From the Oak: Let’s hear it for the God!
Many are those that focus on female divinities, leaving male divinities in the shadows if they get mentioned at all. This is a shame. Here I will share my thoughts, stories and prayers on male divinities.
Asklepios: son of Apollo made divine, epithet for Apollo or memorialized hero?
Asklepios (Aesculapius) is traditionally described as the mortal son of Apollo by Koronis or Arsinoe who was then deified after death. Traditionally it is said that as a babe Asklepios was cut out of his dead mother’s body and raised by the centaur, Kheiron, who taught him the arts of healing. He later became so proficient that Zeus ended his life to maintain status quo. Asklepios then was raised up as a god with many temples where people would seek cures.
In Homeric poems, Asklepios is treated as a mere mortal with two surviving sons. No mention of his divine origins. Homer also calls all those who practice the healing arts descendents of Paean (Apollo). The two sons of Asklepios listed in the Illiad were described as physicians in the Greek army. This is interesting because the Asclepiadae was an order or caste of priests whose knowledge of medicine was considered to be regarded as a sacred secret, transmitted from father to son. The Asclepiadae were also described as descendents of Asklepios.
Now my personal opinion is that Homer (or Homers depending on if you believe the theory that there was more than one author of his works) was a hack. An entertaining hack, whose writings inspired many, but still a hack. This is not unlike authors of our own time who have inspiration worlds such as Star Wars, Star Trek, the wizarding world, etc. While there may be truths with in Homer’s works, we are too distant from the culture to pick out those truths from artistic invention.
Maybe Asklepios is an epithet for Apollo, one that makes him more accessible to those who feared approaching the great god of Delphi. There are places where it is inferred that Asklepios and Paean are one and the same divinity. Apollo is one of those divinities who seems to inspire absolute devotion or absolute fear. I can readily see asking Asklepios for assistance where as approaching Apollo would make me very, very nervous. He is known as the God of Pestilence too.
Now let’s pretend for a minute that Asklepios isn’t a god or the son of a god but only a really good healer who went on to inspire other healers. Then praying to him would be similar to the Christians praying to saints for healing or any culture that prays to their ancestors for assistance. I say if it works for you, go for it. (Just don’t forget to do the practical aspects eh? The gods help those who help themselves and all that.)
So what is your opinion? Is Asklepios an epithet for Apollo, a divinity in his own right or a memorialized hero?
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