The Hygieian Cup: lucky symbol of Pharmacy

When we talk about the Hygieian Cup, we are above all talking about an ancient Greek lucky charm from classical mythology... but not only that!

Represented by a snake coiled around a cup (well, we wouldn't have guessed it!), this symbol also serves as an emblem of modern pharmacy.

For a long time in fact, the Hygie cut has been associated with health and hygiene. Some people even talk about powers that go beyond those of a simple symbol...

Contents :

First of all, who is the goddess Hygeia?

The Cup of Hygieia: a lucky charm from ancient Greece

The Hygie cup: a great symbol of modern pharmacy

Pediment of a Greek temple made of a gigantic bust of the goddess Hygeia.

First of all, who is the goddess Hygeia?

Hygieia (Hygieia in Greek) is therefore a mythological goddess several millennia old.

Associated with health but above all with cleanliness and sanitation (both places, bodies and tools), many doctors of Antiquity devoted a particular cult to it.

Yes, you probably already suspect it, but the term “hygiene” actually comes directly from the surname of this divinity!

According to Greek legends, Hygeia is the daughter of Asclepius (also known as Aesculapius), the god of medicine, himself the son of Apollo.

Less known than others (such as Zeus or Poseidon), Asclepius was nevertheless extremely revered during the time of the ancient Greeks.

The temples dedicated to him actually served as hospitals, with sick people from all over the world coming there to receive care from priests.

To learn more about the cult of Hygieia and its link with medicine in Greek society, here is an extract from a book talking about the cup of Hygieia as a symbol, and another which tells us about the place of the gods of health in ancient Greece.

As the daughter of Asclepius, the goddess Hygeia was also very appreciated by priest-healers.

In the most sacred places of worship, statues represented her as a magnificent young woman, carrying a cup and sometimes even drinking from it, a gigantic serpent being at the same time coiled around her.

This way of representing the goddess Hygeia is actually very rich in symbolism, and this is precisely what we are going to talk about in the following paragraph.

 

A cup of Hygieia, a statue of a Greek deity and a mythological protection amulet

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The Cup of Hygieia: a lucky charm from ancient Greece

In Greek mythology, Hygeia was a great goddess linked to health, medicine and hygiene.

But why did you associate it with a cut? And why did it become a lucky charm used to promote healing? And above all, why did it become the symbol of pharmacy?

In fact, the answers are not far to seek.

Already, its simple link with the goddess Hygeia makes it a powerful object linked to helping the sick.

The fact that it is a cup makes it the ideal container for receiving liquids. Most myths and legends speak to us of medicinal potions or even elixirs of longevity.

The coiled snake represents wisdom and renewal (probably through its ability to molt and change skin). You should also know that this animal is not only associated with Hygeia, but with Asclepius (around whose stick it wraps itself) and with Hermes (whom it follows everywhere while remaining attached to its caduceus, its famous winged staff ).

There are many legends in Greek mythology that tell us about snakes and their amazing powers.

One of them, more than the others, caught our attention on the subject and could constitute an explanation for the powers of the Hygieian cup.

In fact, Asclepius (Hygeia's father) would have developed such skills in medicine that he almost discovered a universal remedy capable of treating all illnesses, and therefore making men immortal.

Anxious to preserve their power and their privileges, the gods of Olympus therefore decided to kill him and, with a terrible lightning bolt, Zeus himself put an end to his life.

When men found his body, they found dozens of inanimate snakes next to him, appearing to be dead. When they wanted to touch the body of Asclepius, the reptiles came back to life.

This was seen as proof that the god's powers were still very present, and the snake became the emblematic animal of doctors and healers.

In any case, we understand better why this Hygie Cup brooch is so appreciated by those who want to help and care for those around them!

Pharmacy with several bottles and remedies on its shelves.

The Hygie cup: a great symbol of modern pharmacy

With everything you have just learned, it is undoubtedly easier to understand how the Hygie cup could become the official emblem of pharmacy in the world.

In fact, the profession of pharmacist is one of the oldest.

First practiced by tribal healers who harvested plants and herbs to heal their tribe, then by sorcerers and apothecaries around the world, the art of pharmacy has been practiced by humanity since its infancy.

All this, however, does not tell us when the Hygieian cup began to be used by pharmacists (or in any case, by their “ancestors”).

Several sources indicate that it may have started in the first century CE with Saint John who drank a cup filled with poison as a challenge to prove that God protected his faithful.

Rather, some historians say that the cup was first used as a symbol of pharmacy as a sign of recognition in the universities of 13th-century Italy.

These two hypotheses are very serious, but still quite debated.

In fact, the first use of the Hygie cup as an emblem of pharmacy on which all agree dates from 1796, when the “Parisian Pharmacist Societies” used it on one of their medals.

Since then, our lucky cup has been used by a whole host of pharmacy-related organizations all over the world.

Be careful, there are many other pharmacy symbols than the Hygie cup. For example, we can cite:

  • The pestle and mortar
  • The acronym Rx (an abbreviation of the Latin word “recipe”, which translates to “take this”)
  • Earth
  • The salamander
  • The green cross on a white background (or the opposite)

It remains clear, however, that the cup of Hygieia is the most widespread (and arguably the most powerful) of these symbols.

The pharmaceutical field is complex and the related professions are just as complex. The Order of Pharmacists has long made bold ethical decisions.

By wearing the Hygie Cup symbol, you recognize their importance.

 

Lucky charm featured in this article

Brooch of the Hygieian Cup

Brooch of the Hygieian Cup

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author picture(Cyril Gendarme)

Discover the author: Cyril Gendarme

Cyril Gendarme is a writer whose website "The Lucky Door" ("La Porte Du Bonheur" in French, his native language) has become a reference in the field of esotericism. Born in Belgium, Cyril has been attracted to the mysteries of the world since he was a child. When his interest in occultism was awakened, a particular subject caught his attention: lucky charms.

After years of study and in-depth research on esoteric traditions from around the world, Cyril decided to share his knowledge with the public through the internet. In 2019, he launched "The Lucky Door," a website dedicated to exploring lucky charms, magical symbols, and esoteric arts.

The Lucky Door is much more than just a showcase for those curious about magic, divination, or tradition. It is the result of Cyril's passion for researching and understanding the mysteries of the universe. Every piece of information available on the site testifies to his dedication to sharing his knowledge of the most hidden symbols and their unique powers.

In addition to his online work, Cyril regularly organizes workshops and conferences in different countries. His presence on social media is also highly appreciated, where he offers personalized advice and happily answers questions from his community.