Why Did It Have To Be Snakes?

The symbol for the medical profession is weird. It has snakes in it. 

I'm sure you have seen that symbol hundreds of times but never considered it the fact that it contains snakes.  Snakes, y'all.  Ewww. 

To quote Indiana Jones, "Why did it have to be snakes?"  

In the ancient world, snakes were considered symbols of eternal life because they shed their old skin periodically and emerged with a fresh, new appearance. 

This notion informs the story of Moses creating a cross of snakes when the Israelites were bitten by them and then dying in the wilderness.  According to the story, anyone who looked upon the cross of snakes was healed. 

The symbol is called the Caduceus, and this is what it looks like: 

Now that you see it you can't unsee it, am I right?  Snakes.  

In Greek mythology, the god Hermes carried a staff with this symbol on it after he tried to stop two snakes from fighting by throwing his staff at them, which they then intertwined.  

That's a weird story. Also, there are snakes in it. 

The other day, I read a quote that struck me, and the more I thought about it, the more I knew that it would eventually become a Devo. 

In his book The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, author John Koenig creates words to express emotions and feelings that don't have words to describe them. 

One of those words had to do with the symbolism of shedding skin like a snake and discovering something new and transformative underneath. Here it is: 


n. the moment you realize you are changing as a person, finally outgrowing your old problems like a reptile shedding its skin, already able to twist back around and chuckle at this weirdly antiquated caricature of yourself that will soon come off completely.  

I love this and I'll tell you why it's so impactful for us.  We are all going through transitions all the time, changing in ways that might escape us at first but become too apparent to gloss over. 

But if we are willing to embrace the healing properties of change as we grow and learn more about who we are and who we are becoming, it can transform our lives. 

A certain amount of wisdom comes when you can go through changes and shed your old skin, so to speak.  You get the chance to look back at what you left behind with both amusement and gratitude. 

Amusement comes when we realize just how silly we were about some of the things that used to hang us up. Gratitude comes when we realize that we get to leave that old us behind.  

Like a snake shedding its skin, we may retain similar markings and appearances, but we know how different we've become.  We know what it took to get us to the new place; because of this, we can let go of regret, pain, heartbreak, and more. 

So don't be afraid to apolytus now and again.  Let go of what doesn't serve you, and be thankful for what got you where you are today.  Then leave that old skin behind. 

May it be so, and may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all, now and forever.  Amen. 


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