If Aphrodite is your good time goddess then Hera is your goddess of responsibility. No wonder these two clash. Interestingly, in the myths, Hera is the wife of Zeus – she has the security and social standing that comes with marriage but it essentially lacks all the elements that drive Aphrodite – passion, love, romance. On the other hand Aphrodite, well, she’s the eternal lover, bringing not just sensuality but also intimacy and heart-connectedness to her affairs. However, these connections are personal and she is not woven into the wider tapestries that tie communities together. For women today, the contrast between Aphrodite and Hera remains relevant on two levels. Firstly, in the way these energies manifest in our lives and secondly, in the way that they are unfairly represented in our culture.
To begin with culture, Aphrodite’s beauty and sexuality bear little resemblance to the fetishised and reductive portrayals of women that dominate the media today. Her sexuality is her own to be enjoyed and shared with others. She understands this as a sacred thing and it is always embedded in her heart-centred approach. Her sexuality is not something to be consumed by ravenous males according to their own projections and desires. Hera, with her concern for social standing, shared morality and family values, is frequently represented as a nagging shrew in modern day culture. Her contribution is taken for granted and rarely recognised and even today in the public arena many women still need to shout for their voices to be heard above the men who hold seats of power. Hera builds communities, she generates the social bonds that sustain us and she brings out the best in those around her. It is important to understand the true nature of these goddesses in order to honour that goddess within you.
Hera and Aphrodite are in conflict because they represent two ways of approaching relationships with others. Aphrodite is driven by her heart, by passion, sensual experience, and intimate connections. For Aphrodite, marrying ignoring her heart and marrying into security and social standing would mean the death of her spirit – what is the point if that person (I am being deliberately non-gender specific!) doesn’t set your heart on fire? On the other hand, Hera is more practical and takes a wider scope, recognising that life is not just about two people (or indeed many lovers) but instead about communities. She recognises the value of gaining social power and influence and building strong, stable community structures. This is not a selfish endeavour; she is committed to supporting those around her to reach their own heights. For her, focussing only on passion is whimsical and short sighted. She wants to know that her partner (in whatever capacity) has something solid to offer – good character, drive and the ability to manage their responsibilities. She recognises that once a few passionate affairs have fizzled out (or combusted), there is a deeper need to be supported and grounded.
Aphrodite’s energy is undeniably seductive and fun but more importantly, she represents something essential to every human being, the ability to really appreciate, enjoy and experience life and the joys of the heart. On the other hand, Hera represents our yearning for community, solidarity, bonds. Neither goddess can be easily dismissed. In learning to respect the needs of the other, a more balanced approach to forming relationships can emerge. Aphrodite women will find that they feel safer and more fulfilled if they seek out the qualities in others that Hera reveres. They become less vulnerable to the broken hearts and periods of isolation that many Aphrodite women suffer. On the other hand, Hera women will find that letting go of perfectionism (they tend to have high standards) and allowing themselves to listen more to the needs of their bodies and their hearts will bring more joy and satisfaction to their lives – the heart can be a wonderful and surprising guide.
These goddesses also have much to learn in from their similarities. Both are essentially grounding through others – their energy is flowing outwards. Both their source and expression of power is not coming from within and this can leave them depleted and frustrated. Simply noticing when this occurs in our own lives can help us to reclaim some of that energy for ourselves. It is absolutely essential to tend to your own flame before reaching out to others. The world needs each individual to thrive; for it is only then that they have something powerful to offer. However, this does not mean advocating the kind of rampant individualism that keeps people selfish and trapped by their own ego (which is actually very outward looking and exhausting). Hera and Aphrodite must also join forces in building new models of relationship that honour our connectedness – both heart to heart and as communities.