Sunday, November 8, 2009

Hermes Who?


To most who follow the Hellenic Religion, the Gods, like Hermes, have clearly defined spheres of influence. Athena is the leading authority on all things relating to wisdom, Aphrodite is the ultimate authority on love and sex, and Hera is the authority on marriage. But the truth behind all of this is actually far more complicated than that, and seeing the Gods in so limited a way can be problematic.

To some, the Gods are of an inherent nature. Athena is inherently the lady of wisdom because it is her nature to be so, that Apollo is the healer because it is his nature to heal, but that leaves me a bit cold. You see, the Gods appear in so many ways throughout the world, that I have come to understand that they are given their religious iconography, their aspected forms, through their interactions with us. We give them specific attributes based on their interactions with us.

When Hermes answered the prayers of the people for protection of their lands, their herds, their livelihood, they imbued him, in their prayers and devotions, and most importantly, in their art, with the attributes we know today.

This isn't to say that there isn't something inherent in this divine being we call Hermes that was drawn to particular things, particular prayers, or particular circumstances, but that the particular attributes we place importance in are, in fact, given to the God by the people, almost as a thank you, as they acknowledge the help and intervention of a divine agency.

So, who is Hermes?

Mythologies all over the world acknowledge beings that travel the worlds. Beings that make their way from the divine to the mortal with ease, not just because as Gods or angels or spirits they are capable of such, but because it is even their divine duty to do so.

In our mythos, Hermes is a child of the great king. Child of the highest of the Gods, great and powerful Zeus himself. He was a prince of the Olympian court and it's divine messenger. When a direct message was needed between the upper world and the world of Olympus, it was Hermes, or sometimes Iris, who was called upon to descend into the world of men to deliver it. If you look at the Christian mythos, the angel that appears to Mary to deliver the message of God that she is chosen to bear a child is like Hermes was to the Greeks, just as the being that appears to Mary and leaves her with child is like Zeus, who is said to take many forms as he interacts with women who then bear his children.

But Hermes went further. Hermes was not just an agent of Olympus. In many ways, he was also an agent of mankind, and, of Hades, for Hermes traveled not just between the shining world of the Gods above, but also between the world of men and the world below, the world of the dead.

Here too Hermes had what can be called a female counterpart, a goddess that traveled between the world of men and the underworld, Hekate, and it is here where we run into Hermes as not just some glorified postman, but as a true God, a deity who had a clear and defined domain. Here we see Hermes not as an Angelos, but as a Theos with duties to the divine nature of the cosmos itself, as part of the balance of the universe as we experience it. Hermes a messenger of entropy.

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