Made with Xara Website by Susan Smily Thoth, Hermes Trismegistus, the Greek Hermes, and the Roman Mercury Notes by Dr. Honora M. Finkelstein As noted in the article on Mesopotamian Influences on the Bible, there is a serpent at the end of the Gilgamesh myth that does Gilgamesh out of his bid for immortality, just as there is a serpent in the biblical story of Eden that suggests an evil influence.  Elsewhere, however, serpents and trees or rods have a much more neutral significance, as for example in their associations with Thoth/Hermes/Mercury. In Egypt the god Thoth was supposed to have been derived from or synonymous with a human being, Hermes Trismegistus, who was believed to be the founder of an ancient mystery school in Egypt and who has variously been said to have been contemporary with Abraham or Moses.  He is also said to have lived somewhere between 300 and 3000 years.  His name means “thrice great”; he supposedly gave man many arts, including medicine, astrology, and alchemy. He was called the “scribe of the gods,” suggesting that he gave men the ability to write, and his worship continued in Greece and Rome with the god Hermes/Mercury, who was supposed to be the “messenger of the gods”. Some modern research associates Hermes Trismegistus with the King Hiram (also spelled Chiram), whose death is described as a part of the mythic beginnings of Freemasonry.  Other research says the idea of Hermes Trismegistus was a third century AD Hellenistic combining of the myths of Thoth and Hermes. One symbol that has come down to modern times from this period is the rod and serpent that the Greek god Hermes carries, which has become our modern symbol for the medical profession. At the risk of oversimplification, this little piece of iconography offers us a clue to how the life force operates in the human body.  From the Indian medical tradition, we find that two forces of life energy are said to flow up and down the spine.  The two forces are called ida and pingalla, and the spinal rod itself is called shushuma. This is probably the reason the symbol was taken up by the medical profession. Hermes carried it to lead people through the doors between life and death in some myths. (Hermes also had wings on his feet, and on his hat, and has degenerated in modern times to being a deliverer of flowers). The serpent for the ancient world was simply a metaphorical representation of energy. Moses and Aaron had a rod that became a serpent; in Yogic tradition, the energy force of Kundalini that rises along the spine of the human being who is being awakened to spirituality is called a “white serpent.” Among dowsers, the energy lines or ley lines in the earth are called “Dragon Fire.” And in China this life force energy is called “Dragon Breath.” The Kabbalistic Tree of Life, about which we’ll talk later, is said to be energized by a lightning bolt, another serpentine force associated with a tree. So wherever you see dragons or serpents combined with trees or rods, this same association is being made. (For more information on Hermeticism, you may want to look at Also, wherever in iconography you may see a temple with two pillars, one black and one white, you are encountering another form of this same idea of polarities and dual energies.  Later representations of the Temple of Isis and Solomon’s Temple at Jerusalem represent the ida and pingala as black and white pillars; the shushuma is the temple itself.  (See the Kabbalistic Tree of Life, which is represented as being established on three such pillars, so there you have the temple with pillars, plus the tree, plus the serpentine lightning bolt.) In the traditional Tarot deck, which dates from at least the 14th century AD, the dual pillars are seen in the black and white pillars on the card of the High Priestess, and the dual energies are further represented by the black and white sphinxes on the card of the Chariot. So—wherever you may see a SERPENT, it represents LIFE ENERGY.  If there are two serpents, they are the dualistic energies that run up and down the spine.  They also represent the two polarized forces that make up all experiences on the physical plane: masculine and feminine, positive and negative, out-thrusting and receptive, etc. And—wherever you find a ROD or a STAFF or a WAND or a PILLAR associated with serpents, whether it be one of the trees in the various myths or a pillar in a building or a magic wand, it represents among other things the SPINAL COLUMN of the human being.