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ORPHIC HYMN TO HERMES

28. Ἑρμοῦ

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Introduction to the Orphic hymn to Ærmís

Ærmís (Hermes; Gr. Ἑρμῆς) is the great friend of mankind who has an interest in our difficulties, particularly if we find ourselves in any state of bondage, whether literally or figuratively. He is adept in the use of speech and bestows his cleverness upon us. And his use of speech extends to his divine function as messenger of Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς) for which he is depicted in the mythology as having winged cap and sandals. All these qualities of Ærmís are evident in the Orphic hymn dedicated to him, and many more, where he is depicted as a vibrant and joyful deity, energetic in his actions.


Translation by Thomas Taylor
[1]

28. Ærmís (Hermes; Gr. Ἑρμῆς) 

The Fumigation from Frankincense. 

Hermes, draw near, and to my pray'r incline, 
Angel of Jove, and Maia's son divine; 
Studious of contests, ruler of mankind, 
With heart almighty, and a prudent mind. 
Celestial messenger, of various skill, 
Whose pow'rful arts could watchful Argus kill: 
With winged feet, 'tis thine thro' air to course, 
O friend of man, and prophet of discourse: 
Great life-supporter, to rejoice is thine, 
In arts gymnastic, and in fraud divine: 
With pow'r endu'd all language to explain, 
Of care the loos'ner, and the source of gain. 
Whose hand contains of blameless peace the rod, 
Corucian, blessed, profitable God; 
Of various speech, whose aid in works we find, 
And in necessities to mortals kind: 
Dire weapon of the tongue, which men revere, 
Be present, Hermes, and thy suppliant hear; 
Assist my works, conclude my life with peace, 
Give graceful speech, and me memory's increase.


The original ancient Greek text

28. Ἑρμοῦ, θυμίαμα λίβανον.

Κλῦθί μου, Ἑρμεία, Διὸς ἄγγελε, Μαιάδος υἱέ,
παγκρατὲς ἦτορ ἔχων, ἐναγώνιε, κοίρανε θνητῶν,
εὔφρων, ποικιλόβουλε, διάκτορε ἀργειφόντα,
πτηνοπέδιλε, φίλανδρε, λόγου θνητοῖσι προφῆτα,
γυμνάσιν ὃς χαίρεις δολίαις τ' ἀπάταις, (
σ)τροφιοῦχε,
ἑρμηνεῦ πάντων, κερδέμπορε, λυσιμέριμνε,
ὃς χείρεσσιν ἔχεις εἰρήνης ὅπλον ἀμεμφές,
Κωρυκιῶτα, μάκαρ, ἐριούνιε, ποικιλόμυθε,
ἐργασίαις ἐπαρωγέ, φίλε θνητοῖς ἐν ἀνάγκαις,
γλώσσης δεινὸν ὅπλον τὸ σεβάσμιον ἀνθρώποισι·
κλῦθί μου εὐχομένου, βιότου τέλος ἐσθλὸν ὀπάζων
ἐργασίῃσι, λόγου χάρισιν, καὶ μνημοσύνῃσιν.


Transliteration of the ancient Greek text:
(See this page: Transliteration of Ancient Greek)

28. Ærmou, thymíama lívanon.

Klýthi mou, Ærmeia, Diós ángælæ, Maiádos iǽ,
pangkratǽs ítor ǽkhohn, ænagóniæ, kíranæ thnitóhn,
éfphrohn, pikilóvoulæ, diáktoræ aryeiphónta,
ptinopǽdilæ, phílandræ, lógou thnitísi prophíta,
yimnásin os khaireis dolíais t'apátais, (s)trophioukhæ
ærminéf pándohn, kærdǽmboræ, lysimǽrimnæ,
os kheiræssin ǽkheis eirínis óplon amæmphǽs,
Kohrykióhta, mákar, æriouniæ, pikilómythæ,
ærgasíais æparohyǽ, phílæ thnitís æn anángkais,
glóhssis deinón óplon to sævázmion anthróhpisi;
klýthí mou efkhomǽnou, viótou tǽlos æsthlón opázohn
ærgasíisi, lógou khárisin, kai mnimosýnisin.


BREAKDOWN OF THE HYMN

Ἑρμοῦ, - Ἑρμοῦ is the genitive of Ἑρμῆς; titles are placed in the genitive case in ancient Greek.

θυμίαμα (incense) λίβανον. (frankincense) - The author of this hymn is suggestion an incense-offering of frankincense be made to the God.

Κλῦθί (hear) μου, (me) - Hear me

Ἑρμεία, - Ærmís (Hermes)

Διὸς (Διὸς is gen. of Ζεύς) ἄγγελε, (ἄγγελος is fem./masc. nom., messenger, angel) - messenger of Zefs (Zeus)

Μαιάδος (Μαῖα, mother of Ἑρμῆςυἱέ, (son) - son of Maia

παγκρατὲς (παγκρατής is nom., all-powerfulἦτορ (heart) ἔχων, (have) - your heart is invincible

ἐναγώνιε, - master of competitions (ἐναγώνιος, nom.). One of the fields of interest of Ærmís is the gymnasium and athletic contests.

κοίρανε (κοίρανος is nom., ruler) θνητῶν, (mortals) - ruler of mortals

εὔφρων, - joyful, gracious

ποικιλόβουλε, - wily one (ποικιλόβουλος, nom.)

διάκτορε (διάκτορος is nom./gen., guide or messengerἀργειφόντα, (Ἀργειφόντἡς is nom., slayer of Ἄργος Πανόπτης) - messenger and slayer of ÁrgosIóh (Io; Gr. Ἰώ) was a lover of Zefs and this liaison was discovered by Íra (Hera; Gr. Ἥρᾱ). In order to disguise his paramour, Zefs transformed her into a heifer, but Íra discovered the ruse and placed the cow under the care of the giant Árgos who had so many eyes that only some of them would sleep at any particular time. But Ærmís, disguised as a shepherd, charmed the eyes to sleep and slew him with a stone. Ióh was now free to wander, now tormented by the gadfly of Íra, but it was revealed to her by Promithéfs (Prometheus; Gr. Προμηθεύς) that in time she would be free and that her trial would yield fruit in that she would become the ancestor of the greatest of the heroes, Iraklís (Heracles or Hercules; Gr. Ἡρακλῆς).

πτηνοπέδιλε, - with winged sandals (πτηνοπέδιλος, nom.). Ærmís is depicted with winged sandals because he is the messenger of the Gods, most particularly the messenger of Zefs. He is said to fly through the three realms (Earth, Sea, and Sky) and deliver the intention and commands of his father.

φίλανδρε, - friend of mankind (φίλανδρος, fem./masc. nom.)

λόγου (word, language) θνητοῖσι (mortal) προφῆτα, (prophet) - divine revealer of language to mortals

γυμνάσιν (gymnastic training) ὃς (you) χαίρεις (rejoice) δολίαις (tricky, deceitful) τ' ἀπάταις, (deceit) - You rejoice in gymnastic training and in skillful deceitIt may seem strange that deceit is a quality of Ærmís and it must be understood that this is not deception with bad intent, but, rather, the ability to discern when it is necessary to deceive in order to protect, to mislead those whose intention is to do harm, and similar uses of speech.

(σ)τροφιοῦχε - (στροφιοῦχος is masc. nom.) - priestly one (στροφιοῦχος is the wearer of the στρόφιον, a headband worn by priests). This word presents a problem. The Book of the Orphic Hymns extracted from Hermann's Orphica renders this οφιοῦχε, from ὀφιοῦχος (a constellation), the "serpent handler." This could, perhaps, refer to the two snakes of the Kirýkeion (Cerykeion or Caduceus; Gr. Κηρύκειον), a symbol associated with the God. The ancient text used by Athanassakis (first edition) renders this τροφιοῦχεa word for which this author cannot find any information. I suggest that both are possibly errors by those who copied manuscripts and that the word should actually be στροφιοῦχε (στροφιοῦχος masc. nom.), he who wears the the στρόφιον (i.e., a priest). This same conjecture is found in the entry for στροφιοῦχε in Liddell and Scott's Lexicon. If this is the correct word, οφιοῦχε remains "inside" στροφιοῦχε allowing for a mystical double-meaning.

ἑρμηνεῦ (ἑρμηνεύς is nom., interpreterπάντων, (all) - interpreter of everything

κερδέμπορε, - conductor of trade (κερδέμπορος, fem./masc. nom.). Commerce and the necessary acquisition of wealth are special interests of Ærmís.

λυσιμέριμνε, - you who drives away our troubles (λυσιμέριμνος, fem./masc. nom.). By means of the acquisition of the skills Ærmís bestows on us...competent use of language, competence in livelihood, etc....our difficulties in life are greatly lessened.

ὃς (you) χείρεσσιν (hands) ἔχεις (bear, possess) εἰρήνης (peace) ὅπλον (tool) ἀμεμφές, (blameless, perfect) - You hold in your hands the means to achieve perfect peace

Κωρυκιῶτα, - Kohrykian (Κωρυκιώτης, masc. nom.). This epithet refers to Kóhrykos (Corycus; Gr. Κώρυκος), an ancient city in Anatolí (Anatolia; Gr. Ἀνατολή), the Southern promontory of the Erythraean peninsula opposite Khíos (Chios; Gr. Χίος), with a rich history; it is now the town known as Kizkalesi in Turkey. There is a cave near this place, the Kohrykian (Corycian or Cilician) Cave which was the dwelling-place of Typhóhn (Typhon; Gr. Τυφῶν) and Ǽkhidna (Echidna; Gr. Ἔχιδνα). Pan (Gr. Πᾶν) and Ærmís were worshiped in this cave, and there was also a temple in this area dedicated to Zefs (Zeus; Gr. Ζεύς).

μάκαρ, - blessed one

ἐριούνιε, - luck-bringer (ἐριούνιος, masc. nom.). Ærmís is a joyful and light-hearted God who sometimes bestows a windfall, unexpected good fortune.

ποικιλόμυθε, - skilled rhetorician (ποικιλόμυθος, fem./masc. nom.)

ἐργασίαις (business, work) ἐπαρωγέ, (ἐπαρωγός is nom., helper) - you are an aide in our labor

φίλε (friend) θνητοῖς (mortals) ἐν (in) ἀνάγκαις, (necessity) - friend of mortals in our necessities

γλώσσης (tongue, speech) δεινὸν (dreaded) ὅπλον (tool) τὸ σεβάσμιον (awesome) ἀνθρώποισι· (men) - terrible tool of speech, awesome to mankind

κλῦθί (hear) μου (our) εὐχομένου, (praying) - hear our prayers

βιότου (life) τέλος (fulfillment) ἐσθλὸν (good, noble, lucky) ὀπάζων (send with) - bestow upon us a life which concludes well

ἐργασίῃσι, - livelihood

λόγου (words) χάρισιν, (favor) - speech of favor

καὶ (and) μνημοσύνῃσιν. (memory) - and memory.


A more literal translation of the Orphic hymn to 
Ærmís

The translations presented in this series are not intended to replace the beautiful work of Thomas Taylor in our rituals. If anything, they make obvious his brilliance in capturing the spirit of the hymns while framing them in lovely poetry. Rather, we are simply trying to deepen our understanding of each hymn producing a more scholarly translation, word-for-word accurate.

28. Ærmís, Incense frankincense.

Hear me, Ærmís, messenger of Zefs, son of Maia!
Your heart is invincible! ...master of competitions, ruler of mortals,
Oh joyful, wily one, slayer of Árgos.
You with the winged sandals, oh friend of mankind, divine revealer of the language of mortals:
You rejoice in gymnastic training and in skillful deceit, oh priestly one.
Interpreter of everything, conductor of trade, you drive our troubles away.
You hold in your hands the means to obtain perfect peace.
Kohrykian, blessed, luck-bringing, skilled rhetorician;
You are an aide in our labors, a friend of mortals in need,
Brandishing the terrible weapon of speech, awesome to mankind.
Hear our prayers. Bestow upon us a life which concludes well,
With adequate means of livelihood, favorable words and long memory.


NOTES:

(Abbreviations can be found at the bottom of this page: GLOSSARY HOME.)

[1] The Hymns of Orpheus, trans. by Thomas Taylor, 1792; we are using a facsimile of the original edition, London, England (printed for the author), where this translation may be found on pp. 152-153. The hymn to Ærmís should be counted as 28, not 27 as we find in this first edition of the hymns. Taylor did not number the hymn to Ækáti (Hecate; Gr. Ἑκάτη), which caused all of his numbering to be off by one increment; he included it in the opening section entitled To Musæus; the hymn to Ækáti should have been counted as the first hymn. This numbering problem has been corrected in the current edition of the Taylor translations published by Prometheus Trust and entitled Hymns and Initiations, 1994 and revised again in 2003. 



The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.
Introduction to the Thæí (the Gods): The Nature of the Gods.


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The story of the birth of the Gods: Orphic Rhapsodic Theogony.
We know the various qualities and characteristics of the Gods based on metaphorical stories: Mythology
Dictionary of terms related to ancient Greek mythology: Glossary of Hellenic Mythology.

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