This artwork (left) is by Italian tarot artist Patrizia Gambari, who lives and works in Vergato, a picturesque commune outside metropolitan Bologna. The painting is titled Hera. It caught my eye while browsing Morena Poltronieri’s Facebook page. Morena is director of the International Tarot Museum in Bologna.
In Gambari’s tarot schema, Hera represents the Empress just as Gaia represents the Empress in Chrysalis Tarot. In Greek mythology the two are closely aligned. Hera was an Earth goddess in early Greek mythology, a role which Gaia later assumed. In some accounts, Gaia was Hera’s grandmother. In the mythological Garden of the Hesperides, Gaia attended Hera’s wedding to Zeus. As a wedding gift Gaia gave the happy couple enchanted trees that would produce Golden Apples .
In Greek mythology, Hera represents the ideal woman. In Greek religion, she was guardian of the family and protectress of women in childbirth. At this difficult and dangerous moment in American history, I both invite and encourage meditation on Hera and her attributes. But rather than propound gratuitous political commentary (plentiful elsewhere), I will offer only additional artwork and its synchronicity to still the soul and salve the conscience.
Hera’s Roman counterpart is Juno, the patroness of Rome. In ancient times, the annual Matronalia was held in her honor in June, the month named for her and the reason we regard June as the most favorable month for marriage even today. Pictured below is Flaming June (1895) by Sir Douglas Leighton, one of my favorite paintings. June is fast asleep but brimming with energy.
Greek mythology was often featured on Black Figure Pottery, which dominated the Mediterranean pottery market for over 150 years. The piece below is now in the Louvre. It shows Hercules, come up to the Garden of Hesperides to pinch some Golden Apples.
The painting below is by Ricciardo Meacci (1894). It depicts the three Hesperides in their garden. The three are sometimes called Western Maidens or Daughters of Evening. In Roman mythology, they are Daughters of Hesperus, personification of the Evening Star. Their mission was to mind Hera’s orchard, to prune and water the trees. The apples would bestow immortality on anyone who ate them.
Protecting the Golden Apples was a job Hera gave to Ladon, a hundred-headed serpent-like dragon, who, according to Greek art, was for the most part friendly to humans.
We can glean the parallels between the mythological Garden of the Hesperides and the Biblical Garden of Eden; Zeus and Hera as types of Adam and Eve. In Genesis Eve was called the “mother of all the living” and Hera was called the “mother of all” by the Greek poet Alcaeus.
Our age-old dilemma dramatized in both the Garden of Hesperides and of Eden is self-evident: Ultimately, we each must decide what our source of Truth will be – the Creator or the Serpent.
© Toney Brooks, 2022