Hermes as The Guide of Souls

Hermes as The Guide of Souls and New Beginnings
Nancy Swift Furlotti

Sampling the beauty and the breadth and depth of this new website, Hermes comes to mind as the perfect embodiment of its energy and force behind it. He is that winged god who brings his caduceus, the staff entwined with two snakes, to bear on the unexplored opposites in our psyche, mediating and acting as messenger in the empty spaces that need light. The snakes represent poison and healing. As the Guide of Souls he conjures up the new creation. He is an androgynous god, representing the archetypal energy of challenge and change; the energizing force that sets off our curiosity and our imagination that entices us onto our inner journey of self-exploration.

How do we know this Hermes? He plays outside the boundaries, poking us to think beyond our safe ordered lives. He is of the underworld, born in a cave, comfortable traveling between the inner and outer of our lives. Hermes is the bridging element in between, the god of the middle and empty spaces, the crossroads where four-cornered herms are raised in his honor. He is the journeyman we run into on our path of life. Meeting and finding through luck or theft are related to his connection to happiness and fortune, accidental happenings. As the thief on the path, he is a skilled highwayman and flattering deceiver who prowls in the dark, as in one’s dreams or nightmares. Love and riches are two themes Hermes sings about. Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, is a favorite along with her daughters, the Muses. He is connected to the Fates as well. Through them, the deep and eternal nature of life is remembered as the cosmic ground of all existence.

Through his prodding, thievery, and trickery Hermes guides the process of individuation. This is a Jungian term referring to our inner soul’s journey that is unique to each one of us. On this path, we move away from established collective dictates of how to be, how to act, how to feel and instead find our own way. It is a movement from persona to soul. Our personalities are a mix of opposites and multiplicities containing both masculine and feminine, for example. The goal of individuation is to become conscious of these many pairs of opposites, resulting in the experience of transcending the old and welcoming in the new attitude, new behavior, or new symbol that is born from within. This is the essence of change that occurs over and over again in our lives leading us towards wholeness and a greater sense of fulfillment.

For a man the soul is feminine, whereas for a woman the soul is masculine. Because of these counter-valences, we tend to project these opposing inner parts of ourselves onto our real life partners, resulting in the many conflicts and confusions we experience in our relationships. It is here the soup gets stirred. As the fire of Hermes turns up the flame, we are in for change. Woe to the person who ignores Hermes! If you fight the call or merely ignore it, the fire will blow out and you will be left in a regressed, inflexible life. If his beaconing is not heeded, the need for change can end up in symptoms of conflict and depression, anxiety, or somatic illnesses. This invisible god is quite determined, so it behooves us all to listen with our inner ear for his murmurings leading us to our soul and to the deep ground of our being.