Sexual Fables

This article accompanies the fable
Dreaming the Virgin Mary


Hermes (the Roman Mercury) was the messenger of the gods, the bringer of dreams and the final journey to death. As the patron saint of art and commerce, he was worshipped by athletes and herdsmen, magicians and mystics, poets, travelers, liars and thieves. And he was associated with sex...

Mercury-Artus-Quellinus   Herma

Above left is a 17th century Flemish statue of Mercury holding the caduceus and a drawstring purse. At his feet are some of his other symbols, the rooster and the goat. Above right is a "herma" (or "herme"), a common roadside marker for travelers in Ancient Greece. Over the centuries the frank sexual aspects were transposed into the caduceus and the saucy pose.

Hermes is sometimes regarded as androgynous and, combined with his female counterpart Aphrodite, we have the legend of Hermaphroditus, their son, who, while bathing, became one with the nymph Salmacis. As a phallic god, he also has became a gay icon. Is there a message in the sculptures below? On the left is the Hermes from the Grand Cascade at the Peterhof in Saint Petersburg. On the right is Michelangelo's David in Florence, which may be David but the pose could be Hermes'.

Hermes-Peterhof   Michelangelo-David

In the Tarot, Mercury is associated with the Magician; in astrology, the planet represents the intellect, curiosity and communication; in alchemy he is associated with Hermes Trismegistus. And he appears in the Odyssey: here.

Copyrights: top left: Amsterdam Municipal Department for the Preservation and Restoration of Historic Buildings and Sites. Top right: Ricardo André Frantz. Bottom left: Yair Haklai. Bottom right: David Gaya.

Copyright © All rights reserved. Homepage | Contact | About | Search