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Medical Symbols

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SYMBOLS from the Bible and Mythology

The Medical symbol has always intrigued to me and I had wondered how it came about...especially the use of the rod with snake/serpent. Then last year while reading the Bible, I again came across the story about Moses, the pole, staff and a serpent that healed the Israelite...I have read this story many times, however this time a flash came into my head and I asked myself, "is this where the medical symbol came from?"

Moses and the serpent

Moses and the serpent

Moses and the serpent

Numbers 21:8-9

And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

Of course there are more Biblical stories related to poles/staffs and serpents...and outside of the Bible I found many connections with Greek Mythology and Greek god Hermes.

So here I'm covering just a few stories of the origination of this Symbol...I'm sure there are many more out there, and I will be adding them to the Links listed as I find them.

Stainglass by Chantel Pare

Stainglass by Chantel Pare

Stainglass by Chantel Pare


Aesculapius ~ single serpent


The most popular symbol of medicine around the world is the staff with a single serpent (snake) wrapped around it, the staff is called Asklepois (Latin ~ Aesculapius) it was the staff of Asklepois the ancient Greek god of medicine.

In Europe, most Medical Doctors and Clinics use the Aesculapius symbol staff/rod with the wingless one serpent entwined around the staff. The British Royal Army Medical Corps, American Medical Ass. and the Royal Canadian Medical Corps use this symbol of medicine as well as the emblem.

Asklepios ~ double serpent

Asklepios ~ double serpent

Asklepios ~ double serpent

(the Asklepian)

This staff Asklepios (the Asklepian)which has the coiled double serpents with wings ascending to the top is called the Caduceus, both being popular medical symbols in the United States.

The medical Symbol the Caduceus is usually described as the Medical Symbol and equivalent to the Ancient Caduceus with a double serpent, this being of the Greek god Hermes (Latin ~ Mercury)

Actually the medical caduceus is quite modern in origins it's obtained idea was from a well known 19th Century medical publisher's printers mark and not from the ancient caduceus of Hermes.



modern version

The Caduceus symbol is frequently designated as the Medical Caduceus and is described as equivalent with the ancient caduceus with the double serpent staff of the Greek god Hermes Latin ~ noted above for Asklepios module, the design was not from the ancient caduceus. Surprisingly it was adopted by the US Army Medical Corps in the early 20th Century making it then popular.

I also found that the Word Caduceus (Latin) has origin from a Greek word Karykeion (Karyx or Keryx meaning Herald)

The double snake baring caduceus even has a certain resemblance to the DNA symbol called the double helix which is like a coil like twisted-ladder.

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Caduceus ~ DNA helix

Caduceus ~ DNA helix



an infulence from caduceus

You will even find this symbol used by the American Veterinary Medical Association...interesting!

According to the Hebrew text

Very interesting!

My Internet friend LaraineRose shared this interesting and informative research she had done, and I have added it to my lens, word for word. Thank You Laraine!

LaraineRose wrote:

I decided to do a bit of research on this interesting subject and here is what I found. I hope that you find it interesting. You may add it to your lens if you want to.

The Israelites kept the copper serpent and later improperly began to worship it, making sacrificial smoke to it. Hence, as part of his religious reforms, Judean King Hezekiah (745-717 B.C.E.) had the more than 700-year-old copper serpent crushed to pieces because the people had made an idol of it. According to the Hebrew text, the account at 2 Kings 18:4 literally reads, "he (one) began to call it Nehushtan." Some translations leave the word "Nehushtan" untranslated. (AT; Ro; RS) In Koehler and Baumgartner's lexicon, suggested meanings of the Hebrew term nechush·tan′ are "bronze serpent" and "serpent-idol of bronze." (Hebräisches und Aramäisches Lexikon zum Alten Testament, Leiden, 1983, p. 653) The New World Translation appropriately says that the copper serpent "used to be called the copper serpent-idol." Jesus Christ made clear the prophetic meaning of the wilderness event involving the copper serpent when he told Nicodemus: "Moreover, no man has ascended into heaven but he that descended from heaven, the Son of man. And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, that everyone believing in him may have everlasting life." (John 3:13-15) Like the copper serpent that Moses placed on a pole in the wilderness, the Son of God was impaled or fastened on a stake, thus appearing to many as an evildoer and a sinner, like a snake, being in the position of one cursed. (De 21:22, 23; Ga 3:13; 1Pe 2:24) In the wilderness a person who had been bitten by one of the poisonous serpents that God sent among the Israelites evidently had to gaze at the copper serpent in faith. Similarly, to gain everlasting life through Christ, it is necessary to exercise faith in him.

Jehovah Witness site

this research was found at a Jehovah Witness site

I realize this is an odd subject, but thought it interesting....and just maybe you at one time thought, how did this symbol come about.

* I'd like to mention that there are many myths, conceptions and misconceptions, some towards evil, other faiths and Masonic belief. My page and research are mostly based on the Bible and meanings in Greek and Latin.

Created 11/03/2008

What you are is God's gift to you, what you do with yourself is your gift to God: Danish Proverb

Now you know ~ just a few of the facts!

Anna from chichester on May 13, 2014:

This is really interesting, you've answered a question that I've often pondered

Shinichi Mine from Tokyo, Japan on February 07, 2014:

How interesting this lens was to read. I always wondered about the symbol.

tonyleather on October 25, 2013:

Interesting Post!

Leroy J Dayhoff from Scottsboro, AL on October 22, 2013:

I encounter medical symbols that depict a snake all the time on my job, and have never even thought about where that came from. I don't know if it has anything to do with the bible verse you quoted, but I'd say that's definitely very possible and what an amazing find on your part.

changrcoacher on July 28, 2013:

Fascinating lens. In Native American Medicine the snake represents Transmutation and Healing. They have the ability to shed their damaged, dirty, dinged, scraped and dented old skin and slither off, all shiny and new. That's CHANGE! So do we.

Remya16 on July 03, 2013:

Hey.. I'm new on Squidoo..

Thank you for commenting on my first lens. It means a lot to me.

This lens that you've created really intrigued me. I've seen this symbol, like many others, but I've never bothered to find out how it actually came about.

Thank you so much for sharing that with us.

LadyDuck on May 16, 2013:

Beautiful instructive lens. I am fascinated by symbols coming from ancient Mythology.

jayavi on March 18, 2013:

Interesting lens. Thanks for sharing.

NoYouAreNot on March 16, 2013:

Some say (and I find it quite plausible) that it is associated with the 7 chakras / energy centers.

kulla on February 27, 2013:

Really interesting. I had always wondered about the wand and serpent symbol. Now thanks to you I know how it originated. Thanks for sharing interesting insights.

anonymous on February 16, 2013:

Thank youj!

KaraAshton on February 03, 2013:

I've never really thought about this medical symbol but I found it very interesting reading your lens. Blessed.

chas65 on January 20, 2013:

I have a couple of antique walking canes from England with a snake carved into the entire length of the cane with the snake winding itself around the cane. They were supposedly used by doctors.

BlogsWriter on January 17, 2013:

This is very interesting, most of the symbols have some hidden meaning and story behind them.

Tolovaj Publishing House from Ljubljana on January 09, 2013:

Our life is full of symbols and in many cases we don't even realize them. Thanks for your presentation.

Snakesmum on January 02, 2013:

This was interesting, thankyou

LindsayPietrolu on December 06, 2012:

Interesting lens :)

pumpum on December 05, 2012:

Great lens, I learned so much from this lens, Thanks for sharing.

OUTFOXprevention1 on November 04, 2012:

Interesting lens! Symbols tell so much!

Mech from Bosnia and Herzegvina on October 29, 2012:

Excellent lens! Even though I knew most of this, there were still some new information here. You did a thorough research! Kudos!

anonymous on September 16, 2012:

Thank you for your click. I'll be back soon to other

indigomoth from New Zealand on September 14, 2012:

Some very interesting information here. Thanks for your thorough investigation of the topic!

Deadicated LM on September 13, 2012:

Very interesting and well done Lens. Kudos!

olmpal on August 14, 2012:

As a Greek, I knew about the staff of god Hermes and Rod of Asclepius but I found it interesting to be connected with Moses!

raelcalu on July 01, 2012:

i did not know this...thanks for the info!!!

JoshK47 on June 09, 2012:

Quite the fascinating read! Thanks for sharing! Blessed by a SquidAngel. :)

biminibahamas on May 07, 2012:

Wonderful lens, great information!

TheDeeperWell on April 03, 2012:

Have you noticed how this symbol is also a representation of the twining coils of DNA? It is not just symbolism.

lesliesinclair on March 20, 2012:

As an artist in whose huge painting this symbol was prominent, I, too, wondered about its origin. You have shed light on an elusive subject. Interesting

Delia (author) on March 08, 2012:

@MrWidemouth: That's interesting, I vaguely remember reading something to that effect, I'll have to look it up again...Thanks for the info!

MrWidemouth on March 08, 2012:

Good study! Did you know that the single snake represents Christ taking our place on the cross for sin but the double snake is a demonic symbol? It represents witchcraft and pharmacy as well as deception in business. If you search "baphomet" under images you will see how disturbing it is. Cheers.

anonymous on March 03, 2012:

Nice spot. unfortunately doesn't seem to operating to heal, always looking to tell us we have something or other

ourmarket on March 01, 2012:

Very interesting reading love the lens

jstarley on March 01, 2012:

I'm not sure either how this symbol came about. My chiropractor has a small statue of the archangel Michael holding the staff with snakes and I've always thought it's one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen. Great lens! Thanks!