View Full Version : The Staff of Asclepius

12-25-2008, 07:30 AM
This is a Phoenix-thread (http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?t=7) from the old site (http://alchemy-forums.forumotion.com/forum.htm).

Often confused with The Caduceus of Hermes (http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?t=17), and perceived by some to be not an image of alchemy, but I beg to differ. But I will post more on this at a later date.

For now enjoy the following images:

There is a 13th sign of the zodiac known as Ophiuchus Serpentarius (or Ophiuchusm), the Serpent Holder, which lies between Scorpio and Sagittarius. Plato called this 13th sign the God of the Underworld and later the Christians of the mediaeval ages changed it into the figure of St. Paul holding a viper before abandoning it altogether. The constellation of the Serpent Holder is the only sign of the Zodiac which is linked to a real man that lived in ancient Egypt around the 27th century B.C.E., a one Imhotep.

The attributes of Imhotep can also be found in the Biblical Hebrew Joseph, son of Jacob. Imhotep is credited with many accomplishments including the knowledge and use of medicine. It’s said that Imhotep brought the art of healing to mankind. The symbol of a serpent was used to represent Imhotep.

In the 16th century this 13th constellation was called Alpheichius, God of Invocation, named after Asclepius who was a skilled physician, and similar to Imhotep, who practised in Greece around 1200 B.C.E. and described in Homer’s Iliad. If he truly existed no one knows but regardless he, through myth and legend, became part of the Greek family of gods as the God of Healing and the son of Apollo and the nymph Coronis. He had several daughters of which Meditrina, Hygeia and Panacea all became symbols of medicine, hygiene and healing.

Rationalism and patriarchy began to be established around the 5th century B.C.E and myths were modified. For instance Zeus who originally was represented as a serpent now defeats the serpent monster Typhon with the aid of his daughter Athene (Reason). This act guaranteed the reign of the patriarchal gods of Olympus and at the same time he brings back Asclepius to life, after having killed him with a lightning bolt, and presents him with the serpent wrapped around a staff.

It’s believed that Hippocrates, a great doctor of antiquity, was a descendant of Asclepius and the oath, which bears his name, was sworn in the names of Apollo, Asclepius and Panacea.

A cult formed from Asclepius and became very popular during the 300s B.C.E. The Asclepions, centres where priests cured the sick, became important in Greek society. The worship of Asclepius spread to Rome, his name changed to the Latin Aesculapius, and continued to the late as the 6th century.

Since ancient times there have been columns, trees and staffs with serpents climbing or twirling around them and throughout the ages it has been the image of the art of healing and not evil. The Staff of Asclepius, with a single serpent wrapped around it, possibly became a symbol of medicine and healing because infections by parasitic worms were common. The filarial worm dracunculus medinensis crawled around the victim’s body, just under the skin and the physicians 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 physician carefully wound the pest around a stick until the entire animal had been removed resulting in the symbol of a worm, serpent, around a stick to advertise this service.

The Staff of Asclepius have often been confused with The Caduceus of Hermes (http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?t=17), and although the former is clearly a symbol of medicine and healing the latter has often taken on this role in the collective mind. The Encyclopaedia Britannica clearly states that The Staff of Asclepius is “the only true symbol of medicine.” It also says that the Caduceus is “without medical reference since it represents the magic wand of Hermes, or Mercury, the messenger of the gods and the patron of trade.”

Modern pharmacies probably began using the serpent as a symbol for their business because they sold the antidote to snake venom.

The Staff of Asclepius and The Caduceus of Hermes (http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?t=17) were both widely used as printers’ marks in particular as frontispieces to pharmacopoeias, which are books containing lists of drugs with directions on how to use them, in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Perhaps a footnote but it has been noted that the $ resemble The Staff of Asclepius but this can’t be anything but a coincidence. The story goes that the Spanish pesos, also called piastres, Spanish dollars and pieces of eight (the value was eight reales) were so well used and known (like the dollar is today in the world) that when the U.S. issued its own silver coinage (first appearing in 1794) they thus replicated the Spanish weight, value and name. When pluralized pesos was abbreviated ps. This created over time the $ symbol (a p over an s, the p in time reduced to a single stroke).

It was the revolting British/American colonists who first made the transition from ps to $. This is the reason why the $ is written before the number, $1, instead of behind because it mimics how the British use their pound sign, £1.

Here is a statue of Asclepius that I took earlier today in a museum in Copenhagen, Denmark!

I've always found this from Flamel to be of the same nature as that of Asclepius's staff. I generally feel that both the rod of Asclepius and Moses as well as the caduceus are one and the same but represent more or less a progression of something that is effected within the practical work of alchemy. I give no source other then it is just my opinion.
Ive been spending my day with the book Alchemy & Mysticism The Hermetic Museum and on page 410 found this image with the following caption.

http://i49.servimg.com/u/f49/12/69/17/66/serpen10.jpg (http://www.servimg.com/image_preview.php?i=2&u=12691766)

Seal of the spagyric laboratory 'Soluna', founded in 1921 by the poet and shadow player Alexander von Bernus at Stift Neuburg near Heidelberg, and continued a few years later in Stuttgart. According to Bernus, iatrochemical spagyrics, which date back to Paracelsus, refers to "that type of healing which includes both complex homeopathy and biochemistry and goes beyond itself; for on one hand it encompasses th whole fund of medicines of both, on the other it gives the disabled organism the indicated ingredient in (...) and 'open' and thus assimilable state, particularly the metals, half-metals and minerals."

These medicines, according to Bernus, have their effect through the invisible "fluid body" or "ethereal body" of man and are thus capable "of summoning up the healing forces without burdening the organism with poisonous substances and doing it lasting damage, so that it may reorganize itself". (Von Bernus, Alchymie und Heilkunst, Stuttgart, 1936)
Though this is from 1921 and not that old, I would also agree with Carabric that these symbols could be interchangeable. Why draw two serpents when one will do or if the symbolism of the one is clearer. Also there could be arguments for two serpents when suggesting ideas of polarity and rythym.
Found this on the statue of a famous portugese botanist (name lost forever) in the Lisbon Botanical Gardens:


02-04-2009, 09:58 PM
It pops up on this currency:



01-31-2011, 12:20 AM
According to Allegro (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_M._Allegro) the word Asclepius is born out of words connected with the Amanita muscaria (http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?62-Alchemy-The-Mushroom-%28Amanita%29).


10-05-2011, 08:35 PM
I came across the Ambrosia Society today and their e-book on the mushroom: Amanita muscaria.

Check it out, http://www.ambrosiasociety.org/index.html

I like how he interprets all the mythology, holy grail, stories, images, even the Philosopher's Stone as being or pointing at one herb or mushroom. I do like his historical research, he does not sound like an alchemist, though. He talks at length about the anti bacterial and anti viral properties.

Page 99 talks about alchemy


In contrast the goal of Philosophical Alchemy is the spiritual transmutation of
men into more than man through the use of the Philosophers Stone and the Elixir
of Immortality. These Philosophical Alchemy texts are full of bizarre imagery and
veiled references to Amanita muscaria as the Philosophers Stone the source of the
Elixir of Immortality. They also show a series of transformations involving the
Philosophers Stone which when understood as Amanita muscaria corresponds with
the resurrection of the dried mushroom and the secret of the Holy Grail.

Hermeticism is a mixture of beliefs drawn from Egyptian and pre Christian
Greek sources. The Egyptian god Thoth was thought to be the author of several
Hermetic texts. The Greek name for Thoth is Hermes Trismegistus meaning
“Hermes the thrice greatest”. Many Hermetic authors signed their work as Hermes
Trismegistus or variations thereof believing the text was directly inspired by
Hermes Trismegistus. The Greek god Hermes (Roman Mercury) is found widely
in Hermeticism, Hermes is winged with wings on his ankles, shoulders, or on his
head and he carries the same winged staff wound with serpents, “the caduceus’
that modern Medicine uses for it’s symbol of healing. The Greek Hermes, a healer,
the god of commerce, invention, cunning, theft, messenger and herald to the other
gods, a patron of travelers, and leader of souls to the underworld. Hermes is also
associated with Hermaphroditism (Hermes + Aphrodite) the occurrence of male
and female sexual characteristics in the same body, named after Hermaphroditus
the son of Hermes and Aphrodite, who became united in one body with the female
nymph Salmacis. This joining of the opposites of male and female in one body is
apparent in the Amanita muscaria mushroom which appears to be both male and
female genitalia. Hermetic also stands for sealed, a Hermetic seal is air tight thus
Hermetic knowledge

I am sure you have something to say about this.

10-06-2011, 04:58 PM
Thanks for that link.

There are two great books on this, you will probably enjoy both of them a lot if you are interested in this subject:

John M. Allegro - The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross (1970) (heavy read)

Wasson, R. Gordon, Ruck, Carl, Hofmann, A. - The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries (1978) (easy read)

Most things said about psychedelics being the root of current religions come from either of these two books or authors.

Asclepius staff again:


10-06-2011, 06:28 PM
Thanks! I'll add these to my list of books to read.

solomon levi
10-06-2011, 09:24 PM
and this book:

10-06-2011, 11:32 PM
...and this one:



Not that I'm into mushrooms (something about playing host to pan-galactic spores doesn't sit right with me) - I just happened to have purchased this book years ago, mostly out of curiosity.

The author attempts to arbitrate between Allegro & Wasson. All three could be wrong. I do know that Wasson exhibited a very compromised grade of scholarship in maintaining that the Vedic Soma was a mushroom. It was a clear case of an entrenched prior belief winning out over the preponderence of plain textual statements - and the absence of real supportive evidence.

Maybe it was just the spores talking.

10-07-2011, 12:08 AM
Not that I'm into mushrooms...

Then try truffles;)

All three could be wrong.

Same goes for all religions...


10-07-2011, 12:58 AM
.All three could be wrong. I do know that Wasson exhibited a very compromised grade of scholarship in maintaining that the Vedic Soma was a mushroom. It was a clear case of an entrenched prior belief winning out over the preponderance of plain textual statements - and the absence of real supportive evidence.

If all you have is a hammer, everything else looks like a nail :)

That goes as much for religions as it goes for mushrooms, conspiracies and pretty much everything else.

Such, I believe, is the nature of belief :) :) :)


10-07-2011, 07:00 AM
Post [late night speculative meandering] deleted by me.

10-07-2011, 06:59 PM
Thanks for all the book suggestions

A lot of the symbols and words used or cited in the e-book i referred to could be interpreted to be "spiritual" alchemical, or to be about "m-state" or ormus, or on "practical" alchemy instructions, or about the physical "mushrooms" (that he supports in a non-philosophical way with scientific/chemical interpretation of all the mushrooms' benefits: anti bacterial and anti viral etc, no mention of sulfur, salt or mercury or even something as "life force")

Could these different interpretations be correct? Could the same metaphors, myths and imagery apply correctly to 4 different things?

I'm an alchemy beginner, here's one example to what I referred to above: manna (it could be mushroom-related, m-state, spiritual ..), the holy grail (spiritual quest for the stone, a real stone, a mushroom), etc..

10-07-2011, 07:46 PM
Well I find when ON mushrooms 1000 things can apply correctly to same and different things. It is only in boxed in reality we are forced to see left, right, up and down.

I think it is all DMT/psilocybin... behind it all... after all nothing in nature since the dawn of man is more spectacular, magical and amazing. Sex is not even close (but I am not experienced in sexual alchemy and I know there is great potential with it, as others have discussed in the forums already).

If anything can inspire angels, gods, grails and the like it is entheogens/psychedelics. The time is now here for us to understand and appreciate it on a mature and intellectual manner without all that hippie mumbo-jumbo that happened in the 60s LSD craze... it was a natural process for that era to occur, but now when it has passed we can use these things more effectively and with greater respect and humility. The "drug" is not enough, where you take it, with whom you take it, why you take it and when you take it are just as important. It gives what you deserve, IMO.

To my mind psychedelics are alchemy, alchemy that you can see and feel within 30 minutes. It doesn't make practical lab alchemy any less valid, or meditation, yoga etc either... but without psychedelics all those things are crippled. The picture is not complete. Or so is my experience so far in this life.


10-07-2011, 08:19 PM
To clarify, is it correct to say that manna as mentioned in the bible is the same as:

manna made with m-state
manna made with mushrooms
manna made with alchemical processes?
all the above?

that the holy grail is:
the mushroom amanita muscaria
the stone within/philosophical
the physical stone
m-state related
all the above and more?

the e-book author thinks he found the holy grail which is the amanita muscaria mushroom.

solomon levi
10-07-2011, 10:28 PM
I guess I would say that this One thing has many vehicles.
To relate it to the most popular threads in the practical section going on right now,
the astral is everywhere, in everything.
Personally, I would not say that the amanita is what alchemists are referring to. Absolutely not.
But that doesn't mean the amanita doesn't have some SM/stone in it in a form that people can ingest.
And then, one could experience the state of consciousness of the, let's say, white stone, without ingesting
anything, through meditation. So the lesson is not to focus so much on the vehicles as the motive force
behind the vehicles. Well, motive force can be interpreted as anima mundi, the prime mover. SM (spiritus mundi)
is the prime matter, a vehicle if you will. But then everything is a vehicle for SM, but not everything can contain/maintain
it in its material manifestation. That thing is the Philosophers' stone.
If I was not clear, I mean the SM is transient in fire, air and water. Earth can be prepared to hold it fixed but is not
found so in nature - thus Alchemy - mankind helping nature.

10-07-2011, 11:39 PM
I guess I would say that this One thing has many vehicles.

A perfect reply.

Also let me add that if the author had found the holy grail he would not be writing a book but flying through the galaxy... LOL!

The most important thing about the Arthurian Legends and the Quest for the Holy Grail is not the Grail... but the quest!


10-09-2011, 12:25 PM
This article is entitled Caduceus but also speaks of The Staff of Asclepius:


Towards the end of the article, AlchemyForums member Joshua Gulick is quoted.

Here is the AlchemyForums Phoenix-thread on The Caduceus of Hermes: