HERMES: Divine Trickster

Aug 11, 2022

Souls on the Banks of the Acheron by Adolf Hirémy-Hirschl, 1898.

Karl Kerenyi collaborated with Jung in demonstrating the psychological meaning of Greek mythology. Kerenyi found in Hermes a representation of “a third way of living life, besides the Apollonian rational and the Dionysian irrational. God of jokes and journeys, thieves and magicians, the tricky Guide of Souls” arrives as a surprise. Like the quicksilver that is his Roman name, Mercury/Hermes appears on winged sandals, heralding the new. Hermes disdains regulation and law to deliver new ideas, dissolve opposites, and provide decisive experiences. Just as he alone traversed the realms–from the heights of Mt. Olympus to the underworld of Hades–Hermes now swifts his way from the unconscious to ego awareness. Hermes is the symbol of a living reality seeking conscious acknowledgment, the agent of creativity and transformation. How we perceive his message is not his interest. He is already gone.

Here’s the dream we analyze:

“I’m on a piece of inhabited land, by the shore, with many others in a beach town. Some of the people I know, some I do not. Across the water is an island. It looks like Devil’s Tower in Wyoming (the one in Close Encounters of the Third Kind), but this island is lush, tropical, and Jurassic. It’s a beautiful day, close to sunset, and the view is gorgeous. All of the sudden, we all realize there are three enormous boats that look like cruise ships balancing on the edge of the top of the island. They’re huge, a third of the height of the island. One looks old, two look new. No one knows how they got there. There is a theory they went ashore when the water level was higher, but we all know that doesn’t make much sense… we would have seen them there long ago, but in this case, they just appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. We all realize they’re about to fall as they’re balanced precariously. As we anticipate an enormous crash, we take shelter. I can see them fall slowly off the top of the island to the base. There is a lot of destruction – so much dust and debris, and the sky gets very hazy. But I am safe. The next morning, we wake up, and it’s a beautiful day. The shape of the island across the water is totally different. It’s been totally reconstructed by the crash of the boats (which are no longer visible). The island looks a lot less ominous in shape. I look to my left and see that some of the debris from the island has landed in the water, which allowed for a bike path to be built from our land to the island, across the water. I realize perhaps this crash has actually improved things for the better, and everything feels calm and beautiful.”


Karl Kerenyi. Hermes: Guide of Souls. https://www.amazon.com/dp/0882140949/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_FWG6RQ37RTQYF4X0MZGN

Rafael Lopez-Pedraza. Hermes and His Children. https://www.amazon.com/dp/3856307354/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_VA65WSXZ59B9ZECAREVK


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1 Comment

  1. Delia Hughes

    Thank you! I really loved this Hermes episode 😉 It has shown up at a particularly serendipitous moment. As a drama teacher I have a great affinity with Hermes- as you described this delightful, joyful, mercurial way.
    I have a feeling I shall return to this insightful episode as my year goes into the transition of planning for the next year. Deborah and Joseph your light, insightful voices are a gift. Thank you. Very best regards Delia


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