The Rod of Asclepius is an ancient Greek symbol associated with medicine, consisting of a serpent coiled around a rod.
In ancient Greek religion and mythology, Asclepius was the god of medicine and healing.
His daughters are Hygieia (goddess of cleanliness), Iaso (goddess of recuperation from illness), Aceso (goddess of the healing process), Aglea (the goddess of splendor and adornment), and Panacea (goddess of universal remedy). In the Roman adaptation of the Greek pantheon, Asclepius was identified with the god Vediovis.
The Rod of Asclepius symbol is often confused with the Caduceus, symbol of commerce associated with the Greek god Hermes.
The Rod of Asclepius combines the snake with a rod, a simple tool. The serpent with its change of skin symbolizes rebirth and fertility.
Some scholars have suggested that the symbol once represented a worm wrapped around a stick.
Parasitic worms, such as the Guinea Worm, were common in ancient times: They pierced the skin, and physicians used to extract them by slowly rolling them around a stick.
Ancient physicians probably advertised this common service by putting a sign showing a worm on a stick in front of their house.
The Rod of Asclepius is the logo of the World Health Organization and the symbol of the American Medical Association.
A similar symbol is mentioned in the Bible as having been used for healing by the bite of the snake.
On the other hand, the Caduceus symbol consisted of a rod with two snakes coiled around it. The English word comes from the Latin caduceus, which echoes the ancient Greek kèrix, translated as herald.
The word was mainly used to indicate the rod assigned to the Greek god Hermes as herald (messenger) of the gods and patron of commerce.
This rod was represented with two wings on the top and two snakes to symbolize diligence and prudence, two characteristics very necessary in trading activities.
In Greek religion and mythology, Hermes was a god of transitions and boundaries. He was protector and patron of travelers, herdsmen, invention, and trade.
In the Roman adaptation of the Greek pantheon, Hermes was identified with the Roman god Mercury, who developed many similar characteristics, such as being the patron of commerce.
The Caduceus symbol alluded directly to the myth of Hermes, who saw two snakes fighting and touched them with his rod so that the two animals would stop fighting. Of course, peace is necessary for trade to flourish.
As mentioned above, the Caduceus is often mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine because it is similar to the Rod of Asclepius.
Summarizing, the Caduceus has two snakes on the staff and wings at the top. The Rod of Asclepius has a single snake and no wings.
In Dan Brown’s Inferno, Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey uses a lapis lazuli Rod of Asclepius as an amulet.
Here you find the Symbolism Dictionary, a comprehensive dictionary that lists approximately 5000 such topics and then graphically identifies symbols for them.
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