Saturday, August 22, 2020

Symbolic Meaning of the Caduceus as a Symbol :: Hermes' & Mercury's Caduceus

The Caduceus; Public Domain by Wikimedia Commons

The Caduceus as a Symbol

by Amethyst Black

Hermes was the messenger of the gods and protector of messengers, god of merchants and trade, sports and athletes, travelers, and of border crossings and of thieves; as well he was god of eloquence and a guide to the Underworld. The caduceus first and foremostly represents him (in Roman mythology, Mercury), due to the fact that as messenger of the gods, he carried one. When not associated with Hermes, such an object is called a herald's rod. The significance of one is to denote messages of great importance.

What Do the Individual Components of the Caduceus Represent?

The messages Hermes bore for the gods, were sacred; snakes are protectors of sacred knowledge and wisdom. Additionally, snakes shed their skin, which is symbolic of rebirth, or renewal of life. The wings denote speed and the ability to fly. The rod denotes power, as it resembles the spine; and the orb atop of it represents the world, and when considered alongside the rod being a spine, the globe also represents a brain. A spine, when regarded as the sacred djed pillar of ancient Egypt, represents stability. Not part of its actual meaning but still very present, is the fact that the intertwining snakes represent human DNA, and also the chakra system and the flow of kundalini energy through it.

Rod of Asclepius
Rod of Asclepius; Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

What the Caduceus is Not :: An Observation

Though the caduceus was never a bonafide medical symbol, it does resemble the Rod of Asclepius, the true healing symbol; from this point, part of the misidentification of it with medicine may have arisen.

Why was it chosen to represent medicine? Its appearance was based upon confusion. In the 1500s, John Caius used the symbol as he taught and otherwise engaged in medical practices; ergo people assumed that it bore medical relativity. When queried he explained that the symbol he used was not about medicine or a god of old at all. It turned out that he wanted to announce the delivery of important news, along with a salute to due prudence in its preparation and reading, in having the herald's rod present.

Read on to see how alchemical healing can be symbolized by the caduceus (under the heading 'How the Caduceus Relates to Alchemy').

Does the Caduceus Tell Us Anything Else?

It urges us to think of the planet Mercury and also mercury the element. Furthermore, powers that Hermes' caduceus had, not commonly mentioned within mythology are: to put the wakened to slumber and to awaken the sleeping; also, to grant the dying a kind death. Additionally the wand had the ability to revive the dead. Beyond these things, it can relate to the ancient Sumerian deity, Ningishzida, who was forerunner to the Greek Hermes; he was the first known historical figure depicted using one. He was messenger to Ishtar, and used the rod to awaken nature in the springtime. It can alternatively relate to the Egyptian deity, Thoth, as he is considered syncretic with Hermes (Trismegistus).

How the Caduceus Relates to Alchemy

The caduceus has been used to represent the alchemical blend of Azoth.

Paraphrasing Eliphas Levi (from the book, 'Transcendental Magick': "sulfur, mercury, and salt, prepared by the alchemically wise, composes Azoth. It is an all encompassing medicine--for the soul it is reason and justice; for the mind it provides basis for mathematical and practical truth; for the body it is quintessence, as it is gold and light combined." 

To summarize, Azoth is the force and balance behind matters of spirit, mind, intelligence and justice; and also behind healing and medicine. Also implied, in the mathematical and practical foundation of it, is that it will get an alchemist started on any endeavor. Finally, some draw a connection between Azoth, HP Lovecraft's Azathoth (a demon); and Atazoth (a demon), described in Kenneth Grant's works; there are likely as many who believe that any connection is falsely attributed. Unless one makes effort to channel the two beings, they won't find their 'true' answer. My two cents? as someone who often takes time to channel entities and inquire about similar-sounding names, more often than not there is a connection. Alas, I have not yet channeled these.


When one reads this, it's clear to see that the caduceus, though not rightfully a symbol of medicine, is much about that; however, it is not about medicine alone, as is especially made clear by its referencing Azoth. It could perhaps be reduced to this: the caduceus is a powerful symbol of mind, justice, spirit, health and healing, and even of life and death; and let's not forget, messages as well. Some would say that tricksterism should be mentioned too, but my take on that is this--Mercury was seen as a trickster due to the fact that he could find ways to get things done. So shrewdness, not tricksterism.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The Snake in Dreams or Visions, and as a Totem Spirit

Snake or serpent
A snake or serpent

by Amethyst Black

The Rod of Asclepius, Ouroboros, the kundalini serpent, the Serpent of Eden; and many other epithets come to mind when we consider snakes. The snake or serpent is an animal spirit totem unlike most others. It is deeply interwoven with mythology; and due to this you probably know much about the snake and its symbolism already. It is our intent to help you find, from what's presented within this post, the meaning of a snake visiting you in your dream.

The Snake or Serpent

This creature in mythology is often used interchangeably with a dragon; the reason for this association is that both are symbolic of pure, raw energy; thus a snake may bear relevance to any energy related issues. Snakes, given that they may be venomous or may bite, seem sinister to some. For this, the snake may appear as an omen urging you to get in touch with your dark side, or resolve shadow self issues.

Sometimes though, the snake urges you to pay attention to those in your social circle who may betray you, or perhaps already have. Additionally a snake is symbolic of lust; and for this it may suggest you are either in need of some 'romantic time,' or that otherwise you are prone to overdoing it and need to derive more substance from your human interactions. A snake lives primarily on the ground, and therefore it urges you to be at one with the earth and nature. At times the appearance of a snake suggests that you be more assertive.

Some people are prone towards walking a darker path, and in some cases a snake may be urging you to examine your beliefs, especially looking at why you avoid the darker paths, as they have so much to show you. Light cannot exist without dark; adding darkness to your path is balancing and liberating; but some really need to walk a dark path in order to thrive.

A snake is symbolic of wisdom, and may be inviting you to explore a matter of learning; the snake's area of specialty is sacred knowledge. If you do not know what it is you are to learn about, the snake is likely to return and show you, or maybe has already planted a seed in your mind that will soon surface. A snake in ancient times was regarded as a protector; think of the Egyptian Uraeus. Hence if you become familiar with a snake as a totem, though you could assume you are protected, it would be wiser to ask them for protection and be certain. Snakes are commonly feared; the message then, is to examine your fears. At other times the snake urges you to be aware that your fears are upsetting your quality of life.

Additionally, the snake shedding its skin, is a sign of rebirth and renewal. In times of difficulty this is a heart-lifting symbolism to see. The shedding of skin can also be seen as destruction, which often must come to pass to allow for new to replace the old.

Ouroboros :: Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Snake as Ouroboros

Generally speaking, Ouroboros is symbolic of phases and cycles, and that the death of one cycle is the beginning of another (renewal); and furthermore, it depicts balance, alchemy, and the great Unity. Ouroboros is also a symbol of fertility, as the tail and mouth are seen as resembling each of the male and female's roles in reproduction respectively.

In ancient Greek mythology, Euronyme was in need of a co creator. Ouroboros was created by the North wind; between Euronyme and the serpent, the Orphic Egg, the source of all creation, was formed and fertilized. After their work the serpent claimed that creation was the fruit of his labors alone. Having his teeth kicked out by Euronyme and being confined to the underworld was his punishment.

If Ouroboros seems relative to the snake you saw in your dream or vision, changing perspective or adding new elements into your situation (alchemy/balance), may bring on improvement and growth. Or maybe pride is causing tension or aggression. Another message is, that there is a cycle going on, and as long as things aren't forced to remain exactly as they are, as long as there is change, there is renewal occurring on some level.

Be productive, do something to bring positive energy into your situation--do that by doing something apart from it (one potential message of fertility).

If you are having trouble adapting within your situation, the suggestion is to allow this inconvenience to birth a new you--to allow a more alchemical and resilient you to emerge. If that can't be done, allow it to birth a subsequent experience to you, which requires an opened mind. However, this is a message of preparing yourself mentally, not rushing in (or out). Ouroboros suggests to observe timespace issues (timing, placement within due process, location, and astrological concepts as you proceed.

In one sense the serpent represents the the mobius strip (a snake can take a half twist), as there is an infinite process going on. However, if you are in a situation where everything is rather consistently heading in one direction or consistently remaining the same, you had best be sure that the situation has your best interests embedded within it.

As the Kundalini Serpent

Kundalini energy is often referred to as the Kundalini Serpent. Rightfully so, as it weaves its way through the chakra system, originating at the base chakra. Its message is one of more advanced spiritual growth, but also urges you to be aware of how you proceed with spiritual growth. For some, moving through this journey comes with phases of significant discomfort. Hence if this concept resonates with you as part of the meaning of the snake in your dream, you are being shown that your spiritual journey is part and parcel of what you are facing now, that your life situation and your spiritual growth, need to be on the same page. Don't move faster in one or the other, in order to avoid creating difficulty--there needs to be total synchronization. Furthermore, it may suggest that physical and mental issues are at least in part, relative to your spiritual journey.

The Serpent Relative to the Rod of Asclepius

As the snake relates to the Rod of Asclepius, its meaning is ultra clear. The message is of healing, or any matter directly relative to healing. Perhaps it may urge you to take a course in that field, to see a doctor or alternative practitioner, or to seek treatment of some kind for a current health issue. It may also urge you to check on the health of another. This snake is an ideal representative for healing, as in ancient times in some regions, the snake was regarded as a symbol of healing; but why? In ancient times it was given that if a being has powers in one way, they also have power to do the opposite. Hence that the snake can be venomous and/or bite, they at the other end of their power spectrum are also healers.

As Medusa

Medusa had snakes for hair after she was punished by Athena. Medusa was punished due to that she'd had an interlude with Poseidon, even though it happened against her will. As punishment for desecrating the temple of Athena, where it happened, she was turned into a Gorgon. As typically noble gods do not force such acts and as well one does not punish a woman for being subject to such, we can deduce from this situation that there is an integral lesson embedded within it. The lesson's elements likely include: refusal to hear the truth, failure to believe, passing of blame to where it does not belong, lacking empathy, narrow-mindedness, perhaps jealousy; and beliefs based on past conflict. Also as is clear in the myth--sometimes false blame is never resolved; that imposed burden may have repercussions that span decades or a lifetime, for the person forced to bear it.

As this tale has no effective conclusion (justice was not rendered), lack of resolution or justice, is another potential meaning. Hence you might consider how these points apply to your own circumstance.

The Serpent of Eden

One is free to interpret the tale of Eden in the way they are predisposed to. However, my view is that the Serpent is on one hand, blame placed externally for the choices one makes. On the other hand it could alternatively be the dark aspect of self, the power aspect of self, advising you to do as will dictates. If the Serpent of Eden tale jumps out at you as being key to understanding your dream Serpent's appearance, it may be urging you to read up in order to better prepare yourself (the apple created awareness) or to otherwise bring yourself up to speed on the matter at hand. It could similarly mean that you should be more accepting of what you already know, rather than pushing it off. It could be telling you that when you shift blame you need realize you are doing so and take responsibility for it.

Another point arising from this same mythological tale, is that the Serpent was punished for his intervention; therefore the Eden tale may be illustrating that you are engaged in activity that will have you facing a consequence.

What is a Totem Animal?

The term Totem Animal is often used when referring to animals in the general sense of this post; however, though a creature or animal that visits you once may end up being a Totem animal, the meaning actually pertains to a creature that has made multiple visits, and one that you relate to over others.

Related Reading

The Caduceus of Hermes' Symbolic Meaning

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