57. Ἑρμοῦ Χθονίου, θυμίαμα στύρακα.
Hermes of the Divine Foundation
Divine medium: styrax
Κωκυτοῦ ναίων ἀνυπόστροφον οἶμον ἀνάγκης,
Kokytos’ dwellers can never retreat from the path of Necessity,
ὃς ψυχὰς θνητῶν κατάγεις ὑπὸ νέρτερα γαίης,
Those mortal souls underground, below in Gaia’s netherworld.
Ἑρμῆ, βακχεχόροιο Διωνύσοιο γένεθλον
Hermes, child of Dionysos of the Bakchian chorus
καὶ Παφίης κούρης, ἑλικοβλεφάρου Ἀφροδίτης,
and son of the Paphian, curly-lashed Aphrodite.
ὃς παρὰ Περσεφόνης ἱερὸν δόμον ἀμφιπολεύεις,
He traverses Persephone’s holy domain on every side,
αἰνομόροις ψυχαῖς πομπὸς κατὰ γαῖαν ὑπάρχων,
Dark-fated souls he guides to below Gaia’s foundation,
ἃς κατάγεις, ὁπόταν μοίρης χρόνος εἰσαφίκηται
And up from underground, whensoever the Fated Time approaches.
εὐιέρωι ῥάβδωι θέλγων ὑπνοδώτειρα πάντα,
With fair holy staff he magically lulls all to sleep
καὶ πάλιν ὑπνώοντας ἐγείρεις· σοὶ γὰρ ἔδωκε τιμὴν
And arouses all from slumber, given the honor
τιμὴν Φερσεφόνεια θεὰ κατὰ Τάρταρον εὐρὺν
By honored Phersephone, pure Goddess of broad Tartaros,
ψυχαῖς ἀενάοις θνητῶν ὁδὸν ἡγεμονεύειν.
To lead eternal souls in their mortal journeys,
ἀλλά, μάκαρ, πέμποις μύσταις τέλος ἐσθλὸν ἐπ' ἔργοις.
And with blessings, guide the mystae in fulfillment of good works.
Hermes (Ἑρμῆς, Ἑρμῆν, Ἑρμένη, Ἑρμῆ, Ἑρμέα,Ἑρμέω, Ἑρμείω, Ἑρμείας, Ἑρμείης. Ἑρμείαο, Ἑρμεία, Ἑρμᾶς, Ἑρμᾶ, Ἑρμᾶν, Ἑρμάων, Ἑρμάου, Ἑρμάο, Ἑρμάον) is the immortal God of communication, travel, and invention. He is depicted with wings on his feet or helmet as an ambassador of heavenly deities, and with a snake-entwined staff as an ambassador of earthly deities.
In this hymn he is described as the son of the God of wine, Dionysos, and the Goddess of love, Aphrodite. In other instances he is said to be the son of the rain God, Zeus, and the Goddess of birth, Maia.
This hymn focuses on Hermes’ role as a guide of souls to and from the afterlife and as the God who induces and wakes mortals from sleep.
In addition to escorting souls and deities to the realm of the afterlife, Hermes is often present in scenes depicting birth, including:
Chthonian (χθόνιος) means the foundation (Χ) + divine (θ), that is, Earth. Often “chthonic” refers to realms beneath the earth and deities who dwell or commute there, such as the Titans and afterlife deities.
Kokytos (Κωκῡτός) is a dismal river of wailing in the afterlife where the souls of wrongdoers lament and plea for forgiveness from those they have wronged.
Ananke (Αναγκη) is the immortal Goddess of necessity, of that which is required, here referencing the required punishment for unforgiven wrongdoing.
Psyche (Ψῡχή) is the immortal Goddess of the soul.
Gaia (Γαῖα) is the immortal Goddess of generative earth.
Dionysos (Δῐόνῡσος, Διώνῡσος, Διώνουσος, Δεύνυσος, Δίνυσος, Διένυσος) is the immortal God of wine and its effects.
Paphian (Παφίης) is an epithet of Aphrodite derived from her famous temple at Paphos on the island of Kypros. Aphrodite (Ἀφροδίτη) is the immortal Goddess of passionate love.
The Moirai (Μοῖραι) are the immortal Goddesses of fate.
Chronos (Χρόνος) is the immortal God of time.
Phersephone (Φερσεφόνεια) is another spelling for Persephone (Περσεφόνης), the immortal Goddess of the afterlife and new life in Spring. It is notable that both spellings are used in this hymn.
Tartaros (Τάρτᾰρος) is the deepest place beneath the earth and a realm in the afterlife.
The mystae are initiates into the holy Mysteries.
 The Kalamaia (Καλαμαῖα) was a festival of the Goddesses Demeter and her daughter, Persephone, at Eleusis: grain stalks (Καλα) + give birth (μαῖα).
 “Hermes…summoned the souls…to come forth, and in his hands he was holding the beautiful golden staff, with which he mazes the eyes of those mortals whose eyes he would maze, or wakes again the sleepers. Herding them on with this, he led them along…and presently arrived in the meadow of asphodel. This is the dwelling place of souls…”
Homer, Odyssey 24. 1-10 ff (trans. Richmond Lattimore), Harper & Row, New York, 1965.
 Museo Nazionale Archeologico di Taranto, Taranto, Italy; Taranto 826; Apulian Red Figure Krater, volute; ca 405 - 385 BCE; http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K12.13B.html; and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston 95.39; Beazley Archive Number: 206036; Attic Red Figure Lekythos; ca 470 - 460 BCE; http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K12.14.html
 Museo Archeologico Nazionale, Salonica, Italy; Salonica 685; Beazley Archive Number: 14847; Attic Red Figure Pelike; ca 370 - 360 BCE; http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/K10.2.html
 Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Virginia, USA; Richmond 81.70; Beazley Archive No.: 10158; Attic Red Figure Krater, calyx; Classical period; http://www.theoi.com/Gallery/T1.7.html ) .
 “… they shout and cry out, calling to those whom they have slain or outraged, begging and beseeching them to be gracious and to let them come out into the lake; and if they prevail they come out and cease from their ills, but if not, they are borne away again to Tartaros and thence back into the rivers, and this goes on until they prevail upon those whom they have wronged; for this is the penalty imposed upon them by the judges." Plato, Phaedo 112e ff (trans. Fowler).