Caduceus means “herald’s staff of office” in Greek.
The caduceus is a rod, staff or wand generally surmounted with wings. 2 serpents entwine about the staff forming a figure of eight (infinity).
The earliest recorded appearance was dated 2600 BC.
The Caduceus is the emblem of Mercury / Hermes.
The staff is a symbol of authority, magic, & power. Magicians, medicine men and shaman use a staff as a tool. It also represents the tree of life.
The wings symbolize flight, spiritually or physically and a connection with the heavens.
The serpents entwined in opposite directions, symbolize opposition & opposites (such as male & female, good & evil) and equilibrium or balance.
Serpents also remind us of hidden knowledge.
Together they add up to supernatural power, hidden wisdom, cosmos, infinity, and the paring of opposites in harmony.
The caduceus is also a symbol of healing. Aesculapius, the first physician and the god of medicine had the caduceus as one of his attributes, was able to restore health and reputedly bring the dead back to life.
The center rod was a symbol of Hermes who was the messenger of the gods. Hermes’ symbolic ties to medicine date back to the seventh century when scientists connected him to a then emerging interest in alchemy, magic and death. In mythology, Hermes would lead the dead to the underworld. It was also associated with the healing god Ningishzida of Mesopetamia and of the Egyptians Ba’al, Isis & Ishar. It is also found in India, where it has the same meaning.
The Caduceus image is used as a tattoo design, although I have to say I really struggled to find any images I liked (hence the lack of images in this post!)
I do still like the symbolism and the meaning behind the ancient symbol, so I did my own take on it for my website its a little bit different to the styles you see if you search for images
Its features geometric mandalas placed in-between the snakes, with triangular stylised wings
See my tattooed leather art, custom tattoo design and flash @ www.PuncturedArtefact.com
For other symbolism, tattoo art,design and culture posts go to the styles, symbols and signs category here