30 Days of Hermes: Bloodlines

“He [Hermes] was born of Maia, the daughter of Atlas, when she had mated with Zeus, a shy goddess she. Ever she avoided the throng of the blessed gods and lived in a shadowy cave, and there the Son of Kronos used to lie with the rich-tressed (euplokamos) nymphe at dead of night, while white-armed Hera lay bound in sweet sleep: and neither deathless god nor mortal man knew it. And so hail to you, Son of Zeus and Maia.” (Homeric Hymn 4 to Hermes)

Day 5: Members of the family; or the Children of Hermes

5. One of many offspring from mighty Zeus, the cunning Hermes is the only son of eldest Pleidean nymph, Maia. He also sired several children Himself, as Hermes took no ‘consort’ or wife He technically remained a “free agent”. Most famous of His offspring includes the goat-footed Pan; son of Hermes (patron of herding) and the nymph Penelopeia…later believed to be the wife of Odysseus Penelope. I think the story of Pan’s birth shows the sweet, fatherly side to Hermes:

“And in the house she bare Hermes a dear son [the god Pan] who from his birth was marvellouse to look upon, with goat’s feet and two horns – a noisy, merry-laughing child. But when the nurse saw his uncouth face and full beard, she was afraid and sprang up and fled and left the child. Then luck-bringing Hermes received him and took him in his arms: very glad in his heart was the god.” (from the Homeric Hymn 19 to Pan )
Hermes and the Infant Dionysos

Hermes and the Infant Dionysos

Another show of His paternal virtues is in the birth story of Dionysus. Although not the sire of Hermes, the fast-footed God assisted His father in the delivering of His half-brother to the baby’s surviving Aunt for care and protection from jealous Hera. Taking the baby from place to place during the Dying and Resurrecting God of Wine’s ordeals, Hermes was a guide and care-giver unto His little brother. He rescued Dionysus over and over, finally giving Him over to some mountain nymphs…raised on honey and grapes.

Hermes has a few other less famous, but highly interesting, children: Eleusis (Goddess of the famed city which hosted the Eleusian Mysteries), Priapos (viscerally phallic God of agricultural fertility), several satyrs (Pherespondos, Lykos and Pronomos), and Hermaphroditos (sired with Aphrodite, half-female and half male).

“”When he [Hermaphroditos] saw the waters of the pool, where he had dived a man, had rendered him half woman [he was merged with the Nympha Salmakis by her prayer] and his limbs now weak and soft, raising his hands, Hermaphroditus cried, his voice unmanned, ‘Dear father [Hermes] and dear mother [Aphrodite] , both of whose names I bear, grant me, your child, that whoso in these waters bathes a man emerge half woman, weakened instantly.’ Both parents hears; both, moved to gratify their bi-sexed son, his purpose to ensure, drugged the bright water with that power impure.” (Ovid, Metamorphoses 4)

His children do not fit the regular mould of what beauty is or should be…but the joy, love and exclusive gift of being part of this bloodline seems more blessing than accursed. Hermes’ relationship with them all stays connected, and even His own filial duties to father Zeus are never out of fear for wrath. There is a genuine companionship between Zeus and Hermes…He is the good son He knows will answer a call for help no matter what. That kind of loyalty is rare, even among the Gods. Maybe this is why Hermes is so accessible to mortals, having the ear of Zeus is just an added bonus.

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