Walking With Wonder

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Wonder GirlInvocation to Hermes

This WWW is a little different. Instead of an essay, or a Tarot reading, it features a poem, an invocation to the Greek God Hermes, the God of writers, scientists, magicians, diviners — and swindlers, businessmen, and thieves. I love Hermes. He’s playful, a trickster, outrageous. In the Homeric Hymn To Hermes he leaves his cradle the day after his birth and goes off to steal his brother Apollo’s cattle. After he’s had a good time, he sneaks back home, gets in bed, and pulls his baby blanket over him. When Apollo comes to him and furiously accuses Hermes of stealing his cattle, Hermes looks at him wide-eyed and says “Me? Steal your cattle? I don’t even know what cattle are. I’m just a little baby.” We should probably remember here that Apollo, the Sun God, is the God of reason, and rational self-knowledge. Hermes the Trickster runs rings around him, and what does that say about all our earnest attempts to discover our “true” nature?

If the story stopped there Hermes would become only a sort of charming con artist, a kind of person probably everyone knows. But the same God who can steal Apollo’s cattle also invents the lyre, the first musical instrument. And then he gives it to Apollo, so that the God of light can become the God of music.
And one more bit of information about Hermes. In a later version (from the Hellenistic period) he became a somewhat more serious esoteric teacher known as Hermes Trismegistus (“thrice-great”), also called Thoth, the name of the Egyptian God of writing and magic. Still later, in 1781, the occult philosopher Antoine Court de Gebelin declared that the Tarot, seen then as simply a game, was in fact the concealed teaching of none other than Hermes Trismegistus. The Tarot became known as The Book of Thoth, a name it still carries sometimes today.

My own invocation to Hermes looks to his playful wild side, the God’s untamed creativity and delight. I wrote it at Goddard College, after a discussion with a writer named Jessamyn Smythe, whose play on Hermes actually inspired fights in the audience. How many contemporary writers can claim that sort of response? Hermes would be pleased.

I call my brother Hermes,
My snake thief music man.
I whistle him come to me,
Sliding up the evening
Dripping lies and magic.
Hermes the vampire,
Hermes the conman.
Offers field trips and cruises,
Guidebooks and theater passes,
For lackluster dead.
My razzle dazzle mambo boy,
My scoundrel secret agent,
Lover man,
Skin bags full of moly,
Sticks and shiny leather.
My scandal whisper gossip god,
My story serpent mojo man,
My brother, 
My Hermes!
— August 2003

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