In ancient Greece, travelers prayed to be accompanied by the Messenger God, Hermes. Hermes gifts of communication, quick thinking, inventiveness, friendliness, and even a little larceny all help travelers. Contemporary men (and women), whose occupations literally take them on the road, may know only this part of the archetype. But for those who also see life as a spiritual journey, Hermes is know as the Guide of Souls.
This Hermes, the Guide of Souls, speaks thought Joseph Campbell, when he advises us to “follow the bliss”. This Hermes is Yoda in Star Wars, the wise, gentle, ancient being who helped Luke Skywalker master his own fears and not be taken in by illusions. This Hermes is Jung writing about the archetypes of the collective unconscious, bringing this whole inner world into intellectual awareness. This Hermes bridges worlds with his understanding, and brings word to us of the realm of the soul. He knows that the soul exists after death. He travels between the underworld and the highest places in the sky world, and knows the terrain in between. This Hermes can discern the purity of an experience, just as the substance mercury will only bond with precious metals. He is a guide on the path to individuation who helps us know what is personally authentic, and supports our potential for growth and wholeness. When we listen to this Hermes, we recognize the truth of what he says.
Since Hermes, the Guide of Souls, is an archetype, it is part of each of us, potentially available to everyone, especially when we contemplate where we are on our journey, and go inward to get our bearings. Hermes is called by a variety of names. With spiritual outlook sometimes call Hermes the “inner guide” or “inner voice” In the psychiatric literature, Hermes is another name for “the inner self helper”.
Hermes help us to reconnect with cut-off parts of ourselves. To heal and make whole takes “remembering”. To do this, we must go downward or inward to find the pieces and bring them back to light. This is the task of Hermes.
It was Hermes who brought Persephone out the underworld, it was he who rescued the infant Dionysus, who was the dismembered god, and it is this archetype in us that can bring the repressed feminine or the divine child in each of us into consciousness. Thus his task is not only to find what was personally repressed, but also to resurrect archetypes that have been culturally buried.
As deities, Hermes and Hestia, Goddess of the Hearth, were paired together as part of the structure of the home; a herm or stone pillar representing Hermes stood at the doorway of each house; within and at the center of the household was Hestia’s hearth. These two deities, one as guardian and guide, the other as the source of warmth and illumination, symbolize aspects of the archetype of the Self.