I want to do a devotional post today to Hermes for a number of reasons, the least of which being me finally acquiring gainful employment. Hermes, like Dionysos, is one of those cosmopolitan gods who, when asked what they are god of, you can sort of laugh and say, “What is he not god of?” His domains included everything from herding, gambling, and traveling to commerce and thievery. He was a psychopomp and patron of travelers–as well as a god of athletes. He was, in a broader sense, a god of transitioning from any particular place to another–yet again, like Dionysos, a god of the In-Between. He is the god who stands between life and death, between the gods and mortals, between chance and fate.
The story of how I became involved in worshiping Hermes is an interesting one. When I first began worshiping the gods of the Greeks, I was devoted first to Dionysos and then to Ares, and only them, to the exclusion of all else. Though I was aware of Hermes’ myriad connections to Dionysos through the myths they shared (it was Hermes who protected the infant Dionysos from Hera’s wrath and hid among the nymphs at Nysa), I had never encountered his presence or felt any particular urge to worship him. However, one week in 2008, everything that possibly could go wrong did.
I think sometimes when we ignore the more subtle urges and nudges from whatever spirits and deities have a place in our life, we occasionally get a push. And, in my opinion, Hermes is one of those gods who knows how to push–and I imagine him having a hearty chuckle as you go flying on your ass, all bewildered about what just happened. I had been reading the Homeric hymn to Hermes for a poetry class I was taking, and I had read a few anecdotes about other Hellenes whose experience with Hermes involved a certain amount of mischief. Then, one week in late 2008, I began experiencing all sorts of strange happenings. I am usually a very tidy person and don’t tend to lose things. However, I lost my wallet twice in one week. My washing machine inexplicably broke by becoming locked shut, and only a steak knife and hearty prayers could open it–right before a job interview. I lost my purse. I also began seeing wild raccoons walking about town in broad daylight–something that is rather rare in the very urban, busy area where I live.
It all culminated in a trip on my birthday when I went paint-balling. Everyone had carpooled in my vehicle for the trip. I had securely zippered my car keys into a pocket to make sure they were not lost. And, sure enough, right before we went to leave–my car keys were gone.
We had a royally fun time searching several acres of woods and course for my keys. About an hour later, desperate and wondering what could possibly be going on, I said aloud that if Hermes would just give me my keys back, I would set up and keep an altar for him. And, sure enough, my keys mysteriously appeared at my feet in plain sight, where I know they had not been before. Hermes is the only god I’ve ever had any direct physical observation of/interaction with–and it was because he stole my car keys.
However, I would not say that just because of my anecdote you should assume that Hermes is a playful, frivolous god. In the Homeric hymn he is referred to as the “watcher at the gate”, and in his role as a psychopomp, he is one of the only creatures–god or mortal–that goes to and from the realm of Hades as he wishes. A book that always reminds me of this is The Dark Half by Stephen King, one of the main reasons I think sparrows should be sacred to Hermes.
But lastly, and most of all, I think if there is one thing Hermes is the patron and god of–it’s the internet. Think about it–the internet is the ultimate In-Between. Tons of thieving, traveling, commerce, and pornography (hello, phallic god) happen on the internet. The internet is defined by the written word, something Hermes is also patron of. Considering how many pagans rely on the internet as a sole means of education, communication, and community for their faith, I think it would be daft not to realize whose presence the whole shebang is under. Thus, I raise my cyber-cup to Hermes, god of the internet.