Sunday, January 10, 2010
Caduceus: Ancient Serpent Symbol of Healing
From Barbara Walker's The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets: Caduceus Some Gnostic Christians worshipped the serpent hung on a cross, rod, or Tree of Life, calling it Christ the Savior, alto a title of Hermes the Wise Serpent represented by his own holy caduceus, the scepter of two serpents. This was one of the oldest and most revedred holy symbols. "The usual mhythological association of the serpent is not, as in the Bible, with corruption, but with physical and spiritual health, as in the Greek caduceus." To Sumerians it was an emblem of life, appearing on art works like the Libation Cup of Cudea, ca. 2000 B.C. In pre-Hellenic Gfreece the caduceus was displayed on healing temples like those of Asclepius, Hygeia, and Panacea, which is why it is still an international symbol of the medical profession. The caduceus is found also in Aztec sacred art, ehthroned like a serpent-deity on an altar. North American Indians knew it too. A Navaho medicine man said his people's sacred cave once featured "a stone carving of two snakes intertwined, the heads facing east and west."(1) [Image from awugabunnies.co.uk] Hindu symbolism equated the caduceus with the central spirit of the human body, the spinal column, with two mystic serpents twined around it like the genetic double helix: ida-nadi to the left, pingala-nadi to the right.(2) Moses' brazen serpent on a pole, the mere sight of which cured the Israelites, was probably a prophylactic caduceus (Numbers 21:9). It was named Nehushtan, and worshipped in the tabernacle up to the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:4). Notes: (1) Campbell, M.I., 282-84, 286-88, 294-95. (2) Bardo Thodol, 215. Note: Difference between the Rod of Asclepius (a single serpent twined around a rod) and the Caduceus (two serpents intertwined around each other and a rod). See more at Wikipedia on the Rod of Asclepius (contains the entire account about what led to Moses constructing and mounting the copper serpent on a pole, starting at Numbers: 6).