Every Cure Is His Epiphany

The title of this post is a quote from Karl Kerenyi’s book on Asklepios, one that immediately hit me like a ton of bricks, and which I inscribed in large letters in my aforementioned notebook. I thought I should follow up on the last post with a few more details about Asklepios worship for those who may be called (or may need to call on Him).

His two biggest festivals in antiquity were the Asklepieia at Athens on 8 Elaphebolion, and the Epidauria on 17 Boidromion. I decided to keep the 8th of the lunar month as His holy day (that would be today, for anyone counting), based on that first festival and the fact that it falls after Apollon’s holy day on the 7th. Interesting side note – when I first found His statue in the antique store, I decided to commit to a year of cultus for Him, figuring that would take me through my full recovery period, after which I would most likely pass on the statue to someone else in need. When I looked up the lunar cycles to figure out in advance the dates on which those two festivals would fall this year, the second happens to be the day after that year is over. So I guess it will be a year-and-a-day cultus, and I will end with a final sacrifice of a capon, if I can find one, since the rooster is sacred to Him.

Speaking of which, connected to the rooster is the time of sunrise, and hence all of my devotions take place as close to dawn as possible. While I did not focus on dream incubation as part of my practices (as I was not actually seeking a cure, per se), it occurs to me that it would be quite appropriate to follow up a night of incubation with a sunrise devotional.

Consultation of the god in antiquity often involved baths in cold water, especially sea water, after which one would don a clean, white garment. I made a special trip before my first surgery to the source of my nearest waterway, up in the hills, where I bathed in the early morning in a very cold stream. Before my second surgery, I made a further trip to the coast where I submerged myself in the absolutely frigid waters of the Pacific Ocean (more on that ritual in another post). Both of these felt incredibly purifying.

Asklepios occupies a somewhat ambiguous position in Greek religion in the sense of not being quite a god, or a hero, or an ancestor, but some combination thereof, and changing over time. The son of a god who was nonetheless killed by a god and then underwent apotheosis, His cultic roots seem firmly planted in chthonic soil, with snakes as His companions, and healing plants at His command, and He seems particularly attuned to the vagaries of mortality, being acquainted with that state Himself. His worship has much in common with that of the dead, and yet His boon is to bestow wellness and life (which is, actually, what got Him killed in the first place). Over time, His temples slowly morphed from centers of dream oracles and straight miracle cures, to the addition of surgery and drugs to help the afflicted, eventually becoming something closer to sanitariums. He straddles the divine and mundane, the spiritual and physical, more than most of the gods.

Sources for Study:

  • Asklepios: Archetypal Image of the Physician’s Existence by Karl Kerenyi
  • The Cult of Asklepios by Alice Walton (1894 but not to be discounted; I found the chapter on the god as an earth spirit particularly interesting)
  • Asclepius: Collection and Interpretation of the Testimonies by Emma Edelstein
  • Truly Beyond Wonders: Aelius Aristides and the Cult of Asklepios by Alexia Petsalis-Diomidis
  • The Rod and the Serpent of Asklepios, Symbol of Medicine by Jan Schouten
  • Asklepios at Athens by Sara Aleshire
  • Epidauros by R.A. Tomlinson
  • Cure and Cult in Ancient Corinth by Mabel Lang
  • Where Dreams May Come: Incubation Sanctuaries in the Greco-Roman World by Gil Renberg
  • ETA: I completely forgot that there is one modern devotional – To Rejuvenate and Nourish: Nine Days of Prayer to Asklepios, God of Healing by Galina Krasskova

~ by Dver on June 7, 2022.

4 Responses to “Every Cure Is His Epiphany”

  1. Thank you!

  2. I have most of the books you listed here, though I haven’t read all of them in their entireties. I have read many of the Kerenyi books, but didn’t get too far in that particular one because other things came up when I first started…it’s nice that so many of his books are relatively short, but that one is firmly mid-length (I don’t think he has a longer one than the Dionysos one, except for maybe the Heroes one).

    Given how much I’ve had to deal with medical things, I am not especially close with Him; I’m a bit closer to some of the Irish healing Deities, mainly because one of them is kind of the father of cybernetics, and since I rely on a medical device for my continued health, that’s a bit more “urgent,” so to speak.

    However, two years ago now, one of my long-time friends came to my Shrine for the first time, and had some experiences, and then wanted to return a week or two later. She brought a lock of her hair for Asklepios in particular, plus some small garnets she had panned/sieved out of the sand herself, and asked for some specific medical-related blessings for some acquaintances. In one of those cases, as soon as she spoke the prayer, I had a vision of what the results would be as far as the results of the surgery that the person was undergoing…and they came to pass exactly as I had seen. My friend still considers that the second of several miraculous events associated with her initial forays into polytheism, and I am inclined to agree!

    I don’t have a proper image of Asklepios in my Shrine yet–and for my Shrine, I consider anything two-dimensional “sufficient but not proper,” which is what I currently have for Him. I hope to acquire something eventually for a variety of reasons…

    I will probably e-mail you soon regarding what I mentioned in my previous comment–thanks so much for your sharing all of this! 🙂

  3. Reblogged this on Gangleri's Grove and commented:
    Dver talks about her recent cultic practice to Asclepius. This is the second post dealing with the same (you can find the first one at her blog) and at the end of this post she provides a lovely list of resources for those interested in Asclepius. (For those interested, I have a small novena book to Him titled “To Rejuvenate and Nourish” which y’all can find on amazon).

  4. […] at A Forest Door recently on her own health challenges and their resulting transformations, and her further observations on Asklepios’ role in healing, and comments on her medical journey as initiation, which I suggest everyone have a look at! Many […]

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