Cradle of Civilization

A Blog about the Birth of Our Civilisation and Development

The Caduceus

Posted by Fredsvenn on March 14, 2016

Sumer (Ningizzida)

China (Nuwa and Fuxi)

Caduceus

The caduceus

The Greek kerykeion (“herald’s staff”), known in Latin as caduceus, is the staff carried by Hermes Trismegistus in Egyptian mythology and Hermes in Greek mythology. It is a short staff entwined by two serpents, sometimes surmounted by wings.

As a symbolic object it represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations, or undertakings associated with the god. It is a recognized symbol of commerce and negotiation, two realms in which balanced exchange and reciprocity are recognized as ideals.

This association is ancient, and consistent from the Classical period to modern times. The caduceus is also used as a symbol representing printing, again by extension of the attributes of Mercury (in this case associated with writing and eloquence).

The same staff was also borne by heralds in general, for example by Iris, the messenger of Hera, have been used by the astrologer priests in the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece, and have been associated with the Gnostic Corpus Hermeticum.

Iris, the personification of the rainbow and messenger of the gods, links the gods to humanity. She travels with the speed of wind from one end of the world to the other, and into the depths of the sea and the underworld. She is also known as one of the goddesses of the sea and the sky.

It sometimes confused with the Rod of Asclepius used to symbolize medicine or the biblical staff of Moses, known as Nehushtan. Sometimes the Tree of Life is represented (in a combination with similar concepts such as the World Tree and Axis mundi or “World Axis”) by a staff such as those used by shamans.

It is said the staff would wake the sleeping and send the awake to sleep. If applied to the dying, their death was gentle; if applied to the dead, they returned to life.

The oldest known representation of two snakes entwined around a rod is that of the Sumerian fertility god Ningizzida (Sumerian: dnin-g̃iš-zid-da; translated as “lord of the good tree”) although Wadjet (“the Green One”), the serpent goddess of Lower Egypt from the Pre-dynastic period dating to earlier than 3000 BCE., demonstrates the earliest known representation of a single serpent entwined around a pole – in this case a papyrus reed (refer to first glyph): Wadjet Hieroglyph.

Walter Burkert has two figures in his book which show a rod with two intertwined snakes winding around a central axis from Mesopotamia in 2200 BC, and a similar image from Crete in 700 BC.

Hermes and Mercury

 Hermes is considered a god of transitions and boundaries. He is described as quick and cunning, moving freely between the worlds of the mortal and divine. He is also portrayed as an emissary and messenger of the gods; an intercessor between mortals and the divine, and conductor of souls into the afterlife.

In some myths, he is a trickster and outwits other gods for his own satisfaction or for the sake of humankind. His attributes and symbols include the herma, the rooster, the tortoise, purse or pouch, winged sandals, and winged cap.

In the Roman adaptation of the Greek pantheon, Hermes is identified with the Roman god Mercury, the messenger of the gods, guide of the dead and protector of merchants, shepherds, gamblers, liars, and thieves, who, though inherited from the Etruscans, developed many similar characteristics such as being the patron of commerce.

Odin

Romans associated Mercury with the Germanic god Odin, also known as Wotan, by interpretatio Romana; 1st-century Roman writer Tacitus identifies him as the chief god of the Germanic peoples.

The earliest records of the Germanic peoples were recorded by the Romans, and in these works Odin is frequently referred to—via a process known as interpretatio romana (where characteristics perceived to be similar by Romans result in identification of a non-Roman god as a Roman deity)—as the Roman god Mercury.

The first clear example of this occurs in the Roman historian Tacitus’s late 1st-century work Germania, where, writing about the religion of the Suebi (a confederation of Germanic peoples), he comments that “among the gods Mercury is the one they principally worship. They regard it as a religious duty to offer to him, on fixed days, human as well as other sacrificial victims. Hercules and Mars they appease by animal offerings of the permitted kind” and adds that a portion of the Suebi also venerate “Isis”.

In this instance, Tacitus refers to the god Odin as “Mercury”, Thor as “Hercules”, and Týr as “Mars”, and the identity of the “Isis” of the Suebi has been debated.

Anthony Birley has noted that Odin’s apparent identification with Mercury has little to do with Mercury’s classical role of being messenger of the gods, but appears to be due to Mercury’s role of psychopomp.

Other contemporary evidence may also have led to the equation of Odin with Mercury; Odin, like Mercury, may have at this time already been pictured with a staff and hat, may have been considered a trader god, and the two may have been seen as parallel in their roles as wandering deities. But their rankings in their respective religious spheres may have been very different.

Mercury

In later Antiquity, the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology and alchemy, it has come to denote the elemental metal of the same name.

Mercury is the ruling planet of Gemini (Latin for “twins”) and Virgo (“the virgin maiden”) and is exalted in Virgo or Aquarius (“the water carrier”). In Roman mythology, Mercury is the messenger of the gods, noted for his speed and swiftness. Echoing this, the scorching, airless world Mercury circles the Sun on the fastest orbit of any planet.

Mercury takes only 88 days to orbit the Sun, spending about 7.33 days in each sign of the zodiac. Mercury is so close to the Sun that only a brief period exists after the Sun has set where it can be seen with the naked eye, before following the Sun beyond the horizon.

Astrologically speaking, Mercury represents the principles of communication, mentality, thinking patterns, rationality and reasoning, and adaptability and variability. The 1st-century poet Manilius described Mercury as an inconstant, vivacious and curious planet.

Mercury governs schooling and education, the immediate environment of neighbors, siblings and cousins, transport over short distances, messages and forms of communication such as post, email and telephone, newspapers, journalism and writing, information gathering skills and physical dexterity.

In medicine, Mercury is associated with the nervous system, the brain, the respiratory system, the thyroid and the sense organs. It is traditionally held to be essentially cold and dry, according to its placement in the zodiac and in any aspects to other planets.

In modern astrology, Mercury is regarded as the ruler of the third and sixth houses; traditionally, it had the joy in the first house. Mercury is the messenger of the gods in mythology. It is the planet of day-to-day expression and relationships. Mercury’s action is to take things apart and put them back together again. It is an opportunistic planet, decidedly unemotional and curious.

Mercury rules over Wednesday. In Romance languages, the word for Wednesday is often similar to Mercury (miercuri in Romanian, mercredi in French, miercoles in Spanish and mercoledì in Italian). Dante Alighieri associated Mercury with the liberal art of dialectic.

Budha (India)

In Indian astrology, Mercury is called Budha or Saumya (“son of Moon”), a word related to Buddhi (“intelligence”) and represents communication. Budha is the Hindu god of merchandise and the protector of merchants.

Budha, the name and personification of the planet Mercury, presides over midweek Budhavara or Wednesday. In modern Hindi, Oriya, Telugu, Bengali, Marathi, Urdu, Kannada and Gujarati, Wednesday is called Budhavara; Tamil: Budhan kizhamai; Malayalam: Budhanazhcha; Thai: Wan Phut. His consort is the female form of Hindu androgyne god Ila, who in the Vedas is praised as Idā (Sanskrit: इडा), goddess of speech.

Budha is said to be the son of lunar god Chandra, also identified with the Vedic lunar deity Soma, and Taraka or Tara (the goddess of felicity and the divine consort of Hindu god Brihaspati, God of planet Jupiter). The Soma name refers particularly to the juice of sap in the plants and thus makes the Moon the lord of plants and vegetation. As Soma, he presides over Monday.

Brihaspati, who presides over Thursday, was noted to be the guru of the gods. He was married to Taraka, who was later abducted by Chandra. Taraka bore a son, Budha, from her abductor Chandra. After the war between Brihaspati and Chandra, Taraka returned to her husband. Because of how he was conceived, Budha hated his father and as Chandra, also knew that Budha is his illegitimate son, he began to hate his son, and their rivalry continues to this day.

Water (China)

In Chinese astrology, Mercury represents Water, the fourth element, therefore symbolizing communication, intelligence, and elegance. The Chinese linkage of Mercury with water is alien to Western astrology, but this combination shares the water themes, much of what is coined “mercurial” in Western thought, such as intellect, reason and communication.

The three most popular Eurasian traditions, Western astrology, Chinese astrology, and Hindu Astrology, accordingly share a large amount of common themes in their zodiacs and concepts of planetary meanings. This could inflect that the three have an ancient common origin, whereas in fact the three developed mutually over millennia by diffusion, assimilation, scholarship, and trade across the whole of Eurasia and Africa.

Medicine

The caduceus continues to be used incorrectly even after abundant knowledge has been made available as a symbol of healthcare organizations and medical practice (especially in North America), due to confusion with the traditional medical symbol or other reasons, the rod of Asclepius, which has only one snake and is never depicted with wings.

As a symbol for medicine, the caduceus is often used interchangeably with the Rod of Asclepius (single snake, no wings), although learned opinion prefers the Rod of Asclepius, reserving the caduceus for representing commerce.

Historically, the two astrological symbols had distinct meanings in alchemical and astrological principles. Some medical organizations join the serpents of the caduceus with rungs to suggest a DNA double-helix.

Hermes Trismegistus

Hermes Trismegistus (“thrice-greatest Hermes”; Latin: Mercurius ter Maximus) is the purported author of the Hermetic Corpus, a series of sacred texts that are the basis of Hermeticism.

Hermes Trismegistus may be a representation of the syncretic combination of the Greek god Hermes and the Egyptian god Thoth, who became heavily associated with the arbitration of godly disputes, the arts of magic, the system of writing, the development of science, and the judgment of the dead.

Thoth played many vital and prominent roles in Egyptian mythology, such as maintaining the universe, and being one of the two deities (the other being Ma’at) who stood on either side of Ra’s boat. His feminine counterpart was Seshat, and his wife was Ma’at, the ancient Egyptian concept of truth, balance, order, harmony, law, morality, and justice.

Maat was also personified as a goddess regulating the stars, seasons, and the actions of both mortals and the deities, who set the order of the universe from chaos at the moment of creation. Her ideological counterpart was Isfet.

The earliest surviving records indicating that Maat is the norm for nature and society, in this world and the next, were recorded during the Old Kingdom, the earliest substantial surviving examples being found in the Pyramid Texts of Unas (ca. 2375 BCE and 2345 BCE).

Later, as a goddess in other traditions of the Egyptian pantheon, where most goddesses were paired with a male aspect, her masculine counterpart was Thoth, as their attributes are similar. In other accounts, Thoth was paired off with Seshat, goddess of writing and measure, who is a lesser known deity.

After her role in creation and continuously preventing the universe from returning to chaos, her primary role in Egyptian mythology dealt with the weighing of souls (also called the weighing of the heart) that took place in the underworld, Duat. Her feather was the measure that determined whether the souls (considered to reside in the heart) of the departed would reach the paradise of afterlife successfully.

In Hellenistic Egypt, the Greeks recognized the congruence of their god Hermes with Thoth. Subsequently, the two gods were worshiped as one, in what had been the Temple of Thoth in Khemnu, which the Greeks called Hermopolis.

Both Thoth and Hermes were gods of writing and of magic in their respective cultures. Thus, the Greek god of interpretive communication was combined with the Egyptian god of wisdom as a patron of astrology and alchemy. In addition, both gods were psychopomps, guiding souls to the afterlife.

The Egyptian priest and polymath, Imhotep, had been deified long after his death and therefore assimilated to Thoth in the classical and Hellenistic period. The renowned scribe, Amenhotep, and a wise man named Teôs, were equally deified as gods of wisdom, science and medicine and thus placed alongside Imhotep in shrines dedicated to Thoth-Hermes during the Ptolemaic period.

Ninshubur

Due to similarities between the two, some believe the later Hermes to have been based in part on Ninshubur, the sukkal or second-in-command of the goddess Inanna in Sumerian mythology.

A goddess in her own right, her name can be translated as ‘Queen of the East’, and she was said to be a messenger and traveller for the other gods. As Inanna was associated with the planet Venus, Ninshubur was said to be associated with Mercury, as Venus and Mercury appear together in the sky.

Ninshubur accompanied Inanna as a vassal and friend throughout Inanna’s many exploits. She helped Inanna fight Enki’s demons after Inanna’s theft of the sacred me. Later, when Inanna became trapped in the Underworld, it was Ninshubur who pleaded with Enki for her mistress’s release.

Though described as an unmarried virgin, in a few accounts Ninshubur is said to be one of Inanna’s lovers. In later Akkadian mythology, Ninshubur was male. In “A hymn to Nergal” Ninshubur appeared as the minister of the underworld.

Nabu

Nabu is the Babylonian god of wisdom and writing, worshipped by Babylonians as Marduk and Sarpanitum’s son and as Enki’s grandson. His consorts were the Akkadian goddess Tashmetum and the Assyrian Nissaba. His name is derived from the Semitic root nb´, meaning “to prophesy”. Nabu was also the keeper of the Tablets of Destiny, which recorded the fate of mankind. His symbols are the clay tablet and stylus.

Nabu was originally a West Semitic deity from Ebla whose cult was introduced to Mesopotamia by the Amorites after 2000 BC. Nabu was assimilated into Marduk’s cult, where he became Marduk’s son with Sarpanitum, Marduk’s minister, and co-regent of the Mesopotamian pantheon. Nabu became the god of wisdom and writing, taking over the role from the Sumerian goddess Nisaba

He wears a horned cap, and stands with his hands clasped, in the ancient gesture of priesthood. He rides on a winged dragon known as Sirrush that originally belonged to his father Marduk. In Babylonian astrology, Nabu was identified with the planet Mercury. As the god of wisdom and writing, Nabu was linked by the Greeks with Hermes, by the Romans with Mercury, and by the Egyptians with Thoth.

Ningishzida

Some accounts suggest that the oldest known imagery of the caduceus have their roots in a Mesopotamian origin with the Sumerian god Ningishzida whose symbol, a staff with two snakes intertwined around it.

The main temple to Enki, often shown with the horned crown of divinity dressed in the skin of a carp, is called E-abzu, meaning “abzu temple” (also E-en-gur-a, meaning “house of the subterranean waters”), a ziggurat temple surrounded by Euphratean marshlands near the ancient Persian Gulf coastline at Eridu. He was the keeper of the divine powers called Me, the gifts of civilization. His image is a double-helix snake.

Ningizzida was sometimes depicted as a serpent with a human head, eventually becoming a god of healing and magic. It is a Mesopotamian deity of the underworld. It is the companion of Dumuzi (Tammuz), with whom it stood at the gate of heaven.

Tammuz (Sumerian: Dumuzid (DUMU.ZI(D), “faithful or true son”) was the name of a Sumerian god of food and vegetation. In Babylonia, the month Tammuz was established in honor of the eponymous god Tammuz, who originated as a Sumerian shepherd-god, Dumuzid or Dumuzi, the consort of Inanna and, in his Akkadian form, the parallel consort of Ishtar.

The Levantine Adonis (“lord”), who was drawn into the Greek pantheon, was considered by Joseph Campbell among others to be another counterpart of Tammuz, son and consort.

In Sumerian mythology, he appears in Adapa’s myth as one of the two guardians of Anu’s celestial palace, alongside Dumuzi. He was sometimes depicted as a serpent with a human head.

His wife is Azimua and also Geshtinanna, while his sister is Amashilama. In some texts Ningishzida is said to be female, which means “Nin” would then refer to Lady, which is mostly how the word is used by the Sumerians.

Ningizzida was the ancestor of Gilgamesh, who, according to the epic, dived to the bottom of the waters to retrieve the plant of life. But while he rested from his labor, a serpent came and ate the plant. The snake became immortal, and Gilgamesh was destined to die.

Kundalini

Ningizzida has been popularized in the 20th century by Raku Kei Reiki (a.k.a. “The Way of the Fire Dragon”), where “Nin Giz Zida” is believed to be a fire serpent of Tibetan rather than Sumerian origin.

In Kundalini Yoga, where it is thought to be a symbolic representation of the “subtle” nerve channels the “ida”, “pingala”, and “sushumna” described in yogic kundalini physiology.

“Nin Giz Zida” is another name for the ancient Hindu concept Kundalini, a Sanskrit word meaning either “coiled up” or “coiling like a snake”. “Kundalini” refers to the mothering intelligence behind yogic awakening and spiritual maturation leading to altered states of consciousness.

There are a number of other translations of the term, usually emphasizing a more serpentine nature to the word—e.g. “serpent power”. It has been suggested by Joseph Campbell that the symbol of snakes coiled around a staff is an ancient representation of Kundalini physiology.

The staff represents the spinal column with the snake(s) being energy channels. In the case of two coiled snakes, they usually cross each other seven times, a possible reference to the seven energy centers called chakras.

Egypt

In Ancient Egypt, where the earliest written cultural records exist, the serpent appears from the beginning to the end of their mythology. In Egyptian mythology, Nehebkau (also spelt Nehebu-Kau, and Neheb Ka) was the two headed serpent deity who guarded the entrance to the underworld. He was associated with earth animals, including the serpent.

Nehebkau was originally the explanation of the cause of binding of Ka and Ba after death. Thus his name means “He who unite the two Kas” or “He who harnesses the souls”). Since these aspects of the soul were said to bind after death, Nehebkau was said to have guarded the entrance to Duat, the underworld.

The term ka is frequently translated as ‘double’, for it may be depicted as a twin, or as ‘spirit’, but it has a wide semantic range. Ka is also the Egyptian word for sustenance, and is associated with spirit. The Ka was the Egyptian concept of vital essence, that which distinguishes the difference between a living and a dead person, with death occurring when the ka left the body.

The Egyptians believed that Khnum created the bodies of children on a potter’s wheel and inserted them into their mothers’ bodies. Depending on the region, Egyptians believed that Heket or Meskhenet was the creator of each person’s Ka, breathing it into them at the instant of their birth as the part of their soul that made them be alive. This resembles the concept of spirit in other religions.

The ‘Ba’ was everything that makes an individual unique, similar to the notion of ‘personality’. The word ‘bau’, plural of the word ba, meant something similar to ‘impressiveness’, ‘power’, and ‘reputation’, particularly of a deity. Louis Žabkar argued that the Ba is not part of the person but is the person himself, unlike the soul in Greek, or late Judaic, Christian or Muslim thought.

The ‘Ba’ is an aspect of a person that the Egyptians believed would live after the body died, and it is sometimes depicted as a human-headed bird flying out of the tomb to join with the ‘Ka’ in the afterlife.

Nehebkau was a benevolent snake god who the Egyptians believed was one of the original primeval gods. He was linked to the sun god, swimming around in the primeval waters before creation, then bound to the sun god when time began. He was a god of protection who protected the pharaoh and all Egyptians, both in life and in the afterlife. Since these aspects of the soul were said to bind after death, Nehebkau was said to have guarded the entrance to Duat, the underworld.

When he was seen as a snake, he was also thought to have some power over snake-bites, and by extension, other poisonous bites, such as those of scorpions, thus sometimes being identified as the son of Serket, the scorpion-goddess of protection against these things.

Alternatively, as a snake, since he was connected to an aspect of the soul, he was sometimes seen as the son of the goddess of nourishment and the harvest, Renenutet, a snake-goddess who distributed the Ren, another aspect of the soul, and of the earth (Geb), on which snakes crawl.

As a part of the soul, a person’s ren (rn ‘name’) was given to them at birth and the Egyptians believed that it would live for as long as that name was spoken, which explains why efforts were made to protect it and the practice of placing it in numerous writings.

Renenutet was envisioned, particularly in art, as a cobra, or as a woman with the head of a cobra. Later, as a snake-goddess worshiped over the whole of Lower Egypt, Renenutet was increasingly associated with (and later was absorbed by) their primal snake goddess Wadjet, Lower Egypt’s powerful protector and another snake goddess represented as a cobra, who from the earliest of records was the patron and protector of the country, all other deities, and the pharaohs.

Renenutet is the first known oracle. She was depicted as the crown of Egypt, entwined around the staff of papyrus and the pole that indicated the status of all other deities, as well as having the all-seeing eye of wisdom and vengeance. She never lost her position in the Egyptian pantheon.

As a two-headed snake, he was viewed as fierce, being able to attack from two directions, and not having to fear as much confrontations, it was sometimes that Atum, the chief god in these areas, had to keep his finger on Nehebkau to prevent him from getting out of control.

Alternatively, in areas where Ra was the chief god, it was said that Nehebkau was one of the warriors who protected Ra whilst he was in the underworld, during Ra’s nightly travel, as a sun god, under the earth.

Atum, sometimes rendered as Atem or Tem, was a self-created deity, the first being to emerge from the darkness and endless watery abyss that existed before creation. A product of the energy and matter contained in this chaos, he created his children—the first deities, out of loneliness.

Atum’s name is thought to be derived from the word tem which means to complete or finish. Thus he has been interpreted as being the ‘complete one’ and also the finisher of the world, which he returns to watery chaos at the end of the creative cycle. As creator he was seen as the underlying substance of the world, the deities and all things being made of his flesh or alternatively being his ka.

In the Old Kingdom the Egyptians believed that Atum lifted the dead king’s soul from his pyramid to the starry heavens. He was also a solar deity, associated with the primary sun god Ra. Atum was linked specifically with the evening sun, while Ra or the closely linked god Khepri were connected with the sun at morning and midday.

Ra was thought to travel on two solar boats called the Mandjet (the Boat of Millions of Years), or morning boat and the Mesektet, or evening boat. These boats took him on his journey through the sky and the Duat, the literal underworld of Egypt. While Ra was on the Mesektet, he was in his ram-headed form. When Ra traveled in his sun boat he was accompanied by various other deities including Sia (perception) and Hu (command) as well as Heka (magic power).

Sometimes members of the Ennead helped him on his journey, including Set, who overcame the serpent Apophis, the god of chaos, was an enormous serpent who attempted to stop the sun boat’s journey every night by consuming it or by stopping it in its tracks with a hypnotic stare, and Mehen, who defended against the monsters of the underworld. When Ra was in the underworld, he would visit all of his various forms.

During the evening, the Egyptians believed that Ra set as Atum or in the form of a ram. The Mesektet, or the Night boat, would carry him through the underworld and back towards the east in preparation for his rebirth. These myths of Ra represented the sun rising as the rebirth of the sun by the sky goddess Nut; thus attributing the concept of rebirth and renewal to Ra and strengthening his role as a creator god as well.

When Ra was in the underworld, he merged with Osiris, the god of the dead, and through it became the god of the dead as well.

Wadjet

Wadjet was depicted as a cobra. As patron and protector, later Wadjet often was shown coiled upon the head of Ra; in order to act as his protection, this image of her became the uraeus symbol used on the royal crowns as well.

She was said to be the patron and protector of Lower Egypt and upon unification with Upper Egypt, the joint protector and patron of all of Egypt “goddess” of Upper Egypt. The image of Wadjet with the sun disk is called the uraeus, and it was the emblem on the crown of the rulers of Lower Egypt. She was also the protector of kings and of women in childbirth.

As the patron goddess, she was associated with the land and depicted as a snake-headed woman or a snake—usually an Egyptian cobra, a venomous snake common to the region; sometimes she was depicted as a woman with two snake heads and, at other times, a snake with a woman’s head.

Her oracle was in the renowned temple in Per-Wadjet that was dedicated to her worship and gave the city its name. This oracle may have been the source for the oracular tradition that spread to Greece from Egypt.

Wadjet was closely associated in the Egyptian pantheon with the Eye of Ra, a powerful protective deity. Sometimes her eyes are shown in the sky of religious images. Per-Wadjet also contained a sanctuary of Horus, the child of the sun deity who would be interpreted to represent the pharaoh. Much later, Wadjet became associated with Isis as well as with many other deities.

The Uraeus (from the Greek ouraîos, “on its tail”; from Egyptian jʿr.t (iaret), “rearing cobra”) is the stylized, upright form of an Egyptian cobra (asp, serpent, or snake), used as a symbol of sovereignty, royalty, deity, and divine authority in ancient Egypt.

The Uraeus is a symbol for the goddess Wadjet, who was one of the earliest Egyptian deities and who often was depicted as a cobra. The center of her cult was in Per-Wadjet, later called Buto by the Greeks. She became the patroness of the Nile Delta and the protector of all of Lower Egypt.

The pharaohs wore the Uraeus as a head ornament: either with the body of Wadjet atop the head, or as a crown encircling the head; this indicated Wadjet’s protection and reinforced the pharaoh’s claim over the land. In whatever manner that the Uraeus was displayed upon the pharaoh’s head, it was, in effect, part of the pharaoh’s crown.

The pharaoh was recognized only by wearing the Uraeus, which conveyed legitimacy to the ruler. There is evidence for this tradition even in the Old Kingdom during the third millennium BCE. Several goddesses associated with or being considered aspects of Wadjet are depicted wearing the Uraeus also.

At the time of the unification of Egypt, the image of Nekhbet, who was represented as a white vulture and held the same position as the patron of Upper Egypt, joined the image of Wadjet on the Uraeus that would encircle the crown of the pharaohs who ruled the unified Egypt.

The importance of their separate cults kept them from becoming merged as with so many Egyptian deities. Together, they were known as The Two Ladies, who became the joint protectors and patrons of the unified Egypt.

Later, the pharaohs were seen as a manifestation of the sun god Ra, and so it also was believed that the Uraeus protected them by spitting fire on their enemies from the fiery eye of the goddess. In some mythological works, the eyes of Ra are said to be uraei.

Wadjets existed long before the rise of this cult when they originated as the eye of Wadjet as cobra and are the name of the symbols also called the Eye of the Moon, Eye of Hathor, the Eye of Horus, and the Eye of Ra—depending upon the dates of the references to the symbols.

As the Uraeus was seen as a royal symbol, the deities Horus and Set were also depicted wearing the symbol on their crowns. In early ancient Egyptian mythology, Horus would have been the name given to any king as part of the many titles taken, being identified as the son of the goddess.

According to the later mythology of Re, the first Uraeus was said to have been created by the goddess Isis, who formed it from the dust of the earth and the spittle of the then-current sun deity. In this version of the mythology, the Uraeus was the instrument with which Isis gained the throne of Egypt for Osiris. Isis is associated with and may be considered an aspect of Wadjet.

Another early depiction of Wadjet is as a cobra entwined around a papyrus stem, beginning in the Predynastic era (prior to 3100 B.C.) and it is thought to be the first image that shows a snake entwined around a staff symbol.

This is a sacred image that appeared repeatedly in the later images and myths of cultures surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, called the caduceus, which may have had separate origins.

Her image also rears up from the staff of the “flag” poles that are used to indicate deities, as seen in the hieroglyph foruraeus above and for goddess in other places.

An interpretation of the Milky Way was that it was the primal snake, Wadjet, the protector of Egypt. In this interpretation she was closely associated with Hathor and other early deities among the various aspects of the great mother goddess, including Mut and Naunet.

In Sumerian mythology, Ninhursag was a ,other goddess of the mountains, and one of the seven great deities of Sumer. She is principally a fertility goddess. Temple hymn sources identify her as the ‘true and great lady of heaven’ (possibly in relation to her standing on the mountain) and kings of Sumer were ‘nourished by Ninhursag’s milk’.

Her hair is sometimes depicted in an omega shape, and she at times wears a horned head-dress and tiered skirt, often with bow cases at her shoulders, and not infrequently carries a mace or baton surmounted by an omega motif or a derivation, sometimes accompanied by a lion cub on a leash. She is the tutelary deity to several Sumerian leaders.

The omega symbol is associated with the Egyptian cow goddess Hathor, and may represent a stylized womb. Hathor is at times depicted on a mountain, so it may be that the two goddesses are connected.

The Bible

There are several references to a caduceus-like symbol in the Bible, namely in Numbers 21:4­9, and 2 Kings 18:4. In the biblical Book of Numbers, the Nehushtan (or Nohestan) was a bronze serpent on a pole which God told Moses to erect to protect the Israelites who saw it from dying from the bites of the “fiery serpents” which God had sent to punish them for speaking against God and Moses.

King Hezekiah later instituted a religious iconoclastic reform and destroyed “the brazen serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it; [it was called|and he called it] Nehushtan” (2 Kings 18:4).

During the Exodus, Moses was instructed by God to fashion a pole upon which he was to position a serpent made of bronze; when looked upon, this Nehushtan, as it was called in Hebrew, would spare the lives of the Israelites stricken by venomous snake bites.

The intent was that people would look upward and be reminded to pray to God, but eventually the meaning was forgotten and this symbol was apparently worshiped by the Hebrew people until the reign of Hezekiah as described in 2 Kings 18:4.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: