Hermes, Messenger of the Gods


Hermes is immediately recognizable by four attributes: a broad-brimmed hat (petasos), winged sandals (talaria), a purse, and a herald’s wand (kerykeion, or caduceus in Latin). Hermes’ wand – a short-winged staff, entangled by two identical serpents – had magical powers, bringing sleep upon people or rousing them from it. If the staff was a metaphor for an authorized message from God, rejecting it is choosing to sleep and accepting the message is to “awake unto God”.  This staff is similar to the Rod of Asclepius, which is used as a symbol of medicine.

Hermes wasn’t only a messenger of the gods, but also the inventor of speech. As such, he is often associated with oratory or interpretation. In Greece, an interpreter was called hermeneus, and today the science of interpretation is known as hermeneutics.

Hermes was the only Olympian capable of crossing the boundary between the living and the dead and carrying the souls of the dead in Hades. In time, he came to be known as “the conductor” or “the leader of souls.” People also called him “patron of travelers,” and “shepherd of men,” 

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