I’ve been using this term for a while and it recently occurred to me that some may not know what I mean by this. So, here is an introduction to Hermes’s hold on the subject of divination.
The Homeric hymn to Hermes mentions Hermes and his interesting ties to something that it otherwise Apollo’s realm. It mentions pebble divination as practiced by shepherds, and bequeaths this on Hermes to preside over.
At first it seems strange that he gets this very specific form of divination, yet looking at his ties to the shepherds makes it clearer. Hermes was, in his oldest form, the protector and multiplier of the flocks. He guarded the sheep and played a key role in their fertility and breeding. His fertility aspect is one that dwindled in importance as the ages wore on, but he is still commonly seen with an erect phallus, as in the ever popular Herms. This importance was more pronounced in the earlier ages than it was in the later ones, but his connections with the flocks in rural Greece endured. Therefore his connection with this specific, rural divination method can be linked back to this connection with the sheep flocks.
Sadly we don’t have a whole lot of information on how this was practiced. Yet I would like to take the aspect of rural divination and let Hermes take some of this. One of these forms I use is astragalomacy, or divination with dice. This practice dates back pretty far, in fact early “dice” which were often knuckle bones, have been found in temple sites. This suggests that they had a higher aspect, but I wouldn’t doubt that they weren’t used in rural areas.
These practices are easy to translate into something that works in a more modern sense. One of the more basic ways to do so is to simply ask a yes or no question and roll a die; Yes is even and no is odd. I have a more complex method but I think I’ll save that for another day.
Another way to do “Hermes divination” is omens. Dream omens and bird omens are some big territory of his. Some historians have actually hypothesized that Hypnos and Oneiroi, the personifications of sleep and dreams respectively, were originally epitaphs for Hermes.
Basically, while Apollo has high divination, Hermes has finding the future in the little things. Hermes tells you the future in the little “must be a sign” moments, the casual toss of a dice. The little things that go to Hermes are small but not to be underestimated, and that’s how his divination should be as well as him as a whole.