Hermes - The Messenger God

General Information

Maia and Zeus gave birth to Hermes, the god of thieves, or the messenger god. Before being the messenger of Zeus, and also the god of commerce,
travelers, and merchant, and led souls to the Underworld, Hermes, or Mercury, was the god of cattle and sheep, otherwise know as animal fertility. Because Hermes was always traveling, carrying the messengers of Zeus, he was also referred to as the god who protected travelers. Hermes was always wearing a winged hat and sandals (for speed and swiftness), a staff with two snakes wrapped around it (caduceus), a ram, and a a lyre. His symbols are a rooster, tortoise, pillars. He doesn't have temples, but rather has pictures of him throughout the cities, mainly showing him with a beard.

Hermes' Herald Staff

Originally the staff given to him by Zeus had to white ribbons encircling it. One day he came upon two snakes, who were in a fight to the death. He placed the staff between the two of them, to separate them, and convinced them to end their fight in peace. As a result, the two snakes decided to coil themselves around the staff, and remand together in peace, as well as accompany Hermes on his travels. Today, this symbol has been adopted as the symbol of modern medicine.

Personality and Appearance

Hermes was a young trickster, with a small beard or no beard at all. He is a god that enjoys lying and trickery, which you will see in the next section. He was depicted in two different physical ways. Some saw him as a handsome, athletic, beardless young man; while others saw him as a bearded old man.

Hermes' Early Life as a Young Thief

Maia, Hermes' mother, gave birth to Hermes in a cave. Hermes could walk and talk at the moment he was born. When he was young, he was very clever and because of his ability to talk, he was a young mischief. During his first mischief act, he escaped from his cradle and made a lyre, or a harp, with a tortoise shell. His first incident, would actually help him get out of the accident he did in his second experience.
Once Hermes became tired of he lyre, he again escaped out of his cradle and saw a herd of cattle. Because he was a baby of mischief, he decided to steal Apollo's herd and drive them down to a meadow by a river, and sacrificed two of the cattle to the gods of Olympus. However, as he was putting branches and leaves on his feet, to cover his footprints, and driving the herd to the meadow, he saw an old man in the vineyard. Hermes, scared that the old man would tell Apollo that he was stealing his herd, told the old man that if he did not tell anyone about what he was doing, he would get good crops. Hermes then hurried home and put himself back into the cradle, acting like nothing ever happened. However, when Apollo, the god of prophecy, came to the mountainside hoping to see his cattle, he rather found none. He saw the same old man in the vineyard as Hermes did, expecting that he was the thief of his cattle. Apollo demanded that the old man told him where his cattle was, and because he was unable to lie to the god of prophecy, he told Apollo about Hermes. Apollo, already knowing everything about Hermes and his mother, wen to Maia's cave. Hermes, unable to disguise himself from Apollo, was found by Apollo. Apollo demanded Hermes that he told him where his cattle was, or else he would be sentenced to "darkness forever" (page 5). Hermes, not wanting to get caught, said he swore to Zeus that he is a small little baby who can't even walk. Apollo knew he was lying, and brought him to Zeus. Zeus also laughed, and ordered that Hermes show Apollo where the cattle is. Hermes did so, but when Apollo saw the two sacrificed cattle, he was furious. Hermes who didn't want Apollo to get even more mad at his, gave Apollo the lyre he made on his first adventure. Apollo was pleased, and was less angry. Apollo, thankful for the beautiful music the lyre produced, gave Hermes the cattle, a golden staff, and allowed him to drive the chariot on windy days. Hermes and Apollo became friends, and Hermes promised never to steal anything every again. Later on, Zeus appointed Hermes the messenger of Zeus.

Hermes' Realm.

Hermes does not have a specific realm, he rather lives in an in between realm, or as Carlos Castaneda calls it the "crack between the worlds." He is the guide between Earth and Hades, or life and death. In fact, Hades gave Hermes permission to go in and out of the Underworld, however, without this permission, once you are in the Underworld, you are not allowed to come out.

Family Tree

Hermes' parents were Zeus and Pleiade Maia, the daughter of Titus Atlas. Hermes had many children, such as Pan.

Fun Facts

  • Hermes killed a hundred-eye monster, named Agros, by making it fall asleep by reading it stories. Hermes was then called "Argeiophontes" which means "Slayer of Agros."
  • The word hermeneutics means understanding messages. This word is derived from Hermes, who is the messenger of Zeus
  • Hermes is sometimes called Atlantiades or Cyllenius referring to where he was born, in a cave on mount Cyllene in Arcadia.
  • Hermes was the leader of all kinds of gymnastic games in Greece, and the place where they did the gymnastic, the gymnasia was a place that he had to protect.
  • Hermes invented the lyre, syrinx, the alphabet, numbers, astronomy, music, the art of fighting, gymnastics, the growth of the olive tree, measures, weight, wrestling, and sacrifices
  • He owned a cap of invisibility, that when he wore it, he became invisible



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