a cache of usenet and other text files pertaining
to occult, mystical, and spiritual subjects.


alt.magick CADUceus REFerence file

Newsgroups: alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick.tantra,alt.mythology,alt.pagan,alt.answers,news.answers
Subject: alt.magick CADUceus REFerence file
From: (tyaginator)
Followup-To: alt.magick
Summary: This is a REFerence file for the alt.magick newsgroup.  As such
	 it constitutes an attendant file to the alt.magick FAQ, which is
         intended as an introductory file and its content may be discussed
         within the alt.magick.* contellation.  The FAQ is available at:
Keywords: caduceus hermes staff reference 
Supercedes: 9510
From: (tyaginator)
Reply-to: (tyaginator)

Archive-name: magick/caduref
Version: 9511
Posting-Frequency: every six months or by necessity

REF: Re: "What about Hermes' wand, that snake-staff thing?"


That's the caduceus, or rather, it is commonly presumed to be the caduceus.
Actually, there is another wand attributed to someone else, I don't recall
right now that has more to do with medicine-

The caduceus is a wand of Cthonic power, the snakes having come up from the
earth to wound about the wand.

I found these notes (alchemical I think) concerning caduceus-but I'm not
sure where they are from-although it sounds a bit like Crowley to me.

          The caduceus contains a complete symbol of the Gnosis; the winged
     sun or phallus represents the joy of life on all planes from the
     lowest to the highest.  The Serpents, besides being active and
     passive, Horus and Osiris, and all their other well-known attributions
     are those qualities of Eagle and Lion respectively, of which we know
     but do not speak.  It is the symbol which unites the Microcosm and the
     Macrocosm, the symbol of the Magical Operation which accomplishes
     this.  The caduceus is the universal solvent.  It is quite easy to
     turn quicksilver into gold on the physical plane, and this will soon
     be done.  New life will flow through the world in consequence.  The
     god now lays his caduceus upon my lips for silence; bidding me only
     remember that on the following night he is to come in another form. (Jess Karlin)
the one presently used by doctors and such people (twin snakes entwined
about a winged staff) is actually a classical greek herald's staff (more
or less equivalent to a flag of truce). heralds would carry messages 
between hostile armies or cities and were inviolate. molesting a herald
was a religious offense and the gods were thought to become involved in
enacting justice for such offenses (there are many stories in greek 
literature about this kinda thing happening). what does this have to do
with doctors? nothing in particular. the staff of aeskulapios (an ancient
greek physician deified as the god of medicine) was a single snake wrapped
around a staff. don't ask me how the two became confused.

I am using 'classical' to refer to the centuries just before the christian
era and 'ancient' as anything before 1000 bc or so, btw. (joshua geller)

There are many explanations for how the pharmaceutical symbol came
about.  Perhaps more than one is 'true'?  The least poetic but IMO most
interesting explanation I've encountered follows:

Before modern medicine and sanitation, infection by parasitic worms was
a common occurence.  One particuarly virulent type crawled around the
victim's body, just under the skin.  You could actually follow its
movement.  Doctor's treated this infection by cutting a slit in the
patient's skin, just in front of the worm's path.  As the worm crawled
out the cut, the doctor carefully wound the pest around a stick
(they're very loong) until the entire animal had been removed.  Because
this type of infection was so common, doctor's advertised their
services by displaying a sign with the worm on a stick. :)

I don't know if the symbol acutally came from this, but it is true that
that's how the infection was treated. (prudence)

   The Caduceus is not a good symbol for DNA.  Aside from the matter of
DNA being a recent discovery, the staff up the middle doesn't fit.  In
"initiated interpretation", meaning mainly 19th century Western explanation
of symbols, the Caduceus is a representation of the Kundalini, as is also
the Patriarchal Cross or Grand Hierophant's Cross.  That is something
of an anachronism as well, but the staff fits in that case. (Bill Heidrick)

Just to muddy the waters even more....could it be that Hermes has 2 
staves? I thought I would go to ancient Greek sources to see what they 
said about Hermes and his staff.  What I commonly found was a staff 
called a rhabdos which was used to make mortals bend to his will. For 
example this is the staff used to lead the dead off to Hades (Od. 
24.1-24), and this staff (rhabdos) is  also used by Hades himself for 
this purpose.  Would this staff be the staff with a circle on one end topped 
by another circle (not closed)?  I thought at first that this was merely 
an abstract design of the 2 snakes, but now I'm not sure of this at all.

The staff with 2 snakes often now called Cadaceus, was called by the 
Greeks a kerykeion; this word is derived from keryx (or stem keryk-) 
meaning herald, as one would expect for the staff of a herald. This staff 
was the one with 2 snakes.  According to Burkert this is a Near Eastern 
image of copulating snakes.  He suggest a few sources for further reading:
The magic Staff or Rod in Graeco-Roman Antiquity by F J M de Waele.
E D Buren, Archiv fuer Orientforschung 10 (1935-36) 53-65. (Stephen Cavan)

|[Quoting: (Stephen Cavan)]
|could it be that Hermes has 2 staves?

He doesn't according to the evidence of visual representation.  The only 
exception I could find in all of Montfaucon (hoary, but copious) was a 
HermOsiris, at V.1, pl.39 #16.  Otherwise, it's the familiar two snakes
wound around a rod.

BTW, the Abbe thought the caduceus stood for trade, or traffic in goods.  
hmmm........sure that's an office of Hermes/Mercury, but how does the 
*symbol* suggest trade?

|I thought I would go to ancient Greek sources to see what they 
|said about Hermes and his staff.  What I commonly found was a staff 
|called a rhabdos which was used to make mortals bend to his will.

a rhabdos is more properly a *rod* or *wand* than a "staff."  Liddell and 
Scott say it is "lighter than the *Bakteria* or walking-stick."  It is 
used about 1,000 different ways--much like the Latin *virga,* really--for 
ferula, wands magical and otherwise, rods of authority, etc.  it's a 
skinny thing you hold in one hand--too skinny really to support your weight.

it's pretty commonly used as a generic term for magic wand--and that's 
how we understand the Caduceus.

|For example this is the staff used to lead the dead off to Hades 
|(Od. 24.1-24),

think of Spenser in Mother Hubberd's Tale--no classical author, but 
knowledgeable about them.  sez something like "his snaky wand Caduceus, 
with which he ruleth all the damned ghosts."

|and this staff (rhabdos) is  also used by Hades himself for this purpose.

a rhabdos is also what Circe used on Odysseus--a charming wand, apparently 
(*od* X.238, 319) and what Hermes uses as an anaeshtetic, on mortals--a 
sort of wand of sleep (*Iliad* 24.343).  Really, it's just a magic wand 
in these illustrations--and that is in no wise incompatible with our
understanding of the caduceus, which was a rod or wand held in one hand 
by the herald.  It would help to have the other one free, I suppose, in 
order to make appropriate gestures.

|was the one with 2 snakes.  According to Burkert this is a Near Eastern 
|image of copulating snakes.  He suggest a few sources for further reading:
|The magic Staff or Rod in Graeco-Roman Antiquity by F J M de Waele.
|E D Buren, Archiv fuer Orientforschung 10 (1935-36) 53-65.

We don't have those either, but they sound interesting.

drm3p@darwin.clas.Virginia.EDU (HandsomeMonkeyKing)

Here is the entry for "caduceus" in the "Meridian Handbook of Classical 

     A wand borne by Hermes.  The caduceus, or "kerykeion", is a rod 
entwined by snakes and sometimes furnished with small wings near the 
tip.  It was the badge of Hermes' office as messenger of the gods and as 
guide of the dead, though in the latter capacity he is shown mearly 
carrying a forked stick.  Some scholors believe that the caduceus was 
originally decorated with ribbons rather than snakes.

    Asklepios was identified with the constillation "Ophiuchus", or 
"serpent bearer" (I am not familiar with this one), and the symbol of the 
god's cult was the snake.  So it is possible that the caduceus became 
identified with Asklepios due to the cthonic element of the snake as you 
mention, along with snakes being the symbol of his cult. (Dan Vieira)

	This thread is reminding me of the Tiresias myth; he was walking 
on a mountain, I think Kitharion, and saw two snakes mating.  He tried to 
separate them, and was turned into a woman.  Seven years later, on the 
same mountain, he again saw two snakes mating, tried to separate them, 
and was turned back into a man.  One day, Zeus and Hera were arguing over 
who had more fun during sex, men or women.  They decided to ask Tiresias, 
and he agreed with Zeus that women had more fun.  Out of anger, Hera 
blinded him.  Out of gratitude, Zeus gave him the gift of prophecy.
	Same theme, two snakes and a staff.  Just thought it was interesting.

This document is Copyright (c) 1995, authors cited.

All rights reserved.  Permission to distribute the collection is
hereby granted providing that distribution is electronic, no money
is involved, reasonable attempts are made to use the latest version
and all credits and this copyright notice are maintained.

Other requests for distribution should be directed to the individual
authors of the particular articles.

nagasiva, tyagi
tyagI@houseofkaos.Abyss.coM (I@AM)

The Arcane Archive is copyright by the authors cited.
Send comments to the Arcane Archivist:

Did you like what you read here? Find it useful?
Then please click on the Paypal Secure Server logo and make a small
donation to the site maintainer for the creation and upkeep of this site.

The ARCANE ARCHIVE is a large domain,
organized into a number of sub-directories,
each dealing with a different branch of
religion, mysticism, occultism, or esoteric knowledge.
Here are the major ARCANE ARCHIVE directories you can visit:
interdisciplinary: geometry, natural proportion, ratio, archaeoastronomy
mysticism: enlightenment, self-realization, trance, meditation, consciousness
occultism: divination, hermeticism, amulets, sigils, magick, witchcraft, spells
religion: buddhism, christianity, hinduism, islam, judaism, taoism, wicca, voodoo
societies and fraternal orders: freemasonry, golden dawn, rosicrucians, etc.


There are thousands of web pages at the ARCANE ARCHIVE. You can use ATOMZ.COM
to search for a single word (like witchcraft, hoodoo, pagan, or magic) or an
exact phrase (like Kwan Yin, golden ratio, or book of shadows):

Search For:
Match:  Any word All words Exact phrase


Southern Spirits: 19th and 20th century accounts of hoodoo, including slave narratives & interviews
Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by cat yronwode: an introduction to African-American rootwork
Lucky W Amulet Archive by cat yronwode: an online museum of worldwide talismans and charms
Sacred Sex: essays and articles on tantra yoga, neo-tantra, karezza, sex magic, and sex worship
Sacred Landscape: essays and articles on archaeoastronomy and sacred geometry
Freemasonry for Women by cat yronwode: a history of mixed-gender Freemasonic lodges
Satan Service Org: an archive presenting the theory, practice, and history of Satanism and Satanists
Lucky Mojo Usenet FAQ Archive: FAQs and REFs for occult and magical usenet newsgroups
Aleister Crowley Text Archive: a multitude of texts by an early 20th century occultist
Lucky Mojo Magic Spells Archives: love spells, money spells, luck spells, protection spells, etc.
      Free Love Spell Archive: love spells, attraction spells, sex magick, romance spells, and lust spells
      Free Money Spell Archive: money spells, prosperity spells, and wealth spells for job and business
      Free Protection Spell Archive: protection spells against witchcraft, jinxes, hexes, and the evil eye
      Free Gambling Luck Spell Archive: lucky gambling spells for the lottery, casinos, and races