Modern Prayers | Orphic Hymn to Hermes |
Homeric Hymn #4 | Homeric Hymn #18
Orphic Hymn to Hermes
Angel of Zeus,
son of Maia,
priest and sage,
of a thousand techniques,
you lulled and slayed
hundred eyed Argos
to give the peacock
guide and guardian,
you love gymnastics,
secrets and tricks.
Giver of good things,
your gifts are
casually found treasures.
You give gain,
honest or dishonest.
and borders amuse you.
Wings on your feet
you soar through space
singing all music
in every language.
With a touch
of your wand
you bring sleep,
a dream or demise.
We honor you, Hermes,
help us in our work.
Give us eloquent speech
and eager virility.
Give us our necessities
and sharp memory.
Give us good luck.
Close our lives in peace.
Servant of the Moirai,
guide us on the path
to the other world.
Son of Dionysos
guide us to Persephone.
You lead the wretched,
sodden with mud,
into long rest in the dark.
A touch of your wand
or wakes the deceased.
Guide of souls
to the other side,
we honor you
Homeric Hymn #4
Muse, sing of Hermes, the son of Zeus and Maia, lord of Cyllene
and Arcadia rich in flocks, the luck-bringing messenger
of the immortals whom Maia bare, the rich-tressed nymph,
when she was joined in love with Zeus,  --a shy goddess,
for she avoided the company of the blessed gods, and lived
within a deep, shady cave. There the son of Cronos used to
lie with the rich-tressed nymph, unseen by deathless gods
and mortal men, at dead of night while sweet sleep
should hold white-armed Hera fast.  And when the
purpose of great Zeus was fulfilled, and the tenth moon with
her was fixed in heaven, she was delivered and a notable thing
was come to pass. For then she bare a son, of many shifts, blandly
cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, 
a watcher by night, a thief at the gates one who was soon
to show forth wonderful deeds among the deathless gods.
Born with the dawning, at mid-day he played on the lyre,
and in the evening he stole the cattle of far-shooting
Apollo on the fourth day of the month; for on that day
queenly Maia bare him.  So soon as he had leaped
from his mother's heavenly womb, he lay not long waiting
in his holy cradle, but he sprang up and sought the oxen
of Apollo. But as he stepped over the threshold of the
high-roofed cave, he found a tortoise there and gained
endless delight.  For it was Hermes who first made the
tortoise a singer. The creature fell in his way at the
courtyard gate, here it was feeding on the rich grass
before the dwelling, waddling along. When he saw it,
the luck-bringing son of Zeus laughed and said:
 “An omen of great luck for me so soon! I do not slight
it. Hail, comrade of the feast, lovely in shape, sounding at
the dance! With joy I meet you! Where got you that rich
gaud for covering, that spangled shell --a tortoise
living in the mountains? But I will take and carry you
within: you shall help me  and I will do you no
disgrace, though first of all you must profit me.
It is better to be at home: harm may come out of doors.
Living, you shall be a spell against mischievous witchcraft;
but if you die, then you shall make sweetest song.”
Thus speaking, he took up the tortoise in both hands 
and went back into the house carrying his charming toy.
Then he cut off its limbs and scooped out the marrow of the
mountain-tortoise with a scoop of grey iron. As a swift
thought darts through the heart of a man when thronging
cares haunt him,  or as bright glances flash from the
eye, so glorious Hermes planned both thought and deed
at once. He cut stalks of reed to measure and fixed them,
fastening their ends across the back and through the
shell of the tortoise, and then stretched ox hide all
over it by his skill.  Also he put in the horns
and fitted a cross-piece upon the two of them, and
stretched seven strings of sheep-gut. But when he
had made it he proved each string in turn with the
key, as he held the lovely thing.  At the
touch of his hand it sounded marvelously; and,
as he tried it, the god sang sweet random snatches,
even as youths bandy taunts at festivals. He sang
of Zeus the son of Cronos and neat-shod Maia, the
converse which they had before in the comradeship
of love, telling all the glorious tale of his own
begetting.  He celebrated, too, the handmaids
of the nymph, and her bright home, and the tripods
all about the house, and the abundant cauldrons.
Hymn to Hermes
 I sing of Cyllenian Hermes, the Slayer of Argus, lord of
Cyllene and Arcadia rich in flocks, luck-bringing messenger of
the deathless gods. He was born of Maia, the daughter of Atlas,
when she had mated with Zeus, --  a shy goddess she.
Ever she avoided the throng of the blessed gods and lived in a
shadowy cave, and there the Son of Cronos used to lie with the
rich-tressed nymph at dead of night, while white-armed
Hera lay bound in sweet sleep: and neither deathless god nor
mortal man knew it.
 And so hail to you, Son of Zeus and Maia; with you I
have begun: now I will turn to another song!
Hail, Hermes, giver of grace, guide, and giver of good things!