Double Snakes: Caduceus Symbolic Meaning

Written by avenefica on October 15th, 2008

After writing a page on snake symbolic meanings, I felt a need for further expansion on the caduceus meaning; specifically the symbolic meaning of the various elements that comprise the caduceus symbol in whole.

–Double Snakes or Serpents–
The double snakes of the caduceus represent duality and the unification of polar opposites.  As such, these double snakes speak of the balance and integration polarities in order to strike harmony.  Such dualities include:

  • male/female
  • light/dark
  • water/fire
  • left/right
  • good/evil
  • illness/health
  • binding/loosing
  • wax/wane
  • separation/union
  • sun/moon
  • upper/lower
  • asleep/awake

Essentially, these opposing snakes represent the concept of yin and yang

–Spiraling Serpents–
The spiraling contortion of serpents in the traditional caduceus imagery is no accident.  Their spiral effect indicates an expansion of knowledge as well as the undulating dance of cosmic forces.

–Staff, Rod or Wand —
Traditionally vertical rods are considered archetypal symbols of the phallus.  As the dual serpents address the concept of gender, I’m more inclined to view the staff of caduceus as an emissary of transference between body and mind (physical and spiritual). 

Just as the symbolic Tree of Life (seen in many ancient cultures) connects the expanse between earth (roots) to heaven (branching into the sky) – the rod of caduceus may be viewed as a conduit between mundane and ethereal.

Wings are symbolic of ascension, messages from the divine, and awareness from a higher (angelic?) vantage point.  As the caduceus is associated with Mercury/Hermes, we may also infer these wings are icons of travel and serve as a protective icon for all wayfarer’s. 

As an alchemical symbol the caduceus represents the conjugation of sulphur (male) and quicksilver (female).  This symbol also infers the synthesis of opposites with the goal of unification and transformation.

Caduceus means “herald’s staff of office” in Greek, and the center rod was a symbol of Hermes who was the messenger of the gods. 

Other gods to carry this magic wand include:

  • Anubis (Egyptian)
  • Baal (Phoenician)
  • Mercury (Roman)
  • Aesculapius (Greek)

The caduceus’ association with the medical profession comes from the latter-most god (Aesculapius) who is a god of healing.  Further, Dr. Carl Jung popularized it as a modern medical symbol as he felt it was an appropriate emblem of homeopathy.

Other pages of interest:

Symbolism of Snakes

Symbols in Nature

Symbolism of Rods

Alchemy Symbols 

Symbolic Meaning of Number Two

Yin Yang Symbolism

Hermes at the Crossroads


6 Comments so far ↓

  1. Liara Covert says:

    Double snakes are also a phenomenon that evoke thoughts of worthiness. When it comes to healing, beings in the physical world often believe that the answer just comes. It does, yet on some level, the awareness of answers must be earned through experience and evolution. If you have not earned a cure, that is, if the universe does not believe you deserve it, then you will not perceive certain healing. The duality of the serpents in this image reminds you that healing is manifest based on two things you can do;
    1) you can patiently await with a sincerity and devotion to what matters; 2) you can act altrusitically to heal others. Love reflects back on you.

  2. IX says:

    I think it was Erik Davis that pointed out the similarities between the intertwined snakes and DNA strands.

  3. avenefica says:


    I did not know about Erik Davis & his observations correlating DNA w/ intertwined serpents….thank you for sharing this information. I will be looking @ Erik Davis’ work on your recommendation. Thanks again.

  4. andrew says:

    I read about this among the Nibiru theorists and the earliest found relics on the entwined snakes (now coincidentally an international medic related symbol) said to be from the Annunaki who allegedly created/cloned mankind.

  5. Gina says:

    I had this dream before a big life change…where it started with native american shaman and person I was seeing at the time..then we were running, jumping over roof tops and I landed on a little water lily pond and 2 snakes came out of the water and bit me…i remember not being afraid and I knew the snakes were deadly. Instead of dying I became one with the snakes I talked to the shaman before waking up telling him I was not afraid…and I woke up almost hissing…like a snake…I know very weird but very vivid dream…the person I was seeing did end up being not who he said he was…so maybe it was a warning…not really sure..I have always been allured to sun/moon even have thought that was interesting in your comments…

    Have a great day…

    gina :0)

  6. Aje Dayo says:

    By the grace of God i will be doing more reserch on this, because i want to get adequate information about the symbol. Thanks for this piece……

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