Who is Hermes?
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Hermes is one of the 12 Olympian gods and the messenger of the will of the gods. Son of Zeus and Maia (of the Pleiades). In Roman mythology known as Mercury (derived from the Latin merx meaning “merchandise”), considered the bridge between gods and men, as the messenger of the gods. Less is known about Hermes’ original function as “leader of souls between the Upper and Lower worlds ” and from there he became the patron of travelers, roads, borders, sailors and trade. He is also the patron of shepherds, flocks and flocks (birds).
The depiction of Hermes has varied over the centuries. He is initially represented as an old man with a beard and dressed as a traveler or a shepherd. In classical Hellenistic imagery, Hermes is a young and athletic man without a beard. The caduceus (a staff with two entwined snakes, sometimes ending in a winged sphere) is attributed not only to Asclepius, but also to other gods, but Hermes is most often depicted with this symbol.
In antiquity, Hermes became a “phallic god” of the borders – between the villages were placed kirni, a high pile of stones, with which borders were set between settlements, and were named after the deity. In the 6th century BC, the astronomer Hipparchus replaced the stones with bronze busts of the face of a bearded Hermes, and the Killini mountains were carved with a wooden phallus with the same meaning and patron. These “phalluses” were also placed in front of Athenian homes for protection and fertility. Later, around 415 BC, the hermitages were vandalized.
An Orphic hymn (Orphic Hymn 57; The Orphic Hymns are 87 short poems from the 2nd-3rd centuries of Orphic belief) places Hermes as a deity of the Underworld:
“To Hermes Chthonion (of the Underworld) … Hermes, I call, whom fate decrees to dwell near Cocytos, the famous stream of Hades, and of necessity the terrible path of (ananke), whose birth allows no one who reaches it to come back. Oh, Bacchaeos Hermes, divine offspring of Dionysus, parent of the vine, and of heavenly Aphrodite, Papian queen, dark-eyed goddess of fair appearance: who ever wanders through the sacred places where retreats the terrible empress of the Hydes, Persephone; of unfortunate souls guide the way, when fate decides, of regions empty days. Thine is the magic wand that makes sleep fly, Or lulls into sleepy rest the weary eye; for Persephone, through Tartaros dark and wide, gave thee ever-flowing souls to lead. Come, blessed power, the sacrifice present, and give a happy end to the works of your mystics.”
According to the famous psychologist Carl Jung, Hermes can be represented as the “lord of the subconscious”, since in myths Hermes is a bridge between the world of men and the gods (both on Olympus and in the Underworld). Jung also draws a comparison between Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth, seeing them as one, albeit from different cultures. An interesting characteristic presents the Hellenistic deity as a symbol of narcissism, but both in the negative and in the good aspect.
Symbols of Hermes: the rooster, the turtle, winged sandals, the palm tree, the goat, the number 4.
Hermes – God of Trade
The god Hermes, the messenger of the gods, the son of Zeus and Maya, was born in a cave on Mount Kylena in Arcadia. He travels with the speed of thought from Olympus to the farthest end of the world thanks to his winged sandals, with a caduceus in his hand. Hermes guards the roads and the hermes dedicated to him can be seen placed along roads, at crossroads and at the entrances of houses, everywhere in ancient Greece. He patronizes travelers on a lifelong journey, yet he leads the souls of the dead on their last journey to the sad realm of Hades. With his magic wand he closes people’s eyes and immerses them in a deep sleep. Hermes is the patron god of roads and travelers and the god of trade and commerce. To make a profit in trade and send people wealth. Hermes invented measures, numbers, and the alphabet, he taught people all these things. He is also the god of eloquence, and at the same time of twisting and deception. No one can surpass him in dexterity, cunning and even theft, as he is an unusually skilled thief. It was he who once jokingly stole from Zeus his scepter, from Poseidon his trident, from Apollo his golden arrows and bow, and from Ares his sword.
Hermes abducts Apollo’s Cattle
Hermes had just been born in the cool cave of Kilena, and here he had his first mischief. He decided to kidnap the cattle from the silver-haired Apollo, who was grazing the herds of the gods in the Pieria Valley in Macedonia at the time. Quietly, so that his mother would not notice him, Hermes slipped out of his diaper, jumped out of the cradle and crept to the exit of the cave. Next to the cave he saw a turtle, caught it from its shell and made the first lyre from three twigs, stretching sweet-sounding strings on it. Hermes returned unnoticed to the cave, hid the lyre in his cradle, went out again, and rushed like a wind towards Pieria. There he set aside fifteen cows from Apollo’s herd, tied reeds and twigs to their feet to erase their tracks, and quickly drove them in the direction of the Peloponnese. When Hermes was driving the cows through Boeotia late in the evening, he came across an old man working in his vineyard.
“Choose one of these cows,” Hermes told him, “just don’t tell anyone you saw me pass them through here.”
The old man, delighted with the gift, promised Hermes to keep it a secret and not to tell anyone where he had taken the cows. Hermes continued on his way. But he did not go far and wished to see if the old man would keep his word. Hiding the cows in the forest and changing his appearance, he returned to the old man and asked him:
“Tell me, Grandpa, didn’t a boy who drives cows pass through here? If you tell me where he took them, I’ll give you a bull and a cow.”
The old man did not hesitate much to tell or not to tell – he wanted so much to get both a bull and a cow; and he showed Hermes in which direction the boy with the cows had gone. Hermes was terribly angry with the old man for not keeping his word, and turned him into a rock so that he would be silent forever and remember that he had to resist the word.
Hermes then returned to the cows and quickly drove them on. He finally brought them to Pylos. He sacrificed two cows to the gods, then erased the traces of the sacrifice, and hid the other cows in a cave, inserting them from behind, so that the traces of their footsteps lead them out of the cave and not into it.
After doing all this, Hermes calmly returned to the cave to his mother Maya, slowly lay down in the cradle and wrapped himself in diapers.
But Maya noticed her son’s absence. She told him:
“You have a something bad in mind. Why did you steal Apollo’s cows? He will be angry. And you know how terrible he is in his anger. Aren’t you afraid of his unmistakably shooting arrows?”
“I am not afraid of Apollo,” Hermes replied to his mother, “let him be angry. If he says to insult you or me, I will take revenge on his sanctuary in Delphi, take everything – tripods, gold, silver and clothes.”
Apollo had already noticed that he his cows are missing, and went to look for them. He could not find them anywhere. Finally, a fortune-telling bird took the golden-haired Apollo to Pylos, but he did not find his cows there either. And in the cave, where the cows were hidden, he did not even enter – after all, the tracks did not lead inside, but led out of the cave.
Finally, after a long and fruitless search, Apollo reached the cave of Maya. Hearing his footsteps, Hermes huddled even deeper in the cradle and wrapped himself more tightly in his diapers. An enraged Apollo entered Maya’s cave and saw Hermes lying in the cradle with the most innocent expression. He began to rebuke Hermes for stealing the cows and asked him to return them, but Hermes denied everything. He assured Apollo that it never crossed his mind to steal his cows and he did not know where they were.
“Listen, boy!” Apollo shouted angrily. “If you do not return my cows, I will throw you into gloomy Tartarus, and neither your father nor your mother will save you.”
“Oh, son of Latone!” Hermes replied. “I have not seen your cows, nor have I heard of them from others, and I know nothing. Is this my job? Now I have other things on my head, other worries. I’m only interested in sleep, breast milk and diapers. No, I swear to you, I haven’t even seen your cow thief.”
No matter how angry Apollo was, there was nothing he could do about the cunning, cunning Hermes.
Finally, the golden-haired god pulled Hermes out of the cradle and forced him to go, as in the diapers to their father Zeus, to settle their dispute. The two gods of Olympus arrived. Hermes lied, cheated and twisted the truth, but after all Zeus ordered him to return the abducted cows to Apollo.
From Olympus, Hermes led Apollo to Pylos, stopping along the way and taking the lyre he had made from a turtle shell. In Pylos, he pointed out where the cows were hidden. While Apollo took the cows out of the cave. Hermes sat on a rock in front and played the lyre. Wonderful sounds echoed through the valley and the sandy beach. The astonished Apollo listened with delight to the music of Hermes. He was so captivated by the sounds of the lyre that he gave Hermes the stolen cows for it. And Hermes, to have fun grazing the cows, invented the syringa, which is so loved by shepherds in Greece.
Dexterous, agile, drifting around the world as fast as thought, the wonderful son of Maya and Zeus – Hermes, who in his early childhood showed his cunning and agility, was also the embodiment of youthful strength. Statues of him were placed everywhere in the palaces. He is the god of young athletes. They called him before the competitions in wrestling and running.
Who did not worship Hermes in ancient Greece: the traveler, the speaker, the merchant, the athlete, and even the thieves.