30 Days of Hermes: Hermetic Appearance

Day 3: Symbols and icons of this deity; or How does Hermes appear?

“The Guide, the Slayer of Argos (Argus), contrived within her (Pandora) lies and crafty words and a deceitful nature at the will of loud thundering Zeus, and the Herald of the gods put speech in her; the Father sent glorious Argos-Slayer, the swift messenger of the gods, to take Pandora to Epimetheus as a gift” (Hesiod's Works and Days, lines 68-85).

3. Most of the time we cannot really, actually, tangibly SEE Deity. We see the effects They have on the worlds, but to visually encompass the True Forms? I doubt our tiny, mortal bodies could withstand nor comprehend the hugeness of Them. And so, They manifest in forms, manipulations of energy, thoughts placed in our minds via inspiration, and other means communication has been open for the past 10,000 years humans have been doing it. Glimpses, shadows, montages in the fabric of time really is all we can handle...the poetic dance of Life. Symbolism, art and storytelling are all ways we perpetuate our relationship with Them; keeping connections alive through piety, psychology or whatever means necessary.

The Caduceus.

The primordial, older Hermes is a Lord of Thievery and His cleverness is expressed through tools. Inventor of the lyre and pipes, Hermes traded with Apollo for these things in exchange for materials of great magick and skill...this hints at the entrepreneurial spirit the great Herm embodies, and why He carries a leather bag. He pushes the limits, tilts things in favor of His motivations which some would think as trickery. The cunning Hermes is most recognized in modern times by His winged helmet and sandals; well known icons adopted in art and some company brands. His swift shoes make Him an ideal patron of runners and general athletics. His usually wide-brimmed cap was in later years identified as winged too, but originally a tool of invisibility acquired by Aidoneus (the Unseen). The most well-known symbol of Hermes is the Caduceus, or the Herald's Rod, called kerykeion . The prototype for all magician's wands, this is a potently golden staff which brings sleep, guides the Dead and herds animals.

In His later incarnations within the Roman pantheon, Hermes was called Mercury; associated with the swiftest moving planet in the spheres. The snakes are the symbols for Zeus, often a daemonic protector of home shrines and kept at family altars. The mythos surrounding an addition of the two intertwined serpents is fuzzy as there are two different origin stories. One theory suggests the snakes were added from an encounter with it's previous handler, Teresius...a pythian oracle transformed into a woman for 7 years as punishment for killing a female snake.

The physical Herms found at crossroads, and in some neo-classical garden designs, are the legacy of His cult. Large wooden or stone, phallic and like Egyptian obelisks reaching between all the worlds, Herms were traditionally square and had a large head on the top; sometimes a phallus was also attached to express fertility of abundance. Living in liminal places of in-between, these boundary markers where places of refuge for travelers and often markers on roads. Whilst Hekate is the guardian at three-way crossroads, Hermes can be found where two roads overlap at a four-way cross. Part of this manifests in the great alchemical/astrological symbol for Mercury; a horned circle with an extended “crossroads”, usually associated with the symbol of “female”. For blessings of Lord Hermes, I draw this symbol over or on anything I wish to imbue with His energies: my car, computer, travelers on the road...and on that note: May all people enjoying their American Independence weekend be safe on the roads, with fires, and with each other in the name of Lord Hermes!

The alchemical/astrological symbol of Mercury/Hermes.