Thursday, November 29, 2012

Battling over Symbols

The Wand of Hermes, called the Caduceus, is a stand alone symbol that once represented the medical profession in the United States. The wand  consists of a staff with two serpents rampant.  The Wand is quite pretty. Hermes, or his Latin equivalent, Mercury, was the god of commerce. Like all Greek gods he had a variety of other jobs like protecting travelers, including bandits and  card players and any on the road.  Generally meeting the needs of  hustle-bustle. Hermes was as fast as Mercury. That's how the planet and the metal got their name. The Rod of Asklepios is in fact the historically correct symbol of the medical profession and employed world wide. It however, had to be radically redesigned in order to be pretty  Asklepious was the Greek god of Medicine, but his Rod is ugly and does not have a stand alone tradition. In all the statuary and  vase painted images I have seen, the Rod is held in the hand of Asklepios. As a symbol one is stuck with images of Asklepios holding the Rod and the single serpant  not so rampant, if verity is to be prized.  Do not believe symbols are powerless.As a stand alone symbol, the Rod of Asklepios in the original would look  like a fat club with a snake wrapped around it. From the temple reliefs and statuary it looks like something that would be carried by Alley Oop.  It's a saw-off then. Did the US go for pretty, but hopefully inaccurate as a representative of physicians; Fast Eddy, commerce, itinerant travelers, card sharks, banditry, and sharp practice. Or do we take UBS (Ugly But Satisfactory) and tart it up. If symbolism is a visible manifestation of an invisible ideal we don't have much of a choice.

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