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The Caduceus

A familiar caduceus.Caduceus (kedyoo' sees)The caduceus is a symbol of two snakes entwined in a double helix around a winged rod or staff.  The symbol appeared in early Babylonian art and is now associated with medicine.

The Caduceus has represented various sun Gods, especially the Greek messenger of the gods, Hermes.  Hermes carries a gold caduceus, wears winged sandals and a winged hat.  The caduceus came to be associated with Hermes from various legends.

One legend tells of Hermes encountering two fighting snakes. He threw his wand at them, and they became entwined around it, ending the fight. Another legend tells of Apollo giving Hermes the caduceus.

The caduceus is also a symbol of peace, originally carried by Greek ambassadors and heralds, then later by Romans for truce or neutrality.

Because of the associations of Hermes/Mercury with messengers, commerce and healing, the caduceus has represented many industries over time, including postal services, doctors, healers and ambassadors.  The caduceus was, and still it, used as an advertisements or sign for medical practitioners, and since 1902 it has been the regulation insignia for medical branches of the U.S. Army.

Asclepian StaffPrior to the 1500s, a symbol of Asclepius with one snake known as an Asclepian staff, had been used to represent medicine and healing.

The staff is obviously a phallic fertility symbol, and snakes are often linked to the earth and the cycles of life, death and rebirth. The snakes wrapped around the staff are representative of sexual and spiritual union.

It was once believed that medical practitioners used the symbol for advertising because of the way parasitic worms were thought to be removed from the body. A stick was supposedly inserted into an incision to remove the worm, which would often wrap itself around the stick. However, it is more likely that parasitic worms were removed with herbal teas and infusions.

Magickal Associations:  Healing | Commerce | Messages | Hermes/Mercury | Speed/Swiftness | Sexual & Spiritual Union
Alternate names:  kerykeion, magic rod of Hermes.
Similar or Associated Symbols:  Ouroboros, Snakes

About the Author
Friday
Author: FridayWebsite: http://PaganPath.comEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Author & Academy Instructor
Friday is devoted to writing books and articles on a variety of Pagan subjects, and is the instructor of the online PaganPath Academy. She has studied and practiced the Craft since 1987, and worked as a professional tarot reader and vice president of a national psychic network for several decades. Currently, she is now a practicing herbalist and ordained minister. As a Master Gardener with a deep interest in permaculture, she is developing the PaganPath Sanctuary with her partner. This long term community project is an edible landscape demonstration, orchard and educational facility for future generations.

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