Hermes Conference Recap, Day 3

Ah, beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia.  Beloved town of Thomas Jefferson, one of the great Founding Fathers of the United States of America, and home of my alma mater, the University of Virginia, where I spent several years in academic, emotional, and spiritual upheaval and chaos which had a significant impact on my life today.  It’s also where an amazing conference is being held on my patron god, titled Tracking Hermes/Mercury, put on by the Department of Classics at the University of Virginia.  If you’re not here, you’re missing out; there are 21 presentations being made over three days talking about the role of Hermes-Mercury in many of his forms in myth, religion, magic, and daily life throughout the antique to late classical periods of European history.  I’m more than pleased to be here, and it’s an amazing group with equally amazing speakers from around the world presenting here on this awesome topic.  Besides the fact that I get to roam around my old stomping grounds again and do a bit of exploration that I couldn’t or wouldn’t do when I was younger, I get to study and learn more about my own patron from some of the brightest and sharpest (though sometimes oddly-accented) experts in the field of classics.  While I’m here, I may as well write up some of my notes and things to think on that I’m picking up at this little conference.

Today was the last day of three, a full day of presentations:  Alan Shapiro (Johns Hopkins), Hélène Collard (Liège), Athanassios Vergados (Heidelberg), Ljuba Merlina Bortolani (Heidelberg), Thomas Biggs (Yale), Duncan MacRae (Cincinnati), Jenny Wallensten (Swedish Institute at Athens), Stéphanie Paul (Liège), and Carolyn Laferriere (Yale). Below are some of the talking points and thoughts from their discussions.

  • Just as a neat note that was made in passing, this conference could conceivably have a birth date back in 1998 when discussion among the professors of the department of classics first started. That’d be about 16 years, or 4 times 4, and 4 is the sacred number of Hermes. Cute.
  • Hermes is among the most commonly-featured god in Greek art, and he’s not limited to any one aspect or situation where he’s featured. However, as might also be expected of Hermes, he’s usually not the protagonist or central feature in the art, usually playing accessory roles (again, the whole “involved but detached from everything” schtick, in keeping with the rest of his nature and exploits). This contrasts with his mother, the mountain nymph Maia, who appears in such art only very rarely, and even then almost always in connection with her son. The two are usually shown in a sort of deep paternal/filial relationship, emphasizing Hermes’ son-ness (presenting him as beardless even in old Greek art, when even then he’s often given a beard).
  • The presence of livestock in depictions of Maia and Hermes (often sheep, but also includes goats and lions) recalls Hermes’ mastery over the animal kingdom and animal husbandry. The depiction of livestock here may suggest that this is something that not only comes from Apollo’s blessing of Hermes in his Homeric Hymn, but also in part due to Maia herself as a mountain nymph, a kind of sub-class of earth goddess. After all, being the nymph in one of the highest mountains in pastoral Arcadia, it’d make sense she’d have some rule over the animals in her lands as well.
  • Going off the connections between Hermes and Heracles from before, there’s mention of an Attic celebration of Maia in a list of other of Heracles’ family members by a particular clan in Sunion (if I heard correctly). That Maia appears here, at least in name, is unusual, since she got next to no cult in this part of Greece, and to be tied in here with Heracles is unusual. Hermes is often seen accompanying Heracles to Olympus or just chilling with him generally, so they might be bros if not brothers.
  • When Maia is represented in art, it’s almost always in rememberance and honor of the birth of her son. On the other hand, whenever Hermes appears in art, it’s usually for his minor role he plays in others’ stories. Rarely is he depicted in his own adventures or exploits beyond that of his birth (which is a small group on its own). When he appears with Apollo, which is common, Apollo is playing the lyre while Hermes is playing the pipes, sometimes to contrast rustic music with refinement, sometimes to act as a chorus of friendship in a performance.
  • Rather than picturing Hermes directly, it’s far more common for vases to depict herms, the apotropaic pillars put at liminal places. Herms likely began in Attica in the 6th century BC, and from there spread across Greece (though the practice of piling stones at crossroads preceded this and anticipated proper herms), and is attributed to the artist Hipparchos. They were rectangular/had four sides, usually with an erect phallus on the front and a bust of a bearded man, though in much later periods had busts of heroes or even women. The rectangularity of the herms is sacred to Hermes, whose holy number is 4, and given that he can see in the four directions from a herm, especially at crossroads.
  • Greek vase art presented herms in a variety of situations, usually to mark a place of holiness or a sanctuary; these were possibly common in art due to their easily-drawn and easily-identifiable nature. The rectangularity of the herms suggested stability and unshakeableness, an important thing in the body of a divine being.
  • Common depictions of them show them present before sacrifices being made at altars, or being approached in worship closely (being touched, embraced, whispered to, even grasped by the phallus). This is strange in graphical depictions of statues of the divine, since art never shows physical contact with a statue besides herms, even though literature is replete with this (e.g. a supplicant grabbing the legs of a statue). This suggests that the herm was used as a messenger to the god, directly supplicated or approached in a way that other divine works weren’t. Hermes, ever the lowest of the celestial gods and closest and friendliest to mankind, would appreciate this, directly working with his supplicants and working with them or relaying their prayers to the proper gods. Thus, herms could be taken as a divine image of Hermes or as a bridge between mankind and the gods, just as Hermes is herald and messenger between the gods and men.
  • Then again, it could be that a difference in medium is necessitated by a difference in focus. Literature and drama, say, require emphasis on devotion or meaning, while drawn art might have different foci. Thus, it may be that herms themselves were never physically approached like other statues, or that all statues were approached, but from the evidence we have, it may be that herms are a special case among statues, and records of people physically touching other statues are a special case among worship.
  • Herms in art are commonly depicted with garlands, necklaces, flowers, fruit, and the like, and a good number of them support caduceuses on their own. Herms were associated with Hermes outright, so it’s unusual for a reduplication of symbols to be present in art, unless it’s to emphasize the herm’s Hermaic nature. Even then, this suggests that the herm wasn’t always associated with Hermes, depending on its presence and appearance, so it can’t be taken wholly for granted that the presence of a herm suggests the presence of Hermes. Still, the fact that herms are associated primarily with Hermes suggests that cult and sacrifices were made to Hermes often and everywhere; it may be that he had little need of formal temples, since the presence of a herm was his temple.
  • Herms were especially decorated with plants, and even more than that with figs. According to several papyri (Oxyrhynchus 7 and 17), the fig is a sacred fruit to Hermes. Not only is it the first fruit offered in sacrifice, but it’s among his most favorite and favored fruits, as evidenced by excerpts from drama and proverbs. The fig also links Hermes to Dionysus, since its leaves are used in Dionysus’ garlands. It’s an exceptionally sweet fruit of the Greeks, and is considered the “sister of honey”, and when eaten makes one’s words sweeter than honey just as Nestor, the famed mentor and talker of the Homeric epics.
  • A joke, however, can be considered when expanding this outside of Greece. A particular ritual to Thoth, the Egyptian god most syncretized with Hermes, involves eating honeyed figs (mingling honey and figs both, and both are considered Hermaic due to their sweetness in speech and the mouth) while exclaiming “truth is sweet”. Bear in mind, however, that Hermes is anything but truthful, being the prince of lies and deceivers and thieves.
  • For as similar as Hermes and Thoth might be, there are limits to their similarities. This can be seen quite readily if one inspects some of the hymns to Hermes present in the Greek Magical Papyri (PGM V.400, VII.668). These particular hymns open up a ritual for dream divination, which makes sense for invoking Hermes since he’s the god who sends sleep and dreams and wakefulness to mankind, as well as sending messages from the gods to mankind generally. However, the language of these hymns bears a lot of incongruities in the Greek mindset that more properly describe Thoth. In this case, the magical hymns to Hermes present a less Greek method of interacting with the gods than an Egyptian one.
  • These hymns call upon Hermes by name, but describe him as being “ruler of the cosmos”, “in the heart”, “circle of Selene”, “founder of the words of speech”, “who obey justice”, and the like. None of these are particularly Hermaic in any sense; Hermes is the eternal divine servant of the rest of the gods and is hardly ruler of anything, much less the whole cosmos; Hermes has no particular associations with the heart, much less being “in the heart”; he’s certainly not associated with the Moon, but with his own planet of Mercury; though he’s the god of communication and rhetoric, he can hardly be said to be the inventor of it; and he’s certainly not an obeyer of justice and laws, being more apt to bend them or break them outright. Rather, these are all of Thoth’s attributes: he’s the creator of the Ogdoad, the principle deities of Hermopolis, and thus the creator of the world; as the guiding god of intelligence, he abides “in the heart”, considered the seat of the mind and soul by the Egyptians; he’s a lunar god; he invented speech and writing, and uses magical words and knowledge of true names; and he’s a god of justice.
  • Still, the hymns do present commonalities between Thoth and Hermes: the two are both gods that travel the underworld, with Hermes as psychopomp and Thoth as companion of Ra as the sun-god traveled through the underworld every night. The hymns present the god Hermes as “spherical and square”, referring to the Thothian lunar orb and Hermaic herm, and to the emerging neo-Platonic idea of the gods abiding as pure planetary essences in the spheres of heaven. Both are gods of divination, though Thoth is more directly related to this since (as a lunar god which is used to make calendars), he’s the god of the passage of time, and therefore of the duration of the lives of mankind, and therefore of fate, and therefore of prophecy.
  • Yet other things with the magical hymns are distinctly Greek in nature; they describe “wearing a mantle, with winged sandals”, and the like, though these are distinctly not Thothian qualities. Still, the essentially Egyptian nature of some of these texts leads us to think that explicitly Greek language and description only borrow the iconography of the Greek gods, rather than their essence.
  • The rough time of writing of the PGM texts, in the 1st to 5th centuries, closely follows the beginning of Hermeticism; although “Hermes Trismegistus” does not appear in the PGM, there are references of a “thrice great Hermes” here and there. Certain lines in these Hermes-Thoth prayers have some Hermetic or Gnostic elements to them; “spherical and square”, for instance, can be interpreted as a kind of Alpha and Omega of the Egyptians; “who hold the wind’s reins” references pneuma, the spirit and breath of life itself, and therefore the capacity to use and obtain the Logos within the body and soul of the human. “Ruler of the cosmos” (kosmokratōr) is a fairly Hermetic term, and “in the heart” can not only represent the seat of the soul in Egyptian thought but also the divine spark of Life within life.
  • Some of these notes on the PGM text discussed here brought to my mind parallels of the Headless Rite, or the Stele of Ieu in PGM V. There, you have the Headless One (Akephalos), whose name is “Heart Girt with a Serpent”, who “commands all things by the power of [his] voice”, who is “lord, king, master, helper”, “whom the winds fear” (and thus controls), “whose mouth is utterly aflame” (a common Egyptian thing). Thoth is said to be the “lord of sky, earth, water, and mountains”, an Egyptian phrase to symbolize the whole world; the entreaty of power from the Headless Rite asks for Akephalos to subject all spirits “whether heavenly or aetherial” (sky), “upon the earth or under the earth” (earth and mountain), and “in the water or on dry land” (water, earth). The addition of “of whirling air and rushing fire” are later additions added by Crowley in his Lemegeton version of the ritual, but since the entirety of the world was encapsulated in this charge of power in the Headless Rite, I see no reason why it should be augmented so in practice. These types of things are common throughout the PGM, so I’ll need to really go back and do a more thorough inspection of the texts there and see what I can find.
  • Moving from Egypt to Rome, there was a bit on Mercury in Roman maritime culture.  A variant of the Aeneas myth, related by Naevius, says that, as Aeneas was fleeing Troy (or Carthage, it’s unclear and I couldn’t catch the reference), he sailed out on a ship built by Mercury.  Mercury isn’t often known as a shipwright, but he is connected to the maritime Romans who used the sea to conquer most of the easily-accessible parts of the Mediterranean, though fighting on land was their primary strength.  Like the Samothracians from before, Mercury was related to maritime works only so far as offering safe travels with good results; that Mercury built Aeneas’ ship says that his journey would ultimately be safe (ish) and result in fabulous wealth: the eventual creation of the Roman Empire.  Besides, trade will always follow war, and after the Punic Wars that had a lasting impact on Roman minds, trade over sea was significantly increased in importance.  There’s some similarities, too, between Aeneas and his Trojans and Jason and his Argonauts, too, another possible source for part of the Aeneid myth.
  • Speaking of Roman Mercury, let’s stop by in Pompeii, where the remarkably well-preserved town gives us many insights into the paintings and lifestyles of day-to-day citizens. Going down roads in Pompeii, one would pass dozens to hundreds of images of Mercury, most commonly outside storefronts, and sometimes before gambling dens or bathhouses. The ubiquitous of Mercury here would make sense, but how he came to be is a little unusual. The usual Hellenic signs are there: winged sandals and cap, caduceus, and the like. Roman Mercury, however, was often seen carrying a moneybag, and nearly always was presented in motion, such as running towards the doorway of a shop (something that the shopowner would hope their prospective customers would identify with, running into their shops with their wallets).
  • It would seem like Mercury started appearing on shops due to his role as a god of commerce, but it could be equally as likely that he became a god of commerce because he started appearing on storefronts. It’s like a meme on the Internet; it keeps replicating itself and picks up more uses and stability in a culture. Likewise, Pompeii, being a commerce-based port town, would be getting lots of imports from countries where Hermes was already known; Hermes would be imported as Mercury, who kept appearing on storefronts, and became a symbol of merchantry because of that, not the other way around. In other words, people recognized Mercury as a god of commerce because his presence in areas of commerce developed it over time in its own cultural milieu.
  • This is not unlike paintings of Jesus Christ. Some people, upon seeing an image of Jesus, will say that “it looks exactly like him”, despite never having seen Jesus in life nor having any textual or archaeological representation of Jesus. Yet, we all know what Jesus looks like because pictures of him were developed almost memetically in our culture for so long. Likewise, Mercury’s role as a god of commerce could easily have been developed over a period of time in the Roman mind due to his constant connections with commerce.
  • This makes me want to point out that, for all their similarities, Hermes and Mercury are not the same god. Hermes is a native Greek god, while the Romans never had an original god to compare with Hermes, only later borrowing him explicitly as “god of the merchants” (merx, merchant, deus mercum, god of merchants, Mercurius). The tasks and purview of Mercury, inasmuch as they overlap with those of Hermes, present a tightening or refocusing of Hermes’ responsibilities into a distinctly materialistic and mercantile area. Mercury had some other roles here and there, of course, but the two are only similar gods in how they turned out, though they’re certainly much closer to each other than Hermes is with Thoth.  This kept getting more and more muddled over time, however, to the point where Hermes and Mercury are essentially synonyms; the Romans of the late classical period certainly saw them that way.
  • One of the biggest things we have evidence for in Hermes worship are dedications: votive offerings, such as statues or plaques, made in Hermes’ honor.  There are a good amount of them, and many describe for what they were given.  Despite Hermes’ obvious commercial, pastoral, and heraldic functions, a vast majority of votive offerings were given to Hermes by wrestlers and gymnasts, only secondarily for magistral or priestly functions (and that’s a very far away second).  Though Hermes quite naturally becomes the god of geeks in our modern day, he’s also the god of the gymnasium and contests (a fact I’m still, er, wrestling with myself).  After all, the monthly and yearly Hermaia were dates for contests of physical and combative skill, especially for young men (over whom Hermes also rules, being the divine equivalent of one himself).  When it comes to dedicatory offerings, it would seem like the winners of contests would get a trophy and give another trophy to Hermes in return for his patronage and aid.  Only a tiny minority (like less than 5%) of offerings in this manner are for purposes other than wrestling or magistral activities; trade, despite Hermes’ huge role, simply doesn’t show up very often in votive offerings.
  • It may be that the types of offerings made may depend on the type of work done, or the type of relationship held between devotee and god.  For instance, pastors and shepherds may have given skins of animals in dedication to Hermes, or knuckle-bone dice, which had no need or chance to be engraved.  Of the engraved dedications we have of votive offerings, the vast majority (like 80~90%) are given by men, and another 5~10% are of unknown gender.  Just as profession may dictate what offerings might be appropriate, it’s also likely that one’s gender has a role to play, too.  Women simply weren’t as involved in the same spheres of influence that men were, although there are notable exceptions to this (both in terms of the social role women played and votive offerings given by women).
  • Speaking of Hermes and the gymnasium, a huge amount of epithets used to describe the gods roles, especially in dedicatory inscriptions, relate to contests and wrestling.  One such epithet was Εναγωνιος (enagōnios), “presider over contests”, from αγων (agōn), “a gathering for contests” or “struggle” (from whence later came our notions of mental suffering and anguish).  This word shares the same root as agora, “a meeting place for a gathering of people”, what we’d consider a forum or marketplace, and Αγωραιος (Agōraios), “of the agora”, is another epithet for Hermes.  The god has many more epithets related to these, such as “of the weights” (in the sense of balancing scales for selling and buying), “of the grain-importers”, “chariot driver”, and the like; where people are gathered, Hermes is, too.
  • One example of this are in votive engraved plaques in mountain caves where nymphs were said to dwell; travelers would take pilgrimages to these caves and honor the nymphs there.  These places were often at or near the peaks of mountains in the wild, a fitting place for Pan, leader and companion of the nymphs generally.  Hermes, however, frequently appears in such plaques especially on Kos.  Generally, the idea is that he’s leading the nymphs out to greet the humans who have traveled there, but it’s also due to his paternal relationship with Pan, his son.  Pan and Hermes are tight; Pan’s Homeric Hymn is the only one where the name of the recipient of the hymn is not in the first line, and is here replaced by “the dear child of Hermes” (giving Hermes’ name importance, and not Pan’s).
  • Hermes really does love Pan, and Pan Hermes.  That said, Hermes knows from his own self that Pan is a trickster and often up to no good, and in many votive plaques, Hermes stands between the nymphs and the ithyphallic Pan almost like he’s protecting the nymphs from Pan’s rowdiness.  Similarly, herms present in the countryside are perfect to protect one from the more violent and wild side of Pan; Hermes has eyes not only in the back of his head but facing the four directions (rectangular, remember?), perfect for keeping an eye on his rowdy son.

And with that, I bring my writeups to a close.  I intended to go to the after-conference dinner with the presenters and other attendees, but it was starting to rain pretty bad and was only going to get worse, so I figured it’d be better to leave sooner rather than later.  Two hours later, and I was home, making offerings to Hermes in thanks for a safe, highly informative, and exceedingly excellent time in Charlottesville.  The conference has given me so much more knowledge to work with, and has put me in contact with so many amazing experts who really know their shit.  Athanassios Vergados, for instance, has recently published his A Commentary on the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, described as “magisterial” and “the definitive word for our time” on the highly important hymn that was brought up time and time again throughout the conference (and I want it SO BAD); Ljuba Bortolani’s research on the PGM and its various cultural connections is something I’m going to be perusing thoroughly later (she also has fantastic taste in jewelry and rolls her own cigarettes, my heroine).  Hopefully, the compilation of papers will result in a single volume on Hermes from UVa; if so, you can bet your ass I’ll be talking about it and hawking it to anyone who has ears to listen.

More importantly, despite the brief durations of the talks, the conference really helped open my eyes to a lot of the things that I’ve missed out so far with Hermes or that I’ve only glossed over.  The points I brought up, though not indicative of the entire conference, are definitely the ones that stuck out strongest to me, and will help guide me in my future work with Hermes.  I’ve already got some research and ritual planning in my mind involving him, such as mapping out his many epithets as they can apply to, say, Qabbalah and the other planets or gods, and writing up a literature-backed Hermaic road-opening ritual.  I hope my paltry writeups,  which don’t do the presenters nor the presented justice in the least, have helped dispense at least a little of the material to you, dear reader.

And now, to close all this out, I’ll honor Hermes one last way tonight with the shorter Homeric Hymn to Hermes:

I sing of Cyllenian Hermes,
the Slayer of Argos,
lord of Cyllene and Arcadia rich in flocks,
luck-bringing messenger of the deathless gods.

He was born of Maia,
the daughter of Atlas,
when she had made 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 Cronos used to lie with the rich-tressed nymph 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;
with you I have begun:
now I will turn to another song!
Hail, Hermes, giver of grace, guide, and giver of good things!

Hermes Conference Recap, Day 2

Ah, beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia.  Beloved town of Thomas Jefferson, one of the great Founding Fathers of the United States of America, and home of my alma mater, the University of Virginia, where I spent several years in academic, emotional, and spiritual upheaval and chaos which had a significant impact on my life today.  It’s also where an amazing conference is being held on my patron god, titled Tracking Hermes/Mercury, put on by the Department of Classics at the University of Virginia.  If you’re not here, you’re missing out; there are 21 presentations being made over three days talking about the role of Hermes-Mercury in many of his forms in myth, religion, magic, and daily life throughout the antique to late classical periods of European history.  I’m more than pleased to be here, and it’s an amazing group with equally amazing speakers from around the world presenting here on this awesome topic.  Besides the fact that I get to roam around my old stomping grounds again and do a bit of exploration that I couldn’t or wouldn’t do when I was younger, I get to study and learn more about my own patron from some of the brightest and sharpest (though sometimes oddly-accented) experts in the field of classics.  While I’m here, I may as well write up some of my notes and things to think on that I’m picking up at this little conference.

Today was the second day of three, a full day of presentations: Jenny Strauss Clay (Virginia), Deborah Boedeker (Brown), Erin Moodie (Williams), Sandra Blakely (Emory), Joseph Farrell (Penn), Micah Myers (Kenyon), Stephen Harrison (Oxford), and Shane Black (Colorado).  Below are some of the talking points and thoughts from their discussions.

  • Hermes is known for his mastery of seducing and seductive rhetoric, lies, craftiness, improvising, penetrating all sorts of barriers, being nosy, being greedy, and being preoccupied with food.  The same can also be said of Odysseus in Homeric literature; the two share many traits in common.
  • What’s unusual about Hermes is that there’s very little theophanic epiphany between and Odysseus (like on Ciprogedyrce’s island).  Usually, when a god is revealed to a mortal, there’s a good amount of freaking out on the part of the human, strange omens, or some sort of amazing transformation.  The relationship between Odysseus and Hermes, on the other hand, is casual, almost like Odysseus expects to see Hermes when a stranger appears to him.  On Hermes’ part, this shows him to be kind and philanthropic towards Odysseus, though it’s on the down-low between them.  The two definitely share a special bond.
  • An example of this that links the two tighter are when Odysseus visits the Phaeacians, unseen by all until he suddenly appears clutched to Queen Arete’s knees while they pour out their libations to Hermes.  Everyone became dumb-struck, marveling at the sudden appearance of this stranger in awe-struck silence (and remember from yesterday that, when silence occurs in a conversation, they say that Hermes has come in).  It’d be common, after all, in the old mythic ages for gods to feast with mankind.
  • It’s a little odd for Hermes to appear out of nowhere on Circe’s island so readily to Odysseus, especially when he complains of traveling afar to places with no delicious sacrifices for him.  That Circe says that Hermes told her (or, rather, repeatedly told her) to expect Odysseus suggests that Hermes hangs around Circe’s island for…well, you tell me, dear reader.  Hermes’ lasciviousness is nothing secret.
  • The bond between Hermes and Odysseus may go back to Odysseus’ grandfather, who honored Hermes with many sacrifices and great gifts, and whom Hermes celebrated by giving him Hermes’ craftiness and ingenuity.  This apparently was hereditary, given Odysseus’ knack for the same.  However, it’s also suggested that Odysseus’ grandfather was son to Hermes, which would make Odysseus both progeny and prodigy of Hermes.  Ties between the two are strong, even so far as for Circe to use the epithet “polytropos” (many-turning) to describe Odysseus, when this epithet is only ever used in other literature to describe Hermes.
  • Hermes and Odysseus may be immune to Circe’s magic, but they’re certainly not immune to her other charms.  Hermes may very well have been sleeping with Circe before Odysseus came along, and Odysseus just about becomes her sex slave instead of a porcinified one.  Odysseus has to be reminded later that he needs to set out once more on the seas to get home, after all.
  • That Athena is tutelary goddess to Odysseus is nothing new, but there may be evidence to suggest that Athena was added in later on to Homeric literature to help clean up Odysseus’ image.  It may be that Odysseus only had such a relationship to Hermes, but it’s also likely that the two were there from the beginning together.  Athena uses Hermes’ winged sandals in book I of the Odyssey, after all, and appears as a figure sharing many similarities to Hermes later on when Odysseus lands on Ithaca’s shores.  Unlike Hermes, however, Athena openly shows her affection for Odysseus, helping him in battles and everything.
  • Still, even Athena remains distinct from Hermes.  When Odysseus lands on Ithaca’s shores, Athena takes on the image of a young man with many mercurial looks and traits, hoping that Odysseus would spill his heart to her; yet, ever crafty, Odysseus engages in a game of deceitful cat-and-mouse with disguised Athena, both of them using “winged words”.
  • Speaking of “winged words” and banter, it can be said that Hermes is god of not just of eloquence but also of banter and cajoling.  One of the more famous styles of meter used in poetry is the iamb, and it can be said that Hermes is the patron god of this style of poetry.  Yes, it is metrically defined as an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one (da-DUM da-DUM, etc.), but definitions broader than this go back to Aristotle, saying that the iambic meter is used by poets “of a less exalted nature [who] represented the actions of inferior men, at first writing satire…for these the iambic meter was fittingly introduced and that is why it is still called iambic, because it was the meter in which they lampooned (iambizon) each other” (Poetics, 1448b.31).  Even from Hermes’ Homeric Hymn do we see this working well for the god, because even as soon as he made the lyre he started singing out “sweet random snatches, even as youths bandy taunts at festivals”, which Apollo notes as the music and song like that “at young men’s revels”.
  • This is furthered by the use of the Greek word kertomon to describe Hermes, literally “heart-cutting” and translated as “impertinent” or “mischievous”, but also perhaps meaning obscene, scurrilous, and generally thumbing one’s nose at pretension. Hermes was no stranger to being rude or breaking taboo, such as him telling Leto (mother of Apollo and Artemis) to sod off when she challenges him in battle during the Theomachy in the Iliad (when Zeus ordained the gods to fight as they will!), or when Hermes jokes about sleeping with Aphrodite no matter the cost.
  • Of course, it isn’t just being rude to others that was appropriate in iambic poetry, but being rude generally.  Iambic poets love using bodily functions, and Hermes’ Homeric Hymn is likely the only one where farts are mentioned.  Hipponax, my new bestest and favoritest poet ever, made good use of this, writing dick jokes into his poems: “after awaiting at his side the white-robed day, you will make obeisance to the Hermes of the Phlyesians” (where nobody knows where Phlyesia was, but people now think it means masturbation, which pairs well with Hermes’ oft-seen phallic nature), or how “Blessed Hermes, you who know how to awake the sleeper” (i.e. morning wood or curing impotence).
  • Hipponax was a native of Asia Minor, and frequently made use of Lydian (a native language there) in his Greek poetry.  This would be improper, technically speaking, to use streettalk mixed in with invocations to the gods, often to lampoon or satirize others, such as calling Zeus the “sultan” (Lydian palmun) of the gods as gold is the “sultan” of silver (that’s not a very kind metaphor).  To use such a low register is basically rapping at someone on a street corner compared to higher, more artful poetry.
  • Not much of Hipponax’ poetry survives, but what does is fucking hilarious.  There’s something about someone getting into a fight and shitting on the golden wand of Hermes in fright (not kidding, this was actually discussed in the talk), and another poem where there’s some sort of random sexual encounter in a filthy privy where an old woman (the presenter paused here and said “how do I say this in polite company”) performs some sort of magic rite involving hitting genitals with branches, anal penetration, and dung beetles.  What I’m basically saying here is that iambic poetry is not the classiest of styles, so it’s totes proper for Hermes’ purview.
  • Of course, poetry isn’t the only thing Hermes would have a claim in, and it’s quite reasonable that one might claim Hermes to also be the god of comedic theater.  Yes, Dionysus is the god of theater, but Hermes-Mercury as a character (and, thus, actual presence) in comedic plays shows a huge familiarity with comedy and theatership generally.  Tragedies, of course, are taken very seriously and are where gods appear most often, but comedies are another thing entirely.  It was often seen as disrespectful for the gods to appear in comedies with very few exceptions, and many of the characters in comedies engage in metatheatrical behavior: breaking the fourth wall, direct address of the audience, awareness of being an actor in a play, references to theater in general or self-reference to one’s own parts.  Actors of low-class people (slaves, cooks, old men, parasites, etc.) engaged in the most metatheatrical activities on stage, and Hermes (when he appears) engages in some of the most direct and common acts of all.
  • Hermes himself notes in, say, Plautus’ Amphitryon that the gods aren’t fit to appear in comedies; after all, one shouldn’t be laughing at the antics of divinity.  Tragedies were fitting for the gods, after all, but comedies should star only humans.  That Hermes willingly takes part in comedies suggests, again, his closeness to humanity and his philanthropic nature, not to mention his divine nature of being trickster and deceiver.
  • By adopting metatheatrical methods in comedies, Hermes willingly takes on roles of the low class who often get the better of the high class roles, since, say, as a slave in a comedy, “it is proper for me to be wicked, clever, and now astute…with wickedness” (Plautus, “Amphitryon”).  These, of course, are not just qualities of the role Mercury plays (both as an actor of the play and role of himself to be played in disguise), but are qualities of Mercury himself.  This is self-referential on several levels, especially since it could be argued that Hermes himself is the slave to the gods, subservient while remaining deceptively crafty.  He’s the runt of the Olympian litter, effectively low-class, and the servant of the other gods.  His role in comedies, then, is an extension of his role on Olympus.
  • This isn’t to mention, of course, that many of the roles in comedies used iambic meter, and as we already know, iambic meter is quite a mercurial meter to use, especially for laughs and satire.  Not to mention penises everywhere; male roles in theater had a phallus on their costumes to clearly mark them as men, not unlike the phallus on the statues of herms.
  • Dionysus, of course, is the only other god in plays to directly address the audience in metatheatrical behavior, but then, Dionysus and Hermes are tightly connected in many ways (either with Hermes bringing Dionysus up or Hermes being Dionysus’ son, depending on the myth, and further Hermes’ role in the Anthesteria festival).  Dionysus may be a god of theater, but Hermes can definitely assume god of comedic theater since he’s so intimate with it.
  • Even going beyond metatheater, Hermes is the god who evokes laughter with song; he does this to Zeus with his stories and lies, and even gets Apollo to laugh with his lyre and lyrics.  Another reason to give Hermes patronage over acts that make others laugh, like comedic theater.
  • While Hermes is god of many things, Hermes is odd because it’s hard to find temples actually dedicated to Hermes.  Despite his importance as a god in so many things, he’s often denied the cult status or attributions that many other gods have.  A notable exception to this is the mystery cult of Hermes based on Samothrace, an island in the north Aegean on the frontiers of what might be considered proper Greek society.  The only resource notable from Samothrace were onions and a black flaky stone, so they depended almost wholly on maritime transport and commerce for their livelihoods.  Because the economic impact of sailing and ships was paramount to Samothracians, a cult rose up to honor one particular god to preserve Samothracian sailors (and, really, all sailors who were initiated into the cult).  This cult was dedicated to none other than Hermes, though it’s one of the few cults in the Mediterranean dedicated to the god.  And, further, unlike other cults that promised a blessed afterlife, this cult promised only safety at sea.
  • Although it’s not entirely clear how, exactly, Hermes came to be worshiped so importantly on Samothrace, there’s much evidence to link Samothracian Hermes to Kyllenic Hermes (referencing Mount Kyllene, where Hermes was born according to his Homeric Hymn).  Samothrace had a thing for archaic flavors of worship, and incorporated even Mycenaean-looking architecture, sacred stones and megaliths, and old wooden statues of the gods; they link these explicitly with the cult of Hermes at Kyllene, though there’s quite a bit of distance between Western Arcadia and Samothrace.
  • There were many gods of the sea and sailors, of course, besides the obvious Poseidon.  The Dioskouroi, or the divine twins Castor and Polydeukes (Pollux), were often seen to watch over sailors, though there is evidence that worship of the Dioskouroi coincided with that of Samothracian Hermes in many instances.  Similarly, this was also combined with the ever-popular Priapus; they all shared phallic or ithyphallic representations, and not only served to help turn away evil but purify and guide people to salvation and safe harbors.
  • Just as herms were set at crossroads to guide travelers, many monuments to Priapus and Hermes were set up on harbors to watch over harbors and indicate safe landings for ships.  The apotropaic purposes of these statues became more functional than they might otherwise have been; in this sense, this syncretic Hermes became a god of the harbor.
  • Supposedly, Samothrace was the first place the Greeks learned to make ithyphallic representations of Hermes, given Samothrace’s knack for holding onto ancient and archaic styles of worship, and this spread to the rest of Greece by way of the herms.
  • Fishermen on Samothrace, too, prayed to Hermes for prosperity in their business, though this may not always be for direct aid.  For instance, in the Theogony (specifically the Hymn to Hekate), should one pray to Hekate, both she and Hermes will ensure “a good catch”; however, other inscriptions dedicate fishermen’s tools to Hermes with the hopes that “when I’m too old to use these, please help me” (preserve my livelihood even when I can no longer do my job).
  • The nearby city of Ainos was dedicated almost entirely to Hermes, being the port for land routes in Thrace to mingle with the river routes of the Hebrus river and the sea routes of the Aegean; it was an exceptionally wealthy country where Hermes had so much sway.  There’s a particular representation of Hermes as a wooden statue set on a throne overlooking the sea, said to be made and designed by Epeios, the maker of the Trojan Horse.  This image was supposedly found in the sea by fishermen who wanted to burn it for wood, but it couldn’t be hacked apart by axes; it was divined to be a form of Hermes, and so was given worship.  A similar story is given to Methymna, where the statue was definitely Hermes and definitely not Greek (interesting!).
  • Although the Methymnian Hermes may not have been ultimately Greek in origin, some things about Hermes aren’t very Greek to begin with.  For example, Hermes’ love live is considerably lacking compared to the adventures and misadventures of the other Greek gods, especially those of his father Zeus and brother Apollo.  Sure, Hermes has a reputation for helping one elope or be secretive in love, or for ribald lovemaking, but Hermes has almost negligible love affairs in myth, particularly when compared to the other males of his Olympian family.
  • In fact, not only does Hermes lack the notable exploits of his godly peers, but he’s almost completely sublimated any lust or sexual desire he would have.  He has the capacity for it, sure, as he sings of the affairs and exploits of the gods in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes once he makes the lyre (likely in iambic meter, of course).  However, after this, despite being aroused, he hungers for meat, literally “lusting” for it, though this phrase is only applied to lions in other Homeric literature and only humorously here means little more than a physical hunger.  His sexual appetite is sublimated into his actual physical hunger.
  • Hermes is the child of Maia and Zeus, who met in secret at night while Hera slept; this was done in complete secrecy.  Hermes inherited his secretiveness, stealthiness, and secrecy from his parents as a result of this.  Zeus later picks up on this and uses Hermes’ secrecy to facilitate his own affairs (e.g. re-abduction of Io from Argos).
  • The only other expressions of love or lust Hermes shows in his hymn is his bromance (the erudite scholar actually used this word) with Apollo, with whom he promises to love forever, even watched over and officiated by Zeus.  To be fair, the language used is of a deep friendship, but really hints at something more than that.  Still, if it’s anything gay, it’s homosocial rather than homosexual, since there’s nothing to suggest the two gods got it on.  (This brings to my mind the astronomical image of the planet Mercury closely following the Sun, in the tightest orbit of all the planets.)
  • Instead of having sex with Apollo (which, I think, would be fucking hot) Hermes in his Homeric Hymn gives Apollo another source of joy: the lyre.  The music and tool of the lyre is described, essentially, as a girlfriend with a beautiful voice.  In this instance, the lyre is almost like a hetaira, a courtesan or classy whore that the two share like fratboys.
  • Apollo and Hermes may be good friends by the end of Hermes’ Homeric Hymn, but that certainly wasn’t always the case; Apollo is really bad at dealing with young gods.  A highly similar case exists, right down to many of the details, in Ovid’s Metamorphoses when Ovid describes the interaction between Cupid and Apollo.  With Apollo and Cupid, Cupid wants to take up archery, which Apollo scoffs at (since, obvi, archery was his domain); Cupid makes Apollo pay for his hubris by falling in love with the anti-love Daphne, who turns into the laurel tree, which Apollo then takes (almost as a gift from Cupid) as his beloved symbol.  This is very close to the Homeric Hymn of Hermes, where Hermes steals Apollo’s cattle and threatens worse, but they make up by Hermes giving Apollo the lyre.  While Cupid wants honor among the gods, Hermes wants specific dominion, but in either case Apollo gets what he loves (Daphne in tree form or friendship through music).  The episode between Cupid and Apollo is also similar to the theft of Apollo’s bow and arrows by Hermes (yes!) in the Iliad, and both Ovid and Homer share very similar terminology in these episodes.  Another similarity can be drawn between the stories of Cupid/Eros, and that of Mercury/Hermes.  Eros is the child of Aphrodite and, in some sources, Hermes, much as their other child Hermaphroditus.  There may be other parallels between the two that can argue that Hermaphroditus is Eros, and vice versa, though this might be a stretch.
  • Anyway, considering Hermes’ almost neverending role in helping Zeus with the god-father’s sexual escapades, it’s plain that Hermes is essentially the wingman of the gods.  Hermes almost never gets involved with sex, but is almost always needed by or asked for help from the other gods.  Hermes is the god who sets up or prevents affairs, which makes sense, since as a god of guides and guide of men and gods, his job is to lead someone to somewhere or to someone.
  • In this sense, Hermes is often approached by Aphrodite or in conjunction to prayers with her.  In Apuleius’ Metamorphoses, even Venus herself says that she never tries to do anything without her brother Mercury’s help.  Partially, of course, this is flattery so Mercury would help out Venus; but even then, since Hermes-Mercury is the god of flattery, banter, and persuasion, it makes sense that Hermes would have to be involved in getting people together.  Even Horace calls on Mercury in the Odes with Venus together to get into the house of Glycera, not only to bring them together physically but also to help Horace actually get into her house (despite the blocking-man who’s guarding Glycera).  It’s also why Aphrodite, when she’s fallen in love with Anchises of Troy, she says she was a virgin of Artemis abducted by Hermes; while nearly every other god would abduct a girl to rape her, Hermes would only ever lead the girl to someone who should know her (in either or both senses of the word).
  • Hermes, then, is necessary as a wingman either in act (helping the gods or men get together with someone) or in symbol (as our own eloquence to get someone to get with us). This latter part makes good sense, since classical authors often wrote of love needing to be tempered by reason, or saying that it’s better for couples in love to get things accomplished through persuasion rather than fighting.
  • Another reason why Hermes may not have many offspring is, from the few he’s had, they don’t tend to turn out alright.  One offspring of his was Pan, the goat-footed child that freaked out his mother, and another was Hermaphroditus, a child that was effeminate from birth and doubly so after merged with the nymph Salmacis.  The Greeks basically viewed either one as deformed or defective in some way, that his DNA somehow didn’t produce the best offspring; given Hermes’ lack of war conquests and manly stature, maybe it was seen that having a child of Hermes wasn’t that great generally.
  • A notable exception to this is the Homeric hero Eudoros, said to be a child of Hermes to account for his mentally and physically speedy nature, though this may only be a later addition to merely account for it.  Even then, Eudoros was the offspring of Hermes and the woman Polymele, and Hermes didn’t abduct her like most other gods may have, but instead sneaked into her room at night (taking a cue from his parents’ own congress).
  • Besides this, Hermes does have a few other sexual escapades here and there, as hinted at before with Circe, but also with Krokus (in a near replay of the Apollo/Hyacinthus myth), Brimo (likely Hekate), Persephone herself, and a few nymphs on the way to the underworld.  Hermes apparently has a thing for ladies and men of death or the dying.
  • In a sense, Hermes’ lack of sexuality becomes a type of alternative sexuality; not necessarily asexual, but certainly different from the conventional sexualities known and validated by other myths and in classical Greek culture.  He does his own thing on his own terms; when it comes to the relationships of others, he acts as the go-between of two people, bringing them together but staying out of anything that results.
  • Going a bit further in my own thoughts, the fact that Hermes stays out of relationships may be a hint at why he has next to no cults or mystery religions of his own.  Hermes brings people and gods together but stays out of what happens, after all.  Hermes, although an Olympian, is certainly not among the important ones, but he’s still a vital god to work with and crucial in day-to-day living.  Hermes has no temple, because he’s in every temple; he has no rites, because he’s in all rites; he has no expertise, because he’s an expert in everything.  Hermes is the go-between that leads us on in anything and everything; he is the road between destinations, but is not the destinations themselves.  He only leads us along the roads, but the road is where we spend most of our lives and times.  The presence of Hermes is required by man to work with any god, and is required to communicate to man from the gods.
  • Of course, this may not always be easy to explain.  Apparently, the presence of Hermes in book IV of the Aeneid is something of a problem for classicists, I guess because it’s so difficult to explain why Vergil wrote him into the story so as to get Aeneas out of Carthage after he falls in love with Dido at the cunning works of his mother Venus.  Essentially, the divine intervention here is abrupt and disrupts the flow of the story, but then that’s just it: at this stage in the story, the Aeneid isn’t going anywhere.  If Hermes never intervened to get Aeneas out of Carthage, Aeneas would never’ve left, which would otherwise put the Aeneid to an abrupt end, which would be far worse than an abrupt entry of a god to move the story along.
  • While many classicists link Aeneid IV (Mercury getting Aeneas’ ass in gear out of Carthage) with Odyssey V (Hermes telling Kalypso to free Odysseus), the differences here outweigh the similarities.  Odysseus was kept trapped by Kalypso, but Aeneas was happily and willingly staying with Dido even though he could leave at any time.  In either case, sure, fate had to be done, but the whole intent and tone is different.  Rather, it’s more instructive to look at the similarities with the last book of the Iliad, where Hermes is sent to Priam to lead him safely to Achilles to retrieve the body of Hector.  There, Hermes honors Priam for putting himself in danger to do what’s right, and so speaks respectfully as a devoted or loving son to Priam.  In the Aeneid, however, Mercury shames Aeneas for disregarding what’s right to do, speaking angrily as an impatient father.  In this light, Priam is an exemplar of good fatherhood, while Aeneas is being an exceptionally bad father to his own son.  In either case, however, they both exist to make sure the story doesn’t end.
  • Vergil is odd in that he never actually mentions Mercury by name, and even then only mentions Mercury three times through the entire Aeneid.  In book I, he mentions Mercury as “son of Maia” who comes from the heavens to the earth and landing on the shores of Libya; this emphasizes his celestial-terrestrial nature (son of ouranic Zeus and chthonic Maia) and liminal nature (going between the worlds and manifesting in liminal, threshold places of boundaries).  The other two times Vergil mentions Mercury is in book IV, starting with a description of Mercury’s staff, which is given all the usual attributes (guidance, leading people to sleep and wakefulness, etc.) but importantly adding a new power: that of death.  This is distinct from his role as psychopomp, leading the souls of those who have already died; this new power of the wand is a power of making people to die.
  • Essentially, Vergil uses Mercury to resolve the problem of narrative stagnation.  Aeneas is stuck in Carthage, but happily so and would remain there for the rest of his days if he could.  Vergil may have written himself into a corner, and so used Mercury to open the rest of the story up so it could keep going.  Mercury/Hermes here has the ability to keep things going and to give things closure, and he does this moreover as herald and messenger of the gods.  And, as god of transitions, Mercury enables Aeneas to move from impiety to piety once more.
  • Later authors have used Mercury/Hermes in a similar role to resolve narrative stagnation, such as Boccaccio in La Teseida and Chaucer in the Knight’s Tale (essentially the same story, where someone has to die in a fight in order for the story to be resolved but nobody dies until the gods make it so), as well as by Dante in the Inferno, canto 9, when he stands before the Gates of Dis with Vergil.  Vergil, for the first time, fails as a guide and can’t open the gates, and without progress the Inferno would end with them all caught in hell.  Happily, another guide “from heaven” with the appearance of a messenger and a wand uses the wand to open the gates, enabling the story to continue.  That this guide is Hermes/Mercury is more than likely, appearing from one world into another at a liminal place and using a wand to open ways and make things continue; Dante may have used this to “disprove” the idea that Vergil himself was a magician (since he was powerless here).
  • In a broader light, then, Hermes is not only the god of roads but also of road-opening.

Hermes Conference Recap, Day 1

Ah, beautiful Charlottesville, Virginia.  Beloved town of Thomas Jefferson, one of the great Founding Fathers of the United States of America, and home of my alma mater, the University of Virginia, where I spent several years in academic, emotional, and spiritual upheaval and chaos which had a significant impact on my life today.  It’s also where an amazing conference is being held on my patron god, titled Tracking Hermes/Mercury, put on by the Department of Classics at the University of Virginia.  If you’re not here, you’re missing out; there are 21 presentations being made over three days talking about the role of Hermes-Mercury in many of his forms in myth, religion, magic, and daily life throughout the antique to late classical periods of European history.  I’m more than pleased to be here, and it’s an amazing group with equally amazing speakers from around the world presenting here on this awesome topic.  Besides the fact that I get to roam around my old stomping grounds again and do a bit of exploration that I couldn’t or wouldn’t do when I was younger, I get to study and learn more about my own patron from some of the brightest and sharpest (though sometimes oddly-accented) experts in the field of classics.  While I’m here, I may as well write up some of my notes and things to think on that I’m picking up at this little conference.

Today was the first day of three, a short day that started in the evening with three speakers: Henk Versnel (Leiden), Nicola Reggiani (Parma/Heidelberg), and Jennifer Larson (Kent State).  Below are some of the talking points and thoughts from their discussions.

  • Hermes was, mythologically, a latecomer to the Olympian gods, being one of the younger sons of Zeus, yet is often held in many inscriptions as a great and powerful god, sometimes omnipotent (pankrator or pantokrator).  This is partially because Hermes never had any one field of expertise, but was a jack of all trades, able to help in any sphere of influence.  That said, many devotional or praise texts of the gods call them omnipotent in only a temporary sense; partially this is because the author wants to flatter and honor the gods in deference to them, and sometimes because the gods they write to are all-powerful for a particular need at that moment and at that time.  Further, many local gods (land spirits, local variants of bigger gods) were similarly held to be exceptionally mighty or omnipotent in their area, perhaps due to their closeness and relevancy to activities that went on in that place.
  • Hymns to the gods (aretalogies) can be divided roughly into two sets: devotional and magical, the former seeking only to praise and worship the gods, the latter seeking to fulfill a request.  (Yes, I know this is a highly modern and artificial distinction.)  In either case, Hermes is described as all-powerful or all-seeing or whatever, and this may be because he’s riding on the epithetical coat-tails of other gods in hymns within the same collections (especially the Orphic Hymns and those in the Greek Magical Papyri).
  • Some katadesmoi or curse tablets use a threefold description of Hermes: khthoniosdolios, and katokos (terrestrial, deceiver, and binding).  This echoes the threefold nature of other wrathful or chthonic deities, like the Erinyes, Moirai, and especially Hekate.
  • Many curse tablets and supplications for justice, of which Hermes is a common target later on in classical history, refer to him as friend or beloved, often in conjunction with terms of rulership like lord, ruler, and the like.  These are highly deferential terms, which are uncommon to be applied to Hermes, especially given his gopher-like nature among the Olympians.  Still, they imply a relationship of closeness and connectedness, similar to like how one grabs the knees of a magistrate begging for legal or justice-related works in our world.
  • In addition to Pan, Hermes and Asclepius (?!) are the two most-common leaders or companions of the nymphs in many cave and dedicatory inscriptions.
  • Hermes was, of course, a god of communication, but principally this was through his role as herald of the gods.  As herald (kēryx), he had the herald’s wand of authority (kērykeion, or caduceus), which gives the power of speech to one bestowed with it.  Compare this to the scene in the Iliad where Agamemnon gives his scepter to Odysseus, giving him license to speak before the tribes of Greece.
  • The caduceus itself is a scepter, and scepters give one divine authority to rule.  Agamemnon, king of Argos, obtained his scepter from Thyestes, who got it from Atreus, who got it from Pelops (origin of the name “Peloponnese”, i.e. the southern half of Greece), who was given it by Hermes from Zeus after having it made by Hephaistos (described in the Iliad).  Hermes always has his own scepter, bearing his message and authority as given to him by Zeus.
  • Likewise, when the herald’s wand was taken away, Hermes is also the god who takes away speech, and thus the god of silence.  Hermes defeated Argos by lulling him to sleep and slaying him after he ceased his talking, and silenced all the dogs and animals on his way back from stealing Apollo’s cattle.  According to Plutarch in “De Garrulitate”, “when in some meeting silence occurs, it is said that Hermes has come in”.
  • Hermes is known also for his associations with stones, specifically those used in heaps as primitive hermai as well as those used in divination and judgment (psephoi).  These associations were ultimately given by Apollo in exchange for the lyre and in substitute for oracular divination.  Further, in other myths, Hermes turns mortals to stone in retribution for speaking out against Hermes or ratting him out, thereby taking away their speech.  One such explanation comes after his up-close-and-personal killing of Argos, which incurred an act of pollution on Hermes, not to mention having gone against Hera who wanted Argos to guard Io; to purify Hermes, the gods threw their voting pebbles (psephoi) onto him.  This is an act of removing sin or pollution, and might be one reason made heaps of stones at crossroads to honor Hermes.
  • Relatedly, Hermes is said (by Aesop) to have written down the crimes and sins of people on potsherds by Zeus and to pile them in a container, so that Zeus to could go through them and exact a penalty from each criminal or sinner.  In this sense, Hermes is now seen as a dispenser of justice, acting as reporter and investigator to Zeus in addition to his messenger and herald.
  • It’s strange to see Hermes as a dispenser of justice, especially given his status as primordial trickster from the get-go as well as someone who had to undergo the first divine purification (involving showering one with judgment pebbles).  Still, it makes sense, as Hermes is one who both delivers judgment and justice as given by Zeus from on high, as well as being one who has already made the transition from criminal to civilian.  He brings people from one state to another, so from lawlessness to lawfulness, from sin to purity.
  • Hermes is a dispenser of far more than just justice, of course.  Another fable from Aesop says that Zeus told Hermes to instill a dose of deceitfulness in every craftsman, so Hermes made up a recipe for deceit and poured it into the mold of each craftsman.  Likewise, he was told to dispense lies and dishonesty to all the peoples of the world.  However, in the former case, Hermes had an overabundance of deceitfulness at the end of his work, and poured the rest of the mixture into the mold for cobblers (those who make shoes); thus, “all craftsmen are liars, but cobblers are the worst of all”.  Cobblers make shoes, like sandals, like the sandals Hermes himself made to steal Apollo’s cattle.  With the latter myth, Hermes had a wagon that he used to dispense lies and dishonesty to the world, but the cart broke down in the lands of the Arabs, who plundered the cart as if it were full of riches; thus, “Arabs are liars and charlatans[;] there is not a word of truth that springs from their lips”.  Arabs, like the Phoenicians, were known as world-crossing traders who sold and bought wares all across the known and unknown world, linking them especially to Hermes (doubly so since they stole from the cart of the godly thief, himself).
  • In stealing the cattle of Apollo, not to mention being born as a new god whose Olympian status was in doubt, Hermes essentially upset the cosmic order of things.  Big claim to make, sure, but in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes, he steals the cattle of Apollo because he wants to plunder the riches and powers of Apollo, and this is only a start to the whole thing.  Plus, he prefaces this by making the lyre and singing out about the history of the gods, but the language used to describe this really implies that Hermes creates a theogony and cosmology from whole cloth, creating a new order.
  • Hermes institutes this order later on by the sacrifice of Apollo’s cattle and proportioning out the meat into twelve parts, not only setting a banquet for the gods (another job as herald) but also setting in place a new method of distributing honor and works to the gods.  He does this by lot, i.e. dice.  Not only does he dice up the cows, he does this by dice.  In this view, Hermes is the god of distributions of fate and what’s due to each person.  This ties into his associations with divination, especially cleromancy or “divination by lot” or sortilege, which then leads naturally to his associations with astrology.
  • Going further with this, Hermes is then linked to the goddesses of fate, usually seen as three in number.  An old Mycenean tablet has the disputed epithet “Areias” for his name, along with three goddesses of unknown importance (at least to me): Peresa, Iphimedeia, and Diwia.  It may be possible (though admittedly a stretch) that Areias is somehow connected to the Areopagus, the Hill of Ares in Athens, where the Erinyes were worshiped (again, a set of three goddesses associated with divine fate and retribution).
  • The similarities between Hermes’ theft of Apollo’s cattle in the Homeric Hymn to Hermes and Heracles’ theft of the tripod from Delphi are striking enough to bear some interesting investigation.  Both concern an Olympian god of no repute at the beginning of the story who seek to upset the cosmic order by stealing from and struggling with their older brother Apollo, in both cases mediated by their father Zeus.  Hermes wanted to take Apollo’s rites of prophecy for himself, and Heracles wanted to obtain a prophecy from Apollo’s priestess, and in either case to get what they wanted they stole from Apollo; Hermes got sortilege, and Heracles set up his own oracle, both with the blessing of Zeus.  In both cases, their struggles with the gods (their older siblings, no less!) was seen not as an act of impiety but as proof of their divinity.  Although we don’t have an original myth written down for the Struggle of the Tripod, it’s likely that it preceded the Homeric Hymn, which may have borrowed both the core idea and some phrases from the Heracles myth (e.g. “strong son of Zeus” to refer to Hermes when this is commonly given to Heracles).

Crying of Calls 49: Saturnine Recap

I mentioned recently that I got Jason Miller’s excellent “Advanced Planetary Magic”, which, again, you should totally get, since it’s worth far more than the cost.  It’s a collection of 49 short prayers or invocations to be used during different combinations of the planetary hours and days for different ends (so there’s a Moon/Saturn call to be done in an hour of the Moon on the day of Saturn, a Saturn/Moon call to be done in an hour of Saturn on the day of the Moon, etc.).  As part of his goal to get this magic out in the world and practiced by the masses, Mr. Miller started up a project called The Crying of Calls 49, where people participate by calling out one of the calls each for 49 consecutive days in the proper hour for a given week.  So, the first week is for the Moon calls, the second week for the Mercury calls, and so forth.  I’m posting my results in the Facebook group for the project, but I also thought I’d share my results and experiences with you all as well.    I won’t share what the Calls are or what they’re for, since you should go buy the ebook and find out for yourself, but the astute among you will figure it out.

This last and final week, Monday 8/19 through Sunday 8/25, we did the calls to Saturn.  Below are my experiences and thoughts:

8/19: Saturn/Moon 

Made the Saturn/Luna call tonight in the third hour of Saturn. Standard operating procedure, myrrh/jasmine incense. For Saturn, I’m repeating the call three times.

Heavy, certainly, which is fitting for Saturn. It’s like the smugness of the past */Saturn calls is from being self-important or beyond judgment, which now I’m starting to get more on that side of things. Still, heavy and fixed as Saturn is, the Moon gave everything a rapid, fluid feel, like I was a rock at the center of a whirlpool, or a fixed point in space and time. I felt like being able to reach out and gathering whatever it was I needed from the world outside of me, like everything was circling around and to me instead of me having to catch up to it. For the intent of this call, this is certainly one way to keep up with time, but not the expected one. Inhaling the visualization of the sigil of Saturn lead on violet was…sticky, like trying to breath in wet jello, but it tasted sweet enough due to the incense blend (which lends itself well to each other). This is less a mischievous feel (as in Luna/Saturn) and more of a…confident overseer feel. Interesting.

8/20: Saturn/Mars

Made the Saturn/Mars call twice today, first in the first hour of Saturn at work (just under my breath) and again in the second hour of Saturn, standard operating procedure with pine/myrrh incense.

This one has a kick to it; the heat of Mars is strong, but it’s heavy and restricting in a Saturnine way I haven’t yet felt in this project. Visualizing the sigil of Saturn lead on red made it seem much more…not necessarily sinister, not quite despondent, but something between the two; it felt like a grill or a net, and inhaling it didn’t quite work, but it wrapped around me as a chain blanket and seeped into my bones, which now feel denser and hotter. The heat built up in this isn’t painful, but it is discomfortingly deep. In that regard, it’s probably good paired up with the Jupiter/Mars call to get off one’s ass, especially if one’s weakness (like mine and others, certainly) is sloth.

8/21: Saturn/Mercury

Made the Saturn/Mercury call today in the second hour of Saturn.  I’m visiting a friend today out of town, so I made the call outside in the sunlight; a change, but a pleasant one.  Otherwise, standard operating procedure with cinnamon/myrrh incense.

This is a weird feeling, but perhaps mercurial me doesn’t often like shutting up, with either my voice or my mind.  If Mercury deals with circuits and channels of communication, the normal connections and flows I feel changed drastically; it was like all channels of communication were thrown open and flowing towards me.  The heaviness of Saturn made me feel like the bottom of a well or a lake, with all the buzz of Mercury flowing to me like water to a low spot.  Between feeling low and looking up and this weird centralized-stillness-external-buzzing, this feels like a weird kind of spiritual adderall.  Probably good to use before meditation, classes, or any period of observation that requires focus.  Visualization of the sigil of Saturn lead on orange didn’t have any unusual effects or signs this time, but inhaled smoothly and made me feel solidified and more “here”.

8/22: Saturn/Jupiter

Made the Saturn/Jupiter call tonight in the second hour. Standard operating procedure with myrrh and cedar incense.

Like the Jupiter/Saturn call last week, this feeling of combined forces is difficult to discern in differentiation (oh my god Jason, confound you for getting me stuck alliterating endlessly), and the feeling is really similar: guarded kingship, decisiveness, clarity. The breeziness and coolness of Jupiter mesh well with the heaviness and cold of Saturn, although this call is the exact opposite of the other; while Jupiter/Saturn was about expanding within contraction, Saturn/Jupiter is about contracting on expansion. It’s almost the same sensation, and I feel like I have everything spiritually or metaphorically at hand in a kind of “waste not want not” atmosphere. Inhaling the sigil seemed odd tonight; visualizing the sigil of Saturn lead on blue ended up getting wrapped around my head, looping through my spinal column and forming a kind of ring through my nose, like it’s circulating and pushing stuff down and away from the head elsewhere in the body. Probably some good information in that symbolism, I’ll wager.

8/23: Saturn/Venus

Made the Saturn/Venus call today in the second hour of Saturn. Standard operating procedure with rose/myrrh incense. I tailored my preceding prayer with a specific intent to solidify and make permanent and transcendent my relationship with my partner.

Unlike the other Saturn calls, this one isn’t heavy at all, though it has an interesting other effect; I feel like there’s some weird chain or cable pulling from within my chest out towards the back elsewhere; I know where it ends, my own partner, or my link to him, rather. The heaviness is definitely around my chest due to this weird tethering, but it’s not unwelcome; unlike the Venus/Saturn call, this one is actually fairly pleasant, if not sobering. The kindness of Venus certainly cancels out the otherwise harsh feeling of Saturn, but the way they combine here is almost surprising, showing a weird kind of sober, somber, dedicated love that (for someone as young as I am) I wouldn’t expect to feel anytime soon. The incense has a type of wine-like twinge to it tonight missing from before, and the sigil seemed as normal as ever besides shooting into and through me to form the chain instead of just inhaling it as usual.

8/24: Saturn/Saturn

Changed things up today. Opened up with an invocation of Saturn from the Picatrix and used my lead Saturn talisman from an election a while back as a focus for the ritual. Used three candles and three sticks of myrrh incense, and anointed my palms and the talisman with myrrh oil. Beyond that, standard operating procedure, but with nine repetitions of the Call (three times three): three out loud, three quietly, three silently.

This one knocked me on my back, or rather, on my front; I ended up lying down prostrate on the ground before my altar for a while after making the call, since the heaviness of Saturn turned into a deep, profound sense of falling. Entering the Abyss, indeed. I’ll reserve most of my thoughts on this for later; I don’t even really know where to begin with this tonight. Visualizing the sigil of Saturn lead on black tonight was sharp, and inhaling it into my energy body felt painful or like being macerated inside. Everything is calm, but…

8/25: Saturn/Sun

Made the Saturn/Sun call today in the first hour of Saturn. Performed a ritual cleansing and full Sevenths-calling beforehand, and got out the fancy censer and grains of myrrh and frankincense resin (partially because I ran out of frankincense sticks). Otherwise, standard operating procedure.

After last night’s heavy and depressed call, this one was sorely, sorely needed, but having done it, I feel recharged in the deepest and most thorough way possible. It’s a weird kind of joy; not a temporary or emotional joy, but an existential, survivalist joy that doesn’t quite match up with words or laughter. The stillness of the Sun provides a kind of crystal clarity to the world around me, while the solidity and heaviness of Saturn this time has turned into a kind of support and guide, a chain bridge or a ladder to help me. The visualization of the sigil, though dark like coal on gold, inhaled in among the densest and most spiritually forceful way yet; it seemed to form a chain extending from infinitely above me to infinitely below me, a kind of shivalingam of gold and black that I can neither escape nor lose myself from.

And that does it for me! All 49 Calls have been made, and this project is drawn to a close for me. This has been a fantastic trip for me, you guys, and I give my deepest and sincerest thanks to Jason Miller for writing up this set of prayers.  I wouldn’t’ve thought to combine the planets like how he did, and I’m glad he shared his work with the world.  If you haven’t gotten your copy, do so immediately and start putting them to use.  I can’t emphasize how powerful yet simple this stuff is; it may be Hermetics Lite, but it has no small punch for your Work.

Crying of Calls 49: Jovial Recap

I mentioned recently that I got Jason Miller’s excellent “Advanced Planetary Magic”, which, again, you should totally get, since it’s worth far more than the cost.  It’s a collection of 49 short prayers or invocations to be used during different combinations of the planetary hours and days for different ends (so there’s a Moon/Saturn call to be done in an hour of the Moon on the day of Saturn, a Saturn/Moon call to be done in an hour of Saturn on the day of the Moon, etc.).  As part of his goal to get this magic out in the world and practiced by the masses, Mr. Miller started up a project called The Crying of Calls 49, where people participate by calling out one of the calls each for 49 consecutive days in the proper hour for a given week.  So, the first week is for the Moon calls, the second week for the Mercury calls, and so forth.  I’m posting my results in the Facebook group for the project, but I also thought I’d share my results and experiences with you all as well.    I won’t share what the Calls are or what they’re for, since you should go buy the ebook and find out for yourself, but the astute among you will figure it out.

This past week, Monday 8/12 through Sunday 8/18, we did the calls to Jupiter.  Below are my experiences and thoughts:

8/12: Jupiter/Moon 

Made the Jupiter/Luna call in the last hour of Jupiter, the hour just before dawn on Tuesday. Standard operating procedure with cedar and jasmine incense.

This is…for some reason, weirdly calming. The Luna/Jupiter call was deeply calming as well, but for some reason, this just feels weird, though I don’t know why (I wasn’t expecting anything else). On the one hand, it feels so calm and peaceful, almost sleep-giving like light opium; on the other, it feels like it’s produced an awakeness and benevolent alertness that keeps me grounded. Between these two smooth and light influences, the harmony between them is a delightful mix, but it’s still something that I have this internal headtilt at. Visualizing the sigil was simple enough, picturing bright tin on (royal) purple, and inhaled like an icy cool yet thick drink, spreading all throughout me and supporting me in my bones with a kind of bright chrome-silver light. Interesting feeling; maybe this is the inner grace described in the annotation.

8/13: Jupiter/Mars

Made the Jupiter/Mars call in the second hour of Jupiter tonight. Standard operating procedure with cedar and pine incense.

It’s weird that the Mars/Jupiter call seemed to have the Jupiter force dominant, and that the reverse is true here, too: the Martian force seems to be stronger than the Jovian one. There’s definitely a lot of heat in this call, but it’s all surface-heat, nothing deep; rather, the coolness and “breeze” of Jupiter seems locked in deep (much like Jupiter/Luna), but lends its lightning and storminess to the outward expression of this Call. A good phrase for this feeling might be “martial law”, though maybe that’s because it’s my own rulership of my kingdom that needs work instead of defense from outside. I feel regally warlike, or martially professional, like a top-tier officer issuing orders and having things set aright. Inhaling the sigil was interesting; the tin of the Jupiter sigil seemed to melt like solder in the red heat of Mars, and it seemed to seal my joints and around my head like a helmet. The eliminating nature of Mars and the expanding nature of Jupiter here don’t seem to be at odds, but work complimentary to that of Mars/Jupiter: whereas Mars/Jupiter gets one’s ass in gear on the things that matter, Jupiter/Mars orders things to matter and get done. It’s like two sides of the same coin.

8/14: Jupiter/Mercury

Made the Jupiter/Mercury call tonight in the third hour of Jupiter. Standard operating procedure with cedar and cinnamon incense.

With respect to the elements, I go with Agrippa’s association and give Mercury to water and Jupiter to air; with the quickness and sharpness of Mercury combined with the coolness and airiness of Jupiter, this Call feels ice cold, but in a completely rejuvenating, refreshing way. It’s as if someone dunked an overheating processor into a supercooled ice bath, improving processing speed like whoa. It’s like the frost that develops at superhigh altitudes when any moisture is present, gathering more and combining with other moisture to form precipitation that then falls down, which heats up to repeat the cycle. In a sense, it feels like an unusual metaphor of the cycling and recycling of money to produce money. That said, the expansiveness of Jupiter doesn’t mesh so great this time with the connectivity that Mercury brings; while the Mercury/Jupiter call was relaxing and well-connecting, this just feels overactive and overinvolved, like the predecessor of a fast-acting storm. It almost feels uncomfortably ungrounded and easy to get confused in this state.

8/15: Jupiter/Jupiter

Made the Jupiter/Jupiter call tonight in the third hour. Went with a full blown conjuration of the angel, intelligence, and spirit of Jupiter tonight with the Trithemius ritual in conjunction with a Gate of Jupiter rite and adoration of Zeus, within which happened a bottle of good chardonnay and the Jupiter/Jupiter call. Preceded with donning a new ritual robe and a complete set of prayers, ablutions, meditation, and energy work.

Honestly, after all that, it’s hard to pick out what was from the Call and what wasn’t. Since this was a “pure planetary” Call, it approximates any other purely jovial working, and since this was just one big Jupiter ritual, it blended in nicely. Besides, the similarities between this Call and Jason Miller’s prayer to Jupiter are fairly high (I can’t fathom why). All the same, I’m feeling pretty shiny and golden and good right now. Hail Zeus, and hail to you all!

8/16: Jupiter/Venus

Made the Jupiter/Venus call tonight in the third hour of Jupiter. Standard operating procedure, rose/cedar incense.

I feel wet. Like, covered in humidity wet. It’s weird, but refreshing and embracing at the same time; this is a truly good feeling produced from this call. It’s sensual and smooth, as expected from Venus, and cool and airy, as expected from Jupiter, but the moisture from the two combined is much closer this time than in the airy breezy feeling made from the Venus/Jupiter call. I feel safe and embraced, yet at the same time there’s this stimulating, sensuous feeling along my spine. Everything seems precious, everything seems needed; I made a small request beforehand, adapting the info text with the call specifically for my partner and myself, so we’ll see what comes of that. Seeing the sigil of Jupiter tin on green tonight was interesting; unlike the baroque filigree of Venus copper on blue from the Venus/Jupiter call, this had an organic, almost naturally-formed look. Inhaling it was just as sensual and exciting in its own way as the rest of the air around me, and filled me with this neat kind of joy.

8/17: Jupiter/Saturn

Made the Jupiter/Saturn call tonight at the end of the third hour of Jupiter. Standard operating procedure, myrrh/cedar incense; I may have gone over in time into the hour of Mars, but I didn’t let that stop me. Just in case, I made a quick reading of the call beforehand to make sure I got it in time.

This is an interesting combination of forces, and it’s hard to tell where one begins and the other ends; Jupiter is normally airy as I’ve felt it, but it’s noble airy with this kind of gravitas of force. Saturn is heavy and smug as usual, but this is a weird kind of cheerful call in its own manner, like resolution in the face of adversity, brushing the dust off one’s shoulders and keeping on, like a king faced with problems solving them one at a time. I felt like weights were attached to me all around me, but that I was standing and growing tall. Inhaling the visualization of the Jupiter sigil tin on black was interesting; it went slow, though the tin was exceptionally bright (almost magnesium-burning white), and it gave me this kind of weird inner exoskeletal feel, like I was growing a layer of armor just underneath my skin with a kind of fullness under it. Then again, this Call was about expansion within limits, and the skin is certainly the limit to the body.

8/18: Jupiter/Sun

Made the Jupiter/Sun call in the first hour of Jupiter today after my morning rites and purifications. Fittingly, I also anointed myself with King Solomon oil; not as commanding as High John, but suitable for this call. Otherwise, standard operating procedure with cedar/frankincense incense.

This is a GOOD call, dang. Unlike the Sun/Jupiter call which was really mild though posh for me, Jupiter/Sun feels extraordinarily lively and good. I feel energized and charged, active and awake, deeply happy and content. For me, it’s as if the airy joy of Jupiter combines with the golden stillness of the Sun and penetrates deep within me, radiating outwards without heat but with much light and Good Feels. Visualizing the sigil today made the sigil of Jupiter tin on yellow look…I dunno. Ideal? As if it wasn’t anything actually made or constructed or designed, but Original. Inhaling it seemed to actually have it pass through the crown of my head in a shower of light and descend totally through me and every part of me. The slow light-bearing fire of the Sun and the fast lightning-bolt gold of Jupiter combines exceptionally well in this call for me.

Crying of Calls 49: Solar Recap

I mentioned recently that I got Jason Miller’s excellent “Advanced Planetary Magic”, which, again, you should totally get, since it’s worth far more than the cost.  It’s a collection of 49 short prayers or invocations to be used during different combinations of the planetary hours and days for different ends (so there’s a Moon/Saturn call to be done in an hour of the Moon on the day of Saturn, a Saturn/Moon call to be done in an hour of Saturn on the day of the Moon, etc.).  As part of his goal to get this magic out in the world and practiced by the masses, Mr. Miller started up a project called The Crying of Calls 49, where people participate by calling out one of the calls each for 49 consecutive days in the proper hour for a given week.  So, the first week is for the Moon calls, the second week for the Mercury calls, and so forth.  I’m posting my results in the Facebook group for the project, but I also thought I’d share my results and experiences with you all as well.    I won’t share what the Calls are or what they’re for, since you should go buy the ebook and find out for yourself, but the astute among you will figure it out.

This past week, Monday 7/29 through Sunday 8/4, we did the calls to the Sun.  Below are my experiences and thoughts:

7/29: Sun/Moon 

Made the Sun/Moon call today in the second hour, just before sunset. Standard operating procedure with frankincense and jasmine incense.

I got a beautiful buzz from this one. Unlike the Moon/Sun call, the energies of this one really meshed well and didn’t need to “align” or anything. I’d term this kind of feeling a “soldier’s peace”: resolute and authoritative, but secure and nurturing all the same. There’s no whiff of doubt or confusion in the air, just a pleasant, quiet, deep smirking joy within me. The stillness of the Sun’s energies are much brighter this time, but made softer and with less of a burn than pure solar force due to the Moon’s influence. I can’t speak to the balancing effect of this Call, since I expect that to happen over the course of the next day, but it is very solidifying and centering. Perhaps, instead of the energies clicking into place around me as it was with Moon/Sun, it’s me who’ll be clicking into place with the energies.

7/30: Sun/Mars

Made the Sun/Mars call tonight in the third hour of the Sun, standard operating procedure with pine/frankincense incense.

What memories! I did an intense Sun/Mars working over the course of two weeks back at the start of 2012, and it was a constant energy rush for that entire time. Tonight was like that, but not as intense, but then, it wasn’t as intense a working. Still: forceful, strong, a sort of fuck-all Sonic the Hedgehog-like attitude to everything came over me, and even gave me a much-needed energy boost for getting a crafting project done that same night (though with one or two minor hideable mistakes due to being in a rush). The sigil didn’t inhale as much as it did melt over me; the solar gold sigil of the Sun melted in the flames of Mars, and “bonded” with me as I inhaled it to form a sort of empowering light armor of Light. Excellent stuff, and a good method to combine these forces. Mars and Sun is the only pair of forces I’ve ever worked with combined before, so this being so similar definitely works for me. The solar stillness from before has become definitely more resolved and adamantine, which is awesome to maintain such an awesome Fire.

7/31: Sun/Mercury

Made the Sun/Mercury call tonight in the second hour of the Sun, standard operating procedure with frankincense and cinnamon incense.

“Vajra”, the adamantine lightningbolt of enlightenment, is probably the best single word I have for this feeling. It’s not the bright, slow stillness of the Mercury/Sun call, but much brighter, much stronger, much more forceful externally. The stillness of the Sun is more of a calmness, an equanimity, with a huge buzz and undercurrent of strong Mercurial flow underneath it all, like a self-composed scholar or guru teaching the basics slowly to beginners but inwardly reviewing an infinite number of possible cosmoses. It’s cheerful, but not necessarily joyful; it’s fun, but not for the sake of enjoyment. I feel like my head’s been completely opened, like I’m able to think subtle things just on the outer boundaries of my mind that I wasn’t able to recognize before. I can really dig this prayer, and expect to be one of the ones I pull into frequent use.

8/1: Sun/Jupiter

Made the Sun/Jupiter call in the second hour of the Sun today, standard operating procedure.

This is a much more mild experience than what I was expecting, especially after the Sun/Mercury call yesterday and from my other experiences with the Sun and Jupiter separately. The coolness and richness of Jupiter was certainly present, as was the stillness of the Sun, forming an overall relaxed but posh feel, like a high-class lounge for CEOs and other magnates. Nothing particularly striking, though visualizing the sigil of the Sun today was…interesting. I wouldn’t say “crackling” or “buzzing”, since those are more Mercurial qualities, but “erupting” or “bursting” like lightning; the edges of the sigil seemed electrified and sparking, yet inhaled like satiny oil. A good feel, all the same, though nothing particularly striking.

8/2: Sun/Venus

Made the Sun/Venus call last night, standard operating procedure with rose/frankincense incense.

This was a good feeling, and much smoother than the semi-broken feeling I got from the Venus/Sun call this past Sunday. It was powerful yet relaxed, smooth and light, but it wasn’t focused on me. It was similar to one of the Saturnian curses in that it was a primarily externally-directed call, which makes sense given the purpose. It was like I was at peace, but that peace was reliant and tied up with in the people around and affecting me; a total confluence of agreement and harmony, truly a Cytherean thing. The sigil didn’t seem to inhale properly, much like the Venus/Sun call, but here it seemed to wrap around and link me to the rest of the world outside my sphere. With these kinds of energetic circuits linking me to others I rely on, this call is definitely good for this kind of work.

8/3: Sun/Saturn

Made the Sun/Saturn call tonight in the second hour of the sun, standard operating procedure with frankincense/rose incense.

This was very heavy, and I’m feeling like a cross between wanting to slumber (not just rest, but deeply slumber) and wanting to mourn, but not for the sake of my own self. The sigil seemed formal, the gleaming gold on solemn black, reminiscent of an old tribal funeral mask; when inhaling it, it seemed to turn to dust and “locked” me down to the things that…matter? That’s probably the word I’m looking for; the things that matter, though it’s unspecified what in my image. The feeling I get from this is a sort of hyperstillness between the crystal solar energy and the bleak saturnine energy; it’s not cheerful by any means, nor is it uplifting, but solidifying, sobering, focusing. The stillness seems to be a stillness of time, and my sense of it passing is kinda messed up afterward. This would be good for meditation, certainly, before any deep or serious work like a vigil or a fast.

8/4: Sun/Sun

Made the Sun/Sun call tonight in the third hour of the Sun, standard operating procedure, but saying the Orphic Hymn six times tonight in special honor of the pure Sun ritual.

WOW. This one packed a MAJOR punch of solar force into my sphere. Inhaling the sigil didn’t seem to work tonight; instead, I seemed to be inhaled and completely suffused and engulfed by the huge force of solar Light that the ritual produced, really linking me into the Sun instead of vice versa. While that same stillness and composure is present, it’s been greatly magnified into a kind of bright, new self-contained dynamism present in everything around me; this is a fascinatingly new way to see things, as if the Holy Name itself were revealed to me giving me a new understanding of the deep basis of everything. I feel…good. There’s really no other way to describe it. I feel good. Closing my eyes seems to give me more light to see with than opening them, when even looking at candleflames seems dark. I feel empowered, strengthened, and most importantly “pointed upward”, so to speak, in the right direction.

Crying of Calls 49: Cytherean Recap

I mentioned recently that I got Jason Miller’s excellent “Advanced Planetary Magic”, which, again, you should totally get, since it’s worth far more than the cost.  It’s a collection of 49 short prayers or invocations to be used during different combinations of the planetary hours and days for different ends (so there’s a Moon/Saturn call to be done in an hour of the Moon on the day of Saturn, a Saturn/Moon call to be done in an hour of Saturn on the day of the Moon, etc.).  As part of his goal to get this magic out in the world and practiced by the masses, Mr. Miller started up a project called The Crying of Calls 49, where people participate by calling out one of the calls each for 49 consecutive days in the proper hour for a given week.  So, the first week is for the Moon calls, the second week for the Mercury calls, and so forth.  I’m posting my results in the Facebook group for the project, but I also thought I’d share my results and experiences with you all as well.    I won’t share what the Calls are or what they’re for, since you should go buy the ebook and find out for yourself, but the astute among you will figure it out.

This past week, Monday 7/22 through Sunday 7/28, we did the calls to Venus (whose official adjective is “venereal”, but I prefer “cytherean” instead, because…well, ew).  Below are my experiences and thoughts:

7/22: Venus/Moon 

Performed the call in my cubicle in the first hour of Venus.  Visualized the sigil of Venus copper on purple, intoning A-H seven times, then made the Call eight times quietly, then inhaled the sigil.  I feel fucking awesome, actually; this really feels sensual, way mroe than the Moon/Venus call, like I’m stripping after a night of partying with the smell of someone else’s cologne on me.  The sigil appeared more organic than it usually does, and the purple light around it almost looked velvety; it inhaled down like smooth, heady wine.  I almost feel indecently good in the office.

7/23: Venus/Mars

Did the Venus/Mars call in the very last hour possible, the hour right before dawn on Wednesday. Performed it after my normal morning prayers and a full Sevenths-calling ritual; lit a candle with some rose and pine incense, called on Aphrodite with the Orphic Hymn while visualizing her glyph green on red, then intoned O-H seven times while visualizing her sigil copper on red. Made the Call seven times, then inhaled the sigil and closed out.

This wasn’t too bad a call, but it also felt a little subdued, considering the phrasing and intent of it. It certainly felt direct and potent, but it was almost restrained and polite; perhaps that’s the point, by using congenial charm to conquer. The sigil was equally subtle; the copper blended right in with the red light of Mars, and when I inhaled it it seemed to “attach” to me like a light exoskeleton-based weapon. Maybe it’s due to my already being aligned well with these forces, but it felt comfortable yet empowering all the same. (I wonder what that says about me.)

7/24: Venus/Mercury

Made the Venus/Mercury call in the second hour of Venus, right before the third hour of Mercury at night. Standard operating procedure: short Sevenths-calling, candle, rose and cinnamon incense, called on Aphrodite with the Orphic Hymn while picturing her glyph green on orange, intoned E-H seven times while visualizing her sigil copper on orange, made the Call seven times, inhaled the sigil, and closed out.

I think “calming” is a good word to use for this, but it misses something. “Composing” might be better; it feels similar to the Luna/Mercury call from before. The Venus vibes are very smooth and sensual, and when focused through the buzz of Mercury gives it a very solid, almost structurally nice feel, as if the mental and conducive channels of Mercury are being used by the life force and fluid of Venus to strengthen and make it more “organic”. I’d think this would be certainly good before any counseling or empathic work for this. The sigil seemed fluid yet fiery tonight; easy to inhale, almost like breathing in tentacles of light, and sweet in a way.

7/25: Venus/Jupiter

Performed the Venus/Jupiter call in the second hour of Venus today. Standard operating procedure: short Sevenths-calling, Orphic Hymn with candle and rose/cedar incense, intoned Y-H seven times while visualizing the sigil of Venus copper on blue, made the Call seven times, inhaled the sigil, and closed out (and made a number of other offerings to household, familiar, and divine spirits afterward).

This was a very pleasant, smooth, luxurious feeling; after all, the two benefics combined lead to an awesome time. The overall feeling was cool and smooth, that smoothness coming from Venus and the coolness from airy Jupiter. The sigil had an embossed filigree-like look to it, wrapping around me gently instead of properly inhaling; I swear I heard soft music and a sort of gilded floral pattern in that blue background of the sigil while making the call. Very artsy, very focused on fine beauty and good taste. And yet, things seem a little more reassured, a little more “solid” around me; that’s probably the Jovial influence. Good before a museum outing or some classy show, I suppose.

7/26: Venus/Venus

Made a full adoration of Venus today at dawn after my morning ritual procedure, including meditation and Sevenths-calling. Lit rose incense and a candle, then went full out from there: read the Orphic Hymn seven times, intoned H 49 times, called upon the presence and blessing of Aphrodite and all her spirits (using the short incantation from the Picatrix), then made the Call seven times while picturing her sigil copper on emerald. Inhaled, thanked her, and closed out.

Instead of just picturing the Venus glyph, the whole goddess appeared to me today, emerald beads in her hair like seaweed braids and ocean blue eyes and all. I may be fairly Mercurial in nature, but Venus is the strongest planet and effectively my celestial “Mother”; this felt like a really deep recharge of divine essence for me. Totally washed over, like getting out of a calm ocean, and I feel smoothed out and cooled off, with a very deep sense of feels, like bleeding-heart compassion and love. While she was there, I asked Aphrodite to bless my relationship and my works of art/Art, and she gladly gave it, though suggested I work with her more even though she’s already always around me. This ritual is definitely among the strongest for me so far. Inhaling the sigil at the end was like icing on the cake; it completely merged with me with nearly no effort, and almost burned in my mind it was so bright and vivid. Beautiful in every way.

7/27: Venus/Saturn

Did the Venus/Saturn call today, in the second hour of Venus with the standard operating procedure with rose and myrrh incense.

The keyword for tonight is “toxic”. Seeing the glyph of Venus green on black reminded me instantly of radioactivity or poison signs, and during the Orphic Hymn there was some kind of repeated screeching outside sounding like a horror movie violin track (that lasted only for as long as the Hymn did, interestingly enough). The sigil of Venus copper on black seemed corrosive, too, turning a sickly patina’d green at the edges. The feeling from this was almost scathing, like a woman’s cold, cold stare bearing right into my heart, and it’d be easily frightening if I weren’t the one doing the Call. I had no specific enemies in mind, so I directed it to all who would stand before me, turning all their loved ones, friends, family, colleagues, coworkers, allies, associates, etc. against them. Again, there’s that grim satisfaction from that underlying Saturn current as it was from the Luna/Saturn and Mercury/Saturn calls, but the smoothness and coolness of Venus turned into an icy, slick feeling. Very interesting.

7/28: Venus/Sun

Did the Venus/Sun call tonight in the third hour of Venus. Standard operating procedure, with rose and frankincense incense.

I didn’t get anything as mind-breakingly beautiful as Jason got, but then, I’m tired from a hangover from a party the day before. Still, the call seemed different from the others, and sounded almost…I don’t want to say “broken”, but it didn’t have the same ring or flow to it that the others have had (at least so far). Still, it was pleasant, though the forces of Venus and the Sun don’t seem to mesh very well together; it’s like the heat and stillness of the Sun overpower or conflict with the smoothness and coolness of Venus. Inhaling the sigil (copper on gold) didn’t work tonight; instead, the sigil sorta “dropped”, and I stood upon it instead, and immediately saw the sigil of Venus replicated in every atom of every molecule infinitely around me; now that was cool. They do say that the Universe was founded on the principle of Love, after all. It’s reassuring and joyful in its own quietly awesome way.