Pagan and the Pit(bulls)

The political musings of a Pagan and her dogs.

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Sephora offers “witch kits”. Just no.

In October, Sephora will start to sell a “Starter Witch Kit” from Pinrose. It’s a box of perfumes with tarot cards, sage, and a rose quartz, and it sells for $42 plus tax.

I’m going to put this warning right here, I love Halloween. As a Libra, I love October. As a white girl, I love pumpkin spice. But this time of year also makes me super irritable, because people turn witchcraft into a capitalist boost.

I get it, October is the perfect time to use witchcraft as a capitalist/consumerist gimmick to more people to buy your product. And thanks to irresponsible representation and claims by foolish celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow, the beauty industry is incorporating mysticism and magick into its toxic portfolio. I am not ok with that.

I, like most women, do use cosmetics. I have a bag full of them, and my bathroom counter is littered with serums and eye creams. I will cut someone if they take my mucin serum. I do incorporate magick into my cosmetic routine: my clay mask has rose oil in it, and I use as part of a self-love charm/meditation. But using magick as a selling point to wealthy white women who want to dabble in the mystic arts like sneaky school girls? That’s both the beginning of The Crucible and white Christian feminism at its finest.

Witchcraft is not your marketing gimmick. It’s an art form that should be practiced with care because it can be messed up. Yes, you can (and should!) have fun with it, but sometimes a little caution is warranted.

And while this seems innocuous and “good fun”, it feeds into the cultural paranoia around witchcraft. Just yesterday, I got a link to a webcast calling Burning Man the “biggest religious festival in the US” dedicated to Moloch and witchcraft.  Two days ago I wrote about a White Evangelical Christian pastor preaching against witchcraft from the pulpit. Sermons have been going on for decades about the dangers of mainstream witchcraft. “Good fun” for non-Pagans or non-magickal practitioners can have real impacts on the rest of us.

It’s not cool to use our religion and spiritual beliefs as your sales pitch. And it’s really not cool to use it when it could have real-life implications on us.



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White Evangelical Pastor is a bigot. No one is suprised.

Content Note: Bigotry

On August 19th, Reverend John Kilpatrick preached against witchcraft being used against Trump. Since they post their sermons on Facebook, the video has gone mildly viral. Kilpatrick made claims that “when Elijah faced Jezebel, he was facing witchcraft” and that “what’s happening right now in America, is witchcraft’s trying to take this country over”.  Other statements include “I’m not being political, but I don’t see how President Trump bears up under it…here’s what the Holy Spirit said to me last night and what He said for me to tell you. He said, ‘Tell the church that so far, Trump has been dealing with Ahab. But Jezebel’s fixing to step out from the shadows.’ That’s what the Lord said to me…He said ‘Pray for him now, because there’s about to be a shift, and the Deep State is about to manifest, and it’s going to be a showdown like you can’t believe.'”.

Now, I personally find this to be a gross violation of church and state, and that this church should lose its tax exempt status. But that’s neither here nor there.

Witchcraft and Wicca do have a history of using magick against people they don’t like. Doreen Valiente said that she and some friends attempted to use magick against the Nazis during WWII. Witches have been cursing Trump since day one. I, myself, put small curses on his name every time I spit on it. And if his policies kill someone in my family or close to me, I will eat his heart. The fact that Trump is so hated and cursed makes it difficult to refute these types of claims, which may explain why no Pagan or Witchcraft group has called Kilpatrick out and said his claims are bullshit.

Here’s my statement: Trump is a sexist, racist, classist, ableist bigot. He is a traitor to the United States, and guilty of collusion with Russian agents and Vladimir Putin. Many magickal practitioners have cursed him as part of their First Amendment rights to practice their religion freely and as part of protest activities. However, the most effective curses aren’t the ones cast by others, but the ones we put on ourselves.

Here’s the other part of this video that worries me. Kilpatrick isn’t fringe. Kilpatrick has a large platform and he’s using it to spread hate against Pagans and magickal practitioners. His congregation applauded his words. He may have backtracked by saying “it’s not a witch after him, it’s a spirit of witchcraft trying to muzzle him”; but it’s not an apology, and it’s just as hateful as the words he said from the pulpit.

White Evangelical Christians want us gone, and they will do what they have to to get rid of us. Hate crimes start at church.

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White Pagans, time to collect our racist Uncle Wotan

Content Note: Racism, Nazism, Trumpism

Authors Note: Nazism has close ties to Odinism and Asatru, and both Nazis and Neo-Nazis often use Heathen symbols on their images. We can’t afford to ignore this connection, because regardless of what happens, the impact on Paganism and Heathenism is either “bad” or “worse”. I am aware that my own Hellenic and Wiccan traditions struggle with racism as well, and this will be addressed in other posts, primarily because racism takes many forms which deserve their own discussions. I am also aware that not all Heathens, Asatru practitioners, or Odinists are Nazis or racists. However, I will point out that people who use “not all *blank*” tend to be part of the problem as well. For purposes of this post, I will refer to Odinism attached to the Nazi/Neo-Nazi movement as Nazi Wotanism, as Wotan is the High Germanic name of Odin and the name has strong associations with the white separatist movement. If you are a member of any racist or hate group and want to leave, Life After Hate is there for you. Please reach out for any help you need.

Barely a year ago, literal tiki torch-bearing Nazis marched in Charlottesville. They terrorized the town, and their actions led to the death of a brave Antifa activist Heather Heyer (may she return in power). If you paid any attention to the banners and have a passing knowledge of runes, you probably noticed some familiar symbols: elhaz/algis, othala, tyr, and the valknot. These are all symbols used by Nazis during the Third Reich and in use today by Neo-Nazis. Nazis love themselves some Pagan symbols and imagery, they loved the Pagan gods, and that love has been passed down to the Neo-Nazis of America. Which makes them our problem to collect and police.

Nazism and racism have long been part of Paganism’s dark underbelly. The much-admired Madame Blavatsky who influenced many Pagan traditions started it off by popularizing the swastika (seen on the emblem of the Theosophical Society) and endorsed the concept of a “superior race”. One of her followers, Guido von List   Ariosophy, the philosophy of the supposed Aryan priest-kings. Von List was one of Heinrich Himmler’s greatest inspirations and he modeled the Schutzstaffel SS on that Ariosophy. The Thule Society, which was based on Blavatsky and von Lists teachings, is basically a who’s who of the Nazi leadership. The Thule Society’s influence extended past politics and into the private world: women were considered priestesses of the home, and popular holidays such as Christmas were re-branded as Pagan celebrations. This becomes important after WWII because Else Christensen, a housewife, peddled her toxic mix of white supremacy, sexism, and Wotanism in America.

If you recognize Ms. Else as a Pagan activist who pushed to have Odinism and Wotanism recognized by the prison system, good for you. That doesn’t negate her sins in the least.

Many Pagans think that because we’re a minority religion we can hide this association between Nazism and Wotanism. That because we’re often overlooked for things like a holiday, we’ll be overlooked for things like this. They’re wrong.

Nazi Pagans already made headlines in the Washington Post and Vice.

Nazi Pagan Facebook pages exist. And Facebook ignores it when people report the hate. I know that for a fact because while I was researching this, I reported several. And each one was ignored.

Wotanism loves a particular kind of toxic hyper-masculinity and sexualized violence. Scrolling through any of the hate pages on Facebook reveals a consistent pattern in their posts. Memes proclaiming the superiority of the white race and calling for the defense of the traditional family, white women, and children are mixed with Barbie doll Valkyries in impractical armor and near-nude Freyas’ posing provocatively with swords. The message is clear: protect the racist and homophobic ideas of Nazism and this is your reward. This is exceptionally dangerous in the era of Trumpism when calls for stochastic terrorism ring from every rally.

Regardless of how the next couple of months and years play out, Pagans are going to suffer from this representation. We live in a nation that firmly embraces White Evangelical Christianity. Make no mistake, the Wotanist Nazis are tolerated only so far as they can support the nationalist agenda. White Evangelical Christians will throw Wotanist Nazis under the bus when it becomes politically expedient; a movement that gleefully justifies separating children with the Bible isn’t going to make distinctions between the flavors of Paganism. In the event that the elections are free and fair and there is a blue wave, these Wotanist Nazis will just blend back into the Pagan crowd, hiding behind the idea of a progressive minority religion. A cancer hiding until it can grow unchecked again.

So what do we do?

If you are safe and capable of staying safe, we call them out where we can and when we can. And if you can stay safe, keep your connections to the people you know who are Pagan Nazis.

First, call out their behavior. Don’t let them hide in your communities. Don’t let them melt back into Pagan spaces without scrutiny. Don’t let them post their hate speech in your social media pages unquestioned. Circle is supposed to be a space you enter in perfect love and perfect trust. You can’t enter anything in perfect love and perfect trust when there are Nazis. Don’t let them hide behind the claim of minority status. We, as Pagans, are uniquely placed to call out their racist, Nazi, homophobic bullshit, because we hold space and status within their own communities. It’s hard for a Wotanist Nazi to claim they’re being discriminated against because of their religion when the person calling them out is from their own community.

Because it can be difficult to tell Wotanist Nazis from Odinists, Asatru practitioners, and other Heathens; be thoughtful in how you approach this. Educate yourself on what symbols and in what configurations these Wotanist Nazis use them in. And always, always, always keep your safety in mind.

Second, if you have connections to Wotanist Nazis, keep the lines of communication open. Individuals who leave cults and hate groups do so because they have connections to the outside world. You don’t have to help them yourself or approve of what they do. In fact it’s good if you make it clear that you don’t. But let them know that you have resources if they need help with their rage or hate. People can’t access resources they need if they don’t know those resources exist.

Or if neither of these options appeals to you, you can do what I did: plastered links to Life After Hate all over their Facebook pages.

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XI: Prisoner gets Justice for the tarot

Screenshot 2018-08-24 at 8.09.46 PM

So, today we got a win for religious freedom in the Americas. Serial killer Paul Steven Haigh had 4 tarot cards returned to him. The Canadian Supreme Court ruled the prisoners have the right to practice their religion without unreasonable incursion from the government or guards (obviously, athames and swords are still verboten). Haigh uses the the cards as a meditative doorway and a spiritual tool; like many other Pagans.

I’ve done tarot meditations, and I think the interweaving circles and themes are quite soothing and philosophical. I’m glad that this man is getting some comfort from them. When the guards took 4 cards out of the deck because they showed breasts, it rendered the deck useless as a meditative tool: all the arcana move from one card to the next like stepping stones, take one out and you can’t make the next leap.

I don’t jive with the artwork on the Deviant Moon deck (the deck in question), I personally prefer the Herbal Tarot. But it’s far from pornographic or obscene, which were the reasons given for the card confiscation. I think I’m rather like US Supreme Court Justice Stewart, I know obscenity when I see it. And to a degree this reads like a petty confiscation to me.

I’m glad that the Canadian Supreme Court ruled on the right side of this. Religious freedom is a positive for all of us.

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Influential Books: The Serpents Shadow

mlserpshadAfter the discovery of my first Book of Shadows and the explosive fallout, I found it easier to just hide what I was reading and studying. This means that a lot of my standard magical cookbook comes from fictional inspiration, a trend that continues to this day. One of the most useful was The Serpents Shadow by Mercedes Lackey. Personally, I think the first 5 books of the Elemental Masters series moves through the full Wiccan initiatory cycle. The Serpents Shadow focuses on the element of Earth. Aside from the adventure and romance of the book, most memorable are 5 magickal acts: pulling energy from the earth, grounding the energy back into the earth, setting a protection around a house, pets as familiars, and an entertaining interaction with a selkie colony.

Now, the selkie colony isn’t hugely important magickally. It’s a cute addition to the plot, and after having gone through the full Wiccan initiatory cycle myself, it’s an interesting magickal layer. Which makes this a classic on my bookshelf for that reason, magickal books should always gain layers as you gain knowledge and understanding. The pets as familiars are similar, interesting as a Witch with 10+ years experience but something that I missed on my first read through.

What was more important was the energy manipulation, grounding, and setting a circle. With few exceptions (all of which prove the rule), energy shouldn’t be pulled from your own core being. The core of the earth is a much better place to pull from. Not only is it self-replenishing, it doesn’t exhaust the practitioner. Of all the energy in the core of the earth, I prefer the blue fire that grows like flowers. But everyone’s mileage varies, and some may find the silver rivers or the red iron that tastes like cinnamon better fits for their work and style.  And as many others (So. Many. Others. Like all of them), will tell you grounding is a crucial part of energy manipulation. Holding onto that is like holding onto a grenade with the pin pulled. It will blow up in your face.  All of this is explained in easy to use terms, and in fact is very easy to follow from the book. I still use that meditation from time to time, when I need to get back to my center point.

Since energy needs a place to go, Maya and Peter (the main characters) put it into crystals to create a barrier that doesn’t rely on Maya’s energy to sustain itself and protect the house. This is a common way to create house barriers, and since the barrier works with the earth and the energy of the earth, it’s self-sustaining. I have uses variations of this barrier in my house, my office, and the other spaces I spend a lot of time in. I find it to be a solid way to put magickal protection around my spaces, and if I use pretty crystals and rocks it’s easy to disguise.

Mercedes Lackey is an author I will always recommend as a metaphysical/magickal must read. Some of the series haven’t aged well: the Dianna Tregarde series, for example, are fantastic for their use of practical, real-life magick; but they are very 80’s. The Elemental Masters series, The Serpents Shadow is the second book, is classic and timeless. 10/10 would recommend.

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Influential Books: The Body Sacred


CONTENT NOTE: body dysphoria, eating disorders


In high school, I was taken to visit an elderly aunt in Cleveland, Ohio. I don’t remember what my family was doing, but I snuck out to the library saying that I had to  “work on homework”. I didn’t actually work on homework, and my grades can prove it. I sat in a room with the zodiac on the ceiling and plowed through several books on magic and paganism. I couldn’t get any of them at home, it was a troubled time and my first book of shadows was found and thrown out by my mother, so I devoured them in a library several states away from where I lived.

I had a lot of body image issues in high school. Deep in my black heart, I wanted to be thin. I wanted to not eat, but I liked food too much. I would go long stretches where I would only eat orange juice and rice krispies for lunch, and binge on good food when I got it or eat when someone was watching. I was a size double zero for a while, and I felt great. Except the problem with not eating, is it feels like you’re not eating. On this particular day, I had actually eaten breakfast of luxurious honey nut cheerios. And I was wrestling with the guilt when I read The Body Sacred by Dianne Sylvan.

At one point in the book, Sylvan explains why loving your body is a radical act of magick. She goes into detail about how amazing the body is, just in its everyday functioning. High on sugar and carbs, I had to take a moment to digest what I just read. I looked up at the ceiling and saw the Virgo with sheaves of grain. I almost broke down and cried.

That day I started to learn to love my body and see it as a magickal thing I could love and adore. It’s a (slow) work in progress, and on my fat days, I re-read the book. It’s not a huge dramatic story, and it’s not a philosophical or technical book. But I can’t avoid how The Body Sacred let me see my body as something amazing and worthy of love and magick. It was a hugely magickal gift, and one I have to be thankful for.

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A Dark Horse on the Horizon


While my musical tastes are broad and sometimes “auditorily offensive”, Katy Perry is by no means a favorite, and not someone I normally associate with Paganism. So when I saw Katy Perry mentioned on The Wild Hunt, I was a bit confused. Apparently, Perry is in the hot seat again for her 2013 hit “Dark Horse”. For me, Perry is hugely problematic not-fave for reasons you can see here, here, here, and here.

And honestly, even if none of her homophobia, cultural appropriation, or sexual misconduct was a factor, I’m not super enthused by the music video. As a Hellenic practitioner with no real ties to the Egyptian pantheon, I don’t have a horse in the race in terms of divine representation; even if the color scheme in the music video is the hue of my depression. The song is meh and I have no comment on the use of Aphrodite’s name in the lyrics. In an early version of the music video, Perry destroyed a necklace with the name of Allah on it which is really just another sign of her inattentiveness as an artist. Although I did find her Grammy performance of “Dark Horse” distasteful and concerning for a whole host of reasons.

The issue here is that Perry is being sued by Marcus Gray, Lecrae Moore, Emanuel Lambert, and Chike Ojukwu for plagiarism of their song “Joyful Noise“, as well as tarnishing the reputation of “Joyful Noise” with “Dark Horse”s “association with the witchcraft, paganism, black magic, and Illuminati imagery evoked by the same music in Dark Horse. Indeed, the music video of Dark Horse generated widespread accusations of blasphemy and an online petition signed by more than 60,000 demanding removal of an offensive religious image from the video.” Given that Perry has a background as a Christian music singer, and that the songs do share a remarkably similar beat and melody I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Perry didn’t give credit where it was due. And that’s really shitty of her if she did. But I take serious issue with where this fits into the larger cultural narrative, particularly the cultural narrative in Trump’s America. 

Right out of the gate, I will say I don’t expect my celebrities to use their platform politically. I do think that individuals with that kind of reach have an ethical responsibility to use that platform wisely, but having a responsibility doesn’t mean you have to do something. However, I do know for a fact that people who claim minority status have to behave like the eye of the Moirae is on them; because the eye of the public is and it’s not much kinder.

Why does that matter? Perry has claimed to be a New Age practitioner.

Now, if we’re talking labels, “New Age practitioner” isn’t Pagan isn’t pagan isn’t Wiccan isn’t witchcraft isn’t Illuminati (what even is an Illuminati when it’s at home?). But those are differences without a distinction to most of the populace, as we see in the “Joyful Noise” lawsuit.

In terms of the claims from the lawsuit, most of the pagan imagery comes from the music video. Excluding the army of sexy-Bastet, I can somewhat understand it. Ra and Anubis have probably never been so ripped, but many who reject the Christian faith often go through a phase of strongly connecting with the Divine Feminine. Most people don’t have such a large artistic venture to express it though, and others who do have certainly done it better (the bold mixture of Isis and Christianity in The Cranberries “Zombie” and Beyonce as Oshun come to mind).  I can tolerate Perry’s bubblegum attempt at Isis, even if I give it a healthy dose of side eye.

More concerning was her Grammy performance. I’m not going to claim that witchcraft is always rainbows and fairies: in my magickal pantry I have grave dirt, bones, and menstrual blood. But that performance. I was a child during the Satanic Panic, and the evangelical school my parents sent me to clung to the panic even after it passed out of the mainstream media. That Grammy performance was EXACTLY what my parents and the school said witchcraft was: skeletal trees, hooded Baphomet, dancing demons, witches branded with red crosses, women getting sexual pleasure from being burned. I swear, joining my first coven after that build up was such a letdown.

Outside of a very wise group of Cassandras, I don’t think any of us really expected the political rise of the White Evangelical to play out the way it did. In 2014 I remember Pagans talking about LGBTQ rights and evangelism; Trump, Russia, and the malice of White Evangelism were hidden for the most part. Most of us didn’t think it could or would happen. Except it did, and we’re seeing all sorts of human rights violations and bullshit go down. After all, evangelical lobbyists sell access to the president at the Prayer Breakfast, the DOJ uses the Bible to justify separating children at the border, and Jeff Sessions formed the Religious Liberty Task Force (ostensibly to protect the voices of religion in the government, but let’s be real about how that’s going to play out).  In the grand scheme of things, this lawsuit seems small and insignificant. But bigger atrocities are built on the small and insignificant, so this case very well should be watched closely.

Perry has the wealth and resources to inoculate herself against the discrimination every Pagans and magickal practitioners face. Regardless of the outcome of this case, Perry will continue on making money by the boatload and will present an air of the effortless New Age practitioner. She will not struggle to find employment or days off, and should things in America turn against minority religions she has the means to protect herself and her empire. But if Perry claims to be a New Age practitioner, she’s the representative we have in the wider world even if she isn’t one we would have chosen for ourselves. Which means she needs to step up her game, and we need to call her out about it. Because it’s not her neck on the line. It’s ours.

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Influential Books: xxxHolic


Yesterday, I was brutally ill. Like, thank all gods my bathtub is next to the toilet ill. Like, vomiting on the kitchen floor trying to get a ginger ale ill. The pit bulls tried to “HALP”, and were not actually helpful. Which is why this particular post is a day late according to my schedule, and although I feel worlds better today I don’t feel bad about it being late.  As I lay miserably on the sofa, I decided to turn on some TV; coincidentally xxxHolic. Now, I 100% love the anime adaptation of xxxHolic; and I adore the live action adaption of the anime as well. But between the language translation and the switch from one medium to another, a few things get lost and nothing will replace the original manga in my book.

xxxHolic (pronounced Holic, and written by the fabulous collaborative group CLAMP) follows the misadventures of Kimihiro Watanuki as he works off a debt to Yuuko Ichihara, a woman known as the Time-Space Witch. Yuuko runs a shop that grants wishes (for a price!), and often granting wishes to people who accidentally made magical problems for themselves. The first volume immediately jumps into musings on the nature of fate, the nature of names, and the weight of lies and addictions. That might seem like a heavy start, but the comic relief is excellently timed and the series moves at an excellent pace.

Yuuko’s dialogue is something that ended up being a large stone in my magical and philosophical foundation. Her approach to inevitability and fate is something I use to this day. Her discussion of Will in the second (third?) story is a cornerstone in my philosophy on how magick works. I genuinely can’t stress enough how much this character influenced my philosophy.

In a physical and stylistic sense, she is who I want to be when I grow up. Yuuko is a delightful ball of dualities: she’s a gourmand and borderline alcoholic who is yet exceptionally active and healthy. She wears a glorious wardrobe with an impossible ease, even for manga and anime standards, but with a playfulness that is absorbing. Yuuko can deliver a striking speech about Will, yet turns around in the next panel and uses a red aluminum t-ball bat as an athame.

I think in some ways I got very lucky, or maybe it was inevitable, that I would pick up xxxHolic when I was in high school. At the time, I was a hot mess; not only was I blundering my way through puberty but I was really struggling with the dualities of my own nature. Yuuko and xxxHolic came at just the right time for me to sort through all of that and start to get on the right track.

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Influential Books: If Wishes Were Horses


It’s really appropriate that I’m writing about If Wishes Were Horses by Anne McCaffrey today. Yesterday I did my 3rd-degree initiation, and in some ways, If Wishes Were Horses follows a concept that was brought up during my preparation before the ritual. But that isn’t how I was introduced to the book.

I talk my way through my thoughts, so when I was grappling with what I believed and my philosophies, I talked my way through it. The problem was, instead of talking my thoughts out to my dogs, I talked them out to the people around me. And that wasn’t the best idea, and I was often bullied because I didn’t know when to stop pushing. I can honestly say I was a terror, and I retreated to the library.  If Wishes Were Horses is a short coming of age story, that follows Tirza from 14 to 16 as the family survives a war. Tirza watches as her mother works magic and miracles to hold the community together. At the end, Tirza receives her first magic crystal necklace as well as the wishes she for as she works throughout the book.

This book really kickstarted my basic magical practice. I started selecting my jewelry with thought to the magical potential: what was I doing that day? what stones would augment and supplement my plans? I also started to see small acts as magical, the small things I do every day that become spells and witchcraft. Salting a dish becomes a spell. Lighting a candle before a bath is a spell. The bells on the door are a spell everytime they chime. Blowing dandelions on the walk home is a spell. Brushing my hair is a spell. If Wishes Were Horses really opened my eyes to basic hedge magic and folk magic.


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I’m actually writing this in the Denver airport, which is remarkably appropriate, given that Hermes is the god of travelers.  I have my headphones around my neck, specifically so that I can hear the hustle and bustle of the others in the airport around me. Hermes is also the god of writing and languages, and right now when so many people are returning to school or from vacations, you can hear the type, type, type of people as they send messages.

That must make airports the most sacred of places to Hermes in the modern day. Flocks of people needing to be herded to their destination; where travelers, hospitality, roads, and trade meet; where diplomacy can get you a little extra, languages overflow, and we all get a little athletic trying to make our flights. Not to mention being able to fly and reach the sky.

I’ll be honest, writing about Hermes is difficult. Just when I seem to have the right image or words, it slips away or warps so that it no longer quite fits. He sort of reminds me of Jin in the movie House of Flying Daggers. Mei asks what his name is, he responds with “Wind”, because he wanders around like a playful wind; but he has unexpected depths and seriousness. After all, some of Hermes myths we tell children are silly and playful: the clever theft of Apollos cattle and the creation of a lyre from a tortoise-shell. But Hermes also kills the giant Argos who guards Io, helps Perseus kill the Gorgon Medusa, and protects Odysseus from Circe’s magic. On a slightly darker note, he kills the herdsman who reported the cattle theft to Apollo and sleeps with Chione on the same night Apollo seduces her.

Most gods have a complexity that makes them difficult to grasp, after all, they are the purest distillation of humanity. And we as humans are notoriously complex and difficult to fully see and understand. But Hermes makes this complexity an art form. At the most simple, the herma that make his roadside altars are standing stones with piles of rocks around them. At the other end of the spectrum, altars to Hermes can easily become elaborate with rococo business and luxury. Hermes is a god of the sky, flying along Iris’ rainbow path; and the psychopomp to the dead and escort of Persephone up from the underworld. His symbols continue this fierce dichotomy: the tortoise and the hare, the expensive saffron crocus and the common strawberry tree. Even his parentage bounces between the noble Zeus and Maia, and the passionate Dionysus and Aphrodite. Getting a good grasp on Hermes, and what he is is near impossible.

And maybe that’s for the best. We all need gods that we wrangle with. Hermes is not the powerfully defined as Hera, Queen of Heaven or Athena. Nor is he unpredictable in the predictable ways that Poseidon or Hades are. He’s like the wind, and we can never know which way he’s going to blow, if at all or what will come with him when it does.

While Hermes isn’t the only god to have multiple songs in the Orphic hymns (which I prefer far and above to the Homeric ones), he’s in a rarefied group, one that includes both of his potential mythical fathers. Zeus and Dionysus both have 3, Hermes and Gaia both have 2. This grouping highlights Hermes duality even further. Here, Zeus is the King of Heaven, thunder, and lightning. Dionysus is the strong, bull-faced bearer of the vine. Gaia is portrayed as the earth itself and as the mother of the gods. Hermes with his ouranic and chthonic dual nature fits right in.

So, hail to the high and low art. To the high and low in Hermes, and to the high and the low in all of us.

Orphic Hymn 27 The Fumigation from Frankincense.
Hermes, draw near, and to my pray’r incline, angel of Zeus, and Maia’s son divine;
Studious of contests, ruler of mankind, with heart almighty, and a prudent mind.
Celestial messenger, of various skill, whose pow’rful arts could watchful Argus kill:
With winged feet, ’tis thine thro’ air to course, O friend of man, and prophet of discourse:
Great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine, in arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine:
With pow’r endu’d all language to explain, of care the loos’ner, and the source of gain.
Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod, Corucian, blessed, profitable God;
Of various speech, whose aid in works we find, and in necessities to mortals kind:
Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere, be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear;
Assist my works, conclude my life with peace, give graceful speech, and me memory’s increase

Orphic Hymn 56: The Fumigation from Storax.
Hermes I call, whom Fate decrees to dwell in the dire path which leads to deepest hell
O Bacchic Hermes, progeny divine of Dionysos, parent of the vine,
And of celestial Aphrodite Paphian queen, dark eye-lash’d Goddess of a lovely mien:
Who constant wand’rest thro’ the sacred feats
where hell’s dread empress, Persephone, retreats;
To wretched souls the leader of the way when Fate decrees, to regions void of day:
Thine is the wand which causes sleep to fly, or lulls to slumb’rous rest the weary eye;
For Persephone’s thro’ Tart’rus dark and wide gave thee forever flowing souls to guide.
Come, blessed pow’r the sacrifice attend, and grant our mystic works a happy end.