Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Cross and Caduceus

This wrought-iron grate covers a small window at the Grillo Pharmacy. The symbols used to represent a hospital or a pharmacy are the cross and the caduceus, two snakes entwined around a winged staff. This symbol dates back to the age of the Mesopotamians.

The esoteric meaning of the caduceus can be interpreted from the sum of its parts. The staff was a symbol of authority carried in the hands of messengers. The winged wand of Hermes (a Greek god) is in keeping with the alchemical or astrological importance of Mercury (his Roman version) - often meaning fluidity, transformation, information, and new beginnings. The snake is often depicted in non Judeo-Christian traditions as a source or deliverer of wisdom. The snakes are bound to each other in a double helix - a shape of stability, creation, and life (the very shape our DNA conforms to).

From this we can deduce that the caduceus represents the authority to quickly deliver vital or wise information so as to aid, assist, negotiate, and enlighten. It is no surprise then that the caduceus is used as a symbol by a variety of professions which have a connection with Hermes/Mercury, the god of commerce, eloquence, invention, travel and thievery.

Contemporary users of this symbol include merchants, journalists, postal workers and...hospitals and pharmacies.

6 comments:

Webradio said...

Bonsoir !

Il est rare de voir une caducée sur une croix, bien que la pharmacie soit représentée par une croix verte...

PJ said...

Well, Saretta, you and I certainly have an academic bent to our postings today. I can honestly say that I learned something interesting today!

Per Stromsjo said...

Well, I never figured out what the snakes were doing there in the first place. Still, a powerful symbol in a global era.

babooshka said...

This was really interesting. I new bits and pieces of thos but not the whole. This is an excellent way to tie the photo in with the text. Excellent post.

Knoxville Girl said...

First do no harm...
I work with medical students, so was pleased to see this post today.

J.C. said...

This is very informative. In fact I have seen this sign associated to medicine profession but it never crosses my mind to ask its meaning. Your explanation really enlighten me. Thx.