Hermes was evolved as a god from the stone phalli which were local centres of a pre Hellenic fertility cult—the account of his rapid growth may be Homer’s playful obscenity—but also from the Divine Child of the pre-Hellenic Calendar; from the Egyptian Thoth, God of intelligence; and from Anubis, conductor of souls to the Underworld.

The heraldic white ribbons on Hermes’s staff were later mistaken for serpents, because he was herald to Hades; hence Echion’s name. The Thriae are the Triple-Muse (‘mountain goddess’) of Parnassus, their divination by means of dancing pebbles was also practised at Delphi (Mythographi Graeci: Appendix Narrationum). Athene was first credited with the invention of divinatory dice made from knuckle-bones (Zenobius: Proverbs), and these came into popular use; but the art of augury remained an aristocratic prerogative both in Greece and at Rome. Apollo’s ‘long-winged bird’ was probably Hermes’s own sacred crane; for the Apollonian priesthood constantly trespassed on the territory of Hermes, an earlier patron of soothsaying, literature, and the arts; as did the Hermetic priesthood on that of Pan, the Muses, and Athene. The invention of fire-making was ascribed to Hermes, because the twirling of the male drill in the female stock suggested phallic magic.

(Robert Graves, The Greek Myths)

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