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"Pandora & Caduceus"

“Pandora & Caduceus” (31”x7.5” encaustic & mixed media on wood skateboard, 2024 May)

This piece is inspired by the recognition that the Caduceus (featuring two serpents winding around a winged staff) has been used as a symbol of medicine incorrectly.

The Greek god Hermes carried a winged staff entwined with two snakes. The staff of Aesculapius, the god of healing, had one snake and no wings. You might logically expect the staff of Aesculapius to be the symbol of the medical profession—and indeed, that is the symbol used by the American Medical Association. But you will also quite frequently see the true caduceus used as a medical symbol.

According to ancient mythology, Hermes (or Mercury) saw two serpents entwined in mortal combat. Separating them with his wand he brought about peace between them, and as a result the wand with two serpents came to be seen as a sign of peace and negotiation.
In this piece, the story gets meshed up with Pandora’s legend. Pandora, in Greek mythology was the first woman who - in Hesiod’s Works and Days - had a jar containing all manner of misery and evil. Zeus sent her to Epimetheus, who made Pandora his wife. She afterward opened the jar, from which the evils flew out over the Earth. Hope alone remained inside, the lid having been shut down before it could escape.
In my fiction story, Pandora opened the box and let the serpents out – then Hermes threw his staff to separate them and keep them at peace. However, the Hope serpent was too slow to escape and got killed. The message: (false) hope has to die in the process of keeping our destructive feelings of cognitive dissonance – feeling love o strong admiration for someone and the same time, resenting them for causing us pain – at peace. Enjoy! :)

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