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Hell hath no fury like that of a woman scorned.
~ A proverb as old as the stories of Hera.

Hera is the ancient Greek goddess of marriage and woman-hood. In addition to her inherent roles as a goddess she was also the wife and sister of Zeus, making her queen of Mount Olympus after their marriage. Although as a goddess she was not outright malevolent, she was known to be a vengeful being and was especially cruel towards those who crossed her.

Hera in general

Hera was known for her tendency to curse others as well as her hatred towards Heracles (who was a reminder of Zeus' continual mating with mortals), who she often fought against or foiled in some manner.

Hera was not alone in her behavior and many of the Greek gods were volatile and dangerous, this is a trait common to many ancient pantheons as well as mythology in general: due to the fact time alters people's morality and what was seen as acceptable in ancient times is often seen as wrong in the modern era.

However Hera's treatment of her offspring coupled with her infamous jealousy made her quite feared even for her time, though she was also an object of worship (like all gods) - aside from her torment of Heracles she is the one often quoted as being responsible for the creation of Lamia.

Seduction by Zeus

Hera had been approached many times by Zeus wishing to bed her but Hera refused each advance, on Hera's part this was because as goddess of marriage she had high standards and wanted to remain a virgin goddess as a paragon of Greek woman-hood, however Zeus believed Hera was just playing hard to get and was quite smitten with her. One night Hera found a small bird caught in a great storm and took the weak creature in to nurse it back to health until the storm passed and fell asleep warming it in her breast. When Hera awoke she found Zeus next to her, he had taken the form of the bird and reverted to his true form in the night while Hera slept having his way with her. Hera was horrified but the joke was on the sly god, for as goddess of marriage Hera refused to be defiled by anyone who was not her husband and the only way to stop the height of anger and wrath from Hera was for Zeus to marry her. Though the two had a less than romantic start Hera and Zeus were said to be quite in love. After the wedding Zeus and Hera are said to have gone on a one-hundred year honeymoon filled with romance and sex the likes of which no mortal man or woman could comprehend. After they returned they remained happily married for a time but Zeus's attention wandered considerably. The more Zeus's became a slave to his libido the more Hera became a slave to her vengeance.

Hera and Argos

One of Zeus's most notorious affairs was with Io a mortal woman. Unlike most other affairs Zeus developed actual feelings for Io and was considering leaving Hera for her. Hera found out about the affair and proceeded to catch Zeus in the act. When Zeus heard Hera arriving he turned Io into a cow in the heat of the moment to cover up the affair. When Hera arrived she saw Zeus simply standing next to a cow but was perceptive enough to piece together what Zeus had done. Hera inquired about what Zeus was doing with the cow and in an effort to deflect Hera's aggression Zeus said he was just selecting a gift/pet for her (Cows were an acceptable sacrifice in ancient Greece a symbol associated with woman-hood and birth). Hera slyly accepted the gift and decided to take Io from Zeus, where she would keep the cow under lock and key and perhaps later eat it. Zeus began to object but when Hera coyly inquired why, Zeus saw he was trapped and had to let her take Io.

D'aulaires Hera

Hera and Argos.

Hera put Io in her garden and ordered her servant Argos to guard her. Argos was a giant with one-hundred eyes all over his body each set of which slept separately so not only was Argus always awake but always refreshed and vigilant as if he had just woke from a nap, best of all Argus was completely devoted to Hera and her loyalist minion so he could not be bribed or charmed. Hera told Argus to watch the cow and see to it no one took it man or god until she tired of it enough to eat it. Zeus knew Hera knew who the cow was and knew she was just keeping her alive until he confessed and Hera would surely eat her out of spite eventually if Zeus held out too long. Zeus sent his son Hermes messenger of the gods and god of dreams to rescue Io. Hermes was both cunning and talented and approached Argus as a friendly bard. Ignoring the cow Hermes treated Argus to some music but his mystical notes lulled all of Argus's eyes to sleep at which point Hermes killed Argus in his sleep and stole back Io. Zeus turned Io back but the poor woman was too upset to continue with Zeus and ran away all the way to Egypt. Hera found her Argos dead and saw Io was gone. Rather than rush to bust Zeus Hera was overcome with grief for her loyal servant, to honor his memory Hera placed Argos's eyes on the tails of her favorite animal, the peacock and it is said that patterns on the goddess's pets were ever watching eyes linked to Hera.

Echidna

Zeus was made king of Olympus when he had defeated Cronus his father and freed his siblings, Hera included. Zeus was protected by Gaea his grandmother while he grew up and told of his grandfather Uranus; Uranus had imprisoned Gaea's monstrous children for not being beautiful enough to walk upon her. Gaea gave her son Cronus a magic scythe that would wound even Uranus and told him to use it to force his father to free his monstrous brothers and sisters, but Cronus instead used the scythe to castrate Uranus and banish him leaving Cronus his powers and throne as king of the titans, worse still Cronus kept his sibling imprisoned in Tartarus feeling the creatures were far too ugly to be seen with him and his more beautiful siblings. Gaea looked after Zeus as he grew but made him promise that when he came of age to take on his father he would free his monstrous uncles and aunts imprisoned in Tartarus. Sure enough Zeus kept his word and freed the more ugly titans to side with him in overthrowing Cronus and the other titans. But Zeus imprisoned the titans in Tartarus in their place as they were far too powerful and would surely seek vengeance if left free, it was this act that inspired Gaea's wrath yet again and lead to the creation of Echidna and Typhon the world's first monsters and Gaea's last children.

Typhon was a giant one-hundred headed dragon with claws, wings and fiery breath coming from each mouth. Echidna was a giant snake woman with many breasts, multiple testicle-like arms and venomous breath. Gaea birthed and raised them to take revenge on the Olympians for freeing half her children only to imprison the other half. Typhon and Echidna grew and eventually were sent to destroy their way to Olympus but Echidna was pregnant with Typhon's brood and half-way there Echidna had to turn back and find a cave to hide in as she went into labor. Typhon fought the gods but was eventually defeated by Zeus who threw a mountain on top of him, a mountain that would come to be known as Mt. Etna, a volcano whose flames and smoke were said to be Typhon's wrath from deep below. When Zeus tracked down Echidna he saw her with her brood of monsters, but Echidna had just given birth and was in no condition to fight. But as Zeus was about to coup-de-grâce Echidna Hera held Zeus back and forbade him to strike, for though Typhone and Echidna would surely have set out to destroy her too Echidna had not fought and more importantly was a new mother and for whatever else Hera was she was still guardian of pregnancy. Zeus spared Echidna for Hera and let the monsters grow that one day perhaps they would prove suitable challenges for mortal heroes to overcome and prove their worth. Echidna was overcome with relief and became good friends with Hera and her most loyal non-human worshiper. In gratitude for Hera's noble deed Echidna gave Hera her first born son Cerberus as pet, Hera was disgusted with the three headed wolf-hound and not wanting to offend her new, ally simply passed it along to her brother Hades rather than give Cerberus back or kill him. Echidna became the mother of all monsters, she pledged all her children to Hera and through her Hera gained the service of just about all the word's monsters.

Relations

Zeus

Hera and Zeus lead a complicated relationship, by all accounts after their first few hundred years of marriage their relationship was constantly under-strain. Zeus was incapable of a monogamous relationship, yet both Hera's conservative values for marriage and her pride as a representative of it demanded that Zeus love her and only her. Hera attempted to cheat on Zeus twice, once with the hero Jason, who Zeus arranged to meet the sorceress, Medea, in order to avoid the issue and once with Ixion, though this myth varies between Hera genuinely finding Ixion charming (if quaint) and indulging his flirtations solely to spite Zeus for all his dalliances. Hera once tried to organize a coup d'état against Zeus. She gained nearly half the gods' support before Zeus found out about it and broke it up, Hera was chained to her throne for years as punishment for the attempt. Despite this sort of dynamic the clergy of Hera speak of the two as having a constant love for each-other and the stories were used as fables as to how marriage needs to be based on love and not necessarily fondness.

Siblings

Hera got along better with her sisters and brothers than with other gods. Poseidon has a rivalry with Zeus much the same as Hera and he was one of the first gods to support her in her attempt to usurp her husband. Her brother Hades was feared by mortals and gods alike and as such her gift of Cerberus kept her off his bad-side. However after Hera sent Heracles to kill Cerberus in order to trick him into crossing Hades, Hades found out about it before Cerberus was harmed he threatened Hera if she ever attempted any such trick again, suitably scared, Hera dropped her grievance with Heracles and there are no further interaction written about Hera and Hades, neither of whom presumably ever wanted to hear from the other again. Hera's sister, Demeter, had her daughter, Persephone, by Zeus, however there is no indication that Hera had any feuds with Demeter over this, either Hera did not know or she was willing to forgive her sister for a one-night-stand. Like all gods and goddesses, Hera was extremely fond of her sister Hestia, who in-fact did manage to remain an eternal virgin and freely did all Olympian house-work for Hera and the other gods.

Children and step-children

Hera's dialog in nearly every surviving play shows her speaking condescendingly towards her step-children, Hermes, Apollo, Artemis, Dionysus, Persephone and especially Athena. Athena was Zeus' daughter via his first wife, Metis, whom Zeus had divorced to marry Hera. As Metis freely allowed Zeus to divorce her for a woman he loved more she stayed on as his advisor for years and when Athena was claimed by Zeus she proved the paragon of Greek values and did him proud; because of this, Hera had a strong resentment towards Athena, partially because it was an unpleasant reminder about Metis that in-fact Hera was originally the so called 'other-woman' and partially because Athena earned more praise than her own children. Hera encouraged her own son, Ares, to out-stage Athena as god of war, but Ares became so addicted to blood-lust he was far more of a brute than a tactician like Athena, further embracing Hera. Hera's son Hephaestus was born deformed, in disgust after looking at him the first time, Hera threw him down to earth. He spent years teaching himself how to craft beautiful jewelry to present to his mother to endear himself to her. Once Hephaestus was convinced he had achieved perfection he gave Hera her jewels that their beauty might distract her from his ugliness, Hera was flattered by the bribe for her love and welcomed Hephaestus back to Olympus where he became employed as the blacksmith of the gods. Hera's daughter Hebe was her only daughter with Zeus and Hera treasured her as a delicate doll, Hebe is often painted as being fawned over by Hera who combs her hair, applies her make-up and corrects the posture as a doting mother. When Heracles ascended as a god, Zeus pledged Hebe to Heracles as his immortal wife, only with his union to her daughter did Hera finally bury her grief with Heracles. Hera was largely neutral to Zeus' adopted daughter Aphrodite, as she had no mother, however as goddess of beauty and a prominent debutante, Aphrodite and Hera's egos would occasionally clash, such as he time both insisted they were the fairest goddess on Olympus. The feud between Hera, Aphrodite and later Athena would initiate a contest for beauty that would result in the Trojan War.

Powers and Abilities

Hera being a goddess was of-course immortal and possessed a certain degree omniscience, though mostly for mortal affairs as Zeus and other gods continually snuck around to avoid her. Hera was said to have power over women's menstruation cycle and could make it easier or harder depending on the woman (women who suffered more painful periods were said to be being punished by Hera for doing something unladylike, such as prostitution.) Unions were required to be blessed by Hera to officially be recognized as marriages even for immigrants to Greece with different gods. Those that broke their marriage oaths were said to be cursed with strife and hardship until the oath was either mended or a substantial offering was made at a temple of Hera to appease her wrath, even if a marriage did not last oaths broken during marriage were said to curse the offending spouse long after the separation and into new marriages if the offense was not made right. Hera drove Heracles to madness and made him kill his family and many Athenian plays portrayed Hera's favored power as a combination of illusion, hypnotism and mind control. Hera's temper was feared by Zeus and most of his children, god and mortal alike; one poem describes her as burning with rage so hot it was if unseen fires filled the air around her tearing at the surrounding room. One of Hera's fall-back punishment methods once catching a mortal outright insulting or undermining her was to transform them into something non-human, such as live-stock, a monster or even stone. Like Zeus Hera assumed many forms to interact with the mortal world in secret though usually it was to spy on Zeus or ease-drop on followers she suspected of disloyalty.

  • Monster Conjuration: Hera could summon any living monster and thanks to Echinda had their complete loyalty.
  • Menstruation Manipulation: Hera could grant women easy or hard periods.
  • Child Birth: No child could be born without Hera or one of her nymph handmaidens present during the labor.
  • Luck Manipulation: Hera's duties to mankind were subtler than her siblings, people blessed by Hera were said to just seem to be lucky. However this meant that when angered Hera levied curses of misfortune upon those that offended her.
  • Shape shifting: Hera disguised herself as random mortals to spy on followers.
  • Transmutation: Hera had the power to change mortals into a variety of  animals, objects or monsters.
  • Mind Control: Hera could seize control of a mortal's mind for brief periods, or simply drive them permanently mad.
  • Apples of the Hesperides: Hera was given a magical bush of golden apples by Gaea as a wedding present. The apples were said to be able to restore one's youth.

Trivia

  • Hera was the patron deity of the City-State of Elis, worshiped there even above Zeus.
  • The Olympics were first established as a festival specifically dedicated to Hera.
  • Priests and Priestesses of Hera were required to preside over a marriage ceremony in order for the union to count as a marriage.
  • Same sex marriages were perfectly acceptable to the clergy of Hera as was marriage partners as young as 12.
  • Hera's clergy were strong advocates against pedophilia unless the minor in question was a spouse of the adult.