While reading Hermes Guide of Souls: The Mythologem of the Masculine Source of Life by Karl Kerènyi I came across the following passage describing the nature of Odysseus’s journeying and the special patronage of Hermes over Odysseus:
“We previously called the Odyssey a journey epic, and we must now imagine the often experienced reality of ‘journeying’ as something very special, in contradistinction to ‘roaming’ or ‘travelling.’ Odysseus is not a ‘traveller.’ He is a ‘journeyer,’ not simply because of his moving from place to place, but because of his existential situation. The traveller, despite his motion, adheres to a solid base, albeit one that is not narrowly circumscribed. With each step, he takes possession of another piece of earth. This taking possession is, of course, only psychological. In that with each extension of the horizon he also expands himself, his claim of possession on the earth expands continuously as well. But he remains always bound to a solid earth beneath his feet, and he even looks for human fellowship. At every hearth that he encounters he lays claim to a kind of native citizenship for himself. … His guardian is not Hermes, but Zeus, the god of the widest horizon and the firmest ground. In contrast, the situation of the journeyer is defined by movement, fluctuation. To someone more deeply rooted, even to the traveler, he appears to be always in flight. In reality, he makes himself vanish (‘volatizes himself’) to everyone, also to himself. Everything around him becomes to him ghostly and improbable, and even his own reality appears to him as ghostlike. He is completely absorbed by movement, but never by a human community that would tie him down.
The journeyer is at home while underway, at home on the road itself, the road being understood not as a connection between two definite points on the earth’s surface, but as a particular world. It is the ancient world of the path, also of the ‘wet paths’ … of the sea, which are above all, the genuine roads of the earth. For, unlike the Roman highways which cut unmercifully straight through the countryside, they run snakelike, shaped like irrationally waved lines, conforming to the contours of the land, winding, yet leading everywhere. Being open to everywhere is part of their nature. Nevertheless, they form a world in its own right, a middle-domain, where a person in that volatized condition has access to everything. He who moves about familiarly in this world-of-the-road has Hermes for his God, for it is here that the most salient aspect of Hermes’s world is portrayed. Hermes is constantly underway: he is enodios (‘by the road’) and hodios (‘belonging to a journey’), and one encounters him on every path. … His role as leader and guide is often cited and celebrated, and, at least since the time of the Odyssey, he is also called angelos (‘messenger’), the messenger of the Gods.” (pp. 13-15)