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Home > Astrology > Mercurius > Dig Deeper Into Mercury

"As a planet, Mercury represents the desire to label things. Mercury wants to give everything a name because that seems to make things feel safer. Naming something brings it out of the dark night, out of the dark world into light." Richard Idemon; from "Through the Looking Glass" Seminar

Dig Deeper Into Mercury (Hermes) with Dr Z

Without knowing it, most of us have met up with the mischievous Roman messenger god Mercury (known to the Greeks as Hermes) when on a visit to the local shopping mall.

This encounter doubly makes of sense, when we consider [among other things] that Mercury/Hermes is a protector of merchants and tavern owners.

Yep! We most generally encounter Mercury/Hermes immediately after walking into one of the main entrances.

Have you figured out what I'm talking about yet?

Mercury's spirit resides in the gigantic mall map. Yep! Mercury/Hermes can be found in that marvelously helpful map that so carefully, succinctly categorizes and then explains where all of the different stores in the mall are located. Mercury/Hermes even provides you with that ever so helpful arrow pointing to exactly where you are now in relation to where you want to go.

Crossroads and Boundaries
One can always be assured of meeting up with the messenger god Mercury/Hermes wherever there are crossroads and boundaries.

In ancient Greece and Rome, Herms (square pillars topped with a bust of Hermes) were used as boundary markers and protective guardians at the entry ways of buildings and along roads.

In various folklores, legends, and superstitions the crossroads quite often took on a darker, more sinister persona and become associated with evil magic and demons. According the deVries Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery 1974, evil witches and vampryes were said to be buried at the crossroads, and this was done in order to confuse them so that they couldn't find their way home.

It's easy to get lost at the crossroads...

Today... Mercury/Hermes is the street sign keeping you informed of just exactly where you are by declaring that you're on the corner of 5th and Broad in Nashville, TN or on the corner of 10th and Williams in San Jose, CA.

God of Contradictions
Mercury/Hermes (Mercury), ruler of Gemini and Virgo, crosses all the boundaries; he's a god of contradictions. Mercury/Hermes is the god of speech, and he is the god of silence. He is the eternal youth, puer aeternus; he is old man senex messenger to the dead. He is the hare; he is the tortoise. He is the grasshopper; he is the ant. He is the talisman of the slick talking, road savvy, traveling salesman continually chasing down the virtues of the farmer's virginal daughters.

Mercury/Hermes is the protector of honest merchants and tavern owners. He is the patron and benefactor of pickpockets, highway bandits, thieves, rogues, liars, hucksters, and scoundrels. He is jester, joker, fool, prankster, trickster, magician, genius, shaman, and psychopomp.

We're In The Movies
In TV and movie westerns, Mercury/Hermes is sometimes the unseen lookout that secretly puts out an alert to the rest of the gang that intruders are about to enter their hideout.

Still at other times, the spirit of Mercury/Hermes is the Army scout that rides off ahead of the mounted Calvary troops to let them know what they might be facing up ahead on the trail.

Finally, Mercury/Hermes can perhaps be most clearly seen in the dual identity of the hero/highwayman Zorro (the fox) as he continually confounds California authorities in Mexico's fight for independence from the iron fist of Spain. The anti-hero figure of Zorro the fox (my personal favorite hero while growing up) is simultaneously wise, cunning, charming, brave, and more than a wee bit romantic. (Just call me Dr Zorro!)

The Journey Begins
In Greek mythology, Mercury/Hermes is the guardian of the journey. To illustrate this, here's a quote from mythologist Karl Kerenyi's book entitled Hermes, Guide of Souls.

[Speaking first of the traveler:] "His [the traveler's] guardian is not Hermes, but Zeus, the god of the widest horizon and the firmest ground. In contrast, the situation of the journeyer is defined by movement, fluctuation. To someone more deeply rooted, even to the traveler, he (the journeyer) appears to be always in flight. In reality, he makes himself vanish ('volatilizes himself') to everyone, also to himself... With companions of the journey, one experiences openness to the extent of purest nakedness, as though he who is on the journey has left behind every stitch of clothing or covering."

Here, Kerenyi distinguishes between the traveler who is ruled by Zeus (Jupiter) and the journeyer who is ruled by Hermes (Mercury). For the traveler, the trip is merely a way to get from "here" to "there" (from point A to point B). Zeus (Jupiter) is the guardian of the traveler who is going long distances.

For the journeyer, the trip and the adventures experienced along the way are what matter most. And Hermes (Mercury) is the guardian of the journey.

"The Odyssey"

Homer's "The Odyssey" depicts the journeys and ordeals of the Greek hero Odysseus after the fall of Troy and as he struggles to return home and reestablish himself as king of Ithaca.

While all four of the mutable Zodiac signs (Gemini, Virgo, Sagittarius, and Pisces) can relate to Homer’s The Odyssey in different ways - Gemini and Virgo ruled by Mercury are the Zodiac signs most suited to "The Odyssey" and it’s rather unusual anti-hero, Odysseus.

In Homer's "The Odyssey," the Greeks had been engaged in battle and bloodshed with the Trojans for ten long years. To finally put a quick end to things - sly, slick Odysseus had tricked the Trojans into thinking that the Greeks had given up and gone home. To "honor" the Trojans, the Greeks had left behind a colossal wooden horse as a "gift." (This is where the saying: "Beware Greeks bearing gifts" got started.)

The Trojans brought the gigantic horse within the walls of Troy, had an even more colossal celebratory party, and then fell asleep. What the Trojans didn't know was that Odysseus and his men were hidden inside the gigantic horse. Troy was then sacked by the Greeks, and the Trojans were utterly, completed conquered via Odysseus' trick horse.

It's at this point where "the odyssey" begins in earnest for Odysseus and his men. Life then appears to become a meandering, seemingly disjointed journey on the "road to nowhere" for quick thinking, quick talking Odysseus.

During their long journey that takes another ten years, Odysseus and his men encounter various obstacles on the way home to the Greek isle of Ithaca.

80% of "The Odyssey" is then about the differing obstacles Odysseus encountered on his journey home.

Hermes' Helmet of Invisibility - Behind the Scenes
In Greek mythology there was a special helmet rendering invisible the person or god wearing the helmet. This helmet of invisibility is most often linked with the underworld god Hades (Pluto), however archetypal author James Hillman in "The Dream and the Underworld" points out that this helmet of invisibility rightly belonged the messenger god Hermes (known to the Romans as Mercury).

Worn over the head, Hermes' helmet signifies hidden thoughts and secrets. Much of the time Hermes enjoys hanging out unnoticed in the background.

Truth is that the Greek god Hermes nowadays remains so successfully hidden that he's chiefly been reduced in rank to the silly image of a god concerned with the speedy delivery of fresh flowers.

I'm pretty sure that Hermes likes it that way...

Books for Digging Much Deeper into the spirit of Hermes - The following books are not recommended for folks simply wanting to know more about their Sun Sign.

The Inner Planets: Building Blocks of Personal Reality - Howard Sasportas and Liz Greene at Amazon
This is my most traditional astrological reading suggestion. Focus of the book is on the astrological planets of Mercury, Venus, and Mars looked at from an archetypal perspective.

Hermes, Guide of Souls at Amazon
The Greek mythology of Hermes written by my all time personal favorite mythologist. Quoted in this article, however this is not written from an astrological perspective.

Eternal Hermes: From Greek God to Alchemical Magus - Antoine Faivre at Amazon
Absolutely fascinating (albeit a wee bit scholastically mind-numbing for the average reader) book on Hermes the shape-shifter in all of his many forms down through the ages. Draws upon rare books and esoteric manuscripts on Hermes, the Hermetic tradition, and explores the mysterious figure of Hermes Trismegistus. Faivre is thought by many of his peers to be one of the top academic scholars in the field of esoterism. This extraordinary book is not written from an astrological perspective. If too expensive at Amazon, then try to find it at the library.

Hermes and His Children - Rafael Lopez-Pedraza at Amazon
Warning: this book was written primarily for Jungian therapists back in 1967. While recommendation is primarily reserved for dyed-in-the-wool Jungian psychology fans - there are, nevertheless, tidbits of fascinating ideas and insights that you are unlikely to encounter anywhere else. This is not written from an astrological perspective. Again, if interested, (and too expensive at Amazon) try to find it at the library.

Gnosis and Hermeticism from Antiquity to Modern Times This book is an excellent introduction to Gnosis and Hermeticism. It traces the historical development of those religious traditions that rejected a world view based on the primacy of pure rationality or doctrinal faith, emphasizing instead the importance of inner enlightenment or gnosis.

Starting with the Italian humanist Renaissance, hermetic philosophy became of central importance to a new religious synthesis that can today be referred to as "Western Esotericism."

This is not written from an astrological perspective. Again, if interested, (and too expensive at Amazon) try to find it at the library.

"I am friend to whoever is lonely." Hermes Trismegistus
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