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Salmacis

Updated: Jun 19


I gave birth to a hermaphrodite. What?! I woke up from the dream with my heart pounding. A beautiful baby, except the face was a grown man with stubble and the genitals were male and female. I was disturbed. Was this dream a sign I was ‘birthing my reality’ in absolute wholeness, the balanced yin and yang? Holy union within with my ‘creation’ mirroring without? Why did my dream feel so horrific to me if this was the message. I decided to delve in to the metaphor and myth to understand the story from my subconscious.

Hermaphroditus, the beautiful, effeminate son of Hermes, the messenger God and his sister-wife Aphrodite, the goddess of sexual love and beauty. Hermes was the son of Zeus and Maia, conceived whilst Maia slept without her knowledge and somewhat neglected as an infant. Maia herself, the daughter of a sea-nymph and Titan, who bore the weight of the heavens on his shoulders. I wrote about him a while back.


Hermaphroditus was raised by naiads: nymphs who frequented rivers, lakes and fountains, typically of a jealous nature. Hermaphroditus himself seems rather a weak character, prone to boredom, wandering here and there, certainly without much fire or purpose. Emotionally immature, sexually naïve he is spied upon by a frenzied nymph Salmacis, sal meaning salt and macis/mace a weapon. Salmacis had rejected the virginal, purifying ways of the Greek Goddess Artemis, spent her days somewhat idle and vain gazing into her waters as her mirror. She lured Hermaphroditus into her pool and forcefully entangled and merged with him, praying that they would never be separated. Hermaphroditus prayed to his ‘God’-parents to deliver the same fate to any man that should swim in the waters. Hermaphroditus also became the God of marriage.


I have never studied mythology, focussing on the sciences in earlier years, but the archetypes portrayed through myth are eye-opening. I could see where I have witnessed relationships - the feminine energy overly gripping, seductive, ensnaring unsuspecting boy-men who lacked the emotional depth and connectivity that was really sought in a partner. And more recently spending time like many others, ‘wild-swimming’ (yes there are health benefits), and perhaps the leisurely, apathetic part of me mediocre, musing, meandering through life encountering the same reflection.


As the God of marriage does this story depict the essence of most earth-bound marriages and relationships… or those at least where the ‘divine’ aspect is lacking. It seems this matrimony was not in wholeness or holiness but rather a 1/2 man, 1/2 woman, with divine alchemical union absent.


Hermaphroditus fate was due to his father, according to Dionysus. Hermes, the communicator, trickster, cunning deceiver who stole cattle and lied about it. A clever negotiator, problem solver or perhaps the con-man. A persuasive, quick-witted business-man, good at convincing others in order to gain the material status and goods he desires, a restless golden boy. Sounds like there are a few narcissistic traits there. I don’t believe Aphrodite could have been a complete innocent party. It turns out, she had rejected Hermes’ advances and so he had an eagle steal her sandal, bribing her that should she succumb to him, her sandal would be returned. Come on Aphrodite, you’re meant to be a Goddess, surely you could have just found another pair of sandals. Sandals, it seems symbolically represent the material world, rather than the heavenly. The Goddess relying upon this trickster-God for her material stability, doesn’t sound like true love to me. These are lessons for all our sons and daughters I feel and for us all, if we seek a higher love.



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