Friday, January 13, 2012

#Pagan Blog Project: Week II

This week was a bit tougher on finding a topic. First I was going to do Astral Travel/projection vs Myoclonic Twitch/Hypnagogic Jerk. Then someone brouht up an ancient 13th zodiac that starts with an 'A'. She called it Aranean and based on Arachne. No it's not Ophiuchus, I looked all over the net, and found nothing so I ordered the book she's reading from, and a couple others. I don't feel right on blogging about info that I don't have all the info on. I could have done many gods and goddesses, like Artemis, Athena, Apollo, Anubis, Atum, Aten, Amun, Angrbodha, Astrild, Atla, etc... but many are doing the deities. So, looking much like my favorite bear, Winnie-ther-Pooh, I tell myself, "Think, Jeaux, think about something you know." Then it hit me like a fast ball in the outfield.

The Staff of Asciepius vs. The Caduceus Wand

The Staff of Asclepius (Æsclepius, Asklepios)
      [Personification of Medical or healing Art and its ideals]
Professional and patient centred organisations (such as the NZMA, in fact most medical Associations around the world including the World Health Organization) use the "correct" and traditional symbol of medicine, the staff of Asclepius with a single serpent encircling a staff, classically a rough-hewn knotty tree limb. Asclepius (an ancient greek physician deified as the god of medicine) is traditionally depicted as a bearded man wearing a robe that leaves his chest uncovered and holding a staff with his sacred single serpent coiled around it, (example right) symbolizing renewal of youth as the serpent casts off its skin. The single serpent staff also appears on a Sumerian vase of c. 2000 B.C. representing the healing god Ningishita, the prototype of the Greek Asklepios.

Asclepius was most probably a skilled physician who practised in Greece around 1200BC (and described in Homer's Iliad). Eventually through myth and legend he came to be worshipped as Asclepius, the (Greek) god of Healing.
The Myth: Asclepius is the god of Healing. He is the son of Apollo and the nymph, Coronis. While pregnant with Asclepius, Coronis secretly took a second, mortal lover. When Apollo found out, he sent Artemis to kill her. While burning on the funeral pyre, Apollo felt pity and rescued the unborn child from the corpse. Asclepius was taught about medicine and healing by the wise centaur, Cheiron, and became so skilled in it that he succeeded in bringing one of his patients back from the dead. Zeus felt that the immortality of the Gods was threatened and killed the healer with a thunderbolt. At Apollo's request, Asclepius was placed among the stars as Ophiuchus, the serpent-bearer. (Like the wheel this brings me somewhat back to the 13th zodiac. I will be talking more about that in the months to come. Especially since Astrology really interests me.)
The staff as a Medical symbol: From the early 16th century onwards, the staff of Asclepius and the caduceus of Hermes were widely used as printers’ marks especially as frontispieces to pharmacopoeias in the 17th and 18th centuries. Over time the rod and serpent (the Asclepian staff) emerged as an independent symbol of medicine.

The Caduceus of Mercury (Roman) and the Karykeion of Hermes (Greek)
Many "medical" organisations use a symbol of a short rod entwined by two snakes and topped by a pair of wings, which is actually the caduceus or magic wand of the Greek godHermes (Roman Mercury), messenger of the gods, inventor of (magical) incantations, conductor of the dead and protector of merchants and thieves. It is derived from the Greek karykeion = "herald's staff", itself based on the word "eruko" meaning restrain, control.
The Greek Hermes found his analogue in Egypt as the ancient Wisdom god Thoth, as Taaut of the Phoenicians and in Rome as the god Mercury (all linked with a magic rod with twin snakes).
The mythical origin of his magic twin serpent caduceus is described in the story of Tiresias. Poulenc, in "Les Mamelles de Tiresias" (The Breasts of Tiresias) tells how Tiresias--the seer who was so unhelpful to Oepidus and Family- found two snakes copulating, and to separate them stuck his staff between them. Immediately he was turned into a woman, and remained so for seven years, until he was able to repeat his action, and change back to male. The transformative power in this story, strong enough to completely reverse even physical polarities of male and female, comes from the union of the two serpents, passed on by the wand. Tiresias' staff, complete with serpents, was later passed on to Hermes...

A description of the Caduceus of Hermes (Mercury)is that the serpents may represent positive and negative kundalini as it moves through the chakras and around the spine (the staff) to the head where it communicates with MIND by intellection, the domain of Mercury [wings].
The caduceus as a Medical symbol: The link between Hermes and his caduceus and medicine seems to have arisen by Hermes links with alchemy. Alchemists were referred to as the sons of Hermes, as Hermetists or Hermeticists and as "practitioners of the hermetic arts". By the end of the sixteenth century, the study of alchemy included not only medicine and pharmaceuticals but chemistry, mining and metallurgy. Despite learned opinion that it is the single snake staff of Asclepius that is the proper symbol of medicine, many medical groups have adopted the twin serpent caduceus of Hermes or Mercury as a medical symbol during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Despite the unequivocal claim of the staff of Asclepius to represent medicine (and healing), the caduceus, a rod with two entwined serpents topped by a pair of wings appears to be the more popular symbol of medicine in the United States, probably due to simple confusion between the caduceus and the staff of Asclepius, the true symbol of medicine. Many people use the word caduceus to mean both of these emblems.

In closing.. When my husband went to school to become an EMT, I studied up to find him a pendent he could wear on the job as a pagan, and found that since these healing symbols are used in modern times, I was able to find him a Caduceus with a pentacle at the head.

Now I know these blogs will get tougher and tougher if I insist on remaining unique and not blogging about topics others have picked. My goal is to bring my readers something new, and unique.

Have A Happy Friday the 13th & A Blessed Week!


  1. I may redo this blog. It, as I said as mainly my research for my husband's amulet that I did for him while he studied to be an EMT. Haven't decided yet.

  2. Fantastic - and very informative - thank you x

  3. Thank you Lesley. Guess I made the right choice after all.

  4. Love this post! Very informative. I'm learning so much! :)