Sunday, May 8, 2011

Hermes: A god for thieves

Hermeneutics is usually associated with the art of interpretation. More and more researchers choose to use this direction, often in combination with phenomenology. Hermeneutics can be diffucult to understand, there is something elusive and incomprehensible about it, yet very appealing. My way of approaching hermeneutics was by getting to know the Greek god Hermes. I think Hermes has much in common with hermeneutics and here follows a hermeneutical analysis I have made about Hermes.

Hermes is best known as the messenger of the gods and he was therefore inviolable. If a message ws to be given from one god to the other, they got Hermes to do this. He was in a way the mailman among the gods. This put Hermes in an incredibly powerful position among the gods. Should he repeat the message he had literally to the recipient? Or he could interpret the message and change a little bit of the content? Hermes was known as a rogue and actually took the message and changed it fairly often, which could lead to war conditions between the gods. This amused Hermes and he was therefore seen as unreliable. So why was he allowed to be a postman among the gods? Yes,- because he was the son of the "big boss" who lived on Olympias high mountain, Zeus
himself .

Zeus got Hermes with one of his mistresses, Maia, who lived deep in a dark cave. Zeus's wife, Hera, was obviously not very happy about this relationship and she was especially unhappy with Maia giving birth to Hermes. Hera would not have anything to do with Hermes, and he grew up with Maia, deep in a cave. This duality in his life characterizes how we look at him. He is at home in Olympias high mountains with his father, and in the deepest dark cave with his mother.

The first Hermes did after he was born was to get up off the cradle, take a turtle shell, guts of a goat and make a lyre. This he later gave to his brother Apollo, who in turn gave it to her best friend Orpheus. Orpheus was incidentally killed in a rather cruel manner. His body was torn apart and the pieces thrown into the sea. It is said that the head of Orpheus was washed up on a beach on the Greek island Levsos, where it still lies buried. After the death of Orpheus, he was honored by the gods with the constellation Lyra.

Hermes is perceived as liberal, generous, a midwife, inventive, humorous, and as the scout. On the other hand, he is perceived as deceitful, a thief and a pranks maker. It was Hermes who could transform men to pigs through a magic remedy. It was only the sorceress Kirke that could make them human again. The dual role - that Hermes familiar with both the sky light and dark cave - made Hermes to one of the most popular gods in Greek mythology. Especially among the common population.

He was called the god of thieves. A god who could make himself invisible at any time by taking on an invisibility hat. Hermes took what he needed from anyone, and made it his own. Hermes was also the god of shepherds, because he knew the landscape better than anyone else. He knew the roads in the area, shortcuts and detours. The shepherds always put their trust in Hermes when they were in unfamiliar terrain, at night or in bad weather.

Hermes was the gods of people that took their last trip to Hades (Valley of the dead). The body of the dead  were left on earth, while the psyche (soul) went with Hermes to Hades. Hermes was called for the soul's companion (Greek: psykopompos). Hermes was perceived as a loving and faithful companion among the dead.

In Greek, hermes today means a rockery or a beacon placed on the fields by the roadside, on the paths, to show the shepherds boundries between properties, when they are out grazing their cattle. Hermes also means a grave with stones placed on to. To imitate something (Greek: herme), derived from a square pole of wood that was often placed outside the house of a family. The pole had a head on the top, in the middle a phallus, and two arms. To this image one could pray as Elektra did: "Oh, Hermes, high god, who goes by courier from the world of light into the depths, stand me bi so the Underworld gods will listen to my prayer!". Hermes was the representative of the dead among the living. A Hermes pole was the families way to keep in touch with both living and dead family members. It was also possible for Hermes to visit Hades - and bring the dead back to life. It was onlyHermes who could do this among the gods.

Hermes had two children. The first was a daughter named Eros, the goddess of Love, but more in the sense of a longing, mainly for something sexual. Eros represents a primeval force that starts a creation process. The other child was a son. It was a strange child, according to his mother Drypos. It is said that she was actually a little scared when she saw the child after birth. Perhaps not so surprising since the boy had a goat face, horns on his forehead, a tail and hooves like a horse. Hermes, however, thought his son was beautiful and took him to Olympia to show him to the other gods there. Their reaction was of great laughter and that the boy set the gods in very good spirits. Thus did the gods of Olympia name him Pan, which means "everything" or "whole".  
The Greek population, especially in the country, felt that Hermes and Pan were their gods. They were gods who keep a lookout, scout gods, and to rely on because they were "lower gods".

Hermes in Latin is Merkurius, and it has been chosen to call the planet closest to the sun after Hermes, which is Mercury. Hermes has once said that God is "the one that nobody knows." That the true god is the unknown god. This recognition is called gnosis in Greek, and those who belong to this faith are called kathari in Greek, or heretics in Engelsk. Christianity emphasizes a God who has revealed himself to humanity. Hermes said that anyone who sees the unseen - has a fairly accurate perception of what one sees. That one has a problem with putting words on the invisible, is another matter.

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