Saturday, January 17, 2009

Great! Great! Great!

People sometimes talk of the Old Gods as if they went away when Christianity came along. Some did. I imagine them going to other planets or planes of existence and starting new cults where their followers run through the countryside kicking over the current resident's shrines and terrorizing the populace into loving one another. Some gods took a vacation, only coming back in the last century when things had calmed down a bit and their followers weren't getting cremated every five minutes. Some stuck around and got new jobs.

Hermes has always traipsed through history and the advent of Christianity didn't even slow him down. He is master at putting on thin disguises that never quite cover him completely but somehow manage to conceal him long enough that he can slip by without alerting the authorities. In Ancient Egypt, he wore a monkey suit to play cards with the the Moon, winning just enough days in the year so that Nut could give birth to the new pantheon. In Ancient Greece he dressed up as a baby to steal cows. In more recent centuries, he's been seen dressed as a centurion delivering express mail. (Seriously, a centurion delivering the mail. That's funny!) He's been Thoth, Hermes, Saint Expedite. And whatever role he's played, he's always been something more. He's neither Oz nor the man behind the curtain. He's not even the wind that blew everyone off course. He is that which takes advantage of the wind, of deception, of whatever he finds.

And that leads us to his role in Alchemy. In Alchemy, he is Hermes Trismegistus, otherwise known as a fraudulent scholar who wrote a book pretending to contain ancient wisdom. While other gods were getting their temples destroyed, Hermes proclaimed himself Three Times Great! and got himself a book contract. It takes a special kind of genius to flourish as Hermes has done.

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