The Emerald Tablet
True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true. That which is above is like that which is below, and that which is below is like that which is above, to accomplish the miracle of unity. Everything is formed from the contemplation of unity, and all things come about from unity, by means of adaptation. Thus you shall have the glory of the illumination of all the world, and all obscurity will fly far from you. This is the power of all strength - it overcomes every subtle thing and penetrates every solid substance. This was the means of the creation of the world. In the future wonderful adaptations will be achieved, and this is the way. I am Hermes the Threefold Sage, so named because I hold the three elements of all wisdom.
- If you are familiar with my articles about Mars and Venus you know that the associations attached to the gods of the twelve star signs have changed and grown throughout history. As these associations represent qualities of life, their complexity and the multitude of aspects amongst them gives us insight of the enormity of intelligence needed to invent and maintain what we call life. To the medieval alchemists Mercury was the metal symbolizing duality. Metallic yet liquid, matter yet spirit, cold yet fiery; Mercury was the metal uniting all the opposites. The fact that this metal only adheres to precious metals gave rise to the idea -metaphorically speaking- that Hermes is the god who can show us the way to spiritual gold. It’s not about a physical transformation from lead to gold but about understanding the underlying miracle of unity.
- From the sub-atomic substance to the furthest stars, in between we find life in its colourful diversity. To keep everything running, to keep it together, to keep this overwhelmingly complex life alive - well, I am very happy that it is not my responsibility. There must be something that keeps it together, doesn’t it? Science may call it energy or quantum physic. The religious idea is that it is the omnipresent God who holds all the strings (which, by the way, makes us to puppets). Astrologically, this is the realm of Mercury: the connective agent, a kind of invisible magic string connecting each and everything. Because of this string there is an instant information exchange between every-thing; this psychic communication does not need to travel; it is everywhere at once, instantly. And this psychic connection never breaks.
- To see the unity of life with one’s eyes is sheer impossible. Even if you were an astronaut and see one blue planet from outer space, our earth is still just a part of a bigger sphere called life. The view of the astronaut is exclusive; the understanding of Hermes is inclusive. ‘Life’ is inclusive; it includes everything, matter and spirit; if we abstract the word from everything then we have according to the set theory one unit; theoretically, the basic unit of all, in which we live. But according to Hermes the Sage we have to understand unity by means of adaptation not abstraction.
- Everything is formed from the contemplation of unity, and all things come about from unity, by means of adaptation. With Mercury we have the ability to adapt to everything, to connect with everything, swift and instant. It’s a psychic connection that simply is without words. That is what Mercury in Gemini represents: a psychic connection, a psychic language of cosmic unity. The symbol of Gemini may seem to be a paradox of unity as it is illustrated by Twins, but we all know that Twins share a common origin. Mercury is a kind of cog-wheel, where all seemingly separate cogs are always connected by the spinning wheel and the mechanics of this wheel represents constant cognition of unity inside of us. Similarly, all seemingly separate words are united in a language, and it is the cosmic language of astrology, which can be spoken in any language of the tongue, that enables the recognition of this inner unity. The astrological circle reflects the cogwheel-mechanics or language of life. Naturally, this cogwheel represents an unconscious mechanism, as Mercury, together with Mars and Venus, belong to the unconscious realm of the Soul.
- Through Mars and Venus we can learn about our instinctual and emotional nature, but simply accumulating a lot of knowledge, simply collecting all their associations or key-words won’t awaken the human spirit. Let’s say our Mars is placed in an unfavourable place with unfavourable aspects, it would somewhat mean that all those well known key-words of Mars like will, potency, aggression, and intention are inauspicious, that means they are less likely to flow freely. The individual with such placement may have trouble to initiate anything or simply is depressed because of the lack of aggression indicated by an inauspicious Mars. If a badly placed Venus -if such thing as ‘badly placed’ actually exist- let’s say Venus is in Capricorn or the 10th house, and in an unfavourable aspect with Mars, this individual may perceive its failure to initiate as a personal failure. Belittling its self-worth this individual then may also fail to initiate any emotional contact and thus dips into a lonely depression. Being in the grip of such instinctual pattern of emotion is very different from knowing about it. Psychology may know a lot about aggression and depression but obviously, as a collective, we are still learning not to be impulsively aggressive and simply kill what we think to be an enemy, which makes watching the news on TV to a very depressing experience.
- As a collective we have stored a lot of knowledge and insight about how we relate with each other, how to deal with our emotions, however, each one of us has to learn it from the very beginning. Each one of us has to learn from birth on to learn to speak and relate humanely or civilized. We are not born as conscious human beings; we are born with a blank sheet -the tabula rasa theory calls it blank slate. According to C.G. Jung the ego -which is the Latin word for I- is the result of an information exchange that took some time to establish itself as a subject in the body. ‘I’ am the result of my physical relationship with my circumstances, so to speak. This definitely means there was no ego thinking in the first place. There were endosomatic perceptions produced by endosomatic stimuli. Psychological astrology claims that these perceptions are coloured by an innate predisposition, your birth-chart, which means, what you are experiencing is already influenced by the way you perceive your circumstances. In that sense it’s not really a clean slate, there is already a psychic genetic installed in you, your nature, so to speak, that predisposes your perception and thus influences your personal inner script. It’s not Mercury that determines what is written; he is only the scribe.
- If the instinctual and the emotional nature is perceived as complex and difficult to master, the very means by which we perceive is even more complex; and those who master it are loved and adored as enlightened beings, messiahs, or messengers of god. In Greek mythology, Mercury is known to be the messenger of the gods, probably a very educated priest. The modern astrological Mercury represents the mind at large; which is as magical, mysterious and complex as Mercury the herald, the trickster, the thief, the dealer, the merchant, the craftsman, the culture hero, the singer, the athlete, equalitarian or psychopomp.
- If the instinctual and the emotional nature is perceived as complex and difficult to master, the very means by which we perceive is even more complex; and those who master it are loved and adored as enlightened beings, messiahs, or messengers of god. In mythology, Mercury is known to be the messenger of the gods. The modern astrological Mercury represents the mind at large; which is as magical, mysterious and complex as Mercury the herald, the trickster, the thief, the dealer, the merchant, the craftsman, the culture hero, the singer, the athlete, equalitarian or psychopomp.
- If we want to evolve as a collective into humanity, what we need is an education that awakens the human spirit in each body. Our education-system usually doesn’t include this kind of education. We learn to collect knowledge, and then we learn to apply knowledge in a specific field, which makes us to specialists that know a lot about very little. We may have religious education in our schools and consider that to be spiritual, yet those are usually specialized in a particular belief-system, like Christianity, Judaism, Islam or Buddhism. In fact most of us don’t know the difference between spirit and mind, between spiritual ideal and religious doctrine. Most of us don’t know if there is a difference is between spirit and soul for these terms are often used interchangeably, as synonyms. And most probably that is because we don’t know either of them. What is a spirit and what is a soul? To find out we may have to learn to use our mind differently, and if we want to use this amazing tool of astrology to awaken the human spirit, let us start with collecting data about this body-mind mechanism. The connection between all data may reveal itself.
- Closest to the sun: The planet Mercury.
- The ancient astronomers named the planet that seemed to them to be moving fastest ‘Mercury’. It makes a revolution of the sun in a mere 88 days. As the messenger god, Mercury was reputed to be among the swiftest of the gods, and as the ancients associated their polytheistic gods with the heavens it was an easy correlation to make.
- Mercury is not an easy planet to see because its orbit lies so close to the sun. It appears as a little black dot on the surface of the sun.
- The deity Mercury has influenced the name of a number of things in a variety of scientific fields, such as the planet Mercury, and the element mercury. The word mercurial is commonly used to refer to something or someone erratic, volatile or unstable, as sprightly, lively or simply quick. In a sense mercurial speed is faster than light; it’s instant.
- Maybe few more interesting facts about the metal; it’s surprisingly not magnetic at all. In the air it is much more dangerous than in its liquid state. It is a poison. Number 80 on the periodic chart, Mercury is right next to gold. Alchemists of a previous age commonly associated quicksilver with that precious metal. The easiest way to get pure mercury is to extract it from the mineral, cinnabar. Alchemists would heat up a piece of cinnabar (mercury sulphide) and the mercury would seem to simply ooze from the rock. A demonstration of this process to patrons could help convince them that gold might indeed be manufactured from a bar of lead!
- Etymologically, the sense of ‘silver-white metal, quicksilver’ is first recorded c.1386, when elements were commonly associated alchemically with the planets. Mercury, the element, acquired the name ‘quicksilver’ because of its liquid, fast flowing properties. It is highly reflective, and its way of moving at the slightest touch gives it a quality of almost being alive. In a previous age, the word ‘quick’ (as in quickening), was used to refer to things that were alive, not just things that were ‘fast’. Mercury is the only metal that, at room temperature, remains a liquid. It is a brittle metal in its solid state; this is because Mercury does not like to bond with itself, and is highly resistant to bonding with other elements.
- The name Mercury is related to the Latin word merx meaning ‘merchandise’. Mercury did not appear among the numinous di indigetes of early Roman religion. Rather, he subsumed the earlier Dei Lucrii, which were early gods of wealth, profit, commerce and trade, as Roman religion was syncretised with Greek religion during the time of the Roman Republic, starting around the 4th century BC. From the beginning, the Roman Mercury, with his bulging wallet of the goods of life, had essentially the same aspects as Hermes, wearing winged shoes talaria and a winged petasos, and carrying the caduceus, a herald's staff with two entwined snakes. He was often accompanied by a cockerel, herald of the new day, a ram or goat (astrological illustrations of Mars and Saturn) symbolizing fertility, and a tortoise, referring to Mercury's legendary invention of the lyre from a tortoise shell. Like Hermes, Mercury was also a messenger of the gods and a god of trade, particularly of the grain trade, and was considered a god of abundance and commercial success. Most of Mercury’s characteristics and mythology were borrowed from the analogous Greek deity, Hermes.
- The Greek word Hermēs means ‘pile of marker stones’ derived from herma ‘a boundary stone, crossing point’. Among the Hellenes Hermes embodied the spirit of crossing-over: He was seen to be manifest in any kind of interchange, transfer, transgressions, transcendence, transition, transit or traversal, all of which involve some form of crossing in some sense. This explains to some extent his connection with transitions in one’s fortune -with the interchanges of goods, words and information involved in trade, interpretation, oration, writing- with the way in which the wind may transfer objects from one place to another, and with the transition to the afterlife.
- Hermes gives us also the word hermeneutics for the art of interpreting hidden meaning. A lucky find was a hermaion. An interpreter who bridges the boundaries with strangers is a hermeneu.
In very ancient Greece, Hermēs was a phallic god of boundaries. His name referred to a wayside marker pile of stones; each traveller added a stone to the pile, creating a phallus symbol. In the 6th century, Hipparchos replaced the cairns that marked the midway point between each village deme at the central agora of Athens with a square or rectangular pillar of stone or bronze topped by a bust of Hermēs usually with a beard; an erect phallus rose from the base (‘Ram Hermes’). In the more primitive ‘Cyllenian’ herms, the standing stone or wooden pillar was frankly simply a phallus.
In Athens, the statues were placed outside houses at the front door for good luck and to ward off evil; whereas in the centre of each home was a hearth dedicated to the Virgin goddess Hestia. In the 6th century BC, when those pillars were erected, strangers, usually merchants from far away, set up their stall in the central agora, but before that time the usual place to meet were outside the city at those piles of stones close to the fields. These places were either used as a market festival or as a battle-ground, as it was quite common amongst the city states to have a go at each other. There is however a third activity that may has happened quite often at those gathering points, mating; either because it was a magical act to control the new kids in town or because it was a kind of sexual celebration of a good harvest, call it a ritual performance to stimulate agricultural growth if you like. The point I like to make you aware of is that this kind of ritual mating activity has been observed much earlier by the Sumerians, who are said to have invented agricultural work, and later by the Phoenicians that then introduced their worship of Astarte, which later became Venus, goddess of love and beauty, to the Etruscans, Greeks and Romans. I leave it up to the reader to determine why agriculture and mating-activity are historically closely associated. Maybe it’s an natural development: instead of individual hunting and collecting fruits and nuts the family clan got to together on the fields, the sun is shining, one thing leads to another; maybe it’s a cultural tradition that simply spread with the spread of agriculture. Fact is, these places were busy with trade, war and erotica.
- The evolution from the phallus god to the god of merchants is traceable if we consider the circumstances of that time when family orientated matriarchic communities became patriarchic kingdoms and an uprising commercial class of merchants that tried to achieve political equality with the aristrocracy became a much appreciated movement by the lower class and underpriviledged. For them Hermes was the culture hero, which meant he was the one who delivered the goods. The most famous Homeric Hymn to Hermes is such an example where the seemingly innocent one day old Hermes represents the lower class, the merchants, and Apollo the aristrocracy.
- The Homeric Hymn to Hermes.
In the “Homeric Hymn to Hermes” we hear how Hermes, the son of Zeus and Maia on the very day of his birth stole the cattle off his brother Apollo. To understand all aspects of the planet mercury it will be very helpful to go deeper into the whole story. When he was born on Mount Cyllene his mother Maia laid him in swaddling bands on a winnowing fan, but he grew with astonishing quickness into a little boy, and as soon as her back was turned, slipped off and went looking for adventure. Arrived in Piera, in the region of Mount Olympus, where Apollo was tending a fine herd of cows, Hermes decided to steal them. It was nighttime by now. Hermes drove away fifty cows of Apollo’s herd, but fearing to be betrayed by their tracks, he quickly made a number of shoes from the bark of a fallen oak and tied them with plaited grass to the feet of the cows and drove the cattle backward so that their footprints would point to the meadow from which he had stolen them. He also made himself a pair of sandals to cover up his own footprints. On his way back to Arcadia he met only one person, an old man working in his vineyard. Hermes advised him that if he knew what was good for him he would keep his mouth shut about what he had seen. Upon reaching the ford across the Alpheus he foddered the cattle and put them away in a cave. Then he collected some wood and lit a fire with fire-sticks, thus becoming the inventor of this method of creating fire. Next he dragged two of the cows out of the cave, threw them on the ground, and made a sacrifice, dividing them into twelve portions representing twelve deities – including himself as one of them.
- Hermes found a tortoise and realising at once the use to which he could put this find, he fashioned it together with some cow-gut into a lyre, thus becoming the inventor of the tortoise-shell lyre. After accompanying himself on his new instrument in a song of the love between Zeus and Maia – by which he was begotten – he threw away his sandals, smoothed the sand and returned to his mother’s home without being observed. He entered the house through the keyhole, like a wisp of cloud, and nestled down in his cradle, tucking the tortoise-shell lyre under his arm, like a baby with his toy. But he had not fooled his mother. She asked what he had been up to, and she took a pessimistic view of his chances of getting away with his first venture on a career of thievery. “Alas,” she sighed, “when your father begot you, he begot a deal of trouble for mortal men and for immortal gods.” Hermes reply was definitely in character: “Why do you try to scare me as if I were nothing but a silly child? I shall follow the career that offers the best opportunities, for I must look after my own interests and yours. It is intolerable that we alone of the immortals should have to live in this dreary cave, receiving neither offerings nor prayers. Would it not be better to spend our days in ease and affluence like the rest of the gods? I am going to get the same status in cult as Apollo. If my father does not give it to me, I will become the prince of thieves. If Apollo hunts me down, I will go and plunder his shrine at Delphi; there is plenty of gold – just you see.”
- Meanwhile Apollo was in pursuit of the thief. Aided by the information of the old man and by the flight of a bird he identified the culprit and arrived at Maia’s home. When Hermes saw him, he curled up in his cradle and pretended to be asleep. Apollo searched his place for the cattle. Failing to find them he brusquely ordered Hermes to tell where they were. “Why, son of Leto,” Hermes asked, “What means this rough language? I never saw your cattle. Do I look like a cattle-raider? I am only two days old, and all I am interested in is sleep, a warm bath and my mother’s milk.” “You certainly have won the title of prince of thieves,” replied Apollo, as he picked Hermes up. But Hermes also knew about omens; as he was being lifted up, he let out “an unfortunate servant of the belly, an impudent messenger,” and sneezed for good luck. Apollo dropped him at once. After further mutual recriminations, the matter was referred to Zeus for judgement. “And what is this fine prize you have carried off?” Zeus asked Apollo as he sees him carrying a newborn baby under his arm. “It is not fair to accuse me of carrying things off,” he replied; “he is the thief, and a most cunning one too.” Then he told Zeus about Hermes’ devices for covering up his traces, and how he had pretended ignorance about the stolen cattle.
- At this point Hermes spoke in his own defence. “Father,” he said, “you know I cannot tell a lie. He came to our house looking for some cattle and began threatening me, and he is grown up, whereas I was born only yesterday. I swear by the gates of heaven that I never drove the cattle to our house, and that I never stepped across the threshold. I will get even with this fellow for so violently arresting me; you must defend the cause of the weak and helpless.” Zeus laughed heartily when he heard his dishonest son’s ingenious denials and loath to believe that his own newborn son was a thief he encouraged him to plead not guilty. But Apollo would not be put off and Hermes at last weakened and confessed. “Very well, come with me,” he said, “and you may have your herd”. On arrival at the hiding place of the cattle, Hermes confessed “I slaughtered only two, and those I cut up into twelve equal portions as the sacrifice to the twelve gods.” “Twelve Gods?” Apollo asked. “Who is the twelfth?” “Your servant, sir,” replied Hermes modestly. “I ate no more than my share, though I was very hungry and duly burnt the rest.” “You don’t need to grow up,” Apollo said as he began to twine a rope to lead the cattle away.
- But Hermes did not want him to lead away the cattle. To Apollo’s amazement, he used his magic powers to make the rope twine over the cattle and take root in the ground. He then produced the lyre and began playing on it, singing of the origin of gods and of the offices assigned to each. Apollo was overcome by the sweetness of the music. “What you have there is worth fifty cattle,” he said to Hermes; “I know about music; I accompany the muses when they dance to the sound of flutes; but never have I heard music such as this, music full of invitations to gaiety and love and sleep. Tell me the secret of your instrument; I will see to it, I swear, that you get a position of wealth and honour among the gods.” Hermes replied with characteristic shrewdness, “I am not selfish; it would be a pleasure to teach you the secret of my instrument, just as Zeus taught you the art of prophecy. It is indeed a marvellous instrument in the hands of a true artist. In return you must be generous and share your patronage over cattle with me. And so a bargain was struck; Hermes received the neat herd's staff from Apollo, and Apollo received the lyre from Hermes. The two brothers drove the cattle back to the meadow at the foot of Mount Olympus while playing the lyre. To the delight of Zeus they were friends ever after.
- Nevertheless Apollo some time later said to him, “I am afraid that you may steal my lyre and bow, for Zeus has put you in charge of establishing the art of exchange on earth. I won’t feel secure until you take a solemn oath.” So Hermes swore he would not steal Apollo’s property, or go near his house. In return Apollo swore he would consider no friend dearer than Hermes; he also promised to give him a magic wand empowered to execute all the good decrees pronounced by Apollo in his capacity as the oracular interpreter of the will of Zeus. “But as for this matter of prophecy which you are always referring to, Zeus has ordained that this province must belong to me alone; it is a difficult and responsible position. There is, however, a type of divination which three old witches taught me in my childhood when I was tending cattle on the slopes of Mount Parnassus. Zeus does not think much of it, but you are welcomed to it. In addition I put you in charge of the whole animal kingdom, wild and domestic, and you alone shall be messenger to Hades.” Hermes thus became the master of the four elements, and eventually taught men the skills of geometry (divination by earth), and aerodynamics (divination by air), pyrotechnic (divination by fire) and hydrographic, which includes hydrolysis (divination by water). Divination is prediction and augury.
- The last few lines of the Hymn give a final judgement of the god: Hermes associates with all sorts and conditions of men; he does little good; he spends his whole time playing tricks on mankind.
- If one bears in mind that Hermes, astrologically, represents the activities of the mind and that we all have a Hermes between the ears, the Homeric Hymn about this Greek deity is very informative. It shows that the mind is very observant and inventive, misleading and deceiving, that it likes to threaten, to cover up, to hide and to deny, as well as to be cunning and seductive. And Hermes doesn’t take much time to plan, just one day old and off he goes. Hence, there is not only quickness but restlessness can be found there too, always trying new things. And also note that besides displaying his allegiance to all twelve gods of Olympus, Hermes eventually managed to steal something from each of the gods: He absconded one day with Zeus’s thunderbolts, he robbed Athene of her helmet for a while, and he even borrowed Aphrodite’s girdle, without asking her of course. One could say that he is stealing all the specific attributes from all the gods simply to show off his equal status. Another important hint is that Hermes is always the one chosen by Zeus when divine children need rescuing or saving. He freed Ares out of a jar belonging to two giants; he rescued Dionysus from the clutches of Hera and he escorted the young Persephone back from Hades. But not the divine alone gets Hermes support. Herakles, the son of Zeus and the mortal Semele needed milk from a Goddess to become equally divine. Hermes therefore tricked Hera with flattering words to give the infant just enough milk from her breasts to become god-like before she noticed that it was not a divine child and withdrew. While removing her breasts in a hurry some milk splashed into the air, thus creating the Milky Way, indicating indirectly Hermes position as a guide for travellers and as a guide to give direction in life in general. A mind is very complex, isn’t it?
- Furthermore, Apollo made Hermes to the only god who could travel ‘at will’ to Hades. What does that mean? Psychologically it means that he is able to go into the underground world of the mind and bring light into dark and forgotten material. He is able to go to the place of death as well as to return from it, a symbol of mental resurrection. He is the god that can cross the borders from the mortal mind to the immortal mind. In alchemy he is referred to as the spirit imprisoned and concealed in matter, which is the mortal mind in a mortal body, and as the world-creating spirit, the immortal spirit that creates the universe. While the mortal mind is bound to act out of genetical and conditional inheritance, the immortal mind is free to act. It’s the story of predetermination versus free will.
- As cattle raiding was quite common in those days, the theft of cattle of this one day old baby is not as important as the cunningness with which he executes it. Mercury- Hermes remains to be a baby, compared with the birth of Venus for that matter, who didn’t have a childhood but emerged from the sea fully mature. Mercury’s appearance is deceiving and so are its associations. The trickster, for example, is not tricky in the common sense but a performer of magical powers. Mercury is a magician. That Apollo makes Hermes to the only messenger to Hades, maybe is Homer’s introduction of Hermes as the psychopomp. But this connection is older than the Hymn of the 6th centry BC.
The Romans were greatly influenced by the Etrscans in the north and the Greeks in the south, but first by the Etrscans. In his earliest forms, Mercury appears to have been related to the Etruscan deity Turms, who was the messenger of the gods and conductor of the souls of the dead to the Underworld and like his Greek counterpart, also wore a cloak and pair of winged sandals, as well as carry caduceus (winged herald staff).
The Etruscans surely got influenced by the Greeks, as well as by the Phoenecians that were influenced themselves by the Sumerians, Babylonians and Egyptians, as well as the Greeks. So I don’t know who influenced whom, when and how, I am not a specialist in that matter, but the Etruscan God Turm, the Psychopomp, has strong similarities with Hermes, the Psychopomp. Yet the Greeks first thought Turms to represent Charon, the ferryman to the underworld –which may indicate that Mercury was not yet a psychopomp. However, the Etruscan in return made out of the ferryman Charon the horseman Charun, the god pertaining to death whose job it was to take the recently deceased on a journey to the underworld to meet the goddess Vanth. The fact that Turms and Hermes have more in common than just being psychopomp, the winged sandals etc., may indicate that both, Etruscans and Greeks, have been seperately influenced by either the Phoenecians, Sumerians or even the Egyptians. In the syncretic religious atmosphere of the Roman Empire, Hermes was combined with the Egyptian Anubis to form Hermanubis. In a similar fashion, the name Hermes Trismegistus was used later by alchemists and their like to refer to a syncretic god combining elements from Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth.
- Egyptian Anubis was viewed as the messenger of the gods, as he travelled in and out of the Underworld, to the presence of the gods, and to humans, as well.
- The ancient Egyptians regarded Thoth as One, self-begotten, and self- produced. He was the master of both physical and moral (ie. Divine) law. Thoth was considered one of the most important deities of the ancient Egyptian pantheon, often depicted with the head of an Ibis. He was originally the deification of the moon in the Ogdoad belief system. Initially, in that system, the moon had been seen to be the eye of Horus, the sky god, which had been semi-blinded (thus darker) in a fight against Set, the other eye being the sun. Naturally, Sun and Moon are the two big eyes of the sky, however, over time the eye of Horus began to be considered separately, becoming a lunar deity in its own right, and was said to have been another son of Ra. As the crescent moon strongly resembles the curved beak of the ibis, this separate deity was named Djehuty (i.e. Thoth), meaning ibis. The Moon not only provides light at night, allowing the time to still be measured without the sun, but its phases and prominence gave it a significant importance in early astrology /astronomy. The cycles of the moon also organized much of Egyptian society's civil, and religious, rituals, and events. Consequently, Thoth gradually became seen as a god of wisdom, magic, and the measurement, and regulation, of events, and of time. He was thus said to be the secretary and counsellor of Ra, and with Maat (truth/order) stood next to Ra on the nightly voyage across the sky, Ra being a sun god.
- The connection to the culture-bringer Mercury seems to be obvious. Thoth as the moon deity has to be considered as a record keeper not so much as a messenger, that was Anubis. However, having written the records, Thoth becomes the master of one’s destiny, which means record keeping wasn’t just a storing of knowledge. Those ancient Egyptian were aware that record-keeping is like writing a skript or program, which the person follows and habituates. This kept knowledge has an influence on one’s further development.
- The link to modern astrology is still obvious, there the Moon is associated with the reflections of the past, with memories, which is a record-keeping, and placed in the second quarter, the mind at large, these written records influence the body, in the sense that they become the soft-ware programs of the body, which determine the actions of the body and thus its destiny.
- And in that connection we have to add the Babylonian God Enki. Enki is a god of beneficence, ruler of the freshwater depths beneath the earth, a healer and friend to humanity who was thought to have given us the arts and sciences, the industries and manners of civilization; the first law-book was considered his creation. Enki represents the element of air in the Abzu, the primordial sea, which means he represents the star-sign Gemini that is embedded in the watery first quarter, the soul. And Gemini is ruled by Mercury.
- I belief that Thoth and Nabu are the actual mythological background of Hermēs the psychopomp, the only messenger to Hades, crosser of boundaries, who brought newly-dead souls to the underworld. Those escorting deities or spirits are called psychopomps, literally meaning the ‘guide of souls’ or the ‘conductor of the soul’.
- But in a wider sense we can also say that the mind, which Mercury represents, seen as a magic tool having the predisposition to set itself equal to everything, guids the soul to the realm of the Spirit, the astrological fourth quarter. Its realm is not a ghostland, as the Babylonians would call Enlil’s realm, that would be the mind; this Spirit is not a ghost of a dead person nor the echo of a mind; it’s the human spirit. Spirit and Mind are very different. Mercury becomes the connective agent necessary for the transformation from Mind to Spirit. Let me put it in flowery spiritual words: Astrology is the tool to awaken this human Spirit by cleaning the inner mirror, creating order and clarity in the mind, for Venus, the soul, to realise her true nature by looking into the mirror. When Venus has risen from the sea with her Spirit awoken, humanity is born. That’s the Spirit.
- The Greek Hermes who starts as a phallic god developed into a very complex figure of mythology. Considering the Homeric Hymn to Hermes we have to widen our perception even more as Homer portrays Hermes as a cunning thief -not a robber. I mention it because here we have the distinction between Mars and Mercury, between force and fraud (or trickery), and between robbery and theft. In Greek law these terms are standard antitheses. Mars is using his club, Mercury his cunning mind. Robbery is forcible appropriation, a kind of invasion including rape, a theft is appropriation by stealth, skillful and cunning. It’s a distinction between uncultured Mars aggression and Mercurian wit.
- Few more facts to enlighten this. The sanskrit word for ‘war’, which is the domain of Mars, means literally ‘desire for more cows’. Now, the connection between Venus and cows go a long way back. However, Arcardia, Hermes birthplace, was a land preeminently pastoral in its economy and rude in its manners. In early Greece plundering expeditions against neighbors were a widespread and reputable practice. Cattle raiding as depicted by Homer was public enterprise, led by the kings and participated in by the whole people. Cattle-raiding meant war.
- So, Hermes the Shepherd, the ‘protecter of sheep’ and ‘bearer of rams’ became known as Hermes the Thief; patron of tricky fraud and stealthy action. He was not a war-hero, plunderer, robber or raper. He was skilled with words, skilled at the oath, as they called it, which meant he was guile or cunning in the use of the oath, which was binding only in its literal sense, and thus legitimately used to deceive. For example, Hermes in defence said ‘I was born only yesterday. I swear by the gates of heaven that I never drove the cattle to our house, and that I never stepped across the threshold’ simply because he ‘entered the house through the keyhole, like a wisp of cloud, and nestled down in his cradle, tucking the tortoise-shell lyre under his arm, like a baby with his toy.’
- And using his words in a magical way (as well as his voice as a singer) he became famous to be able to charm men’s eyes to sleep, actually with the rod he got from Apollo, but in a modern sense Mercury represents captivating or fascinating words, tricky and deceiving, that can lure or charm men’s eyes into sleep, or into a hypnotic trance. In short, taking Mercury as the mind at large, we all have this trickster between the ears, our privat hypnotist.
- By the way, the rod, the Caduceus of Mercury or the Karykeion of Hermes, a short rod entwined by two snakes and topped by a pair of wings, is often used as a ‘medical’ symbol instead of the staff of the Physician Asklepios with only one snake –this misuse is a remnant of the alchemists that associated Mercury, the magician, with healing powers. ‘Karykeion’ derived from the Greek karykeion = ‘herald’s staff’, itself based on the word ‘eruko’ meaning restrain, control.
- The rod as a magic tool probably derived from the Egyptian Thoth; Egyptians loved snakes as a symbol of power and Thoth was the god in charge of restraining or controling good and evil forces to stay balanced, and who also had such a magic rod. The single serpent staff also appears on a Sumerian vase of c. 2000 B.C. representing the healing god Ningishita, the prototype of the Greek Asklepios.
- And to add some biblical confusion: …the Lord said unto him [Moses], What is that in thine hand? And he said, A rod. And he said, Cast it on the ground. And he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from before it. And the Lord said unto Moses, Put forth thine hand, and take it by the tail. And he put forth his hand and caught it and it became a rod in his hand. Exodus 4:2-4 And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten [by a sepent or madness?], when he looketh upon it, shall live
- Mercury being mortal and immortal is very similar to Venus’ heavenly and common sides, the sacred and the profan. By the same token, naturally, we would have to consider the warrior of the Soul, Mars in Aries, to be sacred, whereas Mars in Scorpio then represents a profan necessity of existence. Another way of looking at Mars would be the chaotic side of crisis, which is common, and the meditative side of Mars, the initiation into stillness, which is sacred and quite uncommon. To understand sacred Mars’ connection to stillness one has to undertsand its connection of being potentially potent. Mars indicates a high voltage, a capability, a potential and potency, it indicates the ability to initiate an act not necessarily what one intends to do. Similarily it is with Mercury, who is the messenger, not the giver of its meaning. He is passing on a messege, the exchange is his job, the delivery not the content. The common Mercury is skilled in the exchange, the sacred one, on the other hand, is intelligent and keeps everything united.
- Actually, with the exception of the luminaries Sun and Moon, father and mother, the other five planets that were known in antiquity were all represented twice in the zodiac of the twelve star-signs. They were distinguished in their light and dark attributes. In the old Babylonian zodiac the sun is taking centre stage representing the ruling persona, the ruling mind. The Moon on its left side is leaning against the soul. Sun and Moon are the measure of time and seasons thus they are the ruler over life(-span).
- If we take the Moon aside for a minute and observe from the Sun in Leo point of view the sequence of the planets that rule the other signs in both direction, that means, backwards towards Gemini, Taurus, Aries, Pisces and Aquarius and forward towards Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, you’ll notice that it is the same sequence both ways, which reflects the real sequence of the planets in our solar system -if we take our Earth (between Venus and Mars) and our Moon away- Mercury is closest to the Sun, Venus is the second planet then comes Mars, Jupiter and Saturn.
- To distinguish between light and dark might be confusing, as both mercurial signs are below the horizon, so let us continue to use the terms of sacred and common as we did with Venus. The sacred Mercury, the holy one, is of course found in the Soul and the common one in the Mind, the persona of a body.
- In a way we could say that Mercury is the connective agent between Soul and Body via the mind whereas Jupiter does it via the Spirit. For the mind, from the sun’s point of view, immortal Mercury, the intelligence of the Soul is as if not, because of the interference of the Moon in between -indicating an unconscious pattern. That’s valid the other way around too: for the intelligence of the Soul the Sun is behind the Moon, as if not. Meaning, the intelligence of the soul has no personality, or, in other words, the soul habitually does not see itself as a personality, the soul does not see itself as unique, in the sense of being separate and different from the rest of existence. The soul is the family of existence, it’s an inseparable togetherness. And it’s Mercury that keeps it together.
- Hermēs' offspring: No wire of Hermes has been clearly identified. He, therefore, was rather promiscuous, but then, so were all the rest of the Greek gods. With liasons with the goddess of love and beauty, Aphrodite, another offspring of Zeus, he had a daughter, Peitho, the personification of persuasion and seduction. Apparently they had at least two more daughters, Tyche and Eunomia. They also had a son, Hermaphroditus, an offspring having a great relationship with both his masculine and feminine sides. In some mythological stories, the two Olympians also were parents of Eros though this is disputed.
- A liaison with Penelope produced a son, Pan. This personage is, of course, well known as the pipe playing god of shepherds, and if not as quick as Dad, was definitely a swift runner. In the Olympic pantheon Pan became the son of Hermēs and the nymph Dryope. She was terrified of her ugly, half-goat baby so she ran away. Hermēs took the baby to Mt. Olympus, where gods enjoyed the child's laughter and good nature. He became a god worshipped by shepherds and woodsmen particularly. Pan was mistakenly reported to have died by a sailor, but, even after this, his shrines and temples were much frequented.
- Pan seduced Selene, titan goddess of the moon, one night, while disguised as a white-fleeced sheep. He also pursued the nymph Echo and many other woodland deities, but to little avail.
- As befits the patron of thieves, another son became the great thief Autolycus. Autolycus was the offspring of Chione and Hermes, and the grandfather of hero Odysseus. Hermes later helps rescue his great-grandson (twice) from harm during the latter's 10-year, post-Trojan War "Odyssey." The Bacchus-like Silenus is sometimes claimed to be Hermes son and Pan's brother, some legends say he is Pan's son. And there are many more sons and daughters, including some of the Argonauts. Hermes....was no hermit.
- It is interesting to note that Mercury generally does not act on his own, but at the behest of some other god. He acts for his brother Apollo in saving the life of his child. Zeus often sends him to deliver dreams or to travel with a mortal to help keep him or her safe. This keeps him in accord with his mythical function as messenger. He is rather like an Echo, the voice of someone else, he has nothing to do with the message itself. This is also the function of the mind, which, in a way, functions like an echo; but rather than being the voice of one god it’s the voice of a culture that is maintained in the mind. It’s the echo of the nation, the religion, the ideal, the doctrin that has been implanted into the mind. The point is: an echo has no might to do anything, which is why Mercury does not act on its own. The might is the spiritual gold of the alchemists and astrologically represented by the fourth quarter, the Spirit. The difference between Mind and Spirit is the difference between a mechanical repeater and a conscious speaker.
- Taught Horge, daughter of Zeus, goddess of seasons, and waitress of the sun-god.
- Answered the prayer of the mother of Phrixius, a would-be human sacrifice, sending a ram with fleece of pure gold to carry him to safety.
- Gave an after-death encore at life to Protesilaus, the first Greek to land at Troy, and to die there. During his funeral, Hermes allowed him to attend, to comfort his grieving widow, but she chose to kill herself when he went back down to Hades afterwards.
- Mercury brought the mortal Psyche (synonymous with Body&Soul) to Mt. Olympus so she could marry Cupid.
- In one of the best known legends (related to us by Ovid), Mercury and Jupiter disguise themselves as beggars in the land of Phrygia. Only one house offered them hospitality and shelter, that of an elderly couple Baucis and Philomen. For their kindness and as punishment to the country that had turned the gods away, the land was cleansed of the citizens by a flood, the hovel was turned into an ornate temple and the couple into priests. When they died, the faithful pair died together, forming a linden and an oak tree, growing from a single trunk.
- As Hermes Trismegistus he authored the Hermetic Books, an astonishing 36,525 volumes of magic and wisdom, and Egyptian history. Despite this huge number, no volumes are known to exist today.....
- Zeus realized he had to keep his clever, cattle-rustling son out of mischief, so he put him to work as god of trade and commerce. He gave him power over birds of omen, dogs, boars, flocks of sheep, and lions. He provided him with golden sandals, and made him messenger (angelos) to Hades. In this role Hermes was sent to try to retrieve Persephone from her husband.
- The killing of Argus
- Hermes is usually though only in the context of carrying messages for the gods, especially between gods and humans, but he is also just as important when it comes to doing errands for the gods. In one case Zeus fell in love with the mortal princess Io and changed her into a cow to protect her from Hera's jealous wrath. Hera found out an set he multi-eyed Argos to watch over her, thus keeping Zeus away. In response, Zeus sent Hermes to retrieve Io - which he did by first lulling Argos to sleep and then decapitating him. In compensation Hera then scattered his eyes over the tail of her sacred bird: the peacock.
Hermes is the god of the unexpected, of luck, of coincidence, of 'synchronicity. The ancient Greeks would say: ‘Hermes has entered our midst,’ whenever a sudden silence had entered the room, descended on conversation and introduced into the meeting another dimension. Whenever things seem fixed, rigid, ‘stuck,’ Hermes introduces fluidity, motion, new beginnings -as well as the confusion which inevitably precedes new beginnings.