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Io’s Journey: The Myth of the White Cow

The story of Zeus, Hera, and Io has been passed down through the ages as a cautionary tale of love, betrayal, and revenge. It tells the story of an unsuspecting woman caught between two powerful forces – a jealous goddess and a powerful king. Through this ancient Greek tragedy, we learn how unchecked jealousy can lead to destruction and how courage can win against insurmountable odds. Let’s take a closer look at this timeless classic. 

The myth of Io, Hera, and Zeus

The Secret Affair of Zeus and Io

Io was a princess from Argos in Greece. She was a beautiful young girl and in some stories also the first priestess of Hera. Zeus fell in love with the mortal woman and wanted to make her his own. To keep their romantic relationship a secret from Hera, his divine wife and queen of gods, he conjured up dark clouds to hide them. Hera, however, had her suspicions aroused by the mysterious clouds and decided to investigate them herself. As Hera approached, Zeus hastily changed Io into a white heifer (cow) in an attempt to avoid getting caught.

According to some stories, Zeus changed Io’s form into a heifer to hide her from his wife, yet there are other stories claiming Hera had done it herself.

Hera’s Cunning Trick and Zeus’s Vengeful Payback

Hera was not fooled by Zeus’ ruse and demanded that he give her the cow as a gift. Knowing that denying his wife such an ordinary request would make him look suspicious, Zeus reluctantly agreed. Once in possession of the cow, Hera led Io to pasture where she tied it up to a tree and asked Argus—the All-Seeing giant with 100 eyes—to watch over her.

Painting: Juno discovering Jupiter with Io — Pieter Lastman  (1583–1633)
Juno discovering Jupiter with Io — Pieter Lastman  (1583–1633)

Zeus once again isn’t all that pleased with the arrangements. In his anger, Zeus ordered Hermes to kill Argus. To accomplish his mission, Hermes, disguised himself as a humble shepherd and lulled Argus to sleep with music. Once the giant was asleep, Hermes would have beheaded him. Enraged by the death of Argus, Hera put each of his eyes in the feathers of a peacock. That’s why peacock tails have those distinct eye-shaped patterns.

Peter Paul Rubens Juno and Argus WGA20280
Juno and Argus — Peter Paul Rubens  (1577–1640)

Hera’s Wrath: The Everlasting Torment of Io

In order to exact her revenge, Hera sent a gadfly to sting Io continuously, driving her to wander the world without rest. The persistent stings of the gadfly drove the cowgirl to the brink of insanity, leading her on a restless journey across Europe and Asia for miles.

Io ultimately crossed paths with Prometheus, the Titan god of fire who had been imprisoned on Mt. Caucasus by Zeus as a penalty for stealing the flame from the gods. Prometheus comforted Io with the information that she would be restored to human form and become the ancestress of the greatest of all heroes, Heracles (Hercules). Io wander until Egypt, where she was restored to human form by Zeus. There, she gave birth to Zeus’s son Epaphus, and a daughter as well, Keroessa. She later married Egyptian king Telegonus.

For some Io would have become the goddess Isis. It is also said that since Io was a white cow, the Egyptians never sacrificed cows in any rituals.

In some versions of the myth, Zeus witnessing Io’s pain pleaded to Hera for her sympathy and promised the Styx that he would never seek out Io again. Ultimately, Hera would have released the Gadfly and restored Io back to her human state.

The Moral

The moral of the story of Io is that, no matter how difficult or challenging life may seem, it is possible to find solace and hope in the end. This is exemplified by Io’s journey across Europe and Asia after being tormented by a relentless gadfly sent by Hera, only to find redemption in Egypt where Zeus finally restored her back to her human form. Through this experience, Io became an ancestor of one of the most famous heroes of all time: Hercules himself. Despite all that she had gone through with never-ending pain and suffering caused by Hera, Io was able to come out on top and find happiness and joy again far away from where it all began.

This serves as a reminder that even when faced with great adversity, we have the ability to overcome our obstacles if we look for relief within ourselves. It is important for us to rely on our inner strength which will help guide us toward a better future, regardless of how challenging our current situation may be.

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One Response

  1. This is not a myth IO was later known as ISIS incarnated as Astarte Atargatis Mother Mary and Melusine she is incarnated today as Earth’s next Buddha with the 7 sisters Pleidians daughters of Atlas they are incarnated were Plato describes Atlantis UK as Atlantis was the Earth at the beginning of creation the Golden age of the Titans.Jesus first incarnation was Hapokratise son of Zeus and IO later known as Horus

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