So far I have spoken in this blog mostly about the Goddesses, Gods, and other Divine Ones in general. I have outlined Their context, Their relationship with each other, some of why we work with Them and how. This was just to set the table; now to the meal itself. Since the early 1980s I have worked with the Thoth-Hermes-Mercury series of Deities, and with Hermes specifically since the early 1990s. While I work with a number of other Deities, some quite closely, Hermes as a special place in my life and he is rightly considered my Patron of Art. With context and general terminology established we can now turn to the specifics of working with a Deity long-term. There is a movement in our community, termed Polytheist, that is deeply examining the Gods and our relationship to them. As one of many who has been doing this for decades, I hope to contribute from my experience to the discussion.
To start, I do not believe in Hermes. My mind has been touched by His. My body and life has been enfolded in His power. His direction has guided me for decades now. He has taught me so much about the world, myself, the Gods, and magic. It seems rude to merely believe in Him. Given all that I have experienced of Him, it may seem strange that I do not know what He really is, but that we call His kind Gods. While I have some detailed understanding of what the Gods in general are, and what Hermes is in specific, He and They have made it very clear that all of my understanding is ‘but the rustling of the wind on Mount Meru’. I am human and They are Gods. I understand my place in the scheme of things and recognize the limits of what I can know or understand. It is from this condition of aporia that I write, knowing that all my words are approximations, but that there are some things that can be known of the Deities and from these we build our understandings and our theologies. Thus we turn now to the God, Hermes.
First, we need to understand that the Gods arise to our minds and experience in response to need, being the embodiments of Divine Providence. Otherwise we would never know of Them. Their appearance is a reflection of us, our understandings and predilections. Ancient Greeks acknowledged that if a dog or a cow were to see a God, the God would appear dog-like or cow-like. They are, and are far beyond any human conception of them, beyond distinctions of personhood or impersonal power. But in Their tender Providence, what we might call Compassion today, They come in forms we can grasp and with powers we need in our lives.
Thus it seemed to me, when a God I have long served, and priest for to my Pagan Community, arose and revealed a form of His: Hermes Pantos Apolytos, Hermes All-Liberating. Under His guidance I developed a ritual of invocation, formulated in a tantric manner with outer (form), inner (energy), and ‘secret’ (mind) dimensions to the transformation. Per this method, the visualization of the deity-form is rehearsed, sometimes aloud, during which each of the attributes is correlated to their deeper meaning or association. It gives a sense of His presence and purpose:
“As a bearded Man in his prime he displays the maturation of all good qualities.
Wearing the winged Hat of Hades,
Showing His self-less (transparent) manifestation of Divine Will
Wearing a white Tunic woven by Athena,
Showing wisdom (void) woven into form
Over that a yellow leather Apron from Hephaestus,
Showing the enriching power of tekhne
Bound by Aphrodite’s zodiacal Girdle,
Showing that his zone of activity is the Cosmos
About His shoulders Ouranos’ Chlamys Cloak,
Showing He wears Heaven’s Mantle (has the mandate of Heaven)
On His feet, His winged Boots
Show his all-pervasive presence.
His four arms tell His might:
In His Upper right, Gaia’s Gray Flint Sickle
Showing his identity with the Structures of Being
Thus all he sees is freedom
His Lower right is Hera’s Giving Hand and
His active gracious compassion
In His Lower left hand is Zeus’ Golden Rod
He wields the authority of sovereignty
In His Upper left is Hekate’s Torch,
He bears the divided Light and the illumination of re union
Lit from Hestia’s Lamp which rests before Him,
Showing He is at home wherever he is
Artemis’ Arrow displays His skills of the hunt and the wild and
Demeter’s Barley, His power of cultivation and making civilization
Dionysus’ Cup signals His ecstasy and
Apollo’s Dice shows that His reason is tempered with chaos.”
A four-armed Greek God? Some will point to a form of Hekate (debated), but certainly it is not common to see in the West. The Greeks preferred ideal human bodies for showing forth the Gods. Yet, this is the form of Hermes All-Liberating, Destroyer of Obstacles, Liberator of Bonds, Purifier of Poisons, so far as we have learned it.
Each of the symbols displays His powers, and each association tells of a contribution from another Deity to His power. There are two major ways of relating to this. We can simply worship Him. We can call for Him to come, building up the visualization before us and inviting Him to inhabit it, bringing it to life much like a puppet. We then make offerings and request our boons. This is a great way to start working with Him. But as the relationship grows, a far more intimate practice can be developed. We can take on the form of the Deity, listed above, His energy ‘matrix’, formed as a caduceus, and His mind, automatically liberating all stubborn things. By taking on His form of body, speech (energy), and mind, we become possessed by Him and a manifestation of Him. It is from here we can directly wield His powers and do magic as Him. When in this form we summon the lesser spirits of His retinue, they come gladly asking how they can serve their Lord. There is no coercion involved.
Regular practice of the invocation slowly purifies and reshapes our souls. In time it removes all the un-Godly and invests us with the powers, the vitality, and the insight of the Deity. This only comes after long labors and deep commitment. In the Indian tradition where there is a mantra associated with the Deity, it is said that while performing all the rest of the ritual practice, the mantra repetitions need to be ‘accumulated’. That is, while holding the outer, inner, and secret forms of the Deity, the yogini recites the mantra. The power of the deity begins to be manifest in the practitioner after as many repetitions as there are syllables in the mantra times on hundred thousand. So, for a five syllable mantra, the benefit really comes after five hundred thousand repetitions of the mantra. If you can only do one hundred repetitions a day, that means five hundred days of practice, or about seventeen steady months. This is why it is called God-work or theurgy…
Our world is full of impediments internal and external, material and spiritual, that keep us from the happiness and satisfaction that is our natural state. Here is a God who has heard our need, a friendly God who comes with True Divine Wrath, who liberates all forms and forces that oppose our right actions, our rightly lived lives. It is also clear that if we are in the wrong, or that we are the obstructions, He will Liberate us as well. And this is of All Compassion.