For a long time I was only interested in the Goddesses. As with many women. I saw the Greek deities as at least partly about not only reclaiming the Divine Feminie, but as a way to establish personal connections with that power.
I like to tell a story about a time when someone told me about a conference being held around the theme of the Goddess Athena. My spontaneous response was "Oh, I'd love to go to that. Athena is a friend of mine." Aphrodite is not just a concept or a series of old stories, she is a presence in my life.
Over the past few years I have maintained my strong feeling for the Goddesses while at the same time becoming interested in at least a few of their brothers. One figure that looms more and more in mind is Hermes.
The word "Hermetic," the name for the Western esoteric tradition, comes from Hermes. However, it is a later version than the original Greek God. The term comes from Hermes Trismegistus ("thrice great"), a semi-legendary figure from Hellenistic Egypt who composed a series of great texts.
Our expression "As above, so below" is a short version of Hermes Trismegistus's "That which is above is the same as that which is below, and that which is below is the same as that which is above, for the preservation of the miracle of one thing." (I used that line as the opening for a "keynote address" at Goddard College, where I teach writing–the theme for the keynote was "Form and Content.")
The Hermes of myth is much older, possibly going back to the Stone Age. He is a trickster, a thief, a guide to dead souls, a teacher of Mysteries, and a swindler. In my opinion, you have to love a religion that has a God of swindlers!
I hope to say much more about Hermes in the future, especially his great staff, the caduceus. When the group of us go to Greece in October we will call on Hermes to journey with us. Right now, I want to share a poem I wrote as a direct invocation of Hermes.
I actually wrote this poem while at Goddard, possibly during the same residency (most of the teaching is done long distance, but we meet for a very intense week at the start of the semester) where I quoted Hermes Trismegistus.
A couple of notes:
1. Moly is a magical plant. In the Odyssey Hermes shows Odysseus how he can use moly to stop the sorceress Circe from turning him into an animal. I am convinced that originally moly was the opposite, an herb used by prehistoric shamans to shapeshift. "Holy moley!" from the old comic book Captain Marvel, comes from moly.
2. The expression "secret agent lover man" comes from Francesca Lia Block's magical book Weetzie Bat. Everyone should read it.
INVOCATION TO HERMES
I call my brother Hermes,
My snake thief music man,
My dress up dancing man.
I whistle him come to me,
Sliding up the evening
Dripping lies and magic.
Hermes the vampire,
Hermes the conman.
Offers field trips and cruises,
Guidebooks and theater passes,
For lackluster dead.
My razzle dazzle mambo boy,
My scoundrel secret agent
Skin bags full of moly,
Sticks and shiny leather.
My scandal whisper gossip god,
My story serpent mojo man,