Mercury vs. Hermes

Roman religion changed drastically following contact with Greek religious beliefs and practices. Prior to contact, the Romans did not have a developed anthropomorphic view of the gods but instead believed in the numina, or spirits (of which there were hundreds if not thousands). These numina did were not human-like but they were the beings in charge of ordering and executing the business of the world/universe. Once the Romans decided to absorb many Greek beliefs and practices, the anthropomorphic gods of Rome, as we know them, were born. Most had Roman numina that served as a sort of ancestor. For Mercury, it was the Dei Lucri who served as his “numinian” (yes, I made that up) ancestors. As mentioned on his page in this blog, Mercury started as a “simple” god of trade. When Greek influences began to flood the Roman world, Hermes lent many of his aspects and attributes to him.

Consequently, many Pagans tend to want to equate Mercury and Hermes, viewing them as the exact same deity by different names. I feel like they have a lot in common but I would not offend either of them by presenting them as “the same” deity. I think of it the way you might think of “identical” twins. They look very similar, they hang out in common places, they occasionally coordinate their wardrobes, but at the end of the day they are two distinct people who happen to have a lot in common. A twin might be offended if you called him by his brother’s name or insisted that he is “exactly the same” as his brother and should quit pretending to have his own personality and preferences. The tendency toward equation in the case of Mercury and Hermes is pervasive and – I would argue – plain rude to them both.

How do you feel about the pervasive tendency among Pagans to equate Mercury with Hermes? Leave a comment!

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One thought on “Mercury vs. Hermes

  1. This is actually a similar thought I’ve been having in relation to Anglo-Saxon Gods and the Norse Gods. I consider myself a hard polytheist, and in the case of Roman and Greek Gods, I tend to have the same opinion as you do.

    For some reason though, I can’t quite make my mind up with Norse and Anglo-Saxon Gods. *scratches head and ponders the similarities of Odin and Woden a moment*

    Perhaps it would be prudent to say since I have not had any personal experience with Woden, yet Odin I have, I’m not educated enough to put them in the same box as each other just yet.

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