Some research I'm doing on Mercury-Mercury was known to be the fastest moving of the planets, according to pre-Copernican astronomers. (We now know that he orbits the sun every 88 days, whereas Venus takes 225 days, Mars 687 days, Jupiter 12 years, Saturn 29 years.) Partly because of this rapidity, Mercury became thought of as the messenger of the gods; he is often depicted with wings on his cap (the petasus) and on his heels. He held a wand with which he directed pious souls to their happy dwellings in the after-life. He was credited with inventing the flute.Mercury's lightness and quickness carry over to the metal with which he was associated. Quicksilver will roll around a dish, dividing up into droplets and recombining very swiftly and glitteringly. Mercury brings about 'meeting selves / Same but sundered'.
This tendency of Mercury to divide and reunite meant that he became connected to a variety of different things which split up and come back together. He was the god of boxers, of thieves, and even of crossroads. In Greek mythology Mercury was called Hermes, and in ancient Greece columnar pedestals carrying busts of Hermes (known as 'herms') were set up as boundary-markers or signposts at important junctions. Another of his names was Hermes Propulaios, 'Hermes Before-the-Gates'. Yet another title was Hermes Kriophoros, 'Hermes the Ram-bearer'.As the messenger of the gods, Mercury was also thought to have a particular Bibleresponsibility for speech. C.S. Lewis's poem, 'The Planets', calls him 'lord of language'. He was linked to scholarship and learning. Mercury was thought to rule over the constellation of Gemini, the Twins, - Castor and Pollux, the horseman and the boxer.Paul's ship in the Acts of the Apostles has these twin brothers as its figurehead (Acts 28:11)
Mercury am I, gentle, soft,
Sixth planet, I send the winds aloft.
When other stars are warm, I'm hot;
I'm just as cold when they are not.
The Twins and the Maid so fine
Are the houses I account as mine.
In which I go most cleverly,
So Jupiter can't bewilder me.
I'm at my best when in the Maid,
But in the Fishes sure to fade.
Through all the signs I make my ways
In three hundred and four and thirty days.
My children I faithfully instill
With lust for beauty, greed for skill.
No long journey for them too hard,
Strange new knowledge is their reward.
Their faces are full and pale and round,
Their bodies white, their limbs unsound.
Their clocks and organs are the best,
Excellent scribes, they take no rest.
Dextrous goldsmiths, painters good,
People praise them - and they should.
They are a smart, hardworking lot,
When asked for help they give it not.-from The Book of the Seven Planets
The root of the idea of Mercury lies in Greek mythology with the messenger god, Hermes. The Romans, whose culture was in many ways a melting pot of the Greeks,Egyptians,and Persians, borrowed the old stories and myths from the Greek God Hermes and laid them on top of their own similar god, Mercury.He killed Argus on the orders of Zeus, by lulling him to sleep and then chopping off his head. He assisted Odysseus in his travels as that wanderer returned from the siege of Troy.Mercury was the son of Jupiter (king of the gods), the result of an illicit union with Maia, goddess of the clouds (as well as one of the Pleiades).His many adventures and his assignment as guide of the dead to Hades, made him the patron god of travellers. But his tricks also made him patron of thieves. The Romans also made him god of merchants and he lent his name to "mercantilism". Wednesday (Wodin was the Norse equivalent of the Roman Mercury) was his day of the week. This day the Romans called "Mercurii dies", which survives in the names for that day in many of the Romance languages, such as the Spanish, "miércoles". We also find Mercury lending his fame, in a "mercurial" manner, to a number of other objects... But that is for another time.- Copyright 2015 Vincent Piazza