Friday, August 20, 2010

Book Review: The Transformation of Hera: A Study of Ritual, Hero, and the Goddess in the Iliad by Joan V. O'Brien

Let me apologize in advance for reveiwing a book that is no longer in print and is not available on the mighty Amazon. You may commence with the throwing of rotten tomatoes now. Thank you.

The Transformation of Hera is a scholarly consideration of the queen of the Olympians. While the title's subtext will tell you that the scope of the book is limited to her appearances in Homer's Iliad--and there is much use of the literary clues left behind in this work-- the author's research goes far more in depth than this. It reaches back to the pre-Hellenic worship of Hera to flesh out the usual shallow, shrewish description of the goddess through an etymological breakdown of her name and various epithets, archaeological clues left behind in her temples, statues, and artwork and the historical facts that can be gleaned about her worship. The research is substantial and well cited.

Overall, I found this book to be enjoyable and full of information. This is not light reading, so be prepared if you aren't used to scholarly works. There is definitely a feminist bias to the book, which may turn some readers off, but didn't seem overdone to me. I would recommend this book to Hellenic reconstructionists, devotees of Hera, and anyone interested in Greek mythology or goddess spirituality.

Personally, this book is indispensable to me as Hera has been my patron goddess since childhood. I have reams of notes on this book and always discover something new each time I pick it up again. It's one of those books that seems to confirm things about the goddess that I have felt intuitively for a long time. I often study as a form of devotion to my gods, and this is the book I choose when I need to devote some time to Hera.

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