Spartans held the great festival of Tithendia, when a goat was sacrificed to protect women from marriage and nursing mothers sang hymns and ate breast-shaped loaves. The priestess-queen of the region chose and deposed kings, raising the ire of men like Menelaus who had been so dismissed.
The Hellenophoria probably would also have drawn disapprobation if the similar Thesmophoria hadn't been celebrated elsewhere. Both included a procession of women carrying baskets of sexual symbols made of bread or pastry. The baskets were called 'helenes.' Women started the sacred fires the same way in both festivals, with burning lenses. Besides the usual processions, music, and dancing, the celebrants participated in sexual rites, possibly including the sacred 'marriage' of the priestess-queen and her chosen consort of that time. During her tree festival, sacred trees were decorated with lanterns or covered lamps. It was considered particularly auspicious if the trees still had fruit on their branches when these decorations were up.
Considering her connections to the harvest and its protection, it should be no surprise Helen was connected to the snake, former guardian of the grain bins. Her herb helenium was once supposed to raise the dead or grant immortality, rather than simply 'curing snake bite.' The plane tree sloughs its bark annually similar to a snake shedding its skin, and was also dedicated to Helen, its five pointed leaves called her 'hands.'
Besides the various Goddesses named as her mother, Helen was affiliated with others who were her sisters or daughters. Among her sisters were Timandra 'worshipped by men,' Phylonoe 'tribal wisdom or great wisdom,' and Klytemnestra 'praiseworthy wooing, or great in memory.' Her most famous daughter was Hermione 'pillar queen,' who became a novice priestess at the age of nine. The founder of Melitaea in Thessaly, Melite 'attention' was also Helen's daughter, named for the Goddess of Korkyra. The region would eventually become famous for its witches because the women refused to give up their Goddesses. Iphigeneia 'mother of a strong race' was sometimes called Helen's daughter as well. Under her alternate name, Sparta, she had three daughters: Asinie 'protecting from harm,' Eurydike 'universal justice,' and Amyklas 'of the place where the cattle do not tread.' Asine founded three towns in the Peloponnesus.
Helene-Selene's influence on Greek faith held true long after the tale of the fall of Troy had reduced both her and her mother Hekuba-Hekate to helpless spectators. The most famous example of this faith is the tale of Stenichorus the poet. He went blind after writing a poem placing all blame for the Trojan war on the Goddess, his sight returning only after he wrote a second poem to recant the first. The Anasteria, a firewalking dance associated with Helen was still being performed in the early 1980s in Thrakian and Makedonian villages, although with women no longer allowed to dance it.
Helene-Selene's influence on Greek faith held true long after the tale of the fall of Troy had reduced both her and her mother Hekuba-Hekate to helpless spectators. The most famous example of this faith is the tale of Stenichorus the poet. He went blind after writing a poem placing all blame for the Trojan war on the Goddess, his sight returning only after he wrote a second poem to recant the first. The Anasteria, a firewalking dance associated with Helen was still being performed in the early 1980s in Thrakian and Makedonian villages, although with women no longer allowed to dance it.
A few of Helen's followers made their way West, like those of Hera, Artemis, and Aphrodite. Her name became Elen or Elaine 'the lily maid,' queen of all pagan Britain. The Welsh called her Elen of the Hosts, who responded to the arrival of threatening armies by building highways all across the country so that the Welsh could muster their own forces to defend their homes. Crystal burning or scrying balls and sieves have been repeatedly found in women's graves in Britain, harking back to Helen's worshippers lighting hearth fires with burning lenses, or performing rain charms with sieves. One of her relatives was considered the founder of London.
But what of the so-called 'beauty contest' that will darken a mortal Helen's fate, and according to Homer annihilate the city of Troy after a ten year war? Jane Ellen Harrison considers the entire episode to have been completely misunderstood:
"In at least three fourths of the vases on which the 'judgment' was depicted, there was no judge, no Paris. Moreover, in no single instance did the golden apple appear. Clearly in the fifth and sixth centuries BC [sic.], to which the vases belong, the apple was unknown, and the figure of Paris non-essential. The ordinary way of representing the myth was to depict the three goddesses walking in solemn procession behind Hermes.
Moreover, the three rivals are, in the earlier vases, barely differentiated; indeed, on one vase they have dispassionately attired themselves in one huge cloak. Only in one instance can we find any hint of a presentation of a beauty contest."
One reason for the modern misunderstanding of the 'beauty contest' is the still persistent habit scholars have of privileging the written record over any others, especially when other records contradict it. Harrison does not argue that there is no contest, rather she suggests that the Goddesses were rivals in giving gifts. The mysterious trio may in fact have been a version of the Fates who present the various boons and abilities an individual uses throughout life.
This sometime daughter of Hera and mother of Ares may have begun as a Snake, Sun, and Earth Goddess. The Thrakians called her Semela or Zemla, meaning 'Earth.' The sounds b and m are interchangeable in the Thrakian language, making her name Sebele or Cybele. Phrygians called her Zemelo, and made her a tamer of lions and ruler of the Earth and lights of the sky. It isn't clear whether they considered her similar to Cybele or the same as Cybele. She is related to the Lithuanian goddess Zemyna, and to Slavic Mat 'Syra Zemyla, 'Moist Mother Earth.' Throughout much of Asia Minor her name meant 'subterranean' and she ruled the underworld. She was a typical Earth-Sun-Underworld triple deity subsumed under Hera, whose alternate forms included the snake and the dog. She was associated with lightning because her shrines were built wherever it struck the Earth. Semele is best known today for her unpleasant fate at the hands of Zeus or rather, his priests, who wished to take control of and eliminate her Maenad priestesses. However, other cultures include myths of the Divine Mother being touched by the god's lightning and becoming pregnant. A major part of what used to make those myths so impressive was that the mother survived the experience.
Her titles were Thyone 'ecstatically raging queen,' Keraunia 'thunder wielding,' and Kottyto 'Moon.' The experience of religious ecstasy is a major theme of her great festival, an event that took over the entire city of Athens once a year, the Lenaea 'Festival of the Wild Woman.' On this day and night, most of the city ignored patriarchal law. Processions wound throughout the city amidst drama, poetry, and singing contests. At night the processions were lit with hundreds of torches as Semele's nine dog masked priestesses, the Maenads, sacrificed a bull with solar or lunar markings. It was cut in nine pieces, one burnt for Semele, and the rest eaten raw by her female devotees who followed up the meal with drinking and wild dancing. The display was unnerving for many men who had lost their connection to religious joy through personal experience, and lived in continual fear of a woman's rebellion in retaliation for years of brutality and mistreatment.
The Horae, rulers of the seasons, hours, life cycles, and matrilineal social order were the daughters of Themis. Sometimes they were sisters or alternate forms of the Moirae and were always the companions and helpers of Hera, whose name may be related to theirs. They were concerned with the care and harness of Hera's mares, and opened the heavenly gates each dawn when she drove out as the Sun, or later in the year when she left for her time as prophetic crone on foot. They are not as well known for one of their major functions as they could be: as midwives to the Goddesses, in their own right or as assistants to Hekate.
Horae may be translated 'seasons,' 'hours,' or 'phases,' and in the singular the name is nearly equivalent to 'weather.' So in Athens they were Thallo 'budding,' Auxo 'growth,' and Karpo 'autumn or ripening'; Anatole 'rising,' Akme 'highest point,' Thallo 'spring,' and Karpo to the South; and Themis' daughters were named specifically Eunomia 'discipline,' Dike 'justice,' and Irene 'peace' or Agapeta 'loved one,' Irene, and Theonia 'divine thought.' They were the original angels, their blessings called on for the autumn sowing during the Pyanepsia. Thallo and Karpo formed a triad with the Goddess Hepta 'seven' at Pteria. They were represented by a golden, double-headed eagle, a motif frequently used by the Thermodontine Amazons. The three towns forming Troezen were named for yet another version of of the Horae: Antheia 'flowery,' Hyperea 'being over head,' and Pitthea 'Pine Goddess.'
Auge 'shining,' Kypridos 'of love,' Euporia 'abundance,' Dysis 'sunset,' Sponde 'music for libations,' Gymnasia 'to practise naked,' Titanis 'of the giants,' Nymphes 'bride,' Orthosia 'upright one,' Pherusa 'one who bears,' Musike 'Muse-like,' Telete 'far reaching,' Mesembria 'of the noon hour,' Kale 'beautiful.'
'She who creates,' 'the water drawer,' or 'mother' depending on which dialect her name is pulled from, she is better known as the pathetic nymph Echo. In fact, she was a Great Goddess of ancient Anatolia, progenitor of Akkad. Her name shifted from Akka to Madorakka, the Goddess who brought all life from the ocean, commonly considered her womb. For pre-Hellenic peoples she was an oracular Birth Goddess also associated with mountains. Her word was all-powerful, from Narkissus' death curse to the final tones of her voice fading into the distance as creation was completed. She was also called Ossa 'the voice' or 'rumour,' sometimes considered synonymous with Hekate, and the Etruscans may have called her Akka Laurentia. The underworld dwelling of souls after death and before birth was Akko's hall of echoes, or else her hall of mirrors.
Among the more unusual religious monuments created for Goddesses are echo chambers, constructed from perfectly squared stones. They were not mortared, but were given concave and convex surfaces which fit together exactly. The result is a remarkably earthquake resistant chamber, in which a whisper could fill the space with reverberations. The ancient echo chambers and Akko's functions suggest the idea may be based around the echoing sound of the mother's voice for the baby in the womb. Both Hera and Akko were connected to the ocean and midwifery, and Akko may have helped Hera during her own birthpangs. Akko's daughter Iynx 'wryneck,' named for a type of bird that like the owl had the disconcerting ability to turn it's head through almost a full 360 degrees, was involved in rainmaking ceremonies.
Included here because she is associated with Selene, Helen, and Hera, she was the prophetic Goddess of a fresh water spring. Her consort was the shepherd Silenus, who pined away repeatedly for the Goddess as she spent awhile with him on land, then returned to watery form and flowed away, indifferent to his pleas. So the storytellers wrote, never noticing how very like the Moon Silenus sounds.
Sileni was a River and Stream Goddess of Anatolia and Phrygia, while Selene was a pre-Hellenic Moon Goddess. Both were muddled together and masculinized by later Greek mythographers. The river Selene flowed around the temple at Eleusis, which suggests it may have corresponded to a path to the underworld.
One of the many Goddesses in the area of Greece and Anatolia whose name means 'Sun, light,' titled Hilaera and Lampetia, both meaning 'the shining,' and associated with the Moon Goddess Mene. In time she absorbed her fellow heavenly light-associated Goddesses Phoebe, Mene, Leto, only to absorbed herself by Hekate. Other such Goddesses were sometimes called as her daughters, especially the triad of Pandia 'Goddess of all,' Nemea 'grove,' and Erse 'dew.'
Her animal totems included the ox and the horse, preferably when white, leading to confusion between her and Hera as Moon Cow. Whether appearing with a horse's head or as a centaur, mounted or driving a chariot drawn by horses or oxen, she travelled across the sky each day, sometimes wearing a crescent decorated crown. At times the Greeks named her among the Titans with her mother Theia 'Goddess or light.' Some of the early Amazon tribes may have begun in colleges of fifty women known as Selene's daughters. They were the 'college of the silly' that is, the Sun Blessed.
'Queen of the chieftains,' also called Iphianassa 'mighty queen,' and Hipponoe 'horse wisdom,' so she may have been a triple deity. A Thrakian Death Goddess whose name was sometimes translated 'cypress' her sacred tree, her priestesses were called Kyrianissi, and may have been similar to Hindu dakinis, sacred women who tended to the dying in their last moments. Her worship had spread to Boeotia before she was subsumed under Hera, who absorbed many Thrakian Goddesses. A mortal warrior-priestess of the Goddess fought with Iphinoe 'mighty intelligence,' and Lysippe 'she who releases the horses' in guerilla warfare against the Greeks in the Thrakian mountains.
Hera's messenger and a powerful deity in her own right, a winged psychopompe who could move between the worlds at will, she carried water from the Styx for oaths. She captured and shackled the Nemean lion, placing it in a two entranced cave in the Nemean mountains of Argolis, a lair carved by Selene. Titled Aellopus 'swift footed as the storm winds' Iris gathered the souls of women after death. Her similarities to Hekate caused them to be called sisters or mother and daughter. More often Iris was called sister of the Harpies and of the Goddess of beginnings, Arche, and mother of Eros, who could become female or male at will.
A Kretan Goddess eventually absorbed by Hera. Daughter of the Sea Goddess Tethys, divine ancestor of the Kretans, she was a proactive warrior goddess, armed with a spear that never missed and polished bronze armour. A dog that never lost its prey guarded her island at night when she led the Moon bull across the sky to be sacrificed. Europa is the eldest of the Goddesses who share the title Hellotis, meaning 'bright shiner' and later 'plane tree.' She had two sisters, one named Astypalaea 'ancient wisdom' or 'ancient strength,' and Thebe daughter of Parthenope.
'Predatory she wolf' a Thrakian Hunter-Warrior Goddess of the night and underworld. She could outrun any of her sacred mares, and was connected to the goat and the chalkis, a nocturnal bird. The priestess-queens who embodied her were justly famous for their athletic and battle skills. One of them especially impressed the Greeks by saving her father during an attack by another Thrakian tribe. Later Harpalyke's followers were denounced as forest outlaws, known for bringing up their daughters on mare's and cow's milk and encouraging them to wield the sword and bow.
'The horse tamer' pre-Hellenic Sun and Horse Goddess of the Peloponnese, sister of Kaenis 'new' the famous warrior who disguised herself as a man to defend women. Another of her totems was the lark. Honoured in all female rites including chariot races, these were absorbed into the great Heraeon held every four years at Olympia. Eventually she was absorbed into Hera herself. Queens of the matrilineal Peloponnesian tribes were titled with her name, and included: Sterope 'sky face,' Eurythoe 'very nimble,' Euarete 'kindly,' Nikippe 'victorious mare,' Lysidike 'releasing justice,' Astydameia 'strength of the people,' and Aelinus 'dirge.' The last of these was considered an avatar of the Goddess so long her temple survived the destruction of the others.
Mother Goddess of the Ionians, who are called literally 'Moon People.' Originally she was the patron Goddess of Argos who brought rain whenever the spiteful god Poseidon dried up the streams. Asking for her help involved everyone, from men pretending to be woodpeckers tapping for rain to women led by the priestess-queen imitating thirst tormented cattle. Children may have participated as well by running water through sieves.
The horned Cow Goddess had three aspects, one white, one red, and one black. As the Moon, she travelled from Mykenae to Euboea, naming the Ionian Gulf, the Bosporus 'cow crossing,' and creating new plants. Later she was given a daughter named Leukone 'White Goddess,' and the constellation now usually called Taurus was once called by her name instead.
Name and title of high warrior-priestesses of Athena and Hera, likely from an older, lost Goddess. One priestess of Athena by this name led an army against the invading Dorian Greeks, driving them from her homeland. The most famous Admete was priestess-queen of Argos, keeper of the sacred statue of Hera. When the patriarchs finally succeeded in driving her from Argos, she took it with her. Arriving at the Heraean capital city of Mitylene on Samos, the population rejoiced. It was always a good omen when the Goddess considered the island safe enough to be a refuge for her priestesses. The Argives arrived with an army to raze the island and take the statue back. Against expectations, Admete gave up the statue willingly, and showing the Argives the ranks of fierce, armed Samian women and men, convinced them to go home.
The Argives carried the statue triumphantly to their ships, only to discover the entire fleet was mired in the harbour. Faced now with a fierce army on one side and nowhere to run, they decided Hera had forsaken them and threw the statue back. Only after Admete had retrieved the statue from the surf and purified it were the Argives able to make their escape, and the Samians instituted the festival of the Torea 'Earth mover' to commemorate the event. This Admete seems to be the same woman who bested Herakles and gave him one of his labours in the Greek legends concerning him.
Thrako-Phrygian Goddess of the Waning and Dark Moon and perhaps the winter Sun, sometimes called Mendis, associated with Artemis, Hekate, and Rhea as well as Hera. Her name may mean 'Moon' or 'one who binds.' What she binds is not humans in marriage, but the worlds above, between, and below, perhaps even the soul to the body. A powerful Crone Goddess entitled Dilonkhos 'holding two spears' one pointing up and the other down, she owned the sprig of mistletoe granting mortals free passage in and out of the underworld. A warlike destroyer, Bendis ended old life to allow new creation. her sacred plant was the mistletoe, the branch granting a trip to and from the underworld, its berries and pollen providing a relaxant that eases frazzled nerves and muscle cramps.
She was adored all over Thrake and on Lemnos, both areas where women worked the land and kept flocks of sheep. The island's capital was named for the Amazon queen Myrine. Pictures of Bendis showed her as a Thermodontine rather than Libyan Amazon however, wearing a short cloak, knee length dress, high boots and Phrygian cap with a spear in her left hand and a cup in her right. Lemnos may also be the source of her title Benthesikyme 'wave of the deep.' The women of these areas gave her grain offerings, and sacrificed bulls to her in rituals similar to those of Artemis Tauropolos. Early inhabitants of the island were called Sinties (a Thrakian tribe), and the island itself was known as Sinteis 'the ravener.' Lemnos means 'fiery,' so originally Bendis may have been the maiden aspect of the island's divine trinity. The crone regenerates herself at the end of a cycle to become the maiden, a source of great confusion ever since, because this made Persephone-Kore and Hekate-Artemis almost completely interchangeable.
Within religions like that centring on Bendis, women were independent, powerful, freely sexual beings. It is no surprise that she was later cited as the catalyst for the Lemnian revolt, perhaps along with her companions, the Thrakian Goddesses known as the Deloptes. Efforts to introduce patriarchy in such regions was met with fierce resistance by men and women alike. The claim that the Lemnian women massacred the all of the men living on the island is very much a projection of intense ancient Greek fears of a similar revolt on their own peninsula. The island was originally an Amazon colony, so the lack of men is logically unsurprising.
Worship of Bendis persisted among women, reaching even Athens where her Full Moon Festival (Bendidaea) took over the city once a year in early June according to Proclus, in much the same way as Semele's. Held over the Full Moon in December, the Bendidaea included ecstatic dancing, sexual rites, and nightly torch races. Later the municipal government tried to ban all of the rites but the torch races, forcing the rest underground. Another festival was held in her honour around May 24th, the old first day of the new year. The Thrakians actually maintained a shrine dedicated to her on the Piraeus, and non-Thrakians had to pay a fee if they wished to worship there.
Thrakian Goddess who gave the world the ceremony of baptism, a rite originally practised by her Edonian followers. She controlled the rain and invented the sacred bullroarer. Her colleges of fifty priests or priestesses were considered infamous and monstrous by the Greeks, probably because the Edoni were fierce enemies, or because Kottys was particularly worshipped by lesbians and gays people. Although the ancient Greeks accepted male homosexual behaviour, it was seriously constrained by the insistence that one male had to be dominant, while the other was expected to act submissively and be so young as to lack facial hair. Female homosexual behaviour was considered titillating and unimportant. Any variance from these ideals of dominance and submission and perceived value or lack of value were angrily railed against by ancient Greek male writers, in a fashion little different from that used by those who hold up a particular model of heterosexual relations as the only correct one today.
Hera's priestess-queen of Amphipolis, named for an ancient Thrakian Horse Goddess who elevated Demophon to kinghood by marrying him. He soon discovered however, that to be king did not make him a ruler and that he was restricted to mainly ceremonial duties, and the task of impregnating the queen. Unhappy with his lot, he left her at Ennea Hodoi 'the place of nine ways' another name for Amphipolis itself, and set off to war and possibly outright takeover of some other likely place. Before he sailed away, Phyllis gave him a box with objects sacred to her Goddess in it, and told him only to open it if he had no means of ever returning to her. Giving her his solemn promise, Demophon waited until he was well away from Thrake, and opened the box, since he had no intention of returning. Whatever was in it terrified his horse and he died when thrown form its back.
Clearly the Goddess Phyllis, like Athena and Akko, ceremonially cursed the dying god of the year, who was killed in a riding accident if he proved faithless and unwilling to perform his duties. Otherwise, he was carried to the underworld by one of the Goddess' sacred mares, feeling no terror at the moment of his death and assured of rebirth. This story is also a rare instance in which a man is entrusted with a sacred box... and performs no better than women were expected to in the same position, in traditional Classical Greek myth.
A prophetic Goddess and ruler of the ocean, she could change her shape at will. Nereis controlled the fertility of the sea, guiding schools of fish and tending the sea bed. The sea takes as well as gives, so Nereis could cause or prevent shipwrecks. Sailors used many charms to win her favour and her mercy, beating the bows of their ships with willow branches, and painting eyes on them to liken them to her fish. For personal safety, they could carry tokens made from the hair of their mother or wife, since seaweed was likened to the Goddess' hair in many cultures, a source of her magic and strength.
After the invasions of the Greek peninsula, Nereis was absorbed into Hera, and eventually she was masculinized and all but forgotten. Yet her daughters, the Nereids, were patiently enumerated by various ancient writers. Probably they are deified Sea priestesses whose task was to persuade the ocean to yield its riches and bring seafarers home safely. Some of them are clearly named for known Goddesses, while others have accrued bits of lore that suggest they may once have been independent deities. Panope was called on specifically during storms, for example. Like most lists of 'daughters,' the Nereids also represent a college of priestesses. The 112 Nereids here represent the total of unique names listed in the sources available to this author.
Agave - high born
Aktaea - elder tree
Alimede - salt Goddess
Amphinome - wandering all round
Amphithoe - all encompassing wisdom
Amphitrite - all encircling queen
Arethusa - the hunter or waterer
Asia - of the lyre
Autonoe - wisdom itself
Apseudes - truthful
Beroe - one who lays eggs
Ceto - sea monster; whale
Choro - of the choral dance
Deianeira - stringer together of spoils
Deiopeia - divine face
Dero - necklace
Dexamene - cauldron
Dione - divine queen
Doto - dispenser; associated with abundance of the sea
Drimo - keen
Dynamene - power of the Moon
Eione - with high banks
Erato - passionate
Euarne - rich in sheep
Eudia - good Goddess
Eudora - generous
Eugora - good assembler; associated with organization and political leadership
Eukrante - successful venture; associated with trade
Eulimene - good haven; associated with sailing
Eumolpe - good song
Eunike - good victory; lived in a spring or fountain
Eupompe - good voyage; associated with sailing
Evagore - good gatherer
Evarne - rich in sheep
Galataea - milk giving Goddess; changed her dead lover into a river
Galaxaura - calm sea
Galene - mirror like
Glauke - owl or yellow-green
Glaukonome - wisdom of the owl
Halia - salty element
Halimede - sea wisdom
Halsodyne - the sea born
Helike - willow maid
Hipponoe - horse wisdom
Hippothoe - impetuous horse
Iaera - priestess
Ianassa - healing queen
Ianira - Moon grove
Ione - violet, dark gem
Iphianassa - mighty queen
Iphitheira - might of the she beast
Iresia - holy one
Kale - the fair
Kallianassa - beautiful queen
Kallianeira - beautiful youth
Kallidike - fair justice
Kalyke - earring
Kalypson - hidden one, cavern
Klymene - famous Moon
Kranto - ruler
Kreneis - of the cherry
Kydippe - famous horse
Kymathea - Goddess of the waves
Kymatolege - where the waves break
Kymatothea - Goddess of the rocky shore
Kymo - wave
Kymodoke - calming the sea
Kymothoe - wisdom of the waves
Laomedaea - wisdom of the people
Liagore - assembler of the people; associated with leadership
Ligeia - clear voiced
Lilaea - longing
Limnoraea - of the lake
Lykorias - of the wolves
Lysianassa - queen who brings freedom; associated with politics
Maera - glistening
Melite - attention
Memphis - strongly established; named for the Egyptian city
Menippe - Moon horse
Nao - ship
Nausithoe - violent sea
Nemertes - Moon shine
Neomeris - new port
Nesea - one who ploughs
Neso - one who ploughs
Opis - awe
Orithyia - she who rages in the mountains
Panope - full Moon; visible to all
Pasithea - Goddess of all
Pherousa - bright being
Phyllodoke - kind judge
Plexaura - swirling breeze
Ploto - the swimmer; associated with sailing
Polynoe - rich in wisdom
Polynome - far wandering
Pontomedea - queen of the sea
Pontomedusa - wisdom of the sea
Pontoporeia - sailing the sea
Pronoe - first in wisdom
Prothoe - first in might; quick to act
Proto - first
Protogeneia - first born
Protomedia - first in wisdom
Psamathe - sandy shore
Sao - rescuer; associated with sailing
Speio - of the cavern
Spermo - of the seed
Thaleia - festive
Themisto - the oracle
Thetis - the disposer
Thoe - the impetuous
Xantho - yellow
The Pelasgian Triple Goddess
The Pelasgians came from Palestine, and besides providing more evidence of the original Goddess-centred cultures of the region, demonstrate the distinct Middle Eastern thread combined with those of Krete and Anatolia to create Bronze Age Hera. They worshipped the triple deity Eurydike 'universal justice,' Eurynome 'ruler of the universe' also known as Iahu 'exalted dove,' and Eurybia 'universal or restless force.' All three were accompanied by a snake, usually called Ophion.
Eurynome danced on the surface of the ocean, 'moved over the face of the deep.' In some later versions of her story she created the world by molding the wind her movements started into Ophion, a snake-phallus she used to fertilize herself. Then she gave birth to the rest of the world. Or, she became a dove and laid the universal egg from which everything hatched. Always she created Order from Chaos. Unfortunately, Ophion became arrogant, and apparently deluded. He claimed to have created everything and that no other deities should be worshipped but him. Eurynome's response was swift and prompt. She seized him, struck him down, knocked out his teeth, and sent him to the underworld... the original divine male who fell from grace. To the Pelasgians, original sin was male hubris. Chastened by his punishment, Ophion became the servant of Eurydike, ruler of the underworld. She judged all the dead and bore the title 'savage face,' Agriope. Another wearer of the gorgon mask, Eurydike was also a Sun Goddess and guardian of women's mysteries. Orpheus is a later addition to her myth, and probably replaced the sacred king she once welcomed to the underworld. Eurydike's Arkadian temple was opened once a year when her holy image, showing her as a snake from the waist down, was titled Anaxibia 'queenly strength.' Some people considered her one of Demeter's original Furies.
Eurybia ruled the sea, and it was she, not Eurynome who was shown as a mermaid on the outskirts of Phigalia. She was worshipped in a sacred grove in the same way as Asherah and Ishtar. It was occasionally claimed that she was bound by golden chains, but these were in fact her sacred sea snakes, or her golden net, symbol of water, life, and fertility.
As previously mentioned, Eris has long been a misunderstood Goddess. Her name does not just mean disorder or chaos, but also zeal. Zeal, like conflict, can be negative or positive depending on how people handle its effects on their lives. Little information remains from Classical times about Eris, although she eventually absorbed the Roman Goddess Discordia, and then herself became subsumed under the Goddess Bellona. Far from being a female pseudo-Mars, Bellona was the original deity in charge of all forms of conflict, of such importance Latin words for war and war-related things were derived from her name. Bellona also absorbed the Sabine Goddesses Nerio 'valour,' Vacuna, and Nerine whose March 23 festival continued to be celebrated after she was otherwise forgotten. Bellona was not merely involved with war however, but was also patron of the diplomatic service and had a temple on the Campus Martius. Her appearance was very similar to the Erinyes or Gorgons. Eris herself was not a War Goddess, however. The Greeks called their War Goddess Enyo/Enyalios 'earthshaker' and a companion of Eris.
Always a mother of parthenogenetic daughters, most of the minor deities named among Eris' children were merely the names of various unpleasant things, hastily personified to attribute miseries to her. Only two of this motley crew seem to actually be her daughters, and their curious nature hints that both may have been much more three dimensional originally. First is the River Goddess Lethe 'oblivion, forgetfulness' whose waters erased memory. Her name is actually derived from the Greek verb 'lanthano' which means 'to escape the notice of' so it may be more accurate to try translating it as 'causer of distraction' which can be from good or bad things. The course of her river passed through the underworld, possibly providing the forgetfulness of previous lives evidenced by reborn souls. Curiously, Lethe was sometimes called the mother of the Charites, perhaps because they were associated with arts and joys that helped ease the pangs of grief or injury. Second is Ate, who has a section to herself below.
Eris then, probably represented unavoidable change, which is nearly always heralded by confusion, conflict, and fear. She did not oversee offensive wars if she oversaw any wars at all. War and fighting in general are actually a means of conflict avoidance rather than resolution. Attempting to avoid facing and resolving conflict, or attempting to stave off change, were liable to invoke this formidable Goddess' wrath. Since patriarchy in essence attempts to stave off adulthood through absolute obedience to a father figure, it is no surprise that cultures with strong patriarchal leanings should find this Goddess disturbing.
In 1975 Eris debuted as the head of the philosophical school of Discordianism in Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson's 'Illuminatus' trilogy. The new image is at once more and less frightening, because Discordianism has become a powerful tool for lampooning and deconstructing popular culture in some so-called 'fringe' cultures. Eris is now happily invoked as patron of creative anarchy and defender from crass stupidity, a mischievous and not malevolent figure whose sacred numbers are 23, 5, 17, and sometimes pi.
Ate 'error or discord'
A fascinatingly contradictory Goddess, Ate came from Anatolia and had a conveniently unfortunate name for Greek revisionists to use. They claimed her mother was Eris and that she was quite unimportant, but then declared that she was driven from Mount Olympus and promptly set about starting the Trojan war. Her possession of what would usually be Hera's golden apples is puzzling, and in view of the vase painting tradition studied by Jane Ellen Harrison which shows that the 'beauty contest' is in fact a misunderstanding of older iconography that grew, probably a late addition. At first Greek authors stated Ate was the daughter of Zeus, strongly implying she had qualities his worshippers wished for him to have, perhaps control over life and death. However, it didn't take long before she was alternately given as a daughter to Ares or Eris, and declared a vicious, malevolent being of strangely great power.
The river of calumny against Ate rapidly decreased to a trickle all the same. Soon a tradition grew that Ate's sisters were the Litae, kindly Goddesses who carried prayers to the ears of the deities best suited to answering them, especially for the poor. Ate's original form gradually reasserted itself, and she became a deity who took care of all the injustices that no Olympian deity could be bothered with, perhaps because they feared the Erinyes. Coming full circle, once again her worshippers revered her as a Lady of the Wild Things who rode a lion and was accompanied by a sacred dove.
Once Ireland was called Tír na mBan 'land of women' and like so many islands was an Amazon colony, ruled by three Goddesses, the sisters Banbha 'divine woman' who was the eldest, Fódla 'substantial,' and Eíre 'life, brilliance' who was the youngest. The name Tír na mBan is what outsiders called their land, but the sisters and their Amazons had not yet decided on a name they would use. The Amazons debated for awhile on their side, and at last declared that they would be glad to name the island for one of their queens. The sisters agreed to this, and argued good-naturedly over the matter, until they agreed to have a footrace. The island would be named for the winner. Eíre was not always the fleetest of foot, but by guile and skill she won the race, and so the island was named Eíre's Land, that is Eíre-land, and eventually the pronunciation became what it is today: Ireland.
LEGENDS OF HERA
The Creation of the Milky Way
Once, the night sky looked much different. The Moon was there of course, and the scattering of stars like wheat over a field. Occasional streaks of light rained across it in some seasons, although most times they were rare. Elder priestesses solemnly declared these streaks were sky stones sent by Hera, even when they were lumps of metal. The fortunate and keen eyed could find them soon after they fell, nestled into the surface of the Earth smooth and black or pitted and twisted by heat. Most became the centrepieces of shrines and a few were molded into sacred labryses. The sky had its usual wanderers, Hekate, Hesperus, Anaetis, Gaea, and Rhea, their light steady and unblinking among the shimmering stars. But the paler bands of stars, like splashes of milk in the deep blue sky weren't there, leaving even the Moon wan looking and lonely.
It wasn't long after the birth of Heraklaea, and Hera sat on her sky throne, nursing her daughter. Full of joy and contentment, her mood was reflected by the Sun, drenching the world below in a warm, cozy light. The fields were bright green or yellow with crops or glowing with grass and wild flowers if left wild. All life echoed the Goddess' happiness. In the evening even the Moon's cool rays seemed warmer.
Heraklaea woke in the midst of the night as babies are wont to do, hungry and restless. Her mother cradled her patiently, even when Heraklaea's squirming caused her to lose her grip on her mother's breast, the milk spraying across the sky before she found her place again. Hera laughed. It was so like children to make things more difficult for themselves at first.
The splashes of milk striped the sky with crowds of new stars, gently increasing its brightness, silvering it like a thin dusting of snow. Some of the milk fell to the Earth where it became the star flowers of the meadows most people now call lilies-of-the-valley. Hera's people never forgot the source of the new stars in the sky, and even now their names for them are used today: the galaxy, and the Milky Way.
Tamer of Horses
Hera was always famous for taming horses, but she was no horse breaker. A loyal horse willing to carry a rider over difficult terrain and long distances could only be trained with kindness. Like her Amazons, Hera had an abiding fondness for all kinds of horses, from the small, rugged Moon ponies to the tall, barrel-chested newcomers from the East. Hera's sacred lands included vast meadows of sweet grass and trefoil, visited regularly by Artemis and her own horses. The Sky Goddess was also among those few deities who needed no saddle or bridle to ride any horse, be it the light footed wind horses or iron shod earthly ones.
Sometimes women caught glimpses of the tall Goddess running easily among her herds roaming over the Thermodon plain, alternating between dashing ahead and falling behind to observe stragglers, looking for laboured breathing and lameness. On especially fine days, the wind bracing but not too cold and the Sun steady but not blistering, Hera leapt easily onto one of her charges, using only her powerful legs and a fistful of mane to keep her seat. The Greeks found this sight bewildering and strange the odd time they encountered the Goddess riding one of her powerful mares through the waving grass. Unable to see her clearly as her women can, they described a strange being with the body of a horse and the torso of a human being, a horse-centaur.
Every Great Goddess must make a descent into the Underworld. The descent may be inspired by outrage at an injustice, as in the cases of Athena and Aphrodite. It may be a coming of age, as for the maiden Goddess Kore. Artemis descended to the underworld to win wisdom and the numinous powers of the psychopompe, and there are those who say she lives in the Underworld more than this one, gently preparing the souls of her Amazons for their rebirth into the new Nation. Hera descended to the Underworld for a different purpose.
The Amazons made many cunning things of wood and stone. Flint edged sickles to harvest the grain, scrapers and knives for preparing and cutting leather, mortar and pestles to grind flour and herbs. Tiny figures for toys and votive offerings. But there were drawbacks to some of their uses. Wooden wagon wheels stood up poorly to wear, even on the smoothed stone roads of Themiskyra. A larger stone blade could only be sharpened so many times and finally broken up into so many smaller useful pieces. Replacing the flints became ever harder, and wood for building was sometimes hard to take. The forest was one of the lifelines of the Nation, and care had to be taken not to waste its ancient trees the times they were felled. More worrisome were the descriptions of new angry tribes from the North who wielded strange metallic weapons. What their weapons could have been made of was a puzzle. Gold, silver, and copper were too soft for such uses, and iron so rare it was reserved for sacred objects.
Hera could see that the unfriendly newcomers would eventually clash with the Amazons, and the many other peoples allied with them. She had observed their strange, obsessive desire to force all people to live just as they did, regardless of its impracticality or inherent sorrows. At this time her people were at a terrible disadvantage. Stone tipped arrows and spears could offer little defense against hoards of soldiers swinging these new bladed weapons. And there were practical considerations. For some purposes a hard enough metal is ideal, freeing the flint traders from long exhausting journeys, and the woodworkers from the currently perpetual stream of broken wagon wheels and wooden tools. It saddened Hera to realize a major task of any metalworker would be to make weapons, in just a short time.
Each descent to the Underworld is different, requiring different preparations and journeys. Hera clothed herself in the sturdy long sleeved tunic and trousers favoured by the Thermodontine Amazons and settled a sturdy pack on her shoulders. She would need it to bring things back from the Underworld. Clambering up the steep slopes of Mount Dikte to her mother's steaming, smoking oracular cave, Hera reached the fearful chasm stretching across it. The red glowing irregular opening in the Earth was one of the seven holy paths to the Underworld. Fearless in the heat and smoke, the Great Goddess climbed calmly down the chasm, determined to win full knowledge of all of her mother's metal ores, from how to find them to their proper working.
Rhea was hard at work, stirring magmas in pits similar to how she sometimes stirred brews in great cauldrons. With powerful squeezes of her great hands she made jewels and strange stones rarely seen on the Earth's surface. The stones with fibres almost like splinters of wood or strands of hair she teased out with a granite comb. Patiently she tended gardens of crystals, coaxing them to sizes greater than a person or so small human eyes couldn't see them. The metals she strewed through the bulk of the Earth on the back of tangy thermal waters, usually as veins in other rocks or as ores and strange smelling crystals. The nuggets and other small, pure pieces she reserved for the riverbeds, sowing them like barley. Some were so hard to find in large quantities they would remain mysterious long after iron became common.
She taught her daughter about all of these things, together with how to find them and many other useful things in the Earth besides metals. Then she explained how to heat and shape the metal, first into figurines and sacred symbols, then how to make strong alloys for tools and wagon wheels, swords and shields. Of the swords and shields Rhea taught last, instructing her in the strange ways in which the new god worshipping tribes treated their swords, which to them were synonymous with their angry gods. A few of them performed rituals over their swords with bluntness and honesty, and strangely, they tended to leave behind fighting and conversions by sword behind almost easily, reviving their lost memories of the Goddesses they once venerated with their gods, if not above them. Many more called the swords 'crosses' and pinned tortured images of men or animals to them, claiming the unfortunate man or beast shown was a god, but not god, and it was this god who was and yet wasn't they worshipped, not the sword. These people, Rhea warned, would be the most dangerous, because they believed without question, and tried to hide the truth of their beliefs from everyone, even themselves.
Seven long years Hera spent in apprenticeship in the Underworld, until her followers began to fear she had become a Queen of the Dead, and would never return to the surface of the Earth. These years had made Hera's Sun bronzed skin even more dusky with heat and smoke, hands and arms strengthened and hardened by swinging hammers and gripping tongs. For the first few days of her return, it was difficult for Amazons to recognize her. It seemed she must be some relative of Athena's and not their Goddess. This did not last, of course, and Hera soon began instructing those willing and interested in her mother's mysteries. The miners, rockfinders, and smiths all had different practical and sacred rituals. Each smith could be identified by the tattoo in the centre of her forehead. Their sacred dances imitated Hera's limping walk immediately after her return from the Underworld, footsore and tired from so much hiking and climbing.
Creator of the Centaurs
Not long after the beginning of the world, when the Goddesses still created so exuberantly that change and new creatures appeared within a human lifetime, Hera was watching the cloudy sky from Mount Ida on Krete. She was pondering what made the clouds move so swiftly, which was of course, the wind. At this time, there were no horses in the world. Just the peculiar nervous zebras, the grumpy onager, and the ass, the particular totem animal of the deities of the desert. Hera was most fond of the zebras, although they couldn't live in the lands she liked best to live in. The lands she liked were too cold, and with their peculiar colouring, they were an open invitation to hungry predators.
Then one day, Hera determined to watch no more, and moved up into the sky. Not long after, it looked for all the world as if Hekate, not Hera was at work, busily sweeping the clouds together with a broom. Then she drew three hairs from her head, and twined them into a fine braid. Unlike human hair, which would do little else, the braid lengthened and thickened into a sturdy rope. Finally, Hera drew a bronze vessel from a pack she often carried on one shoulder. From this pack came her healing herbs and mixes, her tools to build and change with, and the gifts she was fond of giving to the many living things on Earth.
Moving swiftly, she caught some of the winds, and stuffed them into the vessel. Then Hera began to shape and colour some of the clouds, leaving others to shield her new creations. These other clouds became dark and stormy, flashing with the evidence of her power. Slowly, new beings began to take shape among Hera's clouds, curious creatures with human torsos, but four legs. At last she imbued each of the thirteen shapes with the speed and power of the wind, making them solid. Taking her rope, she separated it into segments and combed each one out to provide the dark, wild hair of each of her curious creations. But still, they neither moved nor breathed. Satisfied they were well formed in all ways, Hera anointed each being with her menstrual blood, and they came fully to life.
The new centaurs were a striking sight, and eventually Hera added twelve more to their numbers, so that there were nearly as many male centaurs as female ones. They ran like the wind and were enormously strong, so much so humans often asked for their help when some heavy task outstripped the power of their smaller muscles. But the centaurs were not mere senseless runners or dull muscleheads.
The very children of Hera herself, they were wise and well learned, lovers of music and writing as well as the mechanical arts. Several were especially striking prophets, like Ochyrrhoe and Melanippe. Always they were excellent teachers, and warriors and those who wished to join the holy colleges often spent time learning from them. As times changed and warlike peoples began to sweep in from the North, some began to forget that the centaurs did not only teach war. They even forgot that the ceremonial bull spearing they performed once each year in their mother's honour to feed their tribe in a sacred feast was just that, a ceremony. Not a means to prove they were bloodthirsty, or stronger, or could throw a spear further. Blood thirst was originally considered an illness rather than a fine quality. The other things could be shown at the Heraeon, or any other of the many sacred games.
Sadly, the centaurs could not continue as they had. The newcomers often feared and worshipped them, calling them Great Ones and leaving them offerings. But a corollary to this fear based respect seemed to be the determination to destroy them. In this way was kindly Cheiron lost, and Melanippe forced to flee back to her birthplace in the sky. The many other centaurs preferred to live on the Earth, yet their lives seemed untenable there. There seemed to be no choice for them but to follow Melanippe, or Cheiron, if they were unlucky. But Hera had not forgotten them or been blind to their plight. She went to them with a different solution.
'There is a way for you to remain on Earth, although any of you may choose to refuse it, and join Melanippe instead. No shame comes with either choice,' declared the Goddess, after she had gathered her centaur children together. 'For those of you who wish to remain on Earth, I will change your form, so that you will be like the humans. You will still be tall and strong, fleet of foot. Of course, your original lower bodies cannot simply disappear, and the loss of your ability to run tirelessly over the plains is rather a cruel one. Instead, I will alter them into new creatures that can carry you on their backs. Not the same as running yourself, but nearly as fast.'
In this way was the horse created, and the people who are so well known for their affinity with them. And so it is that while there are Amazons and Sarmatians, descendants of those centaurs who chose to remain on Earth, the others, centaurs who still have human torsos and horse bodies, live in the heavens where they were born, or in Hera's western apple gardens.
- Fontenrose p. 319, 1978.
- Shuttle and Redgrove, p. 194.
- McCrickard 1990, p. 217.
- Spretnak 1982, p. 87.
- See Walker, 'Hero' 1983.
- 1991, Princeton University Press.
- Curiously, the English word 'flower' means literally 'a thing that flows.'
- Often referred to in English as the 'sacred marriage.' This is actually a poor description, since the term is thought to refer to the high priestess choosing a consort who served as a ceremonial figure for a specific period, from one year to a maximum of forty. Initially these 'kings' had no temporal power, instead acting as monarchs such as Queen Elizabeth II of England do now. The man's role was to help insure the continued fertility and increase of the land, today considered a small duty, but in ancient times a highly important and honoured function.
- 'Tentative' in that the specific month or season of these two festivals is not clear from the source material.
- Dillon 2002, p. 76.
- The Greeks typically translated names from other languages into equivalent terms in their own, hence 'Nephele' is derived from the ancient Greek word for cloud.
- Grant p. 128, 1971.
- Gage, p. 245.
- Jane Ellen Harrison noted in 'Myths of the Greeks and Romans' that Hera was the patron of Jason of argonaut fame... and Zeus is nowhere to be found in the stories including him (p. 18).
- Farnell, pp. 181, 186.
- Described in Lionel Pearson's 'Ionian Historians.'
- Sidereal aka 'star-based' observations are often portrayed as 'mistakes.' This is far from the case. They simply reflect the fact that initially the safest and most practical basis for astronomical observations was the apparent movements of the Moon and planets against the apparently fixed stars.
- Rose p. 33.
- 'Grammatical gender' is more apparent than real. The concept seems to come originally from a mistranslation of an ancient author's explanation of how words in Greek could be divided into different groups based on their definite articles. Insofar as the catehories had a literal meaning, there may once have been animate and inanimate categories as in Aboriginal languages of the Americas. The idea of the so-called 'feminineness' of the word 'dragon' and its relatives doesn't come just from this ancient mistake however; compare Tiamat or Grendel's mother in the story of Beowulf.
- See The Muses.
- Simon Singh mentions a similar usage of foul language by British soldiers while involved in close combat in 'The Code Book.'
- Shuttle and Redgrove, p. 197.
- Page, p. 75.
- A point made by Norma Lorre Goodrich in 'Priestesses.'
- In Linear B she was called E-ra, and both names may or may not be Indo-European.
- An interesting Indian concept related to the Goddess giving birth by eating or contemplating her divine lily states that the world was borne and is sustained by the Goddess as 'lila.' Lila is a sort of spontaneous cosmic entertainment, and since it emanates from the divine Goddess inherits complete divinity from her.
- Titles that do mean 'crooked footed' or 'lame in both feet' are Kullopodion and Amphicholos, respectively.
- Periodically Mykenaean megaron structures that were used for religious purposes are referred to as temples, but it is not clear that these structures were used exclusively for religious purposes, the hallmark of a true temple.
- That aspect may have been Britomartis.
- The Scythians referred to Amazons as 'man-eaters' and any woman who is capable of wielding weapons or resisting physical intimidation is still often referred to in the same way, with occasional variations, such as 'vampire.'
- Two main types of figurines were also found in the Argive sanctuary: those wearing crescent horns which Shuttle and Redgrove associate with Hera undergoing trials in the underworld, and 'Full Moon' figurines.
- Ambrosia maintained the youth and immortality of the gods, not these apples.
- Stymphalus is in the Arkadian mountains and north of the lake known by the same name.
- Harrison, p. 19, 'Myths of Greece and Rome.'
- Explained by Joan V. O'Brien in 'The Transformation of Hera.'
- Drinker 1977, p. 77.
- 'The Transformation of Hera,' p. 137 and Pausanias 'Description of Greece' Corinth XVII-4. Translation by author.
- See Gimbutas 1991a.
- Beacon Press, Boston, 1993.
- 'Apparent' because no amount of experiment or study has found that a woman's menstrual cycle perforce synchronizes with the Moon provided there are no interfering sources of artificial light. Women can train themselves into synchrony with the Moon, and can certainly use the phases of the Moon to keep track of the time of the month in lieu of a numerical calendar. A known true instance of 'menstrual synchrony' is not between a woman or women with the Moon, but between women who are living together. This phenomenon is thought to relate to hormonal triggers.
- Tedlock, p. 225.
- This meaning is derived from p. 245 of Nilsson's 'The Mykenaean Origin of Greek Mythology' on which he states that 'Olympus' is a pre-Greek word that probably means 'mountain' as "Ida means 'forested mountain' and is also pre-Greek."
- 'The Origins of Music: Women's Goddess Worship' by Sophie Drinker in The Politics of Women's Spirituality, pp. 39-48.
- Norma Lorre Goodrich, on page 17 of 'Priestesses' translates Danae as 'dark of the Moon,' but it isn't clear on what basis.
- The belief seems to predate the remodelling of Tartarus into at best a cheerless dungeon, at worst a place of eternal torture.
- The 'dawn' and 'knowledge' translations in view of the English expression for a sudden realization. 'It dawned on me.'
- Rose p. 219.
- Rose p. 206.
- Walker p. 1037, 1983.
- Rose p. 217.
- The shoes may be Etruscan or even Anatolian. Whether the Etruscans themselves were originally from Anatolia is still debated.
- Laing, p. 27.
- Rose notes that in the earliest manifestations of Juno's worship, there is no connection between her and Jupiter at all (p. 216).
- Graf (in Deacy and Villing 2001, p. 131) suggests the original trinity was the Etruscan Goddesses Tinia, Uni, and Menrva.
- Perhaps from Dea Uni.
- See BettyDodson.com or her book 'Sex For One.'
- For those keeping track, McCrickard notes that Juno Lucina was the Sun Goddess to Diana Lucina, the Moon Goddess (McCrickard p. 214).
- McCrickard, p. 214.
- Rose, p. 218.
- Johnston, p. 24.
- Ancient Egyptian heiroglyphics did not include symbols for vowels.
- These connections were noted and described in Robert Temple's 'Crystal Sun' on pages 291-93.
- Hekate was sometimes even considered Hera's daughter, suggesting that like Persephone she could easily blur from a crone to a maiden figure and vice versa.
- See Johnston, 'Hekate Soteira.'
- For example, teachers, council members, or storytellers.
- A perennial herb, aconite was used particularly for the treatment of teething and fevers in children.
- Rose, p. 31.
- On the tenth day of her search for Persephone/Kore, Demeter meets Hekate. This is consistent with Persephone's trip to the underworld being a form of initiation and rebirth. It may be that after Hekate's precedes Persephone as she reascends to the earth, she also sets the stage for Demeter to confer a new name on her daughter, 'Kore.'
- Alexiou, p. 16.
- Judy Grahn gives El-Ana 'flame vulva' as another older name for this Goddess.
- Nillson, p. 73.
- Which could include rams or stallions, but never female animals.
- Nillson, p. 73.
- Drinker 1977, 100.
- Named for Pelopeia, 'the serpent.'
- Harrison, p. 29, 1978.
- The Maenads were specifically associated with Semele, Dionysus with satyrs. The change to Maenads being associated with Dionysus is a late alteration.
- What made the number seven first sacred and later lucky is that it is the sum of three, a number universally sacred to the female deities, and four a number universally sacred to male deities. It's sacred mana grew in ancient times, because the seven stars of the Pleiades were an important seasonal marker, and the seven major stars of Ursa Major are an important navigational marker. It's status as a prime number also rendered it sacred to Athena.
- She may also be the elder Goddess of the Sami, Mader Akka. Orenstein notes that the Sami celebrate their Goddesses Akka in solstice and equinox rituals called 'Akka-demias.' The Goddesses Akka are Mader Akka and her three daughters, the Triple Deity Sar Akka, Jules Akka, and Yuks Akka (Orenstein, p. xxi).
- Republic, p. 79, D. J. Allen translation.
- The Palestinians, also referred to as Philistines, are considered by some scholars to be the descendants of a ancient migrants from the Greek islands to present day Palestine (Friedman 1989, p. 84).
- Graves, p. 12; Daly, p. 76.
- Kernels of these myths can be found in Robert Graves' 'Greek Myths.'