Only Juno, the Roman Queen of Heaven, can be considered for this beautiful month of weddings and happy celebrations.
Juno was married to Jupiter. Since the Romans simply renamed most of the Greek Pantheon for themselves we should mention that Juno's Hellenic counterpart was called Hera. In Roman mythology, Juno had a far greater impact on society and was in general much better received than Hera.
Hera was often seen as bitter and vengeful because of her husband, Zeus' many infidelities. She appeared to be a long suffering wife who bore her shame and anger with dignity, supposedly, as an example to other women. It is said that she secretely plotted to find ways to get even with her husband. She engaged in several battles of one upmanship that contributed to her decline in popularity under patriarchy.
Zeus, who was determined to show that he needed no women to procreate, gave birth to Athena from his forehead. In retaliation, Hera then gave birth to Heracles without paternal involvement. Her constant war of words and actions with Zeus led to her being seen in an unfavorable light.
Hera was, however, a Queen in her own right before she was married to the King of the Olympians. She had been married to Zeus by his followers who wanted a powerful and acceptable wife for their King. At the same time it was their intention to subdue Hera and downgrade her influence. Hera had to give up much to be the queen of the Olympians. Some historians feel she had been so powerful that the only way to subdue her, was in marriage. Mostly, her self respect was lost as well as the reverence with which she was previously viewed. Today she is still considered more often as the patron of long suffering wives than any thing else. It is worth taking a second look at her biography under the eye of some of the pro feminist writers.
Juno, on the other hand, represented all that was good in Roman society. She was the patron of all women and children. She was known as the Queen of heaven and all prayers were directed to her. Temples were built in her honour. She was the Supreme Goddess of the Roman Pantheon. In her many guises she was to rule over all aspects of a women's life. She was known by many names, some of which have been usurped by the Patriarchal Fathers of Christianity, but the short list below will give an idea of the impact she had on Roman society.
Barbara G Walker, in the Woman's Dictionary of Scred Symbols and Objects tells us that 'every woman was a Juno. Juno was the soul's name'. I believe that it was used much the same as Maria is used today. In the past, Mothers needed a holy name or patroness for their daughters in an attempt to appease the heavens and gain some mercy for the female offspring. Since the 400's AD, when Mary was elevated to the status of 'Mother of God', her 's was to become the only feminine face and name acceptable in modern religion.
As for the Roman Goddess Juno who ruled well before Christianity, Walker also notes that the star shaped sceptre, which was her symbol, identified her as Star of the Sea, or Stella Maris, a name that is often heard today. How beautiful and majestic she looks in art work. Interesting that Juno was independant and involved in many activities of importance. She was certainly a role model for the young bride. How the original Queen of Heaven in all her glory and majesty could have been supplanted by the ideal of a virginal, subdued, and obdient wife in marriage remains a mystery.
If you choose to walk down the aisle resplendant in white gown, with a crown of stars or flowers in your hair and the world at your feet for a day, then thank Juno. The ceremonies associated with marriage are more connected to our pagan past that our religious present.
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