Details Of An Argument With My Husband About A Symbol of Medicine

I was shopping on OfferUp to find some great deals. And I saw something really unique you don’t see often.

It was a caduceus wall plaque.

Buy or not buy?

I thought it would go well on his shelf.

Our Argument When My Husband Got Home

I asked him what he thought of it.

Me: Do you like it?

Husband: We shouldn’t buy anything right now. [He didn’t even look at it.]

Me: But I think you’ll like it!

Husband: Let me see.

[A few seconds later…]

Husband: OK, I definitely don’t want it.

Me: Why??

Husband: It’s the staff of Hermes, which is for commerce. You’re thinking of the rod of Asclepius.

At this point, I’m looking at him like he just told me that octopus don’t have eight tentacles. Or that Asia wasn’t a continent. Or that quinoa wasn’t gluten-free.

He’s plain wrong.

Husband: Just look it up.

That’s his way of admitting, “You’re dangerous to argue with so I’m gonna be quiet.” 😜

Down A Rabbit Hole

As he told me to, I pulled up the first link on Google. And lo and behold, Wiki said this:

In a mad fever, I scrolled trying to learn more. Here’s what I learned:

  • Staff of Hermes (aka Caduceus) is TWO snakes with wings and is a symbol of commerce
  • Rod of Asclepius is ONE snake and NO wings and is a symbol of medicine


It basically goes like this:

Asclepius is the Greek god of healing. He had two daughters. One was Hygieia (goddess of hygiene and cleanliness) and the other was Panacea (goddess of remedies).

Hermes, on the other hand, is the Greek god of trade and was a messenger for the gods. He’s very popular. You see him in pop culture and movies. It’s even the brand of one of the world’s most expensive luxury handbags like Kelly or Birkin.

Misrepresentations Of Caduceus In Our Society

Turns out, I’m not the only one who got it wrong.

A survey in 1993 said that 63% of American hospitals and 38% of American medical associations use the Caduceus.

Here are some examples:

The US Public Health Service has a caduceus.

The Army Medical corp’s logo (adopted in 1902) also has a caduceus.

As the funny saying goes: “there’s the right way, the wrong way, and the army way!”

In college, there was a pre-med club called Caducea. This meant the club name was basically a misnomer.

Will The RIGHT Snake Stand Up??

Twitter: @medschool_life

Asclepius is the right snake. It’s unsymmetrical and aesthetically displeasing — like an old battery wrapped in coil. Nobody would want that tattooed on their body.

But it IS the right snake.

In Summary

I didn’t end up buying that plague on OfferUp because now I know better, begrudgingly, because of my husband. Thanks, babe 😘

I’ll be trying to stay true to the origins of healing and refer to the rod of Asclepius instead of the Caducea from here on out.

I’m a hugger. I’m hugging and supporting you, friend ❤️

To your strong medical family,