Gods and Goddesses of the Greek Mythos Continued – Hermes the Babe
Here is another of my characterisations of Gods and Goddesses, this one written while I was in hospital having the cancer taken away (nil by mouth for 19 days).
In this case though although it is an interesting storyline the God (if he is a God) Hermes is at best an anti-hero with the historic crimes division after him probably. There are those who leapt from Olympus rather than him turn them to ever staring stone.
Hermes – Cairn-man – Pillar of Stone – Toddler
This man is not a god he is a pillar. An offspring of gods yet was born as an embodiment of an orgiastic pillar. Dance near him if you dare. Hermes is Priapus the totemistic virtue of a phallic pillar or cairn no less.
His mother was Maia and if there was such a thing as fatherhood back then we would be saying his father was Zeus. Maia met Zeus because she was the daughter of Apollo then afterwards being with child she had a score to settle with her father for mistreatments. Gods being gods they grow fast, and Hermes grew fast, very fast, especially in intellect. By seven months he had mastered the bow and invented many things, then Themis gave him nectar and ambrosia of the gods or should that be Nectar of the Gods and Ambrosia of the Gods; and he was ready to adventure. Ready for that vengeance from beyond the womb.
He was followed by a gathering band of nymphs they made a wicked wilful travelling party. He was befriended by Cyllene. They played and sang and laughed. Cyllene showed off her enchanting musical ability and Hermes claimed he could make something far more mystical than that. Cyllene bid him to show it was true, Hermes said he would need some cattle hide to make the strings. Then when Cyllene told him of Apollo’s herd he knew he could get his revenge and build his instrument, he knew so much more too. Well well before we discover how great he is, he knew.
Yes this merry band agreed that little Hermes and they could smuggle the herd, but Apollo would simply follow and they would be found.
Hermes bid them cut large patches of bark from the Fallen Oak and to cut long grass to bind into cord. From these he showed them how to fashion shoes for the cattle and away they were led along a trackless path.
The cattle were gone.
Apollo was livid.
Apollo he searched but there were no tracks.
Then, by chance in his raging stampede around the land he found the Satyrs, led by the rogue Silenus they were greedy for reward, great reward, for Apollo was angry, very great reward.
Eventually, in Arcadia, the Satyr gang heard something unusual, unique in fact; strange music like no melody ever heard before yet dulled and distant. It seemed to be coming from far away and yet from everywhere. It seemed to be coming from below the earth and yet, – no it was, it was down below, it was. Eager as they were they could not help but dance. Dance, as they hunched and sniffed and searched
Then suddenly they noticed a little way ahead by a gateway in a leafy copse the sultry, haughty, Cyllene idly taking the air. The music led them towards her.
It was louder behind her and there at the back of the glade was a cave; the music was coming from there. “What is that music of the nymphs we have never heard before?”
Cyllene swung gently round towards them, “No nymph plays that marvellous tune upon that unique instrument.”
“No one can play better than the nymphs, no one has a better instrument than they.” The satyrs gaggled together in panic behind him, staring in quizzical fear.
“Who is Hermes?”
“Hermes is a babe.”
The Satyrs stood mesmerised as Cyllene gracefully articulated the story of the babe who was born within this cave. He who had adventured across the lands at so young an age, who had acted with great skill and created a marvellous lyre like nothing ever heard before. Silenus enquired what this lyre was like and Cyllene told him how it was shaped like a tortoise because he had fashioned it out of a tortoise and cow hide twine. “So where did he get this twine?” “Are you calling him a thief!” Just as a fierce argument sprung up a few things happened at once. A great long-winged bird landed in the glade; this was the Sacred Crane sacred to Hermes and because of Hermes. Silenus glanced his eyes around the glade and there were two cow hides stretched between branches to dry. The grandfather of the babe of course had known that the crane was sacred, sacred to Hermes, and had followed it; Apollo suddenly appeared.
Silenus pointed at the hides, thus establishing himself a right to the reward, then to seal the deal he pointed at the cave.
Apollo strode in and down with a procession following. There lay Maia sleeping deeply a bundle in her arms. “Bring me that quickly grown man Hermes now,” shouted the mighty Apollo, “For he has stolen my cattle and shall be made to bring them back to me, at least all that live.”
Maia threw back the covers and revealed a babe still in its swaddling bands and wrapped in a large leather hide. “How could it be that a babe such as this has done this thing you say?”
“I recognise the hide!” boomed Apollo and he snatch up the child and fled the cave.
“Father of Heaven,” (and father of the babe unfortunately), cried Apollo as he bent to his knee in front of Zeus, “I accuse this babe”, (the bundle unrolled from his arms as did the other two hides from the glade), “of theft of all my herd.”
“Zeus looked down to Hermes, “I cannot believe that you did such a thing and I ask you to plead not guilty.”
“Well I did,” confessed Hermes standing proudly for all his small size, “and I am sorry. I shall return all that live and tell you of the flesh of the others”
Apollo stood looking dazed, enraged and confused.
I divided the flesh of each dead beast in to twelve pieces each as sacrifices to the twelve gods.”
“Twelve?” questioned Apollo, “Who it the twelfth?”
Bowing with a smirk the tiny Hermes said, “Why it is I”.
How Zeus laughed.
Hermes continued, “A twelfth of the flesh of each of the beasts I ate for I was ferocious hungry the rest I burned. Thus I have invented the first ever flesh- sacrifice. Now I shall give you recompense, follow me.”
He led Apollo in a flash back to the cave and he retrieved a bundle from beneath a sheepskin. “What have you there?” asked Apollo.
Hermes held up the tortoise-shell lyre in display and in the other hand held a plectrum, “This I also invented.”
The music was mesmerising, the singing was praise worthy; it was full of praise also. Praise of Apollo, his nobility, his dignity his grace, his intelligence and, of course, his generosity. It worked, Apollo forgave him and nevertheless little Hermes led him to Pylus, playing all the way, to the cave he had hidden the cattle. He released them to graze and offered the Lyre to Apollo, he took it and thankful he said as I keep this so you keep the cattle. Hermes held up his tiny tiny hand and Apollo solemnly shook.
From the distance they heard the mountain top laughter of Zeus as he watched all Hermes’ antics.
As the cattle grazed Hermes gathered long grasses and wove them into a pipe. He played and he declared, “This is the shepherd pipe that leads any sheep to you.”
“If you will let me have this pipe I will trade you my golden cattle-herding staff; it also has the power to send the spirits of the dead peacefully to heaven.”
“I accept, in part, for the reedpipe is worth far more than the golden staff and I will accept the deal if you also promise to teach me the power of augury.”
The distant laugh of the onlooking Zeus could be heard again from afar.
“I cannot but my three nurses the Thriae can. They will teach you on the isle of Parnassus to read the flowing pebbles in the swirling bowl.”
“This is indeed a very ingenious, eloquent and persuasive Godling.” Chortled Zeus.
Upon their return Zeus bellowed at tiny Hermes, “You must promise forever from now respect the rights of another’s property and never tell utter lies.”
“Then make me your herald great father, and I will never tell lies, although I shall not promise to always tell the whole of the truth in every detail. Furthermore I shall protect and preserve all divine property in your honour.”
(Apollo was chortling now.)
“You shall be my herald then, and you shall in that duty guide the dead to the underworld, oversee all matters of business, all treaties and all rights of way.
Even furthermore you shall teach us the twirling of sticks to make fire you shall assist the Three Fates (this he did and invented the knuckle bones, the alphabet, astronomy, boxing, the musical scale, gymnastics and weights and measures. He also learned the tree alphabet.)
Thus it was Zeus who chuckled quietly now for he had honoured and empowered him in such a way that he would forever be too busy.
So it was that the now growing Hermes was presented with the adornments of Herald and proudly stood in the round hat of rain protection, the fast flying golden sandals and the beribboned herald’s staff which commanded respect from all when Hermes was engaged in matters of administration, (of which there were many).
Thank you Robert Graves
Ales and Tales around York pubs.
and more as the Skald to the Chieftain inspired by Georg and Gudvangen.