But wait … there’s myrrh!

But wait ... there's myrrh

But wait … there’s myrrh

The Christian holy day known as Epiphany “[commemorates] (at least in western tradition) the visit of the Magi and Jesus being revealed to the Gentiles” (from Finding a New Way Home) is celebrated on 6 January. According to timeanddate.com, “It commemorates the first two occasions on which Jesus’ divinity, according to Christian belief, was manifested: when the three kings visited infant Jesus in Bethlehem, and when John the Baptist baptized him in the River Jordan. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches emphasize the visit of the Magi when they celebrate the Epiphany. The Eastern Orthodox churches focus on Jesus’ baptism.”

All history is redaction – ie, it re-frames and retells our “old, old story” in such a way as to please the current audience. The past is perpetually being re-examined and reinterpreted.

Recent memes appearing on Facebook – but not including this one from catholicmemes.com – have commented on what three wise women would have done. One version asserts that they would have “asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, brought practical gifts, cleaned the stable, made a casserole … and there would be peace on earth.” (From mickiemuellerart.com)

I don’t think so! (Especially that last bit.)

Another version of the meme adds that “Three Wise Feminist Women would have … lobbied King Herod for gender equality.” In its lower right corner, the image carries the wording: Destroy the Joint. But, according to Helen Razer, “Destroy the Joint misses the point”.

My back is up, my hackles on end. If there is to be anything more than talk of gender equality, then it is blatantly obvious that the faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses of humankind will be owned (and owned up to) by all.

Caduceus

Did it occur to you, at any stage, that “A Twisted Pair” might somehow relate to the double helix of DNA? … and to “the ordinary copper wire that connects home and many business computers to the telephone company”?*

Reading that this blog explores the “twinfulness” of the writer, did you consider implicating Mercury/Hermes, messenger of the gods and ruler of Gemini, the astrological twins?

Caduceus

Caduceus

Which brings me to the reason for today’s title. The symbolism of the caduceus “represents Hermes (or the Roman Mercury), and by extension trades, occupations or undertakings associated with the god. In later Antiquity the caduceus provided the basis for the astrological symbol representing the planet Mercury. Thus, through its use in astrology and alchemy, it has come to denote the elemental metal of the same name. (from the Wikipedia article, Caduceus)

The article also points out that “The caduceus is sometimes mistakenly used as a symbol of medicine and/or medical practice, especially in North America, because of widespread confusion with the traditional medical symbol, the rod of Asclepius, which has only a single snake and no wings.”

The US Army Medical Corps’ confusion notwithstanding, a liberal table of correspondences might well relate both to “the crucified serpent” – an alchemical symbol for fixatio – and to the bronze serpent lifted up by Moses in the wilderness to heal those who had been bitten by snakes (see the Book of Numbers chapter 21). 

You might also want to read about Nehushtan (literally, a piece of brass).  

Connecting closely with this, it is interesting to note that John Donne (Sermons 10:190) uses “crucified Serpent” as a title of Jesus Christ – who, according to the Gospel of St John (3:14-15), said: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.”

As Walter Burkert asserts, Mercury’s caduceus is “really the image of copulating snakes taken over from Ancient Near Eastern tradition”.

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* The definition of twisted pair – “the ordinary copper wire that connects home and many business computers to the telephone company” – comes from http://searchdatacenter.techtarget.com/definition/twisted-pair