Asclepius is also known as Asklepios and Aesculapius, depending whether you are Greek, Roman or dyslexic.
He’s Doctor Deity, having learnt his stuff from CHIRON, the medical centaur of all healing knowledge. Sadly he was struck off the register by a thunderbolt from ZEUS after raising HIPPOLYTUS from the grave. The dead were supposed to stay dead, and the Gods did not approve of miracle cures. If all the dead came back to life, the Underworld would empty and HADES would be out of a job.
So now ASCLEPIUS is a sort of Public Health Service God. Sleep at his shrine and you can take advantage of his healing dreams. We don’t know if any beds are currently available.
We have it on good authority that the illegible inscriptions carved on ASCLEPIUS clay tablets were the very first doctor’s prescriptions. Which have remained unreadable ever since.
Perhaps he is best known in modern times as the original source of the logo of medicine (a staff with two snakes twisted around it) which is based on his symbolic staff, the sacred snake of his daughter HYGEIA wrapped around it.
Or is it? Let us introduce you to the parasitic Guinea Worm, a tiny but very nasty organism which, if accidentally swallowed, secretly festers and grows under your skin, incredibly reaching upwards of a meter in length. When it is ready to release its baby egglets into the world, the tip of its tiny tail bursts through the skin, causing extreme anguished pain.
The only way to remove a Guinea Worm from the body is to gently tease the tail out and slowly wind it around a stick. This laborious process can take several months.
We are pleased to report that thanks to modern health campaigns, the Guinea Worm is now almost totally extinct. But in ancient times the parasitic plague was widespread and may even have been the ‘Flaming Serpent’ which afflicted the Hebrews. The ancient medical symbol of the staff and snakes could easily be inspired by Dr ASCLEPIUS patiently winding a worm around a stick...