Hera – The Pre-Hellenic Great Mother Goddess of the Minoans and Mycenaean Greeks

Pre-hellenic Hera is the original Mother Goddess of the Old European matristic Cretan people. She is most likely based on the Egyptian Mother Goddess Hathor. I’m not sure what exactly Her name was on Crete, but once the Mycenaean Greeks brought Her with them to Greece, She became known as Hera. The Mycenaean Greeks were already a mixture of Indo-European and Old European people, but their culture was still matrilineal and Goddess-worshipping. Hera’s birth place was said to have been Samos in the Aegean Sea just off the west coast of Anatolia (today’s Turkey) which alongside Argos was Her main area of worship.

Hera is the emanation of the Mother aspect of the Triple Goddess: Hebe – Hera – Theria (see also “Moon Magic and the Triple Goddess“)

She is a Moon Goddess and as such was originally depicted as a heifer – a wild large-horned aurochs cow.

Unlike modern cows aurochs cows (now extinct) were large and strong with only slightly smaller horns than their male counterparts. They also didn’t have as prominent udders as today’s cows have. Many of the pictures of Minoan art that have been interpreted as depicting bulls might very well have been images of heifers with the purpose of representing the Goddess as life-giver and nurturer, as well as being the Mother of Civilisation and Agriculture. This premise is supported by the fact that bovine horns and heads were often depicted in stead of the Goddess’ womb and fallopian tubes. No doubt bulls were also revered by the Minoans for their vitality and as the son and eventually the consort / lover of the Great Mother, although probably less so in the early days when males had not yet been connected to conception.

Hera, the “cow-eyed” Goddess, and Io, the Heifer, from the classical era might actually once have been the same Goddess. According the Hellenic mythology Zeus turned Io, one of Hera’s priestesses, into a heifer after his seduction of her in order to protect her from Hera’s jealousy [1]

The original pre-Hellenic Hera was the same as the original Cretan Great Mother Goddess who reigned supreme.

Hera which means “Lady” was synonymous with words like woman, house, temple and womb.

She is THE creatrix. She is the archetype for motherhood in a matrilineal / matrifocal world, where women are respected and valued, where they are independent and free to make their own choices, where they are seen to be strong and capable and where their ability to give birth and nourish their babies from their own bodies is seen as a miracle and a blessing.

Hera, as the Mother Goddess, is life-giving, nurturing, generous and kind, but She is also strong and fiercy protective over Her children. She is not a push-over, but just in her judgement.

Anyone who has ever seen a cat mother with her young – be she a lioness, a tigress or a domestic queen – knows just what sort of a mother Hera is: She loves Her children with all Her heart and is affectionate and gentle with them, but threathen Her babies and She will rip your head off! Perhaps that’s another reason why Hera was occasionally depicted with lionesses by Her side, as is the case with other Great Mother Goddesses such as Inanna in Sumer, Ishtar in Babylon, Astarte in Canaan, Hathor-Sekhmet in Egypt and Kybele in Anatolia.

Hera’s Ambrosia, the Nectar of Immortality, used to be only given to Her daughters in the form of their moon blood and their ability to create new life. [2]

Pre-hellenic Hera is no man’s wife, but has plenty of lovers, one of them interestingly was Herakles (or Hercules as he is better known). His name means “Glory of Hera”. Later classical Greek mythology took Herakles under its wing and used him against the Great Goddess.

As is the case with all of the Cretan / Minoan Moon Goddesses, Hera’s symbol is the double labrys axe.

Her sacred animals include the crab, the bee and the peacock.

Her sacred fruit is the apple with its pentagram-shaped centre. It grows on Hera’s sacred tree in Her garden and is protected by Her sacred serpent Ladon. This is of course a precursor of the later Hebrew myth of Adam and Eve and the snake in the garden of Eden.

Hera is….

the Ancient Mother

the Foundress of Civilisation

the Teacher of Agriculture, and

the Goddess of Battle.

When Zeus’ patriarchs tried to conquer Her lands, Her daughters (and sons!) fought tooth and nail against the invadors. Even after their lands had been robbed off them and they themselves had become subordiates to their new male leaders, Hera’s children would not give up their Goddess. Their worship remained so strong that She was eventually given a place on Mount Olympus alongside Zeus. She was, however, forced to marry him (after a long “courtship” of 300 years). Hellenic Hera is portrait as the nagging and jealous wife, when the truth is that Hera simply never submitted to Zeus and made his life a misery. I have no doubt in my mind that this part of the myth is in actual fact talking about Hera’s strong Amazon daughters not backing down to their oppressors.

Let us sing now of Hera, the women’s goddess,
she who rules from her throne of gold.
Let us sing now of the queen of gods.
Let us sing now of the most beautiful goddess.
There is no one more beloved than you,
womanly Hera, no one we honor more.
-Homeric hymn


[1] One of the purposes of Hellenic classical myth seems to have been to change the Greek worldview from that of a matrilineal one to a patrilineal one. It seems that Hellenic mythology was a tool for cultural manipulation. Much of what is going on within the stories and legends is actually a metaphor for that very conversion and the dominance of the new father-right over the old ways. Many of the myths are preocupied with showing just how virile and powerful Zeus and his fellow gods were and how the goddesses were either fluffy playthings that enjoyed being ravished or evil monsters that would turn a man to stone. The particular myth of Io, the Heifer, was, I believe, a form of early propaganda. I believe the purpose of the story was to portray an imaginary split within the old matrifocal world in order to, on the one hand, justify their own actions of conquering the lands of the Mother and, on the other hand, hopefully sow doubt in the minds of the women themselves: Io represents the young women who the patriarchal Greeks (through her affair with Zeus) claimed preferred the new father-right where men are the supreme leaders and heads of household, while the old women / elders / priestesses (i.e. jealous Hera in the story) rejected the new ways and stopped the young women from “following their hearts”.

[2] Classical by then patriarchal mythology calls Hera’s Ambrosia “the food of the gods”.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Leslie
    Sep 11, 2012 @ 00:54:06

    I really enjoyed this, thank you!


  2. Micaela
    Oct 26, 2015 @ 02:08:02

    i enjoyed reading this, it it was refreshing to learn of Goddess Hera as a lady who did not give into Zeus, instead of being constantly jealous which is the way she is mostly portrayed.


  3. Trackback: CUCKOO, HERA’s Oracle – Alchemy of the Soul
  4. Sandra Shepheard
    Sep 29, 2016 @ 08:52:40

    I would be interested in knowing about Hebe, Hera’s daughter, who ‘apparently’ feed ambrosia to the gods and known for giving eternal youth. Be grateful if you have any information. And how that might relate to your post. Thanks Sandra


  5. Jamie
    Mar 12, 2017 @ 13:54:45

    Its a good read. I am curious to know your sources for the statements and claims made here. Even PGN can be based in fact.


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