God of the Week: Asklepius

God of the Week 8/17/09: Asklepius


Asklepios (sometimes spelled Asclepios, but I prefer the K spelling for it’s archaic majesty) was a Greek god of medicine. He was the son of Apollo and Coronis, and had followers for hundreds of years all across Greece and Asia Minor. There were temples built in his honor in which the sick would travel to for purification rituals and sacrifice. The sick would spend the night and any dream they had would be interpreted by the priest on site.

In writing of the death of Socrates, Plato wrote (4th century BCE):

`Krito, we owe a cock to Asklepios. Pay it and do not neglect it.’

The sacrifice of a cock being a payment to the god.

Snakes were sometimes used in his rituals, and the traditional medical symbol of a cane wrapped with a snake is a reference to him (there is also a two snake version of the  medical symbol that is known as the caduceus and attributed to Hermes, but more on him later).

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