Hermetica: Myths, Legends, Poems (September, 2007) is a homeric journey into the night where the world of dreams and symbols has sculpted our mythological past.
Using the language of alchemy, astrology and magic this tome seeks to reconstruct the lost bonds between old myths contained in the oral folklore of Ancient Egypt; stories which once served as the backbone of a religion centred around Osirian ritual – the cosmic cycles of death, dismemberment and resurrection.
It also contains a sequel to the popular Middle Egyptian tale, The Story of the Shipwrecked Sailor; a visual and dramatic interpretation of the passion of Osiris; an astrological allegory of the war between the heavenly bodies and a hermetic saga between a white witch and her mirror. The accompanying collection of poetry is a homage to the alchemy of love.
This book had a strange effect on me. I found as I began reading it that I was mesmerized by the poems and stories. It engaged me from the beginning to the end and I had a hard time putting it down. I applaud the author’s style of combining both collections of poetry and his own interpretations of myths and legends.
In the introduction, the author describes the contents of the book “’Hermetica: Myths, Legends, Poems’ is a collection of both poetry and my own renditions of epic myths and legends. Its title comes not only from the fact that was influenced by Hermetic literature but also because it concerns itself with alchemy, primarily the alchemy of love.” (page xvii) “He has complete faith that true love does exist and writes as elusive as it may be, true love does exist and anyone can find it present in their life if they are really open to such.” (page xvii)
The poems and stories that follow captured my attention and took me on many adventures. The first section on poetics contains poetry that includes alchemy, magic, astrology, myths, wisdom, music and erotica. The second section contains seven mythical stories that deliver messages to the reader. The author pays tribute to the love story of Osiris and Isis and the events leading up to Osiris’ death and through his resurrection. Several other stories are included including a popular one from the Middle Ages, “The Tale of the Shipwrecked Sailor.”
Throughout time oral and written stories have been used to teach people morals and lessons. Even the Bible is full of the parables taught by Jesus using examples to teach people new ideas and lessons. In “Hermetica: Myths, Legends, Poems,” the author does a great job with intertwining ancient stories with today’s themes. As a former resident of the Hawaiian Islands, I especially enjoyed the poems about the islands and the volcano goddess Pele. If you enjoy myths, legends and poetry, then this book is for you.
- Reviewed by Cherie Fisher for Reader Views (2/08)
“Hermetica” is a captivating literary collection of myths, legends and poems. In the preface to the book, the author, Paul Kiritsis explains to us the differences among three different classes of folklore. First, there are myths which often take place far, far in the past and are generally accepted as true. Second, we have legends which “are set in a remembered or historical time and presented as undisputed truth, often being more secular than religious.” (p. xiv) Lastly, there are folktales which are fictional stories.
Kiritsis gives us a history lesson on the origin of folklore which started in Ancient Egypt. He then describes to us one of the greatest myths of all time, and also the first love story, which is about Osiris and Isis. Throughout this literary collection Kiritsis seeks to expand on this ancient myth with his own renditions of the events that occurred.
The title of the book, “Hermetica,” was derived “not only from the fact that it was influenced by Hermetic literature but also because it concerns itself with alchemy, primarily the alchemy of love.” (p. xvii) The book is divided into two different sections which are poems and verse drama. The poetry section consists of six different subsections: alchemica, astrologica, mythologica, philosophica, musica, and erotica. The second section, containing verse drama, is composed of seven different short stories including the author’s prequel to the known myth of Osiris and Isis.
Kiritsis is a very creative and talented writer. He obviously is wonderfully educated in the subjects he writes of and this definitely shines through in his stories. Not unlike ancient oral and written literature, Kiritsis’ stories also have lessons to teach. His words will whisk you back to a time long ago and keep you there until the last page is turned.
Although I enjoyed both parts of the book I would have to say that I enjoyed the second part with the myths and legends the most. Once I started reading that section it was hard for me to put the book down until I saw how everything played out. I think anyone who enjoys poetry, myths, legends or just a general escape from books set in modern day, would enjoy this unique literary collection – “Hermetica: Myths, Legends, Poems.”
- Reviewed by Kam Aures for RebeccasReads (4/08)
Experienced author & poet Paul Kiritsis is back with “Hermetica: Myths, Legends, Poems”. A look at the ancient world, filled with the history and legends of how these ancient traditions came into being, and the mourning that due to certain circumstances, some of these ancient traditions and literature are lost. A deftly composed and compiled collection, “Hermetica: Myths, Legends, Poems” is a top pick for literature readers in general, and for community library collections catering to them. Teardrop: I hid your essence, that small bundle of boy, As the vowel in a harmonic minor, And floated it along the scale/ of my silent consonants-//Seducing midnight/with folk songs/Of love found/And love lost.//Warming her heart/with bittersweet words/That delivered us/As a teardrop/From her eye.
- Midwest Book Review
Some unevenness in his first effort is made up for in his more focused second book, Hermetica: Myths, Legends Poems. Featuring 65 poems divided into six sections, and seven myths and legends examined or retold at the end, the 282-page follow-up offers an ambitious sweep through time and human emotion. It astounds me that both books were released within a year of each other. (Origin in 2006, Hermetica in 2007).
Once again, we begin in the thick of ancient Egypt, and the author introduces us to this world through a very well-written and researched preface. A nice sun/moon/gryphon graphic opens each section, along with mood setting, prefatory quotes ranging from Shakespeare to Thornton Wilder.
Overall, there is a higher level of poetic achievement in this second collection. I have no idea of the author’s personal background, but it feels as if he met someone and fell in love, and that interaction positively affected his work. Individual poems are sharper and more distinguishable from one another, including some especially wonderful ones in the Erotica section, such as “Theories of Migration” and “Without You”.
I would be remiss not to mention the photography of Isaac Crummey, which adds an elegant dimension to the book overall, as well as in the juxtaposition of specific photographs with individual poems. In an unusual move, the photographs are not set in square blocks, but almost as if brush stroked in on the edges. When looking at the pages, the poetry text does not have a glossy feel, yet the printed photographs have a glowing sheen to them when viewed at an angle. I’m still trying to figure out how this effect was achieved, and am very impressed with the final result.
Through both books, the author takes us on his personal journey to a greater plane of living: learning about the past through self-examination and exploring ones passions (through travel, experience, etc.), and in the process learning about oneself and one’s place in the world. I felt I was sharing time with someone I loved against the dramatic landscape of Hawaii in some poems, or was a physically present eyewitness as dramatic events played out in ancient Egypt in other poems and works. One these levels, both books work very well.
While the first 108 pages are set aside solely for poems and photos (and the six individual sections were uniformly tight), the bulk of the book is given to seven myths and legends, including his sequel to “The Shipwrecked Sailor,” a piece of Egyptian literature which dates to approximately 2000 B.C.E. The section opener, the imaginative and impressive “Creation Myth,” is a 60-page piece in a format that feels like free verse, evoking the tradition of epic poetry. Of the others, I especially enjoyed “The Flawed Mirror.”
Both books are nicely printed, with good binding and decent interior pages. The addition of full-color to the front and back covers of Hermetica is a nice touch.
It is my understanding that the author’s third book will be a kind of travel memoir, recounting his trips to Greece, Egypt and other points in the world. I enjoyed sharing the first two parts of his journey, and look forward to sharing the third.
- David Messineo, Executive Editor of Sensations Magazine, Fall/Winter 2007 Issue – page 345.
This is a serious book of poetry that contains a lot of thought as well as hard work. Hermetica by Paul Kiritsis has poems that are mythic, personal and philosophical. Some of this is based directly on the mysteries of ancient Egyptian legend and religion, some is more eclectic in terms of subject matter. I particularly enjoyed the Hawaiian based poems, such as “Maui” which introduces the hero of that name. The sections are good and clear and give the reader some guidance in the volume. Overall, this should be of interest to readers who enjoy a journey into the esoteric realms that poetry makes possible.
- Writer’s Digest
Disparate cultures around the world have similar stories and myths about the exploits of their gods and heroes. Joseph Campbell said one explanation for these similarities is that “the human psyche is essentially the same all over the world…[and] out of this common ground have come what Jung has called archetypes, which are the common ideas of myths.” Author Paul Kiritsis has tapped into a vein overflowing with the ichors of archetypes. He has transcribed the magical essence of traditional oral storytelling on paper, which is no small feat.
Hermetica is comprised of two parts. The first part, “Poetics,” contains six separate sections of poetry—”Alchemica,” “Astrologica,” “Mythologica,” “Philosophica,” “Musica,” and “Erotica.” The book’s second part, “Verse Drama,” includes a retelling of the story of the Egyptian god Osiris in an epic poetical narrative reminiscent of Homer’s The Iliad. It also adds new twists to other myths, including “The Battle of Amun-Re and Isis” and “The Contendings of Hathor and Anti.” Kiritsis also includes a clever alternate version of Snow White called “The Flawed Mirror,” a story that deals with the interactions between the witch and her mirror. When the witch notices large cracks in the mirror, Kiritsis writes:
WITCH: That is odd. Those fractures were not there before.
MIRROR: No, they have always been there. Perhaps in your ignorance, you have never noticed them.
WITCH: So man is a mirror of the universe, is he not?
MIRROR: Quite so.
In these scant lines the author reveals the importance and powers of myth, alchemy and magic as a reflection of the modern reader’s struggles with the psychology and philosophy of a de-humanized twenty-first century Western society.
The author’s poetry in the “Poetics” section is less successful. It is filled with forced rhyme and rhythms, and simply doesn’t work as entertainment or enlightenment. As a practitioner of alchemy and magic the author’s main goal is to create an ode to love. While this is an ambitious endeavor, the clumsiness of the verse takes away from the overall meaning of his work. Kiritsis also provides photographs that are designed to enhance the beauty of the verses, but they end up being a distraction to the reader because of their poor quality.
Despite its shortcomings, Kiritsis’s book takes readers on a hermetic and orphic journey into the past to explore the myths that are building blocks of the human psyche.
- Lee Gooden from ForeWord Clarion