Just as each Roman man had his genius, or guardian spirit of masculinity, so did each woman have her juno, or guardian spirit of femininity. Juno ruled every woman’s life, every feminine occasion. In the civic life of Rome during both the Republic and the Empire, Juno stood with Jupiter and Minerva as the Capitoline triad that ruled the city. In one of her aspects, Juno was regina, “queen.” In another she was Juno Moneta, the “warner,” so called because the sacred geese of her temple once squawked so ferociously that the city was warned of a Gallic army outside the walls. Generals began to visit Juno Moneta’s temple for support, both popular and monetary, which is where we find an echo (“money”) of this goddess’s name today.
As Juno Pronuba, the goddess arranged marriages; as Juno Cioxia, she ruled the first undressing of the bride by the bridegroom; and as Juno Lucina, she presided over childbirth and the opening of newborn child’s eyes to the light. In Rome, it was the custom of pregnant women to unbind their hair and untie every knot in their clothing so that nothing should restrict the safe delivery of the child. (Juno also had an aspect called Viriplaca, she who settles arguments between spouses; this aspect seems not to have been on call during the married life of Juno and Jupiter.) Thanks to Juno’s power, June was said to be the most popular month for marriage. (Perhaps today’s June brides should set up altars to bring to them the many aspects of this ancient Italian goddess of feminine power.)
Okay, that’s history. Now here goes my imagination…..
Noting that her husband, Jupiter, is busy studying a list of recent battles fought and won by the Roman army, Juno steps down from her pedestal and walks into a private room in the temple on the Capitoline Hill in Rome and picks up the phone. (It’s an old-fashioned rotary-dial phone. The Senate can’t keep up with modern electronic progress. The Senate cannot keep up with anything.) Juno dials. The phone rings on Mount Olympus in northern Greece.
“Hera, my dear sister-queen,” Juno says when the Great Goddess picks up, “I have been giving serious thought to issues you and I and our daughters have been discussing. First of all, you and I need to separate ourselves from this ridiculous conflation the poets and scholars have bound us into. Every goddess—every woman—is her own self.” When Hera agrees, Juno continues. “Yes, we are both queens. But we have traditionally ruled separate peoples—none of this Greco-Roman nonsense for me!—and we were divine queens before the Indo-Europeans invaded your land first and then mine, and then married us to their rapist-kings. And, Sister, here is my second point. Why should powerful women like us dwindle into wives? That ‘dwindle,’” she adds, “will come from a so-called heroic play about our Egyptian daughter, Cleopatra. They’ll say the great queen dwindled into wife when she married the Roman generals. Sound familiar?”
Hera finally gets a word in edgewise. “Yes, indeed,” she agrees. “All for Love, or, The World Well Lost. That’s insane! Not at all ‘well lost’! We were ruling our aspects of the world. The feminine aspects. Nurturing and growing. And then I’m captured by that rapist?? My world was lost, but it certainly wasn’t well lost. And you—like the other Roman deities, you were a perfectly respectable and honorable goddess of Latium and the tribal lands around Rome. And then those Senators took over and moved you to Rome without even asking if you wanted to move.”
There is a thoughtful pause, then Hera asks, “Well, Sister Juno, what’s on your mind today?”
“It’s time for us undwindle! We personify the feminine spirit, all that is strong in and for mortal women. All of us would be strong if the patriarchy hadn’t taken over what they call civilization.” Juno pauses. “Do you agree with me, my dear sister-queen?”
“I certainly do! But how shall we accomplish these tasks? How shall we rewrite twenty-five hundred years of history and mythology?”
“That’s what I’m thinking,” Juno says. “I think we need to leave mythology behind and move into the modern world. Our daughters of today need our help. Let us take advantage of the modern world! Do today’s women need to be stuffed into clichés and uncomfortable clothing? Do they need to be ignored and used and abused?” She answers her own question. “They do not. Let us, the classical goddesses, help them rise up.”
Now Juno reveals plans she’s been dreaming up. First, she’s going to call a Zoom meeting of goddesses of wisdom from lands around the world. They will discuss feminist strategies. Second, they will establish a convention, Goddesscon. They will initially meet in the big square in the Vatican (empty thanks to the pandemic) to make plans to speak to modern daughters, mothers, grandmothers, to secretaries, teachers, nurses, to women in business, in industry, in agriculture, in the arts, in government. To today’s Everywoman. Third, she says, “we shall find platform experts to teach us how to speak—post—on Twitter and Facebook and TikTok and, uh, all the others.” Finally, they decide that Goddesscon2 will be livestreamed via her new website: www.juno_refresh.org.
“Sisters,” Juno will say to her worldwide audience, “touch and bless the waters of your homelands. Give the waters our energies, our feminine powers. As we know, the human body is fifty to seventy percent water. Water is everywhere. It gets into everything. Add Juno energy to the earth’s waters, and the planet will be refreshed. Women will be refreshed. Men may ask, ‘Is there something in the water?’ And you will say, ‘You betcha there is. It’s Juno power. Feminist power. Deal with it, guys!’”
Note 1: Of course it’s not a real convention or a real website. (But don’t we wish!)
Note 2: Sherri S. Tepper used the idea of “something in the water” and a visit from the Goddess to rescue oppressed women in her 1996 novel, Gibbon’s Decline and Fall. Which I recommend.
Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D. (www.barbaraardinger.com), is a published author and freelance editor. Her newest book is Secret Lives, a novel about grandmothers who do magic. Her earlier nonfiction books include the daybook Pagan Every Day, Finding New Goddesses (a pun-filled parody of goddess encyclopedias), and Goddess Meditations. When she can get away from the computer, she goes to the theater as often as possible—she loves musical theater and movies in which people sing and dance. She is also an active CERT (Community Emergency Rescue Team) volunteer and a member (and occasional secretary pro-tem) of a neighborhood organization that focuses on code enforcement and safety for citizens. She has been an AIDS emotional support volunteer and a literacy volunteer. She is an active member of the neopagan community and is well known for the rituals she creates and leads.