Hermes is a Greek messenger god, swift and cunning, portrayed with winged feet, wearing a winged helmet and carrying a caduceus, a serpent-entwined, magic wand that symbolizes spiritual illumination. Hermes also was a patron god of Magic, using his caduceus to cast spells. As god of travelers, his image was erected at Crossroads;
he was charged with escorting the souls of the dead to the underworld. The dog is associated with Hermes for its intelligence and devotion.

According to myth, Hermes was born of Zeus and Maia, daughter of Atlas. He was a shrewd thief from his earliest hours. Before nightfall on his first day of life, he stole most of Apollo’s heifers. Zeus made him return the heifers. In contrition, Hermes invented the lyre and gave it to Apollo. Hermes continued to play malicious tricks but also was generous in his protection of others: for instance, he saved Odysseus from the magical spells of Circe.

Hermes appears in Greek mythology more often than any other deity. The Greeks identified him closely with the Egyptian god of wisdom and magic, Thoth. Hermes is said to have learned the mysteries of the universe, which he sought to teach others. Hermes has been equated with Odin and Wotan in Norse and Teutonic mythology, and with Buddha.

Hermes, along with Thoth, is personified in Hermes Trismegistus, a mythical figure said to have written the Hermetica texts of ancient sacred learning and lore.


The Encyclopedia of Witches, Witchcraft and Wicca – written by Rosemary Ellen Guiley – Copyright © 1989, 1999, 2008 by Visionary Living, Inc.

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