Jacqueline Dautaj
Rod of Asclepius
The rod of Asclepius

The constellation of Ophiuchus represents Asclepius of Greek myth, and as the thirteenth sign of the zodiac, Serpentarious or the Serpent Holder, remains cloaked in symbolism. However, carefully considering the myth, the rod of Asclepius and the signs' possible implications can yield a wealth of information.

The Serpentarius Constellation

The constellation of Ophiuchus, or Serpentarius, is located between the tip of Sagittarius's bow and the tail of Scorpio's stinger. In other words, you can find the constellation just north west of the center of the Milky Way galaxy. Major stars of the constellation include Ras Alphague, the head of Ophiuchus, as well as Sabik, the second brightest star of the cluster.

The Myth of Asclepius

In order to make sense of the thirteenth sign, you need to contemplate the myth of Asclepius. Asclepius is the son of Apollo and Coronis, and his destiny is foreshadowed at the moment of his birth.

Unbeknownst to Apollo, his love Coronis is anything but faithful. While pregnant, she sleeps with a mortal man. Upon discovering her infidelity, an angry Apollo dispatches Artemis to kill her. Later, as Coronis lays dead and burning on her funeral pyre, Apollo feels a pang of sympathy and rescues the child from her womb. He then gives the child Asclepius to Chiron, the great healer and well respected centaur. It is with Chiron that Asclepius learns the mystical healing arts, and eventually he becomes so skilled that he raises a man from the dead.

As can be expected, this miraculous piece of news is not well received. Hades, god of the underworld, grows concerned that if Asclepius is raising the dead, why would anyone come to the underworld? Hades takes his complaints to his brother Zeus who, in agreement with Hades, kills Asclepius with a thunderbolt. After the deed is done, Zeus places Asclepius in the constellation of Ophiuchus.

The Historical Significance of Ophiuchus

In the Medical World

Asclepius is the god of healing and in ancient times there were many shrines in his honor. These shrines, a combination of hospital/temples, are where the sick visited and slept with snakes in an effort to be cured. In fact, Hippocrates, the father of medicine, is thought to be a direct descendent of Asclepius.

The ancient snake. The ancient snake.

Asclepius is so pivotal to medicine that the original Hippocratic Oath begins, "I swear by Apollo, the Physician, and Aesculapius and Hygeia and Panacea and all the gods and goddesses, making them my witness, that I will fulfill according to my abilities, and judgment this oath…"

With Regards to Astrology

Perhaps the most intriguing significance of Ophiuchus in astrology is felt best by his absence. Western astrology utilizes the topical system, which follows the precession, or change of seasons, and because the sun only spends a short time in the constellation, the Babylonians did without it.

This void and lack of knowledge helped spur much of the controversy that surrounds Parke Kunkle and his new astrology dates. However, it is worth noting that famed prophetic writer and seer Nostradamus does makes reference to the "secret" thirteenth sign, and as relayed in the Lost Book of Nostradamus, the sign is pivotal to the galactic alignment of 2012.

Symbology: The Rod vs. the Caduceus

The caduceus of Hermes The caduceus of Hermes.

Ancient astrologers may have scrubbed the zodiac clean of Ophiuchus, but his staff remains. There are two key staffs in the medicinal professions; the caduceus of Hermes (Mercury to the Romans) and the rod of Asclepius. Hermes' caduceus features two serpents entwined around a rod with wings on either side, while the rod of Asclepius features just one snake entwined with the staff.

Several well known associations currently use the rod of Asclepius as their symbol, including the American Medical Association, the United States Air Force Medical Service and the World Heath Organization or WHO.

Why the difference? Well, the caduceus is a pivotal symbol in alchemy, and Hermes is also associated with trade and commerce, so the disparity might be an indication of the marriage between money and health for some organizations and companies.

From these examples, it's easy to see that Asclepius may be gone, but he is clearly not forgotten by everyone.

Making Sense of the Sign

How can you make sense of Ophiuchus and his seeming resurrection back into the world of astrology? In short, you can do this in several ways, all the while keeping in mind the sign is literally about resurrection.

  • First, note whatever current news stories are popular when the sign's name is mentioned; in astrology, this is how characteristics are assigned to different planets and parts of the zodiac.
  • Second, carefully analyze the differences between the caduceus of Hermes and the staff of Asclepius. Note that the snake is a symbol for the kundalini energy that is contained at the seat of the spine, as well as the fact that Mercury/Hermes deals with trade and commerce. Clearly Asclepius is not to accept payment for treatment, and some cite this as one of the reasons why Zeus killed him. Indeed, the original Hippocratic Oath stayed true to this axiom since it states that doctors are not supposed to accept payment for their work.
  • Third, study the myth that surrounds Asclepius's birth. This could easily point to the fact that man is actually half man, half god. This is something that has enormous implications for all of mankind, and is a key factor in both the study of alchemy, and in awakening the kundalini energy that is believed to lay dormant in everyone. Also consider, is it an accident that the constellation falls between Sagittarius (whose ruler is Jupiter/Zeus) and Scorpio (the ruler of which is Hades/Pluto), the very same gods who decided the sign's fate?

Whether you believe that the introduction of Ophiuchus into our modern day language is a fluke, a clear sign of the collective or part of a great awakening, there can be no doubt that this is one constellation that continues to fascinate people.