The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005
The Divine Witch: Goddesses and Gods
Hermes began his incarnation as a fertility spirit in Arcadia. The son of Zeus and Maia (whose name is recalled by the month of May and therefore May Eve), Hermes was born in “Poppytown” and has powerful associations with opium, shamanism, and botanical magic.
His sacred animals include horned livestock: cows, goats, and sheep. Hermes occasionally takes the form of a horned deity but by the classical Greek era he was most commonly depicted in the guise in which he is most familiar today—as messenger of the gods in winged cap and sandals, bearing the caduceus, a magic wand entwined by two snakes, his other sacred animal. Snakes symbolize Hermes’ mastery of the healing and magical arts. The caduceus remains the emblem of the modern medical profession.
Hermes is able to travel between the realms of the living, the dead, and spirits because he is a master shaman. He is also a psychopomp: a spirit who escorts the newly dead to their next realm:
Hermes served as guide when Orpheus traveled to Hades to rescue Eurydice
He is Persephone’s escort as she travels between Life and Death
He is a spell master, providing Odysseus with the antidote against Circe’s magic
Hermes is Patron of Thieves and Tricksters but he also protects devotees against tricks and theft. He famously enjoys cleverness and despises violence, only protecting non-violent criminals—those using wit, not brawn.
In addition to shamanism and botanical spells, Hermes sponsors other aspects of magic:
As Hermes Trismegistus he was identified with alchemy and ceremonial magic
He is the model for the mountebank, the traveling conjurer who may be a true magus, a master illusionist, a charlatan, or all or any of the above
Hermes, dressed in his traveler’s cap, formed the prototype for the Tarot card, The Magician.
See also Circe, Dionysus, Hecate, Proserpina, Thoth; ANIMALS: Goats, Snakes; BOTANICALS: Opium Poppy; CALENDAR: May Eve; DICTIONARY: Mountebank; MAGICAL ARTS: Alchemy, Cards; HALL OF FAME: Hermes Trismegistus.