H is for Hera and Hermes and their convoluted connection

Hera, Wife and sibling of the great Zeus, is the Goddess of Marriage and Childbirth. She however spends most of her time, trying to save her own marriage and stopping other Goddesses and women from giving birth to her husband’s childrenOne of those ironies of life! Though in her favour, it must be said, she was a kind and gentle Goddess before she became the wife of Zeus.

Hermes on the other hand, is known as the messenger of the Gods and is portrayed as a youth with a wings attached to his hat and sandals. But this son of Zeus and the Goddess Maiya is a God in his own rights. He is the God of Traders and Thieves, as well as Travellers and Boundaries, Hermes is also the one that the Gods turn to when they find themselves in a mess. As you already know, the amorous Zeus is often in a hot spot, and Hermes is promptly called upon to clean up the mess after his father.

And so it is that Hera the jealous wife of Zeus and Hermes his ever helpful wingman, find themselves on opposite sides of many a myth.Here are a few stories that illustrate the point.

The saving of Lo: Zeus was frolicking in the fields, with Lo, a priestess of Hera, when he saw his wife coming by. Zeus quickly turned Lo into a heifer, but Hera’s suspicions had already been aroused. She took the heifer and imprisoned it. Then she asked Argus, the hundred eyed monster to keep watch over the heifer. Zeus panicked. He turned to Hermes for help. Hermes disguised himself as a goatherd and played soothing music on his lire in front of Argus. Argus was so soothed, that one by one, he closed his hundred eyes and he fell into a deep slumber. Hermes then quickly killed the sleeping monster and helped Lo to escape.

The saving of Arkas: In another story, Zeus pursued, romanced and impregnated a nymph called Kallisto. When Hera came to know, she turned Kallisto into a bear. Hermes then rescued her child Arkas, and placed him in the care of the Goddess Maiya . But as often is the case that is not the end of the story. One day, the adult Arkus, went into the woods and saw a bear coming towards him. Not knowing it was his own mother, the young man killed the bear. Don’t look at me! I am just the messenger like Hermes!

The story of Herakles: In this story, Hermes really pushes all of Hera’s buttons. Heracles was the son of Zeus and a mortal Alcmene. Zeus had pretended to be the lady’s husband in the latter’s absence and lived with her. Now, when the baby Herakles was born of this union, Zeus wished that this mortal son could be turned into an immortal. So Hermes, kept the identity of the infant a secret and slipped him in Hera’s lap, while she was feeding babies with the milk that bequeathed immortality on all those who had a sip. The unsuspecting Hera took the child to her breast. But the child was strong and tugged hard and Hera recoiled in pain. It is said that the milk that spurted out from her breast formed the Milky Way.
Hera inquired after the identity of the baby, and when she knew the truth, her fury knew no bounds. She sent serpents to kill the infant, but the baby Herakles was strong and though he was just an infant, he killed the serpents with his bare hands. After this Hera did not try to kill the baby, but vowed to make the child’s life a living hell. Which she did successfully.
Similarly there is the story of the birth of Dionysus and other stories that have Zeus romancing and creating progeny, Hera working out creative ways to squash and kill all her rivals and their babies, and Hermes trying to make the best of many a bad situation.

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