Sunday, July 7, 2013

Introducing: the daughters of Asklēpiós

Yesterday's post about female physicians in ancient Hellas, sparked the desire to discuss the Goddesses presiding over the healing process today. Asklēpiós may be one of the major Theoi associated with healing, but His daughters do much of the heavy lifting. Hygeia (Ὑγεια) is the Goddess of health, cleanliness, and sanitation, Iasô (Ιασω) the Goddess of recuperation from illness, Akeso (Ἀκεσώ) the Goddess of the healing process, Aiglê (Αιγλη) the Goddess of beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment, and Panakeia (Πανακεια) the Goddess of universal remedy.

Chaos ----------------------- Gaea
                             |                      |       
      Ouranos --- | ----------------- | 
                      |                      |
                     Kronos --- Rhea  Koios --- Phoibê
                      |                      |
Phlegyantis     Zeus -------- Leto
|                     |
      Korônis ------- Apollon
      |
                        Asklēpiós --- Êpionê
                             |
                            Hygeia, Iasô, Akeso, Aiglê, Panakeia

Asklēpiós was born to a human mother and a divine father: Apollon, a great healer Himself. Apollon, however, kills his mother when she commits adultery, and Asklēpiós is brought up by Kheiron, the Kentauros. His mother was Korônis, and she is associated with the mythology surrounding the constellation Corvus: the raven. Apollodorus wrote about this event, and the events that followed:

"Besides them Leucippus begat Arsinoe: with her Apollo had intercourse, and she bore Aesculapius. But some affirm that Aesculapius was not a son of Arsinoe, daughter of Leucippus, but that he was a son of Coronis, daughter of Phlegyas in Thessaly. And they say that Apollo loved her and at once consorted with her, but that she, against her father's judgment, preferred and cohabited with Ischys, brother of Caeneus. Apollo cursed the raven that brought the tidings and made him black instead of white, as he had been before; but he killed Coronis. As she was burning, he snatched the babe from the pyre and brought it to Chiron, the centaur, by whom he was brought up and taught the arts of healing and hunting." [3:10:3]

After His training is complete, Asklēpiós receives the blood of Médousa from Athena. Drawn from two different blood vessels in Médousa's neck, some of it can kill, and some of it can heal even the dead. Asklēpiós uses the blood to resurrect the dead, but this is against the wishes of Zeus, who kills Him. He is either placed amongst the stars as the constellation Ophiuchus, the Serpent Holder, or revived by Zeus as a God to satisfy a furious Apollon. No matter his disputed revival, Asklēpiós does get a chance to father children. With his wife Êpionê (Ηπιονη), He begets seven children, two boys and five girls. The men are mortal, the women immortal. Machaon (Μαχάων) and Podaleirios (Ποδαλείριος), His male children fought in the Trojan war on the side of the Hellens. Podaleirios survived the war. Hygeia, Iaso, Akeso, Aiglê, and Panakeia assist Asklēpiós in guarding over mankind.

Hygeia is the Theia of health, cleanliness, and sanitation, and a companion of the goddess Aphrodite. She is perhaps the best known of Asklēpiós' daughters, and has been so since ancient times. She is mentioned alongside her father, grandfather, and sister Panakeia in the original Hippocratic oath. the ancient Hellenes regarded Her as one of the most revered of all Theoi, because without her blessings (good health), nothing could be accomplished in life, and life itself would cease. In fact, She has her own Orphic hymn [67], and in it, She is solely responsible for averting all disease. She is depicted with a snake, usually curled around Her arm.

Iasô is the Theia of cures, remedies and modes of healing. In the temple of Amphiaraus at Oropus a part of the altar was dedicated to Her, along with many of Her sisters and other Theoi petitioned for healing. Recovery is Her domain, and as such, She is one of Asklēpiós' most valued attendants. She is depicted with a mirror.

Akeso is the Theia who oversees the healing of wounds and the curing of illness. She does not bring the cure itself, but oversees the process of healing. Not much is known about Her, but She is a faithful attendant of Her father.

Aiglê is the Theia of the beauty, splendor, glory, magnificence, and adornment that comes with good health. She represents radiance, and Her blessings are very much sought after, because they allow a person to live up to their full potential.

Panakeia is the Theia of cures and panaceas--healing aids in the form of medicines, salves and other curatives. After Hygeia, She is perhaps the best known of Her sisters. Her gifts of medicine are of great value, and she is mentioned in the original Hippocratic oath along with Apollon, Asklēpiós, and Hygeia.

There are other children of Asklēpiós, most notably the dwarf God Telesphoros (Τελεσφόρος) who is the recovery from illness. His daughters, however, are best known and provide mankind with health, beauty, and a full and long life.

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