Pagan and the Pit(bull)

The adventures and musings of a Pagan and her dog.


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Happy New Year, Queen of Heaven

queen of heavenHera starts off the New Year in terms of devotionals, and I will be the first to say I think Hera gets a bad rap and that isn’t fair to her. Hera is the best example of the oversimplification of the gods to fit a cultural narrative. Let’s lay down some truth here: Hera is pretty bad ass. She has a pretty strong realm of dominion; Hera is the Queen of Heaven, the goddess of kings and empires, goddess of marriage, of women’s fertility, one of the three goddess of child birth (she is the protector of the mother, Artemis is the protector of the child being birthed, and Eileithyia the patron of the act itself), and the goddess of dynasties. Quite literally, she rules. Hera fights in the War of the Titans, and the War of the Giants, Dionysus Indian War, and she sponsors Sparta in the Trojan War. If the idea of Hera as a warrior queen seems counterintuitive, consider that Pausanias describes a strong cult to Hera Aigophagos (Hera the Goat-Eater) in Lakedaimonia and its capital of Sparta. Hera takes no prisoners.

But wait, her detractors say, Hera treats Zeus bastard sons and other consorts pretty shittily. My response to this is yes, she does. But look at those actions in light of her realms of dominion: she is Queen of Heaven, goddess of empires and dynasties and women’s roles in them. She isn’t going to let others come in and take what is rightfully the jurisdiction of her and her children. After all, even though Hera is considered the last consort of Zeus and tricked into marriage, she was Queen of Heaven in her own right before he got there. No upstarts allowed. It’s even debatable whether all of her divine children have Zeus as a father. Of her children, Typhaon and the Charities don’t have a mentioned father in myth; Hebe, Ares, Hephaistos, Eris, and Eileithyia have disputed paternity.

And through it all the ups and downs of enforcing her dynastic claim on Olympus, Hera does some very kind and loving things. Philostratus the Elder describes Hera welcoming Athene into the company of the Olympians. Hera fills the rivers with rain water of Argos for the devotion Inakhos after Poseidon dries up the island in rage. When the daughters of Pandareos are left orphaned she blesses them with wisdom to lead. And she sponsors Jason on his search for the Golden Fleece and his journey to bring prosperity to Argos.

Despite of all of this Queen Militant badassery, and kindness and support to her devotees, Hera is remembered as “that bitch who gets in the way of Zeus fun”. Hera is reduced from mighty queen of heaven on a cerulean throne to…shrew.

I’ve always thought that the Wiccanate Triple Goddess of Maiden, Mother, Crone to be heinously limiting. And that we need to reclaim the goddesses who embody more than the young nymphet, the voluptuous mother, the disfigured old woman. Women deserve goddesses who represent womanhood in all of its forms, not just the forms that are palatable to the public or described and defined by the older and sexist Pagan writers. Hera is the goddess of leaning in and while she may not be the goddess every woman needs, she is one of the goddesses that everyone deserves. So this month, I’m raising a glass and starting to bring her back.

O Royal Hera of majestic mien, aerial-form’d, divine, Zeus’blessed queen,
Thron’d in the bosom of cærulean air, the race of mortals is thy constant care.
The cooling gales thy pow’r alone inspires, which nourish life, which ev’ry life desires.
Mother of clouds and winds, from thee alone producing all things, mortal life is known:
All natures share thy temp’rament divine, and universal sway alone is thine.
With founding blasts of wind, the swelling sea and rolling rivers roar, when shook by thee.
Come, blessed Goddess, fam’d almighty queen, with aspect kind, rejoicing and serene.

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With in and With out

On Tuesday my cousin (and maid-of-honor) started texting about the wedding. Our conversation went a bit like this:

Her: You sound so tired, it’s a lot of work, but it will be worth it.

Me: Yeah, the party will be awesome. But it’s not like anything is really going to change.

Her: But it’s two souls becoming one through Gods will and holy matrimony! It changes everything!

Me: Wait, what?

I think that this conversation really highlights the biggest problem I’ve had talking to my family. We see things fundamentally differently. As far as I’m concerned, my marriage to my fiancé won’t change a whole lot. We already live together, have a mortgage, and have 2 pit bulls. We’ll be adding a few insurance and phone bills, and that (as far as I can foresee) is about the extent of the changes to our mundane life. I’ll even be keeping my last name. We have discussed the sticky topics: money, politics, kids, and monogamy. We’ve been handfasted for 2 years, and been May Royals (what a wild ride that was). I’d say we’re pretty on top of it. Marriage is magickal and legal ceremony, but it’s not the fantastic cure all or fix all that my cousin seems to think that it is. If anything, I think it’s an initiation. To what, I’m not quite sure. I’ll let you know when I do.

One of the women in my coven once said “there are three types of initiations: ones that will never happen, ones that jump start what needs to happen, and ones that reaffirm what have already happened.” I’d like to believe that when we do get married it’s the third type. After all, we have already bound ourselves to each other on our own; though I wouldn’t be opposed to it being the second. It probably is a little bit of both. And I’m totally ok with that. But it’s something that we do as humans, the ceremony itself is not a crucible that changes how or why a relationship works.

Which circles around, kind of, to my original point. We see things differently, and it impacts how we think about the sacred ceremonies that shape the cycles of our lives. My cousin (and a majority of my family) see marriage as something that comes from and is created by the Divine. I see it as something that comes from and is created by us. Our union comes from us choosing to be bound to each other, and from us creating and maintaining a loving relationship. We can certainly ask the Divine to bless it, I know I certainly will be appealing to the gods for them to do so; but this is not something that comes from them.

I think that’s where a lot of communication problems come from. We as Pagans, particularly Pagans who are Wiccan or have a Wiccan flavor to their practice, are told “if you cannot find me within, you will not find me without”. But our Christian families aren’t told that, they tend to be told “accept Jesus into your heart”. For them, the Divine is outside them in a way that Pagans can’t really understand (even the hard polytheists like myself). For us, the Divine is fluid, in and around us in a way that our Christian families can’t really understand. The first step though is to remember that the gods are known by a thousand, thousand names, and that each god has dozens of specialized epithets; but that their charge to us can easily be summed up.

All acts of Love and Pleasure; Strength and Kindness; Mirth and Reverence are ritual. All acts. If we remember this, we can remember that our families still love us, we have moments of happiness and pleasure with them, they help keep us strong, they are kind when we need support, that we share moments of mirth, and this brings us a reverence of what the relationship with our families can be. And that right there is the Divine at work, with in and with out.