Hermes/Azrael Connections

Psychoopomps, originating from the Greek word ψυχοπομπός (read as psychopompós), are the those that bring the recently deceased souls from our world into the afterlife. Many religions, regardless of their type, typically have a psychopomp or even multiple entities that work as psychopomps. For instance, in Norse mythology, Odin is seen as the psychopomp deity but the Valkyries are also seen as psychopomps themselves. They take fallen warriors up from the battlefield, after Freya has collected those who she will take to Fólkvangr, and then take those souls to Valhalla. One of the most famous psychopomps in human religious history appears in Greek mythology. To the Greeks of Antiquity, Hermes is the psychopomp that takes souls to the world of Hades. Then they wait on the shore for Charon. Charon is the psychopomp that then ferries those souls across the river for their judgement. The Romans held a very similar mythology to the Greeks due to the Hellenic inspiration of their early development, the Romans hold a deity named Mercury who is seen as one and the same with Hermes.

Hermes/Mercury is one of the two most important entities that this post will be dealing with. The other important entity is the Archangel Azrael. Azrael is the psychopomp who guides souls to the afterlife for the faiths of Abraham (Christians, Jews, Muslims) as well as for the Sikh religion. Off the bat, he has this quality in common with Hermes. However, the relations continue to grow between the two of them. They are both also related to messages and the will of a higher power. For Hermes, he does the will of Zeus and delivers messages for the gods. For Azrael, he does the will of the God of Abraham and he keeps a scroll that has the information of all of mankind on it. They are both very obviously the shining examples of being the Herald of God.

Hermes and Azrael can both be related to the deities Thoth (Egyptian) and Nebu (Mesopotamian: Assyrian and Babylonian) because of this. Nebu is specifically an important connection. Like Hermes and Azrael, Nebu was related to messages and even to messages such as the inscription of the fates of men that were handed down to them by the gods. This is incredibly similar to Azrael’s scroll and how it relates to human lives. Nebu also has further similarities to Hermes given that both of them are associated with the creation story of literacy.

Given how Hermes and Nebu are so related to speaking, writing, language, and messaging, is there anything else that could relate Azrael to that? There is. In Islamic beliefs, Azrael (who is seen as being important enough to be among Gabriel, Michael, and Raphael) is able to take the form of any man or woman and even replicate their TONGUE to speak with their voice. Sounds quite a lot like the ability of deities in Greek mythology to take whatever form they wished, and it also has quite a lot to do with speaking and communication. So there’s another relation to both Hermes and Nebu for Azrael on that front.

Importantly, when talking about Nebu and Azrael in the same train of thought, we have to talk about Azrael’s origin. While the exact first appearance of Azrael in Hebrew writing is unknown, there is nothing that predates the 600s BC. There seems to be a possible chain of evidence that exists to suggest that Azrael came from the Chaldean culture that the Hebrews were interacting with at this point of history. It is not unlike the Hebrews to intermingle with the gods and ideas of their neighbors. The First Temple appears to have taken noticeable inspiration from Egyptian temple designs and the Second Temple appears to have taken inspiration from Babylonian and Persian temple designs. Much of the religious culture of the Canaanites that was related to the deity known as El was also adopted and reworked by the Israelites for their own deity.

With all that being said, Nebu was also part of this culture that would be so heavily intertwined with the Hebrews during the time of Azrael’s appearance in stories. The Chaldeans, as of Babylon, worshiped him. In fact, Nabopolassar (“Nabu, protect the son”) and Nebuchadnezzar (“Nabu, watch over my heir”), who both ruled the Neo-Babylonian Empire as part of the Chaldean dynasty, are directly named for Nebu. Anyway, examine all of the little similarities of Azrael and Nebu and the similar period of history at which both would have appeared to the Hebrews and it could be incredibly possible that Azrael developed from that same stem as Nebu when both cultures were found in the same place.

Now that Azrael’s origin has been covered and he’s been as thoroughly connected to Nebu (and Nebu to Hermes) as need be to get to the point, it is time to return to more similarities between the two of them. Besides being a psychopomp, Azrael is associated with the creation of man in the Islamic faith, he builds Adam on the orders of God to be the first man to walk the Earth. Meanwhile, Hermes is very involved in the story of Pelasgus and the Pelasgians. Hermes became a patron to them, the first of men in Greek mythology, and taught them things including how to worship the gods.

Continuing on with their occupations for a moment to cover two points, Azrael and Hermes are both unique that they can walk anywhere and are both conductors of dreams. Firstly, they are both nearly the only ones of their respective kinds that frequently travel between all three worlds (Heaven, Earth, and Hell). Azrael is unique from all of the other Angels for doing this, and Hermes is unique from almost every other god in that he travels the paths of the three worlds all the time. Though there are some other deities who can walk all of these roads too. Secondly, yes, Hermes is one who conducts dreams. There are other Greek gods who are also very related to sleep, such as Hypnos who rules over sleep, but the dynamic that all of those deities have is complex. Hermes is the one that is doing a lot of the conducting, but Morpheus arguably does his part as well. Azrael also conducts dreams, it helps with his ability to tell people (like Saints and Prophets) what God wants them to do. Azrael is also known to only speak in tricky metaphors when he does this, which relates him to Hermes even further because Hermes is known to be a humorous trickster type of deity. One of the first things Hermes ever did was devise a scheme that ended with stealing Apollo’s cattle.

Not only are Hermes and Azrael related on this note about their personalities, they are also related on how they are both portrayed to want to punish those that won’t believe (and/or those that won’t worship). Aristophanes infamously portrays Hermes as being the one to try to carry out justice on the Greeks when they refuse to worship the gods and instead start worshiping money and only pursuing the favor of money. Islam’s beliefs surrounding Azrael tell that he will punish those in Hell who were nonbelievers. The Apocalypse of Peter, one of the only Christian texts that is really related to Azrael at all, shows that Azrael will avenge all of the believers who were wronged by delivering justice to the nonbelievers that wronged them. While Azrael’s examples are much more extreme, this relation of both of them to the act of worship (something Hermes was responsible for teaching mankind according to the Greeks, see the Pelasgians mentioned earlier) and punishing those that won’t worship is certainly noteworthy.

Another big association that the two have is their joint link to Capricorn, the constellation that rules from mid to December to mid January. Capricorn is the goat, and under specific beliefs he is the goat god Pan. Pan is the son of Hermes in Greek mythology, which gives Hermes a direct line to Capricorn. So how is Azrael related to Capricorn? He is the Archangel of Capricorn. All of the zodiac constellations have an Angel and Archangel. So Azrael is the angelic representative of the very same constellation that depicts Hermes’s own son? Yes, and there is no clearer sign of a relation than that. Or is there…?

What is Azrael? An Archangel. An Angel. Azrael is an Angel. Hermes has another name he has been called, and that is Angelos. The origin of the word Angel relates back to that very same occupation that Hermes does. Angels are messengers. In this manner, all Angels are quite literally related to Hermes. He is the Angelos, they are the Angels. So why the focus on Azreael specifically? It’s about taking this fact into account and also taking into account every other similarity listed. He and Hermes aren’t just outright identical, but there’s so many things out there that tie the knots together that I could not resist but to write about it after studying this topic for just over a month.

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