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PBP: Jealousy of Hera

May 17, 2012

Phthonos (or Zelos) is the Greek daimon of jealousy and envy particularly where love is concerned.  To the Romans, the daimon was Invidia.  Both of which were associated with the” evil eye”.  One who looks upon another with jealousy or envy was said to have cast the evil eye causing many problems for the recipient.  Plutarch described these looks as poisoned darts sent out in ones gaze.  Democritus described them as envious particles full of poison which damage the bodies and minds of those receiving the evil eye.  (Medusa comes to mind here…yet her visage was used as a protective symbol.  Maybe the evil eye amulets are a simple reduction of Medusa’s head to just her eye.)

In the myths, Phthonos seems to have been a constant (yet rarely mentioned) companion of Hera.  She is mainly portrayed as a jealous shrew punishing her husband’s paramours or the children resulting from these unions.    As I discussed on my blog on fidelity, I think these myths are more indicative of the ancient Greek culture than of the goddess.  In ancient times, it was extremely difficult for a woman to divorce her husband, yet it was quite easy for a man to divorce his wife.  All he had to do was reject her in front of witnesses or return her to her father’s home along with her dowry (but NOT the children).  A woman had to convince an official that the divorce was needed (and how likely was a male going to be willing to interfere in another man’s household?!).  Her husband could prevent this simply by forbidding her to leave the house.  Because a man could easily dismiss his wife, jealousy and fear was sure to ensue on her part whenever he was in the mere presence of another woman.  What if he likes her more? What if their union produced a child and that was a boy?  What if her children were healthier or more robust or simply more favored?  It put the woman’s status, life and children in danger.

Depending on the myth, either Zeus and Hera produced no male children together or they were despised (in the case of Ares) or rejected (Hephaistos due to his imperfect physical form).  Since Zeus could divorce her at any time, Hera was understandably fearful of loosing her marriage, her home and the power it brought her.  So many stories revolve around Hera hassling Zeus’ lovers or harrying the sons of these unions.  (Off the top of my head I can’t think of a single instance of her hassling daughters.)  In reality, Hera has nothing to fear.  She is a powerful immortal in her own right.  Even if the unthinkable were to happen, Hera would have be fine on her own unlike the women of ancient Greece.  Such jealousies  humanized the goddess of marriage and women in the eyes of her feminine worshipers.

“a year of exploring the Pagan world through blogging”

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