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FOTO: Bibi Saint-Pol who kindly places the image in the Public Domain. File:Hera Staatliche Antikensammlungen 2685.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

16. Ἥρης


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Introduction to the Orphic Hymn to Íra

Íra (Hera; Gr. Ἥρα) is the greatest of all Goddesses. And there is no other deity worthy of comparison to her with the exception of her husband Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) who is called Ýpatos (hypatus; Gr. Ὕπατος): the highest. And Íra is the equal of Zefs as said in the Orphic fragments (132, 163). Together Íra and Zefs are the most important deities in all of Ællinismόs (Hellenismos; Gr. Ἑλληνισμός), the ancient Greek religion.

The twelve Olympian Gods are worshiped as pairs and work together as pairs; for this reason, each couple is called an Ærmaphróditos (Hermaphroditos; Gr. Ἑρμαφρόδιτος), a deity having both sexes...this is how closely they work together. The one pair which is superior to all the others is the marriage of Íra and Zefs for which their union is called the Great Ærmaphróhditoh (Toh Mægáloh Ærmaphróhditoh; Gr. Τω Μεγάλω Έρμαφρώδιτω). These two deities embody the uttermost expression of the two kozmogonic elements: Earth and Water, without which the existence of the universe is impossible. Íra is the furthest progression of Earth. In the theology of Orphizmós (Orphism; Gr. Ορφισμός), the element Water is described as having three manifestations: Water, Fire, and Aithír (Aether; Gr. Αἰθήρ) and it is identified with Zefs. He is thought of as dwelling in the sky.

In the Orphic hymn to Íra we are trying to discover this most important of deities. Where is she? The hymn tells us that she is in the wedding bed of Zefs. And where is Zefs? He is swirling through the sky. And Íra is swirling with him, as Próklos says, generating everything in conjunction with the Father. Let us now explore the Orphic hymn to Íra and perhaps we will get to know the glorious Mother a little better.

Translation by Thomas Taylor [1] :

16. Íra [Hera; Gr. Ἥρα]

The Fumigation from Aromatics.

O Royal Juno of majestic mien,
Aerial-form'd, divine, Jove's blessed queen,
Thron'd in the bosom of cærulean air,
The race of mortals is thy constant care.
The cooling gales thy pow'r alone inspires,
Which nourish life, which ev'ry life desires.
Mother of clouds and winds, from thee alone
Producing all things, mortal life is known:
All natures share thy temp'rament divine,
And universal sway alone is thine.
With founding blasts of wind, the swelling sea
And rolling rivers roar, when shook by thee.
Come, blessed Goddess, fam'd almighty queen, 
With aspect kind, rejoicing and serene.

Thomas Taylor's commentary on the hymn:

Juno is called by the Orphic theologers, according to Proclus, ζωογόνος θεά, the vivific (ed. giving life) Goddess; an epithet perfectly agreeing with the attributes ascribed to her in this Hymn. And in Plat. Theol. p. 483 (ed. The Theology of Plato, Book 6, Chapter 22), he says that Juno is the source of the soul's procreation (ed. [she] "... imparts the generation of the soul").

The Original Ancient Greek Text

16. Ἥρης, θυμίαμα ἀρώματα.

Κυανέοις κόλποισιν ἐνημένη, ἀερόμορφε,
Ἥρη παμβασίλεια, Διὸς σύλλεκτρε μάκαιρα,
ψυχοτρόφους αὔρας θνητοῖς παρέχουσα προσηνεῖς,
ὄμβρων μὲν μήτηρ, ἀνέμων τροφέ, παντογένεθλε·
χωρὶς γὰρ σέθεν οὐδὲν ὅλως ζωῆς φύσιν ἔγνω·
κοινωνεῖς γὰρ ἅπασι κεκραμένη ἠέρι σεμνῶι·
πάντων γὰρ κρατέεις μούνη πάντεσσί τ' ἀνάσσεις
ἠερίοις ῥοίζοισι τινασσομένη κατὰ χεῦμα.
ἀλλά, μάκαιρα θεά, πολυώνυμε, παμβασίλεια,
ἔλθοις εὐμενέουσα καλῶι γήθουσα προσώπωι.

Transliteration of the ancient Greek text: 
See this page: Transliteration of Ancient Greek)

16. Íris [2], thymíama aróhmata.

Kyanǽis kólpisin ænimǽni, aærómorphæ,
Íri pamvasíleia, Diós sýllæktræ mákaira,
psykhotróphous ávras thnitís parǽkhousa prosineis,
ómvrohn mæn mítir, anǽmohn trophǽ, pandoyǽnæthlæ;
khohrís gar sǽthæn oudǽn ólohs zöís phýsin ǽgnoh;
kinohneis gar ápasi kækramǽni iǽri sæmnói;
pándohn gar kratǽeis mouni pándæssí t'anásseis
iæríis rízisi tinassomǽni katá khévma.
allá, mákaira thæá, polyóhnymæ, pamvasíleia,
ǽlthis evmænǽousa kalóï yíthousa prosópoï.


Ἥρης - Ἥρης is the genitive of Ἥρα; titles in ancient Greek are placed in the genitive case.

θυμίαμα (incense) ἀρώματα. (aromatic herbs or spices) - The author of this hymn is suggesting an incense-offering of aromatic herbs or spices.

Κυανέοις (dark blue, cerulean) κόλποισιν (hollow, womb, or bosom) ἐνημένη, (seated in) - You are seated in a cerulean hollow,
ἀερόμορφε, - having the form of air

Ἥρη (Íra) παμβασίλεια, (all-queen) - Íra queen of all,
Διὸς (Zefs) σύλλεκτρε (σύλλεκτρος, sharing the marriage bed) μάκαιρα, (blessed) - blessed one who shares Zef's bed,

ψυχοτρόφους (ψυχοτρόφος, sustain life or soul) αὔρας (breezes) θνητοῖς (mortal) παρέχουσα (provide) προσηνεῖς, (gentle) - You provide gentle breezes which sustain the soul,

ὄμβρων (storm) μὲν μήτηρ, (mother) - Mother of the storms of Zefs,
ἀνέμων (winds) τροφέ, (nurse) - nurse of winds,
παντογένεθλε· - (παντογένεθλος) all-generating

χωρὶς (apart from) γὰρ (for) σέθεν (you) οὐδὲν (not) ὅλως (whole, entire) ζωῆς (life) φύσιν (production, generate) ἔγνω· (perceive) - Apart from you life and harvest cannot be found;

κοινωνεῖς (share, partake) γὰρ ἅπασι (all) κεκραμένη (mingle) ἠέρι (air) σεμνῶι· (revered) - Mingled in the majestic air you partake of everything;

πάντων (all) γὰρ κρατέεις (hold sovereignty) μούνη (alone) πάντεσσί (in all, entire) τ' ἀνάσσεις (rule over) - You alone hold sovereignty over everything.

ἠερίοις (aerial) ῥοίζοισι (rushing, as in wind) τινασσομένη (shake) κατὰ (down upon, over) χεῦμα. (stream, flow) - You are the stream which flutters down through the rushing winds.

ἀλλά, - And now you,

μάκαιρα (blessed) θεά, (Goddess) - blessed Goddess
πολυώνυμε, - of many names,
παμβασίλεια, - queen of all,

ἔλθοις (come) εὐμενέουσα (be gracious) καλῶι (beautiful) γήθουσα (joy) προσώπωι. (countenance) - Come with a countenance of kindness and joy. 

A more literal translation of the Orphic hymn to Íra

The translations presented in this series are not intended to replace the beautiful work of Thomas Taylor in our rituals. If anything, they make obvious his brilliance in capturing the spirit of the hymns while framing them in lovely poetry. Rather, we are simply trying to deepen our understanding of each hymn producing a more scholarly translation, word-for-word accurate.

16. Íra, incense aromatic herbs and spices.

You are seated in a cerulean cavern, having the form of air,
Íra queen of all, blessed one who shares the bed of Zefs,
You provide gentle breezes which sustain the soul,
Mother of storms, attendant of the winds, all-generating;
Apart from you life and harvest cannot be found;
Mingled with the majestic air you partake of everything;
You alone hold sovereignty over everything.
You are the stream which flutters down through the rushing winds.
And now you, blessed Goddess of many names, queen of all,
Come with a countenance of kindness and joy.


(Abbreviations can be found at the bottom of this page: GLOSSARY HOME.)

[1] The Hymns of Orpheus, trans. by Thomas Taylor, 1792; we are using a facsimile of the original edition, London, England (printed for the author), where this translation and commentary may be found on pp. 140-141. The hymn to Íra should be counted as 16, not 15 as we find in this first edition of the hymns. Taylor did not number the hymn to Ækáti (Hecate; Gr. Ἑκάτη), which caused all of his numbering to be off by one increment; he included it in the opening section entitled To Musæus; the hymn to Ækáti should have been counted as the first hymn. This numbering problem has been corrected in the current edition of the Taylor translations published by Prometheus Trust and entitled Hymns and Initiations, 1994 and revised again in 2003. 

[2] The word in Greek is Ἥρης, the genitive of Ἥρα (Hera). Since Η η is transliterated on this website with the letters I and iἭρης transliterates as Íris, because that is how the name of Íra (Hera) in the genitive is pronounced: EE-rees; we are not equating Íra (Hera) with the Goddess Ἶρις (Iris). The emphasis of our method of transliteration is on pronunciation; and we favor the Reuchlinian (modern Greek) method of pronouncing ancient Greek.

The story of the birth of the GodsOrphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.
How do we know there are Gods? Experiencing Gods.

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The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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