Hermes is the multifaceted messenger of the Gods. He is the Watcher at the Gates, a Thief in the Night, the mischievous God of Luck and the Psychopomp who guides souls to the afterworld, and, according to some traditions, also guides us through dream space and the astral plane.
Hermes was born on Mount Cyllene in Arcadia. His mother is Maia, eldest of the Pleiades, a daughter of the Titans Atlas and Pleione, and, by some accounts, His father is said to be Zeus.
According to the Homeric Hymns, Hermes was born at dawn on the fourth day of the month and by midday had invented the lyre, blessing the tortoise for the gift of its shell, from which the lyre was made, so that the tortoise should be a protectant against malignant magic.
- Homer (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
If you click Buy on Amazon and make a purchase, we'll earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.
By evening, Hermes had stolen the cattle of Apollo. He drove them backward to a hiding place so that Apollo would have difficulty following their trail. Once the cattle were secure, he invented fire and divided two of the beasts into 12 portions to make the first offering to the the Olympian Gods. Then, the next morning before dawn, He ran back to his mother’s cave and wrapped Himself back up and tucked Himself into His cradle. But His mother was not fooled!
When Maia and Apollo both accused Him before Zeus, He spoke so eloquently in His own defense that no one could find it in their hearts to blame Him and He was forgiven. He gave the lyre to Apollo, and Apollo gave Hermes the Kerykion (aka caduceus), the gifts to seal their bond of friendship. Hermes later invented the pipes to play, since he’d given his lovely lyre away.
The bond between Hermes and Apollo is quite strong and they work together as messengers of the Gods. Apollo’s part is to reveal the will of the Gods through His oracles, while Hermes has been given leave to teach mortals to see omens in nature, particularly in the behavior of birds (augury). Hermes travels, bringing messages to mortals through dreams, and between Gods of different realms.
He also escorts mortals between realms in his role of psychopomp. He is the only one of the Gods who can freely pass into and out of the realm of Hades (with the exception of Hecate, who is most ancient and exempt from many of the rules other Gods must live by.)
Hermes’s sacred animals are birds, lions, boars, dogs, grazing animals, especially sheep.