Mercury is a trickster spirit who is happy to masquerade as other spirits. Long ago the Italian deity Mercury was syncretized to Greek Hermes. The two are now virtually indistinguishable, but they are not the same spirit. Mercury is urban, while the roots of Hermes lie in the rustic countryside. Hermes has a broader base of interests, while Mercury is a spirit of money, finances, and prosperity. His name is related to words like merchants, merchandise, or commerce as well as mercenary, a soldier of fortune.
• In Rome, Mercury was most closely associated with commerce.
• In Celtic areas, where he was very beloved, he was also associated with prosperity, fertility, and healing. (This may derive from identification with local Celtic deities or with Hermes.)
He had no official consort in Rome, but in Celtic regions Mercury was paired with various Gaulish goddesses, especially Rosmerta. Following the advent of Christianity, his role and many shrines were reassigned to Michael Archangel.
In Roman influenced Teutonic regions, the name Mercurius was applied to Odin, possibly because of physical resemblances. Both deities traditionally dress as travelers. (See the Glossary entry for Identification.) This is well-documented beginning in the first century CE and continuing to the High Middle Ages. (For example, twelfth century historian Geoffrey of Monmouth writes explicitly of the identification of the two deities.)
Mercury assumed Odin’s associations with magic and occultism, not present in his original Italian form. (Alternatively, Odin’s true nature peeks out from behind the mask of Mercury.) By the medieval era, Mercury was profoundly associated with alchemy and ceremonial magic as he remains today.
Mercury is a generous spirit but his temperament is mercurial. He loves practical jokes and word games. Always be exceptionally careful how you phrase petitions to him, paying close attention to nuance and implication, lest he gives you what you accidentally asked for, rather than what he knows very well that you desire. Mercury has quicksilver intelligence and wit. He is easily bored. Keep him entertained and he’ll be more likely to keep you happy, healthy, and prosperous. Although Mercury patronizes the dishonest, he may also be invoked to protect against them.
Also known as:
Merchants, perjurers, forgers, counterfeiters, alchemists, astrologers, ceremonial magicians as well as those born under the zodiac signs Gemini and Virgo. People born when the planet Mercury was retrograde, regardless of sun sign, are also Mercury’s special children.
He wears a traveller’s cloak and either a broad-brimmed traveller’s hat or a winged cap. He went native in Gaul and is depicted wearing a torc; sometimes in Gaul, his hat is replaced by horns and he resembles Cernunnos.
Mercury is a popular subject of ancient as well as Renaissance art. He may be the inspiration for the Magician tarot card, which may be used to represent him.
Caduceus (staff with two entwined serpents), money bag. In Gaul he also sometimes has a drawn sword indicating that he aggressively guards devotees’ finances.
Rooster (cockerel), tortoise
Wednesday (in French: Mercredi)
15 May, the Festival of the Mer curalia
Quicksilver/mercury and zinc
Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis) and other members of the potentially dangerous Mercurialis plant family, also known as the Spurge family. Mercury also rules kitchen herbs like anise, dill, and fennel.
Neptune—together they support the maritime trade.
His temple on the Aventine Hill dedicated in 495 BCE was associated with the formation of a brotherhood of merchants.
Mercury Head Dimes, Mercury-brand cars and tools of magic
- Morgan Le Fay
- Roman Mythology
Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by :Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.