Caduceus, magic wand of Hermes; has two snakes twined around a staff topped by wings; associated with medicine because snakes symbolized wisdom.

HERMES. In Greek mythology the god Hermes was considered a subtle schemer. Called Mercurius (Mercury) by the Romans, he was the son of Zeus and Maia, daughter of Atlas. When he was only a few hours old he escaped from his cradle and went out in search of adventures. He stretched cords across a tortoise shell, inventing the lyre.

That evening he stole the oxen of Apollo, god of the sun, hid them in a cave, and killed two of the oxen. When Apollo discovered what had happened, Hermes charmed him by playing on the lyre, and Apollo allowed him to go unpunished. Hermes gave his lyre to Apollo. In return Apollo gave Hermes a magic wand, called the caduceus, which bestowed wealth and prosperity and 'turned everything it touched into gold'. Hermes was the messenger of the gods, and one of his duties was to conduct the ghosts of the dead to the lower world. Among men he became the patron of merchants and the god of eloquence, good fortune, and prudence, as well as cunning, fraud, and theft. He was also the god of the roads and the protector of travelers. Pillars topped with his image were used as guideposts along roadways. Hermes was often represented as a slender youth, wearing winged sandals, a broad-brimmed hat adorned with two small wings, and holding the caduceus.

Caduceus Staff

© Caduceus Brass, 2004