Artus Quellinus, identified by his hat,
caduceus, winged sandals, cock
(rooster), and goa
Roman mythology, Mercury (associated with the
was a messenger,
 and a god of trade, profit and commerce,
the son of
Maia Maiestas, also known as
Ops, the Roman version of Rhea, and
Jupiter. His name is related to the Latin word
merx ("merchandise"; compare merchant,
three-headed image of a
interpreted as Mercury and now believed to
Mercury dime artist
Adolph Alexander Weinman "Wisdom"
Masonic Temple in
Wallace Stevens (October 2, 1879 –
August 2, 1955) was a American Modernist
Stevens, whose work was meditative and
philosophical, is very much a poet of ideas.
“The poem must resist the intelligence /
he wrote. Concerning the relation between
consciousness and the world, in
Stevens's work "imagination" is not
equivalent to consciousness nor is "reality"
equivalent to the world as it exists outside
our minds. Reality is the product of the
imagination as it shapes the world.To make
sense of the world is to construct a
worldview through an active exercise of the
imagination. This is no dry, philosophical
activity, but a passionate engagement in
finding order and meaning.
|Trickster in African American culture
|In his writings of the late 1980s,
Henry Louis Gates, Jr. presents the concept of
Signifyin(g). Wound up in this theory is the idea
that the “master’s house” can be “dismantled” using his
“tools” if the tools are used in a new or unconventional
way. To demonstrate this process, Gates cites the
interactions found in African American narrative poetry
between the trickster,
the Signifying Monkey, and his oppressor, the Lion.
According to Gates, the “Signifying Monkey” is the “New
World figuration” and “functional equivalent” of the
Eshu trickster figure of African Yoruba mythology.
The Lion functions as the authoritative figure in his
classical role of “King of the Jungle.”
He is the one who commands the Signifying Monkey’s
movements. Yet the Monkey is able to outwit the Lion
continually in these narratives through his usage of
figurative language. According to Gates, the Monkey uses the same language as the
Lion, but he uses it on a level that the Lion cannot
comprehend. This usually leads to the Lion’s “trouncing”
at the hands of a third-party, the Elephant.
The net effect of all of this is “the reversal of status as the King of the Jungle.”
In this way, the “master’s house” is dismantled when his
own tools are turned against him by the trickster
Another popular African American folk trickster,
Brer Rabbit, uses clever language to perform the
same kind of rebellious societal deconstruction as the
Signifying Monkey. Brer Rabbit is the “creative way that
the slave community responded to the oppressor’s failure
to address them as human beings created in the image of
Through his language of trickery, Brer Rabbit outwits
his oppressors, deconstructing, in small ways, the
hierarchy of subjugation to which his weak body forces
him to physically conform.
names include Exú, Esu Eleggua,
Esu Elegbara, Eshu Elegbara, Elegba,
Legba, and Eleda) is an
orisha, and one of the most known deities of the
Yoruba mythology and related
New World traditions.
|Thoth's other names include
Djehuty, Jehuti, Tahuti, Tehuti, Zehuti, Techu, or Tetu, Lord of
the Khemenu. One of Thoth's titles, "Three times great, great"
was translated to the Greek (Trismegistos) making
Thoth, like many Egyptian gods and nobility,
held many titles. Among these were "Scribe of Ma'at in the
Company of the Gods," "Lord of Ma'at," "Lord of Divine Words,"
"Judge of the Two Combatant Gods," "Judge of the Rekhekhui, the
pacifier of the Gods, who Dwelleth in Unnu, the Great God in the
Temple of Abtiti," "Twice Great," "Thrice Great,"" and "Three
Times Great, Great."
after the dime began circulating, many people began calling
it a “Mercury dime.” Mercury is the Roman god of
trade, property and wealth as well as messenger to the other
gods. Although not the original and intended name for the
new dime, the wings on the hat and the androgynous facial
features made the figure easily identified with the
messenger god and the term Mercury stuck. Mercury was the
Roman name for Hermes which was the Greek name for Thoth the
Egyptian deity who as tricksters play key roles in the many
mythical stories of the gods. The best known name from the
African Orishas is Eshu.
Wednesday is Mercury's day
Mercury generally does not
act on his own, but at the behest of some other god. His many adventures
and his assignment as guide of the dead to Hades, made him the patron
god of travelers. But his tricks also made him patron of thieves. The
Romans also made him god of merchants and he lent his name to
"mercantilism". Wednesday was his day of the week. This day the Romans
called "Mercurii dies", which survives in the names for that day in many
of the Romance languages, such as the Spanish, "miércoles". We also find
Mercury lending his fame, in a "mercurial" manner, to a number of other
objects, which also relates to the unpredictable patterns observed in
the planet named after him.
Dime 1916 - 1946
Under 1890 law,
changes could not be made to a coin design without approval from
than every 25 years. The Barber coinage (dime, quarter and
half dollar) was to reach that mark in 1916 and the mint wasted
no time in making the changes, in fact starting the process
In 1915, US Mint
Director Robert W. Woolley offered the opportunity to three
noted sculptors, Adolph A Weinman, Albin Polasek and Herman A. MacNeil to prepare designs for three silver coins. Weinman
ended up getting two of his designs as the winning designs.
One being what would become known as the Walking Liberty Half
and the Mercury Dime. MacNeil won the design for the
quarter with Polasek getting shut out.
in studio, ca. 1915
Adolph A. Weinman
was born in Germany and came to the US at the age of 10 in 1880.
He was a student of well known sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens.
Saint-Gaudens is also credited with some outstanding coin
designs. By 1915 when the design process began, Weinman
was widely celebrated as one of the nation’s best sculptors.
|At the wondrous 1915 San
represented by his sculpture The Rising Sun meanwhile
the official medal for the world's fair featured Mercury
which would soon debut on the Mercury Dime
The design of the
Mercury dime is that of a “Winged Liberty” and is based on a
bust that Weinman did in 1913 of Elsie Kachel Stevens, wife of
well-known poet Wallace Stevens, who happened to be tenants of a
New York City apartment building owned by Weinman.
The art work was presented as a depiction of the
mythological goddess Liberty wearing a Phrygian cap, a classic
symbol of liberty and freedom, with its wings intended to
symbolize freedom of thought.
Wallace Stevens is now considered one of America's
greatest poets but he did not
his first book of poems till late in life. His poems connect to the
Mercury dime in that they often adopt meditative attitudes that
are corollaries to earlier spiritual longings that persist in
the unconscious currents of our imaginations both individually
“The poem refreshes life so that we share, / For a moment, the first idea
. . . It satisfies / Belief in an immaculate beginning / And
sends us, winged by an unconscious will, / To an immaculate
The reverse of the
coin depicts the fasces, an ancient symbol of authority, with a
battle-ax at the top to represent preparedness and an olive
branch beside it to signify love and peace and authority.
"The test of our
progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of
those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for
those who have too little."
|Franklin D. Roosevelt - 32nd US
dime served Americans through two world wars ending its run
in 1945. With the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt
in 1945, there was a strong movement to honor the president
and in 1946 the Roosevelt dime began production and is still
Thoth Created Our Calendar
festival days, outside of ordinary time to 360 by beating the moon at dice
Thoth is credited with the creation of the 365 day calendar
later adopted by Julius Ceasar for the Roman world and
eventually the planet. Originally, according to the myth, the
year was only 360 days long and Nut was sterile during these
days, unable to bear children.
when, when Re was ruler of all on earth, Re overheard a prophecy
that the sky goddess Nut would one day have a son that would
replace him on the throne. Outraged, he cast a spell that
forbade Nut to ever give birth to any child on any day of the
year. Nut was naturally quite saddened by this so she turned to
Thoth, the ibis-head god of wisdom and writing- because if
anyone could outsmart the spell, it would be Thoth.
Thoth hatched a plan. He visited Khonsu, the
moon god who loved to play the dice game senet. Thoth challenged
Khonsu to a game to play for some of Khonsu's moonlight.
Thoth gambled with Khonsu for 1/72nd of its light (360/72 = 5),
or 5 days, and won.
Thoth returned to Nut with five extra days' worth of light.
Thoth inserted these five bonus days between the last day of one
year and the first day of the next. Since these days were not
part of any year, Nut was able to use them to have her children
despite Re's curse! Osiris- who would indeed go on to replace Re
as the ruler on earth- was born on the first day. On the second
day Nut had Set, followed in order by Isis on the third day,
Nephthys on the fourth, and Harmachis [Horus the Elder] on the
number 72 was been revered for as long as humanity
wondered why we were here and how we related to the
72 years = 1
degree shift in the night sky
1 sign of the
zodiac =72 x 30 = 2160 years
2 signs of the
zodiac 72 x 60 = 4320 years.
Full Circle 72 x
360 = 25,920 years
5 x 72 = 360
degrees of a full cycle
360 = 365 solar
cycle - 5 days
360 = 355 lunar
cycle + 5 days
The Egyptian year began with the autumn
equinox. The year was divided into 12 months of 30 days with 5
or 6 days added at the end but not counted as a part of any
month. These were festival days or time outside of time. Some
consider the origin for the 5 days of Carnaval. In Ptolemaic
times, when the priests made active use of science, the earth's
around the sun of 365 and 1/4 days was addressed by adding a 6th day
every four years and calling it Thoth's day. However this was
unpopular and later dropped which brought back the problem of
aligning the New Year festival in July, marked by the annual
rising of the star Sirius, with the calendar year as shifts in
the calendar grew over time.
Meanwhile Khonsu was left so exhausted that
from that moment on, he could no longer shine a full moon every
night. As he got weaker and weaker, the moon got smaller and
smaller, until he had to go into hiding to recuperate. As his
strength returned, the moon would gradually become larger and
larger until it became a full moon- but only for a night; then
Khonsu would be sapped of all his strength and the moon would
promises the Goddess of the Waters great processions and
|The Egyptians credited Thoth as the author of
all works of science, religion, philosophy, and magic.
He was also known as a good counsellor and persuasive speaker.
In one version of an ancient myth Thoth and Shu were sent by Ra
to persuade the "eye of Ra" (in this version usually in the form
of Tefnut) to come home when she left Egypt for Nubia.
famous and possibly first novel ever is
Ass which was written in Latin in the
second century AD by Lucius
Apuleius. He was a priest in service to Isis then in
competition with Christianity. He boldly claimed he
the last laugh. The novel finishes with a procession
dedicated to the Goddess Isis which could be described
as Carnaval like.
According to the myth, all of the precious
water left Egypt with her causing the land to become parched and dry. Meanwhile she was
rampaging around Nubia killing animals and humans and drinking
their blood. Thoth and Shu disguised themselves as baboons (an
animal sacred to Thoth) and began their search for the wayward
goddess. However, when they found her she refused to come home
because she was perfectly happy where she was. Thoth told her
that Egypt missed her terribly and that the whole land was
suffering in her absence and he promised her great processions
and celebrations if she would come home. Eventually she agreed,
won round by his extravagant tales and the three returned to
Egypt accompanied by Nubian musicians, dancers and baboons. They
traveled up the Nile from city to city, bringing back the
water, and there was much rejoicing.
"In Eshu we meet a deity whose lawlessness
and tricks not only keep us on our toes, but
point us towards the most creative
components of destiny, the free zones of
Trickster at the Crossroads
Erik Davis originally
published in Jay Kinney's
2006, the book The Visionary State: A Journey
Through California's Spiritual Landscape was
published by Chronicle Books. A collaboration
between Davis and photographer Michael Rauner,
it explores the peculiar attraction California
holds for seekers of all kinds.
|Representations of the Classical god Mercury
are frequently identified by wings attached to petasos hat.
A petasos is a style of hat, usually
made of wool felt, leather or straw, with a broad, floppy brim.
It was worn primarily by farmers and travellers in classical
times, and was considered characteristic of rural people. The
pilos is the brimless version of the petasos.
The mercury dime features an androgynous face
and a pilos hat with the wings most associated with the Roman
messenger god Mercury and his Greek counterpart Hermes.
|Mercury was extremely popular among the
nations the Roman Empire conquered; Julius Caesar wrote of
Mercury being the most popular god in Britain and Gaul, regarded
as the inventor of all the arts.
associated Mercury with the Germanic god Wotan, by
interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus
identifies the two as being the same, and describes him as the
chief god of the Germanic peoples. Julius Caesar, in a section
of his "Gallic Wars" describing the customs of the German
tribes, wrote "The Germans most worship Mercury," apparently
identifiyng Wotan with Mercury.
In Celtic areas, Mercury was sometimes
portrayed with three heads or faces, and at Tongeren, Belgium, a
statuette of Mercury with three phalli was found, with the extra
two protruding from his head and replacing his nose; this was
probably because the number 3 was considered magical, making
such statues good luck and fertility charms. The Romans also
made widespread use of small statues of Mercury, probably
drawing from the ancient Greek tradition of hermae markers.
Thoth was also prominent in the
Osiris myth, being of great aid to Isis. After
Isis gathered together the pieces of Osiris'
dismembered body, he gave her the words to
resurrect him so she could be impregnated and
bring forth Horus. When Horus was slain, Thoth
gave the formulae to resurrect him as well.
Similar to God speaking the words to create the
heavens and Earth in Judeo-Christian mythology,
Thoth, being the god who always speaks the words
that fulfill the wishes of Ra, spoke the words
that created the heavens and Earth in Egyptian
Thoth, in one of his forms as an
ibis-headed man the Greeks' interpretation that he
was the same as Hermes
Sometimes, Thoth was depicted as a baboon holding up a
crescent moon, as the baboon was seen as a
nocturnal, and intelligent, creature. The
association with baboons led to him occasionally
being said to have as a consort Astennu, one of the
(male) baboons at the place of judgment in the
underworld, and on other occasions, Astennu was said
to be Thoth himself.
Thoth served as a mediating
power, especially between good and evil, making sure neither had
a decisive victory over the other. He also served as scribe of
the gods, credited with the invention of writing and alphabets (ie.
hieroglyphs) themselves. In the underworld, he is the god of
equilibrium, who reported when the scales weighing the
deceased's heart against the feather, representing the principle
of Ma'at, was exactly even.
| "Many native traditions held clowns and
tricksters as essential to any contact with the sacred. People
could not pray until they had laughed, because laughter opens
and frees from rigid preconception. Humans had to have
tricksters within the most sacred ceremonies for fear that they
forget the sacred comes through upset, reversal, surprise. The
trickster in most native traditions is essential to creation, to
---George Carlin (May
12, 1937 – June 22, 2008)
|One of the greatest tricksters of his generation.
| “Everywhere one looks among premodern
peoples, there are tricky mythical beings alike enough to entice
any human mind to create a category for them once it had met two
or three. They are beings of the beginning, working in some
complex relationship with the High God; transformers, helping to
bring the present human world into being; performers of heroic
acts on behalf of men, yet in their original form. or in some
later form, foolish, obscene, laughable, yet indomitable”
---Robert D. Pelton,
The Trickster in West Africa
|Trickster is the mythic embodiment of
ambiguity and ambivalence, doubleness and duplicity,
contradiction and paradox”