Hymn of Hermes

by Jim Wise (aka Calamus)

Sing to me Muse
a song of myself,

that I may remember

and remembering

may sing true

I remember the first time I saw Loki,

because it was the day I first fell in love.

His titan father had sent him to foster with Great Zeus,

to give him the experience of life among the radiant ones.

Radiant ones. Even as I write the words,

I feel an old rage welling up. The petty,

petulant radiant ones, forever meddling,

forever conniving, forever wallowing in

self-indulgent childishness. Of course I knew

nothing of that at the time. I knew only that

I was my father’s favorite, and that the worlds were mine.

The day was warm, a breeze blowing off the Great Sea,

gulls hunting the waves. I was naked but for a loincloth,

my crane-skin bag slung over shoulder, holding everything

precious to me: my stylus and ink-jar, a bound book of

parchment for the scribblings of an adolescent poet,

a few talismans that bore the marks of my first stumbling

attempts at magic, and my weirding stones. I was not quite

the immortal man I was to become. My long hair, dark and

falling in loose curls over my shoulder, a shell talisman around

my neck, I bore more of my mother than my father. Maia was

a Nymph, earth to Zeus’ sky, and I was earth. My feet,

stained a permanent green, lusted for grass and wet sucking soil.

I was most at home in those days, as now, in the deep places

of the forest, and in caves that my mother called the womb of

She Who Was First.

I saw the ship, firesails moving in the breeze,

and hurried to meet my new foster-brother. I was raised

alongside the Sun and Moon, but I had not seen beauty

until that moment. Lean build, auburn hair falling straight

over his face, veiling eyes shining with fire, his face broken

in a smile. Even now, it is his smile that I most remember.

That I most miss.

For some time I had begged Father to let me go off

exploring through the worlds. I wanted to rely on myself

and my magick, taking only what I could carry and trusting

Gaia to supply my needs. Father agreed, provided I not go

alone. Loki. Although he had been with us a short time, he

had charmed everyone. Even Father warmed to him. And I

believe Zeus was happy to see something of himself in me –

a weakness for pretty boys who wore their wildness on their skin.

We set off at dawn. My father came to send us off with blessing.

He gave me a staff. Not the serpent-hugging kerykeon that I would

later carry as his voice in the worlds, but a plain staff of ash,

shoulder-high, stout, straight, and strong. Loki and I set off, packs

on our shoulders, ready to backpack the worlds.

We walked by day, though fiery heat and misty cold hells,

and slept each night wrapped together in love. I carved

what magick I knew into the wood of the staff and sang power

into it each evening while Loki hunted and cooked a simple meal.

Before sleep each night, I wrote of the day’s events, things seen,

men and giants we had met along the Roads.

Love grew. In the cold places, we made our own heat. I would

stare into those intelligent eyes, my hair falling over our faces,

and climb inside my god. I gave him all my memories, and

swallowed all of his, digesting him into my own body. I wanted

us to become one person, to melt into one another and be whole.

I was happy then. Life was so simple, and we were so pure.

No anger, no rage, no betrayal – all of that was yet to come,

aeons in the future. We were lovers, together. In some worlds,

we were the only two living beings. Every sound seemed a sacrilege

to me, until Loki would laugh, breaking the spell. I never wanted

it to end.

In one world, while walking a forest, we spied a hovel,

an old woman in front, a raven perched on her shoulder.

She seemed to be talking to herself. Or the raven.

Or some unseen guest. I was intrigued and strode to meet

her. Seeing us she said, Welcome, young Magus, son of the High One.

And Loki of the Fire People. What do you here at an old woman’s

house on such a lonely day as this?

Simple travelers, Madam, but I wonder how you knew to name your guests.

I am a seer, young Hermes of the Swift Foot, and saw you coming

long before you walked this Road. Let us eat together and I will tell

you what must be in the ages to come. For I see many things

that even gods may not have seen in this Cauldron that I stir.

By all means, good Lady, we will share your table and hear

your tales. I have great respect for Oracles and would hear

all that you would tell.

We dined on cabbage and watered ale and settled in
to hear the volva speak.

I am haunted by dreams of fire, young son of God. I see

the Earth consumed in flames and hear the screams of

the dying. I see a time when deluded priests will learn the songs

that wake the sleeping demon Surt, and he will call down

death on all that is. He who is Fire will embrace the Mother

and she will not survive the touch.

How can this be, old woman, and yet my heart tells me

that you speak the truth. Can nothing stop the raging fire?

Strong folk can oppose the priests, and sing stronger songs,

but how can such songs be learned in the brief lives of men?

One day you will be the Guide to lead the fallen into the Halls

of the Dead, where all must stay awhile. Dream for a way,

young god, dream for a way to save the Mother of us all.

I will find a way, Great Seer. I will build a house within the Halls

of the Dead, and I will choose such men and women who have the

heart and skill to fight this foe. I will teach them there to fight –

with skill and magick and might, and they will be the army to stand

against this foe on the dreadful day of doom. I will be the fury that

drives them into dreams, inspires them into deeds. I will be the Wod

that pounds within their hearts. I swear on my Mother’s name,

I will save the Earth from apocalypse.

We left at morning, my mind reeling with the burden of what

had been revealed. Loki tried to comfort me: You are my inspiration,

my Hermes, my Fury, my Woden, the flint that kindles my flame.

I will never leave you, you will never be alone. This burden

I will share. We will stand before the Fire and will not be overcome.

So young then, before the love had turned to hate,

before the bitter taste of betrayal filled our mouths

with bile. Only great love can turn to such a great hate.

Now I am called Odin.

Now I gather the fallen. Now I prepare for the day. I walk the

worlds still, guiding my chosen to wisdom and purpose.

I am alone, last of the Olympians, wishing for the feel

of Loki’s touch, the sound of his laughter, one last time

before the end of all things.

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