Posted in Philosophy


The Ouroboros is a symbol that depicts a serpent or a dragon biting its own tail, forming a ring. It is the symbol of cyclicality – something that is in a constant cycle of rebirth through the three steps of creation, maintenance and destruction.

The concept of a serpent devouring itself likely stems from the ancient belief that a snake shedding its skin is the act of leaving an old, inferior body to be reborn into a better, new body. The ancient Greeks explained that the Ouroboros connects its beginning (mouth) and end (tail) to form a metaphor for the link between life and death. By forming a circle, the Ouroboros has no beginning and no end; it is an infinite, linear path that cycles endlessly. Because of this, the Ouroboros is also the symbol of infinity, immortality and the cycle of time. An alternate ancient explanation for the Ouroboros is that because it eats itself, it will ultimately end up as nothing.

The Ouroboros was an important symbol in medieval alchemy. Alchemists used the symbol “O” to represent the Ouroboros. To the alchemists, the Ouroboros was an entity that did not place importance in the two natural processes of creation and destruction, but the often-neglected third force – maintenance. This neutral process is the connection between the start and end of anything. Alchemists knew that in any chemical reaction, the process is just as important as the starting ingredients and the final product. The Ouroboros also represented “everything” and “perfection” to alchemists as it connected its own beginning and end. Because of this, the Ouroboros came to represent the Philosopher’s stone.

Perhaps the most relevant application of the Ouroboros to us is the concept of rebirth and cycling. Nothing in nature is permanent. Matter changes states, chemicals react and species evolve. We too are never permanent. There is always room for change – to destroy what you do not like about yourself, create something better and then maintain that state until the next cycle comes. As much as it is important to know to love who you are, it is vital that you continuously recycle, refine and develop yourself to become the person that you are truly happy to call “me”.

Posted in History & Literature

Rod Of Asclepius

There are many symbols that represent the field of medicine such as a red cross or a stethoscope. However, one of the most famous symbols representing medicine and healthcare is the rod of Asclepius. This symbol is used in the logos of numerous medical associations and army medical corps. Those who do know of the rod may describe it as a staff with two wings and two snakes intertwining on it, but this is a common misconception. That symbol is called the caduceus and is actually the symbol of Hermes – the Greek god of messengers, merchants, markets, the high roads, gamblers and thieves. The misconception is very common and many medical associations use the caduceus as their symbol instead of the correct Rod of Asclepius.

The Caduceus


The actual rod of Asclepius is much simpler looking, as it is simply a stick with one serpent intertwining it. The reason that it is associated with medicine and healthcare is that it was wielded by the Greek god Asclepius – the god of medicine and healing. Asclepius was the son of Apollo and had a particular interest in the human body and the healing of ailments. The ancient Greeks often referred to Asclepius in the field of medicine. In fact, the famous Hippocratic Oath originally began with the line “I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods…” (Apollo was the god of many things and medicine was one of his minor domains).

The rod of Asclepius


So why does the rod of Asclepius have a serpent wrapped around it? In Greek mythology, it is said that Asclepius commanded many non-venomous snakes which he used in healing rituals. The snakes would crawl around the temple, living freely among the physicians and patients. A certain species of snake called the Aesculapian snake is considered to be the model for this story. The reason why the Greeks chose the snake as the animal of healing may be because snakes shed their skin periodically – symbolising rebirth and fertility. 

Another possible root of the symbol may be the traditional treatment for a certain parasitic infection. The Guinea worm (Dracunculus medinensis) is a parasite that lives under the skin, digging itself out through a painful blister when mature. As the blisters burn, the patient immerses the area in cold water to soothe it. The worm detects the change in temperature and releases its larva, completing its life cycle. The traditional treatment was to slowly pull the worm out of the skin, entwine it around a stick and leave it for a period of hours to weeks until it would be completely removed. The Greeks may have taken this image (of the worm wrapped around a stick) and applied it to the rod of Asclepius.