Meet the Gods: Asclepius
Asclepius is the ancient Greek god of medicine, healing, wisdom, rejuvenation and physicians. His name means “to cut open” because his mother, Coronis, died during labor and his father, Apollo, performed the first cesarean section by cutting the child out of her womb.
Asclepius married Epione, the goddess of soothing. Their daughters were Panacea (goddess of medicines), Aegle (goddess of good health), Aceso (goddess of the healing process), Iaso (the goddess of recuperation) and Hygieia (the goddess of health, Hygiene). They also had three sons.
According to GreekMythology.com, “At some point, Asclepius healed a snake, which in return taught him secret knowledge – snakes were considered divine beings that were wise and could heal. This is how the symbol of Asclepius and later healing was a rod wreathed with a snake. Asclepius was so good at healing that he had managed to cheat death and bring people back from the underworld. As a result, Zeus killed him to maintain the balance and placed him on the night sky under the constellation of the Ophiuchus (the snake holder).”
The Staff or Rod of Asclepius, with a snake entwined around it, remains a symbol of the medical profession.
People flocked to his healing temples in ancient Crete and Greece to be cured. Known as “Asclepions,” they were the first sacred structures specifically for medical care. Asclepius accepted any offerings, no matter how small, and people were left to spend the night in the sanctuary where large, nonpoisonous Aesculapian snakes were allowed to slither. Patients’ dreams and visions were interpreted by priests who prescribed treatment regimens comprised of religious ceremony, special diets, exercise, herbs, mud baths, exposure to the sun, and stress relief.
“Those physicians and attendants who served this god were known as the Therapeutae of Asclepius,” according to Wikipedia.
They were a hereditary priesthood, then a medical brotherhood – later known as Centaurs and Druids among other names. Their skills were in demand around Eurasia.
Hippocrates, the legendary father of medicine may have begun his career in an asclepion. The original Hippocratic Oath began, “I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods …”
In this time of the coronavirus, there is much to heal in addition to the virus, including fear, anxiety, despair, sorrow, anger, depression, loneliness, hopelessness, and a sense of helplessness. You can call on Asclepius for healing, having even the smallest of offerings to give in return for his help.
It was traditional to leave an anatomical votive relief or a relief plaque at temples depicting the body part the patient was grateful to have healed. They were typically made of terra cotta, sometimes of wood. If you find the relief you seek, you might consider making a small clay plaque or a drawing representing it to place on your altar.
Cakes, other foods, money, frankincense, laurel, olive shoots, oak leaves, garlands, songs, branches and even the sandals worn walking to the temple were also presented as offerings. The important thing is to thank him for his help.
About the Author:
All my life I have known magic was real. As a child, I played with the fae, established relationships with trees and “just knew things.” In my maiden years I discovered witchcraft and dabbled in the black-candles-and-cemeteries-at-midnight-on-a-fullmoon magick just enough to realize I did not understand its power. I went on to explore many practices including Zen, astrology, color therapy, native traditions, tarot, herbs, candle magic, gems, and, as I moved into my mother years, Buddhism, the Kabbalah and Reiki. The first man I dated after my divorce was a witch who reintroduced me to the Craft, this time by way of the Goddess. For 11 years I was in a coven, but with retirement, I have returned to an eclectic solitary practice. When accepting the mantle of crone, I pledged to serve and teach. This is what I do from my skoolie – a 30-year-old school bus converted into a tiny house on wheels that I am driving around the country, following 72-degree weather, emerging myself into nature, and sharing magic with those I meet. Find me at thewitchonwheels.com, Facebook and Instagram.