For Mercury, inventor of the lyre

I beg to place before the world a playlist of songs in honour of the god Mercury. The keynote—struck at the beginning as well as the end—is Gustav Holst’s Hymn of the Travellers, which I’ve had occasion to refer to earlier on this blog; I encourage anybody interested to listen through to the end, because the second rendition by the choir in New Zealand is really worth hearing. Immediately following the Hymn of the Travellers, and for reasons that will doubtless be as immediately obvious, is Metallica’s “Wherever I May Roam”. I’ve chosen a bluegrass cover of this song (!) in order to make the lyrics easier to follow, and for the benefit of people who don’t like screaming, growling, and amps (yes, I’m told such folk exist!). And also because it’s awesome. Honestly, I get chills down my spine when I hear the bluegrass version of “Wherever I May Roam” immediately after the Hymn of the Travellers.

Mercury (Reims)

Mercury with money-bag, rooster, and turtle.
From the Musée Saint-Remi in Reims.

Some of these songs have an obvious thematic connection to travel, communication, diplomatic finesse, etc. And flight. I always liked Modest Mouse’s “Float On”, for instance, but thinking about it as a Mercury-themed song just enhances its worth to me so immensely. The songs are written from a variety of perspectives, obviously, which I hope is not too jarring. In some of these songs, “I” is either Mercury or (more likely) a person participating in his genius; in others, like “Like a Rolling Stone”, “you” is someone who fell afoul of Mercury; in some, “I” is a mortal devotee of Mercury, while in others such as “Everytime”, “I” is someone who perhaps like Chione has been loved by Mercury and now left behind. In “Stolen Car”, I picture Beth Orton teaching lessons learned the hard way from engagement with the son of Maia.

In other cases, I’ve favoured instrumental pieces in E-minor—playfully identified in the CBC “Signature Series” as the key of the trickster or handsome rogue. Which, wouldn’t you know it, happens to include some of my long-time favourite orchestral works, including Dvořák’s ‘New World’ symphony (Symphony No. 9) and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending. The former is additionally of obvious Mercurial significance since (a) it was written by Dvořák while sojourning in a foreign land, (b) its themes are alternately pastoral, fleet-footed, and lofty, (c) the second movement includes the familiar “Going Home” theme, etc., etc. The latter piece—I mean The Lark Ascending—again has a pastoral subject that also features quickness of flight, harmony, solemn majesty, heartbreaking beauty… Mm! Perfect. (E-minor. Just sayin’.)

Now, my own plan for this playlist is that I will be able to put on my headphones and listen to it at work. However, I encourage anybody else to give it a listen if you find yourself similarly at liberty and curious. (Ah, at liberty and curious! How Mercurial.)

As I’m a native English speaker and listen to way more English-language music than that in other tongues, English songs predominate; however, I’m pleased to say that there are also pieces in French, German, Portuguese, the Auvergnat dialect of (dit-on) Occitan (je vous remercie, M. Canteloube !), and ancient Greek, as well as one memorable song—one of my favourite folk metal tracks—that is in Russian, German, Dutch, Swedish, Lithuanian, and Latvian (if I haven’t omitted any!).

This playlist has a bit of a funny origin story. Having heard about the 31 days of devotion initiative promoted by Galina Krasskova, and its variation by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus consisting of a week of devotions for different deities (including Hermes and Lug Mac Ethlenn, inter some very fine alia!), I thought to myself, “Maybe I can jump on this bandwagon in a modest way. I’ll start with one deity, work my way through the questions as I can, and then add maybe one or two additional deities if I can make time.”

So that first deity in question was Jupiter Optimus Maximus Dolichenus, and you can see my post on the subject here. For some reason I struggled to think of music that would appeal specifically to IOMD. By contrast, where to begin with music for Mercury? I just started coming up with one piece after another. I also mean to record some audio tracks of my own—including readings of Orphic and Homeric hymns—and burn them, with some of this music, to a disc to listen to on my commute. But that’s a work in progress yet!

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About DeoMercurio

I’m a Gaulish polytheist, now back living in lands ceded by the Council of Three Fires after several years’ sojourn in Anatolia and in the land of the Senecas, with frequent travels to Gaul along the way. My grandfather’s family came from the area around Trier, and I identify closely with the Treveri in my religious practice.
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2 Responses to For Mercury, inventor of the lyre

  1. I wonder if it is Hermes/Mercury’s invention of the lyre that causes Him to be so plentiful in music that appears associated with Him…or if it is His kleptomaniac tendencies…or just the fact that humans write about travel and being on the road and wandering and such so much. 😉

    • DeoMercurio says:

      Maybe all of the above! 🙂 I like the kleptomania + music connection. Maybe this is part of why I like to hoard mp3’s! You know, there are a surprising lot of “on the road” songs that I’ve always found irritating because they’re bands writing about how much they hate touring (“Turn the Page” and “Homeward Bound” spring to mind). I’m sure it does really suck to have to tour, but come on, do you really need to burst through the fourth wall in a way that implicitly mortifies your adoring fans? Just sayin’!

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