There’s Something About Mercury.

Mercury, Venus, and Mars in Virgo. Picture made with the SkyView app.

I’ve only been able to see Mercury, a smudged disk, a few times. There are trees in my neighborhood and it sticks close to the horizon, and close to the sun, so it’s usually only visible at dawn or sunset. And that’s how the innermost planet earned its name. In mythology Mercury stuck close to, and sometimes tormented Apollo, but he was also elusive and a trickster. According to one legend Mercury, or Hermes as he was known to the Greeks, stole Apollo’s cattle and delivered them as a gift to Zeus, saying it was an offering to “the twelve gods of Olympos.”

“By my count there are only eleven gods of Olympos,” replied Zeus. “Who’s the twelfth?”

“At your service,” said Mercury.

You’ve gotta love a guy like that.

He had a dark side too. Hera was jealous of Zeus’s lover Io and turned her into a cow, which I still think is unfair. She was always going after Zeus’s lovers when the problem was, you know, Zeus. And knowing that turning a young girl into a cow would do udderly nothing to stop Zeus Hera also set the thousand-eyed monster Argus to watch over Io, even though it would have made more sense to, you know, set the thousand-eyed monster to watch over Zeus. That still didn’t stop him; he just sent Hermes to take care of the problem, and Hermes gleefully went along because he liked the chaos and disruption . Hermes played his pan pipes for Argus until the monster fell asleep and closed all thousand of his eyes. Here’s a really cool sculpture of Mercury about to slay Argus by Bertel Thorvaldsen.

Source: Thorvaldsen Museum

I love how he’s got his pipes in one hand and is slowly drawing out the sword with the other, careful not to wake the sleeper. Art and death go hand in hand, literally. It’s why I keep an eye out for Mercury.

 

10 Comments

  1. BarbaraM

    Every thing you write about is fascinating. You could probably wipe the floor with Ken Jennings.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I appreciate that but I have the advantage of internet access when writing, which Mr. Jennings didn’t have on Jeopardy, and even if I could I wouldn’t want to compete with him. Funny you should mention him, though, because I have his Planet Funny on my nightstand.

      Reply
  2. Moonwatcher51

    You are a good educator. Art appreciation. I now look at graffiti with a fresh eye. Don’t understand a lot of it, but you have to admire the effort.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I think 90% of art appreciation is just the appreciating part–if you like it that’s what matters, and the remaining 10%, the understanding, is optional. After all if you like something then that’s understanding enough.

      Reply
  3. The Huntress915

    Wow, an awesome story of myths, or myths of a story. Why is it that the Greek Gods always blamed the females for everything that befell them? Look at Medusa, she was violated by Poseidon and she was the one that was turned into a monster, not him. Okay I’m done with my rant, great post Christopher!

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I think the ancient Greeks had serious mother issues which is why they always blamed women. Consider this: Hera was the mother of the gods. Strictly speaking she was even more important than Zeus, and yet she gets sidelined in every myth, barely even mentioned. Even Athena and Artemis get treated better, but they have to be virgins, and Aphrodite…well, let’s just say the ancient Greeks wanted their goddesses to be either nuns or whores and couldn’t handle a strong independent woman. Even Penelope gets shortchanged, and she’s at least as smart as her husband.

      Reply
  4. Tom

    Marvelous musing re:Mercury! God I love mythology.

    But I remember that tale ending with Hermes telling “a story with no beginning, middle, or end” or something like that, which put the giant to sleep. Was that, if you’ll pardon, “another story”? 🤔

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Behind, or below, or after, or even before every story there’s always another story. I think I remember one version of the story of Mercury slaying Argus that includes the story that Mercury tells. It might be in Ovid, but the funny thing is the story Mercury tells is pretty interesting. Maybe Argus was just exhausted.

      Reply
  5. Ann Koplow

    I’ve gotta love a guy who writes posts like this one. Thanks, Chris.

    Reply
    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I’ve gotta love comments like yours. Thank you for rising up to say hello.

      Reply

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