Monday, 16 May 2016

The Mercuralia

Monday Moments with Mercury!
Wikimedia Commons- Charles Meynier

I originally intended this post to be published yesterday but time got away with me. The fact that I drove 360 miles last Friday and Saturday during a return trip to Greenock to attend the funeral of my secondary school teacher - Andy Stirling - and then yesterday (Sunday) I drove an 80 miles return trip to Ballater to sell my novels at a FOCUS Craft Fair just might have something to do with me crawling off to bed really early last night. My driving mileage these days tends to be around an 8 mile return trip to the supermarket for a food shopping pick up.

My Mercuralia post is a tad late but here it is anyway...

The Ancient Romans were famous for their love of special days. Some of these days were celebrated by all in Rome, some by particular followers of the deity. The ides of May (14th/15th) is the Ancient Roman festival day of Mercuralia.

Mercury was a god of many aspects - believed to be the god of travel, communication, eloquence, literacy, financial gain, trade, commerce and trickery - followers of the god Mercury would make offerings in the hope of gaining favour. Merx in Latin means merchandise and the Latin words mercari meant trade; to do business and merces widely translates to pay wages, fee, cost, hire…

Wikimedia Commons-Evelyn De Morgan
The ides of May was believed to be the birthday of the god Mercury and it’s thought that it was celebrated by followers who used a laurel sprig to sprinkle their heads, and their merchandise with water taken from a sacred spring dedicated to the god. It’s believed that this practice meant that the god condoned their nefarious dealings. Followers offered prayers for forgiveness for past misdeeds regarding their financial trickery and also for success in future nefarious dealings, asking for greater wealth and continued ability to cheat customers! 

Merchants in Rome were thought to have gone to the ‘aqua Mercurii’ fountain near Porta Capena, on the south side of Rome, though the poet Ovid ( a source for this practice) may have been taking some author licence on this and naming the spring the ‘aqua Mercurii’ rather than the known source of water at ‘aqua Marcia’ (L.Richardson -  A New Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome).

Mercury, the ancient Roman messenger god, has attributes mainly borrowed from the ancient Greek god Hermes, though Mercury also has some unique aspects.

Wikimedia Commons- Peter Paul Reubens

Of the 3 images I've added to this post the first is the one which resonates with me, having just visited Rome and seen many splendid images on the walls of the museums and in sculptures in galleries- some of which were undoubtedly of Mercury but I wasn't focusing on the Mercuralia at that time. However, I may find a good image of Mercury when I process more of my Rome photographs since I've only done around half of them so far.

The purse in Mercury's hand in the Charles Meynier statue is an indication of who the god is, the caduceus in his other hand also signifying his messenger status. (I do admit to sometimes still being confused with the messenger symbol of Hermes/ Mercury and the staff of the medicine god Asclepius)

The last painting by Peter Paul Reubens doesn't do much for me at all as I really can't imagine the cut-throat followers of Mercury in Ancient Rome begging such an image for the ability to do better at conducting reprehensible dealings and cheating customers.

Maybe you disagree though? 


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