This Wasn’t Intended As the Symbol of Health

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We instantly recognize this ancient symbol, The Caduceus as a symbol of medicine.  But the story goes much deeper than I ever imagined.

The symbol depicts a staff entwined with two snakes, and surmounted by wings. Although it may seem ironic that destructive creatures like snakes are used to symbolize healing, there is a spiritual and metaphysical history behind the symbol.

The Caduceus was originally a staff of Hermes, the Greek messenger God in charge of travel and commerce. Hermes was also the God of medicine. (Nothing to do with the luxury brand.)

Later, the Caduceus became a symbol of Mercury. It was because of this association that the caduceus became a universally recognized symbol of medicine. The caduceus is a common element in many logos and seals of governments, hospitals, medical associations, etc.

The Caduceus is a symbol of balance, healing, wisdom, enlightenment and divine love. It represents the intertwining of dualities into oneness – spirit and matter, intuition and logic. It is a sign of the new paradigm emerging in the world of healthcare that brings Eastern and Western approaches into alignment, and allows an organic philosophy to infuse our overly mechanical one.

In Roman mythology, Hermes the messenger God, encountered two fighting serpents. He threw his staff at them, and the snakes wrapped around it. The caduceus came to represent peace and prosperity. The Hermetic philosophers and alchemists saw the snakes as a metaphor for the elements of life: the wings represented air, movement, and power; the rod symbolized the element of earth; and the intertwining snakes represented fertility. The caduceus is also seen as a hermetic symbol of union between the male and female aspects of nature, represented by the two snakes and the two spheres.

In the 19th century, the printer John Churchill of London began using the Caduceus on the cover of his medical textbooks to symbolize the power of the printed word. Other publishers soon followed suit, and by 1902 the Army Medical Corps adopted the Caduceus as its official symbol. The American Public Health Service and the US Marine Hospital Corps would follow shortly thereafter.

The mistaken use of the Caduceus as a symbol of medicine occurred because the herald of Hermes’ staff is so similar in appearance to the Rod of Asclepius, the actual symbol of healing. The confusion probably started in the early 1800s, when Hermes was mistakenly interpreted as an astrological symbol and associated with the planet Mercury, the Roman god of communication and trade. This made it easy to confuse the Caduceus with the wand of Hermes/Mercury, whose two snakes are a sign of good luck.

Because of this confusion, the Caduceus is now used as a universal symbol of health and medicine

In our modern world, the Caduceus is often associated with kundalini, an energy that lies dormant in our body until we become spiritually awakened. When this happens, the coiled snake is said to rise up through our spines to the top of our heads, where it can be brought to full consciousness.

The Caduceus also has been used in the world of alchemy, and more recently as a symbol of printing, by extension of the attributes of Hermes Trismegistus (Hermes of the West). The Caduceus is used in alchemical illustrations to represent the four elements: the wings for the air, the moving snakes representing water, the wand or rod for fire, and the two spheres of healing and fertility.

Today, the Caduceus is used in many forms of alternative medicine and as a symbol of the shamanistic practice of herbal medicine. It is a powerful reminder that our true essence and our highest potential are within us, waiting to be realized. If we can learn to release our egos and fear, and let go of what no longer serves us, we can move into our own power and live in the light of the truth that we are all connected, and that healing and wholeness is our birthright. Let the Caduceus remind you to trust in your own inner power, wisdom and intuition.

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Wendy Bjork, founder of is a pioneer in advocacy and mentorship.  Wendy is leading a global revolution of women walking in purpose and peace as she illumines their path ahead with the light of HOPE:  Harmony, Options, Peace & Empowerment.

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Wendy has authored two books and co-authored a third, “Fired Up!,” a #1 International bestseller. She is a regular contributor on the digital platforms and to the National MS Society’s Momentum Magazine.  She is regularly invited on discussions, podcasts, interviews as she shares her story and hope to inspire others.

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