\ Visualizing Evolution: A little rant about the caduceus

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A little rant about the caduceus

This may be a bit off-topic, but I must share this little pet-peeve of mine, which is categorized in my brain somewhere between the phrase "a whole nother" and people who type "RU" instead of "are you" in instant messages.

This is a caduceus:
a.k.a. the Wand of Hermes. It's a staff spiralled by two snakes and there's a couple of wings at the top. This is the symbol of commerce, not medicine. What are news reports saying about medicine when they put a caduceus on the screen when talking about doctors or health insurance?

This is the Rod of Aslepius, the symbol of medicine. One rod, one snake, no wings.
As seen on ambulances and other EMT supplies in the Star of Life:
And now that you know that, you'll be seeing caduceuses being used wrong everywhere you look. You're welcome.


Harrison said...

The wand with a snake around it has kind of an interesting story.

I thought it was weird that god told the Israelites they couldn't have any form of idols at all and nothing made of gold.

But when they got sick he told them to make a staff with a golden snake wrapped around it and if they prayed and touched the snake they would be cured.

Somehow this symbol became a symbol of medicine but I always thought it was a weird story.

Maybe the ancient priests were trying to work in a symbol from an old god they worshipped? The story just never seemed to fit in with this wrathful god that refused to have any form of idolatry.

wandering_nomad said...

I remember my father's old vet truck had a symbol on the back. The letter V with a single snake. Doubt it has nearly enough history as the ones you posted about, but interesting nevertheless.

Alex said...

This symbol goes back to Greek mythology. Asclepius was a Greek hero who later became the Greek god of medicine and healing. The cult of Asclepius became very popular during the 300s BCE and the cult centers (known as an Asclepieion) were used by priests to cure the sick.

In southern Europe there is a snake called Aesculapian snake (Zamensis longissimus).

Heidi Richter said...

Aesculapian snake? Hey I found a photo!


It's even curling around a V-shaped branch... must be nomad's veterinarian snake.

Very cool. : )