“Hermaphroditos’ themes are balance, masculinity, femininity, honor, reason and leadership. Symbols are two-sided items and Yin/Yang symbols.  This androgynous deity was once the son of Hermes, but he loved the nymph Salmakis so much that the lovers became one body and soul, neither the male nor the female being discernible. In this form, Hermaphroditos reminds us that the Goddess is also God, blending the best of both sexes together into powerful, productive energy.

At the midpoint of the year we take a moment’s pause from the Goddess to honor Her consort and other half, the God, represented by fathers everywhere. Take time to thank the special men in your life and pamper them today. Ask Hermaphroditos to show you the Goddess within them, and how God and Goddess work together, making each person unique.

In magic traditions, the God aspect is the conscious, logical force of the universe who offers us the attributes of leadership, reason and focus.

This persona and energy is part of the Goddess – one cannot be serparated from the other.

This is a good day to look withing yourself, find both aspects of the divine and concentrate on bringing them into balance. If you’re normally headstrong, back off a bit. If you’re normally a wallflower, get daring! If you like to plan, become spontaneous – and so forth. Hermaphroditos will show you the way.”

(Patricia Telesco, “365 Goddess: a daily guide to the magic and inspiration of the goddess”.)

“The Nymph Salmacis and Hermaphroditus” by François-Joseph Navez

“In Greek mythology, Hermaphroditus was the son of Hermes, messenger of the gods, and Aphrodite, Goddess of love.  The boy was so beautiful that a nymph named Salmacis fell in love with him and prayed that they would be united forever. The gods granted her the wish one day when Hermaphroditus came to the fountain where she lived. As he was bathing, Salmacis embraced him and pulled him underneath the water, and their bodies merged into one. The result was a person with the figure and breasts of a woman but with the sex organs of a man.

Other versions of the story claim that any man who bathed in the fountain was transformed into a half man, half woman just like Hermaphroditus. It was also said that the waters of the fountain caused anyone who drank from it to grow weak. The original story appears in the [Book IV of] Metamorphoses by the Roman poet Ovid. The English writer Edmund Spenser includes the notion of such a pool, which weakened those who drank from it, in the Faerie Queene.” [1]

“Hermaphroditus’ name is derived from those of his parents, Aphrodite and Hermes [and is the basis for the word hermaphrodite].  All three of these gods figure largely into the Greek tradition of fertility gods and all possess distinctly sexual overtones. Sometimes, Hermaphroditus is referred to as Aphroditus. Half-siblings of Hermaphroditus include the phallic god Priapus and the youthful god of desire Eros.

Contrary to Patricia Telesco’s account, another version of Hermaphroditus’ story goes like this: “Hermaphroditus was raised by nymphs on Mount Ida, a sacred mountain in Phrygia. At the age of fifteen, he grew bored of his surroundings and traveled the cities of Lycia and Caria. It was in the woods of Caria that he encountered Salmacis the Naiad in her pool. She is overcome by lust for the boy, and tries to seduce him, but is rejected. When he thinks her to be gone, Hermaphroditus undresses and enters the waters of the empty pool. Salmacis springs out from behind a tree and jumps into the pool. She wraps herself around the boy, forcibly kissing him and touching his breast. While he struggles, she calls out to the gods in prayer that they should never part. Her wish is granted, and their bodies blend into one intersexual form. Hermaphroditus, in his grief, makes his own prayer: cursing the pool so that any other who bathes within it shall be transformed as well.” [3]

“Salmacis and Hermaphroditus” by Jean François de Troy

Salmacis is a very interesting character to me.  “In Greek mythology, Salmacis was an atypical naiad who rejected the ways of the virginal Greek goddess Artemis in favour of vanity and idleness. Her attempted rape of Hermaphroditus places her as the only nymph rapist in the Greek mythological canon (though see also Dercetis).

‘There dwelt a Nymph, not up for hunting or archery:
unfit for footraces. She the only Naiad not in Diana’s band.
Often her sisters would say: “Pick up a javelin, or
bristling quiver, and interrupt your leisure for the chase!”
But she would not pick up a javelin or arrows,
nor trade leisure for the chase.
Instead she would bathe her beautiful limbs and tend to her hair,
with her waters as a mirror.’

Ovid, Metamorphoses. Book IV, 306-312.

“The Water Nymph” by Herbert James Draper

In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, she becomes one with Hermaphroditus, and Hermaphroditus curses the fountain to have the same effect on others. However, it’s very likely that Ovid fabricated the entire tale himself – his use of ‘praetereo, dulcique animos novitate tenebo’ could be read in several ways, as ‘novitate’ could be translated as either something strange or something new, which would imply that it was a new tale. Salmacis could also have been intended simply as a contrast to the previous tales in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, as others involve a dominant male pursuing an elusive female.” [4]

One blogger writes that this minor Greco-Roman deity of bisexuality, effeminacy, sexuality and fertility “except for one myth of his own life appears no where else in Greek or Roman mythology .  His character suggests very little about his personality.  Hermaphroditus is literally the combination of the male and female aspects, which I suppose, depending on how you look at it, can be both a positive and a negative trait.  But considering his final wish, Hermaphroditus sounds like an angry and bitter person, one who wishes others ill in order to make them suffer the pain he also suffered.  There was no logical reason for him to ask for the pool to be cursed (but then, when has anything truly been logical in myths?)” [5]

Herm of Aphroditus at the Nationalmuseum in Stockholm.

“The oldest traces of the cult in Greek countries are found in Cyprus. Here, according to Macrobius (Saturnalia, iii. 8), there was a bearded statue of a male Aphrodite, called Aphroditos by AristophanesPhilochorus in his Atthis (ap. Macrobius loc. cit.) further identified this divinity, at whose sacrifices men and women exchanged garments, with the Moon. A terracotta plaque from the 7th century BC depicting Aphroditos was found in Perachora, which suggests it was an archaic cult.

The deification and the origins of the cult of hermaphrodite beings stem from Eastern religions (see Ardhanarishvara – the composite androgynous form of the Hindu god Shiva and his consort Parvat), where the hermaphrodite nature expressed the idea of a primitive being that united both genders. This double sex also attributed to Dionysus and Priapus – the union in one being of the two principles of generation and conception – denotes extensive fertilizing and productive powers.

This Cyprian Aphrodite is the same as the later Hermaphroditos, which simply means Aphroditos in the form of a herm (see Hermae), and first occurs in the Characters (16) of Theophrastus.  After its introduction at Athens (probably in the 5th century BCE), the importance of this deity seems to have declined. It appears no longer as the object of a special cult, but limited to the homage of certain sects, expressed by superstitious rites of obscure significance.” [6]




Hellenica, “Hermaphroditus“.

Myths Encyclopedia, “Hermaphroditus“.

Sita. A Witchy Life, “Weekly Deity: Hermaphroditus“.

Wikipedia, “Hermaphroditus“.

Wikipedia, “Salmacis“.



Suggested Links:

Theoi Greek Mythology, “HERMAPHRODITOS“.

Wikipedia, “Aphroditus“.

Wikipedia, “Metamorphoses“.

Wikipedia, “Salmacis (fountain)“.