December 4, 2012

Hygeia: Greek Goddess of Health

Posted in Goddess Project, Goddess Things tagged , , , , , at 8:49 am by Babs

Hygeia is the personification of health.  She was the daughter of Asclepius, the god of medicine, who was the son of Apollo.  Hygeia was associated with the cult of Asclepius.  Today, you will see sculptures of the goddess of health and the god of medicine in medical facilities throughout the world.

Like Asclepius, Goddess Hygeia was not one of the original deities of Greek Mythology.  If you search through the standard god/goddess index, you’re not likely to find the Goddess of Health on your first try.  Where did this goddess come from?  The Greeks had early gods and goddesses: twelve major deities, the three Fates, the nine Muses, and many minor deities.  While the Greek Sun God Apollo and the Roman Goddess of Wisdom Minerva are well-known and written about, the Goddess of Health is one of those minor deities.

There are at least twelve gods and goddesses for healing alone; health personified is named Hygeia, pronounced Hi-je’-ah.  It is derived from the root word hugies or hygies, meaning healthy, which is also the root word for hygiene.  The traditional male-dominated medical profession prefers to use the god of medicine, Asclepius, (or the Roman name Aesculapius) which is much harder to spell and pronounce, and rarely associated with women.  To highlight women’s health, we couldn’t find a better name encompassing all the ideals of mythology, with the focus on women, then Hygeia.

Classical mythology says virtually nothing about this powerful goddess, most probably the ancient Greeks considered her eclipsed by the god they believed to be her father.  However, the ancient peoples entrusted to Hygeia the role of watching over the health of humankind.

Hygeia is among the most gentle of goddesses.  When she appear she chooses to surround herself with a beautiful deep royal blue light.  Hygeia chooses to appear as a female in her mid 40s and has an aura of great wisdom.  She is tall, slender and graceful.  She has fair brown hair, worn in a thick plait over one shoulder, very deep blue eyes, nearly violet colored; and wears a long blue gown type robe with much drapery around the front.  The robe seems to be sleeveless.  She walks barefoot.

“I am the great Goddess Hygeia; Goddess of Health.  I accept your love and respect as you welcome me.  In return I give you my love and respect.  I have made myself known to several mortals who are ill or suffering pain, and through knowing me they are soothed.  I now have many temples in your world.  In some I am able to cure serious illnesses of people who worship there.  They do not know they worship me, yet some are aware of my presence and it is through cures of this nature that I will become known and years into the future there will be, in every country, a large shrine built for me where mortals will go to be healed.

In hospitals all over the world many die unnecessarily.  There is not enough care.  It grieves me, Hygeia, to witness what goes on in these places.  A third of mortals recover.  The rest do not, partly due to the chemicals they are given.  One day this will change.  These buildings will not be necessary in the distant future.”

For some unknown reason Hygeia kept a pet snake with a voracious appetite.  Perhaps she fed it viruses, bacteria and disease.  In any case, that snake can still be seen today, curled around Asclepius’ rod as the symbol of medicine and the bowl of Hygeia is a modern emblem for pharmacy.

Hygeia was often pictured holding a cup, (a kylix, or wine-cup), with a snake coiled about her body or arm.  The serpent is a symbol of resurrection; the cup, medicine.  Hygeia’s cup may have been an early inspiration for grail stories.

How to Contact a God or Goddess

Contact with a God or Goddess begins by speaking their name.  This creates an automatic link; wherever they may be at a given moment they are aware – super awareness seems to be one of their properties.

Speak their name and they will hear.  Be respectful but be yourself.  There is no need for sycophancy nor for chanting, this thy dislike.  Honesty and thought fulness are appreciated.

Use wine – generally red for Gods and white for Goddesses – and incense and fruit.  Sacrifice nothing but your time – for in fact the Gods and goddesses of Olympia do not tolerate the rituals associated with them in the past, and any individuals or groups who harm living creatures in an attempt to please them will find it does not work.

Most Gods and Goddesses are approachable and appreciate being remembered.  It also brings you to their attention.  You should also avoid favoritism.

Hygeia in Literature

“Bright-eyed mother, highest queen of Apollon’s golden throne, desirable gently laughing Hygeia (Health).” – Greek Lyric V Licymnius Frag 769 (from Sextus Empiricus, Agains the ethicists)

“Asklepios, the most famous god – ie Paian! By him were fathered… children of Epione, along with Hygeia (Health), all-glorious, undefiled… Greetings I give you: graciously visit our wide spaced city – ie Paian! – and grant that we look on the sun’s light in joy, approved with the help of Hygeia, all-glorious, undefiled: ie Paian!” – Greek Lyric V Anonymous, Fragment 939 (Inscription from Erythrai)

“Hygeia (Health), most revered of the blessed ones among mortals, may I dwell with you for what  is left of my life, and may you graciously keep company with me: for any joy in wealth or in children or in a king’s godlike rule over men or in the desires which we hunt with the hidden nets of Aphrodite, any other delight or respite from toils that has been reveled by the gods to men, with you, blessed Hygeia, it flourishes and shines in the converse of the Kharites; and without you no man is happy.” – Greek Lyric V Aripohron, Frag 813 (from Athenaeus, Scholars at Dinner)

“Drinking [moderately] is beneficial for body, mind and property.  It is well suited to the deeds of Aphrodite and to sleep, a haven from toils, and to Hygeia (Health), most pleasing of the gods to mortals.” – Greek Elegaic Euenus, Frag 6

“I swear by Apollo the physician, and Asklepios, and Hygeia, and Panakeia, and all the gods and goddesses, that, according to my ability and judgement, I will keep this Oath and this stipulation…” – Hippocrates, The Hippocratic Oath

“To Hygeia (Health), Fumigation from Manna.  O much desired, prolific, general queen.  Hear me, life-bearing Hygeia, of beauteous mien, mother of all; by thee diseases dire, of bliss destructive, from our life retire; and every house is flourishing and fair, if with rejoicing aspect thou art there.  Each daidal art they vigorous force inspires, and all the world thy helping hand desires.” – Aides

“[Hades], life’s bane, alone resists they will, and ever hates they all-preserving skill.  O fertile queen, from thee for ever flows to mortal life from agony repose and men without thy all-sustaining ease find nothing useful, nothing formed to please.  without thy aid, not Aides’ self can thrive, nor man too much afflicted age arrive for thou alone, of countenance serene, dost govern all things, universal queen.  Assist thy mystics with propitious mind, and far avert disease of every kind.” – Orphic Hymn 68 to Hygeia

“He [the corrupt physician] made a pretence of dispensing the celebrated portion called by more learned people ‘The Health Offering’ (Salus Sacra), a drug necessary for easing gastric pains and dissolving bile; but in its place he substituted another draught, ‘The Death Offering’ (Proserpina Sacra) [ie Poison].” – Apuleius, the Golden Ass 12.25

The following is a personal account of an encounter with Hygeia:

“… she let me gently into the countryside, though I couldn’t say where we were.  There were fields and meadows and nearby was a forest.  I noticed the air seemed so pure, clear and cool and very invigorating without any wind.  There were flowers everywhere.

‘This is the sort of place where I can be honored, healthy open spaces.  This is how air should always feel.  This is pure.  There should always be trees, bushes and flowers near everyone.  MOrtals were meant to live along sie of healthy plants, not along side noise, pollution and masses of tall buildings.  In my new temples I have found so many weak links in the Christian faith that I am sure I can persuade many to go back to the old ways.  I endeavor to put the feet of those who enter my temples onto the right path so many appear to be walking in darkness.  When they appreciate the reality of the Olympian Gods and Goddesses their lives will be brighter and in many cases healthier.”

Next we walked into the forest.  The ground was carpeted with bluebells and primroses.  “You are now looking at some of the healing plants which would do more good than those pills in hospitals.”  As I looked around I noticed cowslips and coltsfoot and many other herbs I recognized.  I say bay, rosemary and sage and others, parsley and comfrey, different kinds of mints and every one of these plants seemed to shine as if they had an aura.

“These are the plants that should be cultivated for healing.  The stronger the Auric light, the more healing power they plant has.  When you have time, study this seriously.  Mortals have a certain amount of knowledge of herbal cures, but should study this more.  It is true there is a plant to cure every ailment.”

Celebrate the festival of Hygeia on October 13th.

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