Friday, June 27, 2008


Known as the "master of magic words" [1], Hermes is the Greek messenger god who crosses the boundary between the mortal and immortal worlds. (His Roman counterpart is Mercury.) In his novel The Magic Mountain, Thomas Mann offers a lovely meditation on the magic of Hermes:
Hermetic’—I’ve always liked that word. It’s a magic word with vague, vast associations. . . . I can’t help thinking about our old canning jars . . . hermetically sealed jars, with fruit and meat and all sorts of other things inside. There they stand, for months, for years, but when you need one and open it up, what’s inside is fresh and intact, neither years nor months have had any effect, you can eat it just as it is. Now, it’s not alchemy or purification, of course, it’s simple preservation, which is why they’re called preserves. But the magical thing about it is that what gets preserved in them has been withdrawn from time, has been hermetically blocked off from time, which passes right by. Preserves don’t have time, so to speak, but stand there on the shelf outside of time.
—translated by John E. Woods (1995)

For a deeply fascinating and suspenseful exploration of the Hermetic tradition, don't miss the novel Mercurius by Patrick Harpur.

[1] Norman Oliver Brown, Hermes the Thief: Evolution of a Myth, 1990, p. 15.


The Conjurer said...

Hermetic is also the source for Hermetic Press - one of the finest magic book publishers around. Stephen Minch is also a wonderful source for all sorts of magic history and esoterica.

Eccentric Scholar said...

Yes, indeed! Here's a link to Hermetic Press: