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Kerykeion (also known as Caduceus)


In Greek mythology the kerykeion is the staff of Hermes. In Roman mythology, it is called a caduceus and belongs to Mercury. The staff originated with the story of Tiresias, the blind prophet. He encountered a pair of snakes copulating and killed the female snake with his staff. Hera punished him by transforming him into a woman. He wandered the earth for 7 years this way until he found another pair of copulating snakes. This time he killed the male and was transformed back into a man.

Tiresias was originally a priest of Zeus, but when he was turned into a woman he became the priest of Hera. After he was changed back, Zeus summoned him to Mount Olympus to settle the argument of who has more pleasure during sex; the man or the woman. He answered, "Of ten parts a man enjoys one only." For his impiety, Hera struck him blind on the spot, but Zeus granted him the gift of prophecy in compensation. Tiresias was then known as the blind prophet.

An alternative story involving the kerykeion states that Apollo gave Hermes a winged staff as a sign of friendship. To prove his good intent, he laid the staff down between two quarreling snakes and they curled around the staff in a loving embrace and remained permanently attached to it. The kerykeion represents both power and wisdom, and the role of the messenger in the delivery of vital information.

Greece, Mythology, Staff, Weapon


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