I have always been very anxious or keen on stories about mythology. As a teenager I kept a little notebook wherein I made it a hobby to write down the name of every Greek, Roman or Egyptian god or demigod I could find, with a short description of their personality or attributes. I must still have it somewhere…
One day my ears pricked up when I learned about this most mystical of all symbols, named the most powerful occult symbol of all…. the “Symbol of mystical illumination”, the rod of Hermes: the Caduceus. I never noticed it before, but once I heard about this I saw this symbol everywhere. It is a commonly used symbol now for every mystical, esoteric branch you can think of, sometimes in combination with a possibly just as powerful other symbol, the ankh. It stuns me how in some countries the caduceus is used as a symbol for the practice of medicine. This is of course totally skewed. The symbol for medicine is the rod of Asclepius, and certainly nót the caduceus, unless medicine is a very esoteric and mysterious, secret business. (But then… maybe it is after all…)
The caduceus is the rod of the Greek god Hermes, named Mercury in Roman mythology. The attribute is comprised of two entwined snakes around a rod with wings and a pinecone on top of it. Sometimes it is not a pinecone but a torch. As you see in the photo above, the rod of Asclepius is a rod with one snake around it, and this is the correct symbol for medicine. Perhaps there is a link too to the story of Moses, holding up the snake in the desert, in the Old Testament of the Bible.
I found this quote about Hermes:
“For human mortals, Hermes is the god of eloquence, commerce, cunning, astronomy, music, and the art of fighting. As a god of commerce, Hermes is also known as the inventor of the alphabet, numbers, measures, and weights. As the god of the art of fighting, Hermes is a patron of gymnastics. According to Greek mythology, Hermes also cultivated the olive tree and provides refreshing sleep as well as dreams. Additionally, he is the herdsman of the dead, the protector of travelers, the giver of wealth and luck, and he protector of sacrificial animals, among other things.
For gods, Hermes is credited with inventing divine worship and sacrifice. Hermes is the herald of the gods.”
Gill, N.S. “Facts About the Olympian God Hermes.” ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/fast-facts-about-hermes-116583.
As you see, medicine is not listed. Notable things about Hermes:
- Most of the time we see him holding the caduceus (a gift from Apollo)
- He is often depicted with snakes, lots of snakes there… lots.
- As god of commerce, he is often seen holding a pouch of money
- He is often seen depicted in combination with the god Neptune: or a trident next to a caduceus
- And of course always the winged helmet and the winged sandals
Ah, it all makes one wonder. Makes me wonder! A lot.
Let me know what you think!