Hera Gives A Dissertation on Modern Marriage

So, Hera knocked today and asked me to take dictation on the subject of marriage ceremonies. Why she is, in particular, coming to me with this, I have no idea. It is very unlikely that I will be asked to officiate a wedding any time soon, and it is furthermore unlikely that I’ll have time to write a marriage ceremony any time before March.

Nevertheless, her ideas are very interesting. She seems to be looking to broaden marriage as it pertains to her office, and generally to be invited to more weddings. Because of course she is. Would you prefer one snacky cake or two snacky cakes?

One minor thing which might need explaining, because it certainly confused me, is why Hera is saying that a lock of hair should no longer be cut. I pressed her for an explanation, and just got a sense of “all those things” as though it neatly belonged in the same category as all of the other things which implicitly expressed the idea of a man acquiring the woman, as opposed to signifying a transition away from childhood, which was my previous understanding. I did some quick research, but couldn’t find anything to support this interpretation. It still doesn’t quite make sense to me. Nevertheless, an honest record is better.

I should like to explain to you what ceremonies and customs should surround the institution of marriage, with respect to my pantheon, in the modern day.

Do write this down, please.

Now, what marriage is, philosophically, has changed. It should change. It will continue to change. Thus, it will be pointless to look backward to ask ourselves “how was marriage done?” Those ceremonies and customs were created to suit the realities of the day, and the cultural understanding of marriage had by people who treated one another in ways that you would find utterly distasteful. Just as fruitless is to ask, “what is marriage now?” Rather, we need to ask, “What do we wish for marriage to be?” Ceremonies should be crafted for the future, rather than the present or the past, and should represent our aspirations for these unions.

In the first place, marriage is no longer about gifting or selling a woman to a man for the purpose of “ploughing.” Procreation is no longer the primary function of marriage, and women, thankfully, are no longer viewed as chattle in your society.

Therefore, the custom of ‘carrying over the threshold’ which is remnant of the man transferring a woman into his oikos for the purpose of acquiring her is no longer a custom which pleases me. You will no longer do this.

There will be no more ceremonial kidnappings, nor shall a lock of hair be cut. Yet the ceremonial offerings of childhood toys to Artemis will continue, because marriage is a union of responsible adults. To embrace adulthood, one must leave childish things behind. Childish toys are an emblem of a way of life dedicated to selfishness and play, of egotism and irresponsibility. These qualities must be left behind to attend to the solemn duty of love.

Marriage is no longer an exclusively heterosexual institution, either. Again, I could not be more pleased. As a Goddess of Marriage, it is in my best interest to support as many types and kinds of marriage as are possible. I should sanctify, receive hospitality at, and be given my due on all of those sacred occasions.

The ceremony of marriage must be written so that no party is in any way subordinate during the forming of the household. If one of the parties is a slave, they must be freed for that day in order to be an equal participant in the building of the new oikos, and may choose, thereafter, to resume their previous subordinate position.

The veil is a remnant of a time when a woman always belonged to someone other than herself, generally a male relative or her husband. The custom of being veiled is one of closing off the permissions society may have had to the woman’s body. The custom of having someone lift that veil is an emblem of that person giving permission to those assembled to view her body. If one wishes to wear a veil, let them wear one. Yet, one should don it oneself, and lift it oneself, and no one else may do so.

Here is what should be in a ceremony:

  • The parties to be married should begin with a ceremony to bid farewell to the deities of their parent’s household. This should happen in the household of one of the parents of the individuals to be married, and all parents should be present, if possible. All of the deities who oversaw their youth should be honored and toasted, and each person to be married should dedicate one wooden toy as an offering to the Goddess of Childhood. Farewell is said because, even if the new household being formed chooses to worship the same deities, the deities will need to approach them in a different way than they approached those same people individually. After marriage, the deities form a new relationship with them as the deities of the new household. Likewise, at this occasion, any former agreements about the relationship between the people to be married will be dissolved. A slave should be ceremonially freed. Any debts between them should be cancelled. They may also renounce any personal taboos or standing vows at this time. If the vow is to a deity, they may rely on me, for on this day they are as sacred to me as the deep forest is to Artemis, or the inner sanctum of Delphi is to Apollon.
  • There should be a procession from the parental household to a community space.
  • There should be a declaration of specific intent on the part of the individuals to be married, and this statement should be made before friends, family, and community. The terms of the relationship, in brief, should be stated. This could be in the form of vows, or reading a marriage contract aloud. If you will read a marriage contract aloud, you will ring a bell before each clause and have a toast, so that no one in the room fails to hear any of the items through inattention. If you will say vows, the same should be done before each vow. And with each toast, the pious should libate to me, since to me are sacred the bonds and binding rules of marriage, and it is I who will enforce whatsoever they promise.
  • The ones being married shall kneel, and my clergy person will lay hands on them, pronounce blessings upon them in accordance with their aspirations for the new household. Thereafter, the clergy person shall declare them married.
  • After the marriage, they shall process from the communal space with all of the friends, family and community who attended the wedding, to a place representing their new household. There, they will, together, consecrate their new household altar and welcome in the deities whom they would have oversee their new life together.  Any vows or taboos which had been laid down may be taken up again. A slave may be re-collared, if they wish it.
  • A feast honorig the new household and their household deities should be the conclusion.

This is what I have to say on the matter. I have done. Now write it for me.

29 comments

    • Jeremy Kohler

      :teasing: Well duh! What was she going to say? “The Gods of the Hellenes do not approve of man love! Forget about the Isle of Lesbos as well, that’s right out!” Even if one were to argue that “the purpose of marriage is for procreation,” the Hellenic spiritual system at least has plenty of room for devotion amongst couples or groups of any gender. An extension like this seems quite logical (if one were to argue that.)

  1. aediculaantinoi

    This is really excellent advice…and just in time, as I may be performing my first same-sex marriage/handfasting next month (I’ve done different-gender weddings several times before), and there is a D/s element in the relationship as well, and having the freedom to make the vows during the ceremony is really important…

    Also, I wonder if just as there’s Aphrodite Ourania, perhaps there’s also Hera Ourania now as well, who may be the matron of queer weddings? Hmm…

    • Thenea

      Oh wow, that is so exciting! Good luck with the wedding, and mazal tov to the couple. 🙂

      I do sense that whatever aspect of Hera I’m working with wants to be involved in all ceremonies wherein a new household is created or dissolved, and for her, it is really all about adulthood, commitment, creating a home together, and so forth. Gender and number be damned.

      Very weirdly, I recently created a Hera Sim in my Sims game, and she was called Hera Ourania, because I somehow forgot that this was not one of her traditional epithets.

      • Thenea

        Also this makes me think about people who aren’t into the whole adulthood through union with others thing. Adulthood rituals need to be separate. I need to be careful about not equating the two. Plenty of people become venerable citizens long before they marry anyone.

      • aediculaantinoi

        Yes…there are not many rituals for that these days, and no clear markers for it. I am holding off on a certain initiatory tattoo, for example, until I have a full-time contracted job, and that still hasn’t happened (even though the effort for my job is full-time, but I’m paid for 8 hours of the 20+ I do each week).

        And, given it isn’t likely I’ll have a human long-term partner (unless my life totally mirrors Hadrian’s and I get one in 2023/2024!), something of that nature would be good. In an oracular session with Sabazios a few years ago, he kept saying “You have no horse.” Even independent of not being able to drive, I think he was commenting on my lack of any markers of “full adult citizen/tribal member” status. He wasn’t wrong on that…

      • Thenea

        Weirdly, this is something we are talking about in Odd Fellows (a fraternal order I belong to). What’s being bandied around is the idea of re-vamping our initiatory system to especially focus on helping people find their place as an adult in society, in absence of those traditional markers. We are seeing an increasing number of people in their late twenties and early thirties who fall into the category of needing this kind of thing.

        What has been said in that organization is that the real mark of an adult should be assuming an obligation toward a society. That includes being a responsible voter (in a democracy) and having a trade, profession or personal aim (social justice, charity and volunteerism, etc). In other words, adulthood is synonymous with responsibility toward others in some way.

        Rites of passage are good because they often change the way you think about yourself. This, in turn, can impact the way you behave, and, as a consequence, the way things tend to pan out for you.

        Is there a Polytheist Anthology on this? Because there should be.

      • aediculaantinoi

        On polytheist rites of passage and adulthood? Heck, I think there aren’t even any wider pagan ones on such adulthood rites.

        I know there is interest in this, though…

        But, your plate is pretty full right now, yes? And mine is too, alas; however, if someone else did it, I’d happily contribute.

      • Thenea

        Mmmmeh. I plan to be done writing my book by March. I’m game for another project after that.

        I know some people who are really awesome at editing.

      • Limnaia

        ‘Gender and number be damned’ sounds about right. I remember when my polyfamily of (then) five were going through difficulties, I reached out to her and said that we were each as married as society recognised, but nevertheless regarded the others as spouses, and though we hadn’t yet formalised it with a ceremony, we did own a home together and were building our own small oikos- and was that legitmate enough for her to see us as married and bless us with strength as we navigated the difficulties before us? I will never forget her response. ‘Even when vows have only been said in the silence of one’s heart, I hear them and I hold them to be sacred.’ I was on my knees sobbing at the time, so I didn’t get the pleasure of her thoughts on marriage in modern times, but I caught a firm sense of disapproval- not at me for what I was asking, but that I felt I had to ask if my marriage was offensive to her.

        (As it happened, one of our then partners left us, and Hera was my rock throughout. I will never be able to thank her enough.)

  2. Sable Aradia

    Reblogged this on Sable Aradia, Priestess & Witch and commented:
    I saw that peacock and I was thinking, “Holy shit! I better listen!” Hera does not debate. Hera is a Queen and She gives pronouncements. I like Her pronouncements and I am passing them along. I am certain She is speaking primarily to Hellenismos but Pagans who call upon the pantheon at all would do well to take note I think.

  3. Sable Aradia

    I have been keeping it quiet, but I and my partner/priest are working on a book about Pagan/Polytheist views on love and marriage, using the Eros and Psyche myth as the framework. We talked about the difference between the “playing house” that Eros and Psyche did in Their initial marriage, and how real marriage is accepting the responsibilities of adulthood and leaving childish selfishness behind, and how discovering that is part of the myth. It’s always so cool to have your gnosis corroborated . . .

    On another tack, I wondered about Hera’s views on the changes to marriage in recent years, and I wondered if She was irritated that people keep inviting Aphrodite to weddings but not Her (and then wonder what went wrong years later). I usually make a point of honouring Her when I mention any deity from the Greek pantheon in a wedding ceremony and I put a peacock feather on the altar.

    • aediculaantinoi

      Yeah…considering that the Trojan War started the last time Hera was ignored, and likewise Hera was part of at least one divine coup attempt (along with her fellow refused, Athena), this is something we should try and get our priorities revamped on! 😉

    • Thenea

      It is easy to forget this, but Aphrodite is divorced. She was married off to Hephaistos, and martial bliss lasted… I dunno… maybe fifteen minutes or something, and before you know it, she’d coaxed Ares into her bed. She slept with Ares in her husband’s house, in their marital bed. This went on long enough for the god of the forge to suspect, lay a trap, and catch them both in the act with a net.

      This doesn’t make her a bad person. Not at all. She, like many women at that time, was hardly given a choice in her marriage. The fact of the matter is, though, that societal rules and expectations about marriage just happen to be a thing that she gives literally zero fucks about. I imagine male deities standing around, making pronouncements about what she was going to do and not do with her va-jay-jay, and she was just like, “You guys are cute. We’re done here.”

      Aphrodite was slut shamed by various deities and continued to give zero fucks (see also: the brief affair of Aphrodite and Dionysos). To me, there are few things more admirable than a being who is truly willing to face down the scorn of peers and even authority figures in order to do what they believe is right. She is a goddess whose primary office and function is to represent unfettered love and desire. Nothing in her job description requires her to hold the various involved parties to their word, or to create a stable environment, or to facilitate a harmonious household. Are you in love? Do you desire your partner or partners? Yes? Ok then, she’s done her job.

      Aphrodite is the well-spring, and Hera is the cup from which we drink. Hera creates boundaries and accountability so that the relationship can become peaceful and stable.

      You need them both.

  4. EmberVoices

    My first thought is that I would assume She gave this to you because you’ve been researching and contemplating Greek ideas about Marriage lately.

    My second thought is that She seems not to grok that in our modern culture, marriage is not necessarily the same as the transition from childhood into adulthood, and is frequently much, much later.

    Also, our forms of entertainment do not as clearly delineate between toys for children and toys for everyone as She might hope. ;p

    -E-

    • Thenea

      Yeeeaaahhh… Her Majesty is trying so very, very hard to understand and support our modern view of marriage.

      I give her props for recognizing marriages which include a variety of gender combinations, and for accepting polyerosy.

      I tried to explain to her about adulthood, building a household and marriage as not being the same thing, and she just looked at me like I had eaten too many magic mushrooms.

      She said:

      1. You cannot be an adult unless you have your own household.

      2. What is the point of building household all by yourself, with just you in it?

      3. If you do not have the responsibility of managing a household, why not live it up a little? Be a little childish. You have time! (I’m like… no. Because responsibilities come in more flavors than household.)

      That said… engaging in a profession of life goal really is (or should be) the marker of adulthood. It doesn’t have to be a paying career, IMO. It could be a social justice aim, volunteer work, clergy-ing, developing a craft, or whatever else. So long as you’e figured out what you are contributing to society.

      And as for the “toys for children” vs “toys for adults” *guiltily eyes her collection of dragon figurines which she owns for the purpose of imaginative play*

      ….yeah.

      But her suggestions about spiritually transitioning from dealing with deities as individuals to dealing with them as a couple or family unit feels spot on. Also, I love the idea of completing a marriage ceremony with a consecration of a household altar.

      • EmberVoices

        Yeah, I do like the household gods part, although it wouldn’t work so well in my own household, I admit.

        I’m just not sure how I feel about the idea of, should I ever get around to actually marrying (I’m sure by Her definition I am already married long since), going back to my parents’ houses to bid their god[s] farewell somehow…

        -E-

      • Thenea

        It wouldn’t work in mine either. At all.

        For some people, if they have very accepting parents, honoring and saying farewell to the gods (or singular god) of their parents’ household might be cathartic. I think, for some Polytheists who have parents that are not at all ok with their religion, a place *representing* that household and its deities might be a better bet, especially if their connection to that deity, or guilt over their lack of a connection is weighing on them. For others, a similar ceremony, saying farewell to one’s familiar powers (with the intent of welcoming them back in, later) might be a useful equivalent. When Hera was speaking, the idea that a Polytheist might have a set of Monotheists for parents who view their worship of plural deities as an abomination did not cross her mind. Though for our present time, that is a reality.

        And yeah. You live not with your parents, and with at least one significant other (with whom you share said household). The distinction between that and marriage would be completely lost on her.

      • EmberVoices

        I think my Mom would be fine with me doing ceremony and stuff, but would be a bit indignant at the idea that I would need to stop honoring god or spirit connections I get from her side. Dad would be merely intrigued. No idea how my stepmom would react. Wouldn’t even want to try and sort out the extended family. Mostly the whole idea just wouldn’t *apply* very well. But I think that’s another place where Heathen ideas of family and household don’t work the same way as Hellenic ones anyway, so it’s probably moot.

        Which is part of why I’m curious what Frigga would say of all this – the differences and overlaps would be quite interesting!
        -E-

      • Thenea

        Yeah. Hera never claimed to be speaking for any tradition other than the Hellenic one.

        I, too, would be interested in what Frigga has to say.

      • EmberVoices

        Alas… I don’t work so well with Frigga these days. But if I happen to find myself with a spoon to spare, and the urge, well, I won’t resist it ;p -E-

      • Thenea

        Also, the concept isn’t that you aren’t working with those powers anymore, but that you are ending one relationship and starting a new one.

      • celestineday

        First, I am here through Aine, who posted one of your articles.

        Second, I am obviously fascinated by your work, because that was, um, at least an hour ago and here I am.

        Third, about your imaginative play dragon figurines, go you! I played with dolls long past the time “normal” kids stopped, well into my teens. And I remember being disappointed when the last of my friends set them aside. I no longer had anyone to play dolls with me, and I suppose I finally realized I wasn’t “supposed” to want to play with them anymore. Or my plastic horse collection (oh, my plastic horse collection… I miss you).

        Third and a half: when I am adulty enough to have my own (probably single) household, I am definitely going to buy some plastic horses and have imaginative play. Definitely.

      • Thenea

        🙂 Glad to hear that you’re enjoying my writing.

        I have loads to say about adults and play, and play and learning, etc. Imaginative play is vital, in my opinion, to a healthy spiritual life.

        Anyway, yes. Hera’s opinions… non-identical to my own. That’s the interesting thing, to mer, about the trance work that I do with all these various deities: they are all so very different from me and from one another.

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