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Divine thief.

The Olympic gods had many vices but Hermes (the Greek counterpart of Mercury) outdid them all on the very first day of his life.

To begin with, he stole and hid 50 head of divine cattle. Then he fixed the guts of a slaughtered cow as strings to a tortoise shell, thus inventing the lyre, followed by the creation of the reed pipe. When god Apollo accused him of the theft, he lied so skillfully and sang so beautifully that Apollo let him keep the cows in exchange for the lyre. The crafty liar also talked his father Zeus into appointing him herald of the gods and protector both of thieves and of commerce. Even m our times his white-ribboned herald's staff and winged sandals often serve is emblems of commercial schools, and businessmen are jokingly referred to as "die Junger Merkurs" (the disciple's of Mercury), similar to the mercuriales. Rome's, guild of traders.

In Antiquity there was no strict distinction between thieves and traders who sold many stolen goods, much as the modern Mafia sells hijacked "swag". Slaves, probably the most important "trading commodity" in Roman times, were invariably "stolen" against their will by raids. Nor did ancient traders object to their god being a consummate liar since it was considered smart to improve the value of merchandise by crafty lies.

'Hermeneutics', the science of interpretation, is derived from the divine liar Hermes. also known as a skilled interpreter. Hermaphroditus, the offspring of Hermes's illicit affair with Aphrodite, lives on in modern scientific terminology. After the lovesick nymph Salmakis had lured the unwilling Hermaphroditus into her fountain, she embraced him so ardently as to form henceforward one double-sexed hermaphroditic being. But Zoologists studying hermaphroditism (frequently occurring in plants and lower animals) hardly ever remember how Salmakis encaged poor Hermaphroditus in her body. The German language has its own word for hermaphrodite: Zwitter.

Modern food conservation was greatly improved by hermetic sealing. Although the divine Hermes allegedly invented many things, such as the alphabet, astronomy, the musical scale, boxing, gymnastics. weights and measures etc. the word hermetic is derived from a mortal being, the Egyptian sage Hermes Trismegistus, who reportedly succeeded in hermetically closing a glass tube by means of a mysterious airtight seal. Since various mystical astrological and alchemical writings have been ascribed to this Egyptian. hermetic is also used to designate special occult sciences understood only by initiated persons.

Unfortunately, initiates of modern hermetic sciences such as counterfeiting often end up in jail.
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Title Annotation:Language Corner
Author:Bucher, Marcel
Publication:Swiss News
Date:Oct 1, 2003
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