Wrong Symbol, Right Sentiment?

October 26, 2012 in Member Stories

(via Wikipedia)

Look at the symbol in the header for Healthcare Savvy. An emblem of medicine and healthcare, right? Yes. No. Well, sort of.

Rod of Asclepius
(via Wikipedia)

It turns out using the Caduceus, two-winged serpents entwined around a staff, as a symbol for healthcare is a case of historical mistaken identity. The official badge of medicine is the Rod of Asclepius, a single wingless snake coiled around a simple rod. Asclepius, son of Apollo, is the greek god of healing.  The cult of Asclepius– who set up healing temples around Greece– originated the Rod, and it has survived from antiquity. (It is believed that the cult allowed Aesculapian Snakes to slither freely throughout their temples to earn Asclepius’ favor.)

Ok, but why is there a Caduceus at the top of this page and not a Rod of Asclepius? Seems the misunderstanding can be traced back to 1902 when the U.S. Army Medical Corps officially adopted the Caduceus onto their badge. (Legend has it, this is entirely due to the insistence of one, slightly misinformed, officer). The Caduceus has slowly become a fixture of North American iconography ever since.

Hermes holding the Caduceus
(via Wikipedia)


But the plot thickens. The Caduceus stems from the greek messenger god Hermes, who carried it on his journeys. Hermes is the patron god of travelers, poets and merchants. Given the fact that healthcare in America has bloomed into BIG business (“U.S. spending annual on physicians per capita is about five times higher than peer countries“), maybe the Caduceus has  become the more appropriate symbol.  Then again, maybe it is not that simple considering Hermes is also the patron of tricksters and thieves.

What do you think? Should HealthCare Savvy be sporting the Caduceus or the Rod of Asclepius?

1 response to Wrong Symbol, Right Sentiment?

  1. Rod of Asclepius, of course!
    An interesting note, the name of Caduceus-bearing Mercury, the Roman counterpart of Hermes, is the root of such words as Mercantile, Merchandise, Merchant, Commerce, even Market, and of course Mercenary.
    Thank you for writing on this pet peeve of mine.

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