A Hymn to Hermes Dionysodotos

Once the god Hermes,
kind and clever-hearted son of Zeus,
stooped down to pick up the infant Dionysos,
swaddled in cool leaves of ivy to protect him
from the burning remains of his mother,
lightning-wed Semele,
who met her fiery end at the hands of jealous Hera.
But Hera’s anger did not die
with the slim-ankled daughter of Cadmus,
and so to protect the young god,
crafty Hermes whisked him off to Nysa,
the mountain that lies beyond the farthest shore,
where nymphs and satyrs cavort on its misty, tree-shaded slopes.
Hermes appeared in their midst,
with the child cradled in his arms,
and the long-haired goddesses left off their stunning dances;
the lazy satyrs got up from sunning themselves on the rocks;
and all came close to see the wonderful gift
that the messenger of the gods had brought before them.
Little Dionysos cooed and lifted up his fists;
the hearts of the nymphs melted and they argued over who would hold him first.
Hermes explained to them
how Hera nursed an unquenchable hatred for the child in her heart,
and would pursue him to the very ends of the earth to cause him torment.
But Father Zeus loved his boy,
and wanted to see him grow up into a strong, handsome young god.
So he had charged Hermes with finding a safe shelter for his dear son.
Nysa was so far away that it had escaped even the sight of cow-eyed Hera,
and so Hermes brought him there.
He asked the nymphs to watch over the boy,
to protect and nurture him,
and the nymphs eagerly agreed.
They fed him with milk from their own breasts,
and later on sweet honey and water from their sacred springs.
They sang to him and taught him their dances
and how to play the pipe and drum.
And when he was older he learned to hunt from the satyrs,
and spent his days roaming through the forests,
a friend to all the animals.
At the feet of Silenos his tutor he learned many things,
and under the care of the lovely nymphs he grew strong and wise
until he reached the full blush of manhood,
and his adventurous spirit led him away from Nysa,
to seek his destiny in the world
and bring mankind wine and mysteries and limitless joy.
So you who love the Bacchic Lord,
do not neglect to honor Hermes as well,
who did such a kindness to him when he was most in need.

[Sannion is the religious name of Greco-Egyptian polytheist author H. Jeremiah Lewis. You can find his books The Balance of the Two Lands, Echoes of Alexandria, and Gods and Mortals on Amazon.com or order them at a store near you. He leaves in Eugene, Oregon.]


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