The meaning of the tattoo Caduceus: from the rod of Mercury to the idea of space

The Caduceus tattoo is an elegant and beautiful drawing, filled with deep philosophical meaning. Rarely can you find a symbol that would have so many different interpretations. The image of this object is used not only as a body decoration, but also as the official emblem of institutions in many countries around the world. What is the true meaning of the caduceus and who is suitable for such a tattoo?

What was the caduceus in ancient times

The name "caduceus" in translation from Greek means "staff of the messenger". Originally it was an attribute of heralds in Ancient Rome and Greece and was considered a symbol of the inviolability of authorized persons. The traditional image is a rod with a round tip and wings, wrapped in two snakes.

The caduceus appeared in ancient Egypt, as evidenced by archaeological excavations. The monuments that were erected to glorify the god Osiris were decorated with a similar sign and symbolized rebirth. The rod was first mentioned in the writings of Homer. According to the legend, Apollo, the patron of arts, gave it to Hermes instead of the flute. The Romans believed that the caduceus was an attribute of the god Mercury, the patron of commerce, which he inherited from the lord of the kingdom of the dead Hades. In both cases, the object symbolized reconciliation.

There is a myth about how the caduceus became a talisman for people who engaged in trade. One day Mercury saw a tangle of fighting snakes under an oak tree and threw his favorite staff at them. The reptiles immediately calmed down, two of them circled the staff, met their eyes and petrified. Mercury gave the caduceus to his son, who became the founder of the herald family.

During the Renaissance, alchemy and esotericism were actively developing. The object acquired magical properties and was used in occult rites. One interpretation of this image is healing and secret knowledge. The symmetrical image symbolizes the cosmos, and the two snakes are the embodiment of two opposing beginnings. In ancient times, it was believed that the caduceus opens the gate between the world of the dead and the world of the living.

caduceus on his back

It is noteworthy that since the nineteenth century, the rod has become the emblem of medicine in many countries around the world (e.g., in America). It was mistakenly confused with the staff of Asclepius, the god of healing. It does look similar, but in the original, the wooden stick is wrapped in a snake and lacks wings. As a result, in some drawings the base of the caduceus was replaced by a bowl.

Today the caduceus in various interpretations is also used in Russia. The staff has become the official symbol of the Federal Tax Service, the Compulsory Medical Insurance Fund, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and the Federal Customs Service. It can also be found on the coats of arms of Russian cities and in the heraldry of arbitration courts.

Aaron's rod

Of certain interest is also the rod of Aaron, belonging to the ancestors of the Jewish chief priests, which had the same shape as the caduceus. What is it and what is its history?

According to European occult science, Aaron's rod contained sacred fire. It is believed that he could turn into a serpent and devour his kinsmen. With it Aaron, Moses' brother, was able to carry out three Egyptian executions: punishment by blood, execution by toads and an invasion of gnats.

There is another wonderful story connected with the rod that occurred during the travels of the Jews in the desert. As they wandered through the high dunes, members of different tribes got into a fierce dispute. The reason for this was that the Levites were chosen to serve God. The representatives of the other tribes, however, also had their own claims to this privilege. In order to settle the dispute, they resorted to God's judgment and laid up their rods in the tabernacle overnight. In the morning, the Almighty gave a momentous sign: Aaron's rod was covered with leaves, flowers and almonds. This miracle was the final proof of the chosenness of the Levites.

caduceus symbol

The main meanings of the tattoo

So, the Caduceus tattoo has several meanings. Let's consider the main ones.

  • Inspiration and creativity. The tattoo is of great importance for extraordinary individuals who have dedicated their lives to art. For them, the tattoo is a kind of talisman, which gives inspiration and the desire to create.
  • Wisdom and knowledge The tattoo has a deep philosophical meaning, as it consists of separate symbols: the rod - power, the wings - spirit, the snake - wisdom. Symmetry and the spiral enhance the cosmic aspect and indicate balance and harmonious existence. The owner of such a tattoo seeks self-improvement and cognition of the basics of the universe and existence. In this case, he craves not only knowledge but also sensual perception.
  • Reconciliation and justice The mission of the ancient messengers was almost impossible: they had to report the truth, which they did not always want to hear. They also often ended up in the enemy's camp. The caduceus helped to conduct diplomatic negotiations. It was he who served as a link between the two sides and helped reach agreement on important issues. Today, such a tattoo is suitable for calm and balanced people who are used to stand up for the truth and are not afraid of judgment and reprisal.
  • Belonging to medicine or trade Representatives of these professions apply the image of a staff as a talisman. Usually such tattoos are performed on a small scale on closed parts of the body: back, chest, leg, shoulder blade. It helps to keep the energy charge and attract good luck and success in life.

color image of the caduceus

Caduceus tattoo is suitable for men and women of any age and religion. Because of the external attractiveness of the picture is often chosen as a decorative element, and not because of the special symbolic meaning.

Modern interpretations

  • Equilibrium and harmony. When choosing such a tattoo, a person as if declares to the world that he wishes to achieve spiritual balance, as well as to achieve a vital balance between matter and spirit.
  • Secret Knowledge. The bearer of the tattoo wishes to achieve a deep understanding of the processes going on in the world. It's not just about gaining knowledge, but about the real awareness of all relationships.
  • Wisdom. The pursuit of the highest spiritual wisdom.
  • Justice. The wearer of the sign tries to impartially assess the world around him, to make the right conclusions about the events occurring around him.
  • Peace. Achievement of harmony and spiritual unity both with oneself and with the surrounding reality.
  • Striving to achieve success in some creative activity. Such a conclusion can be made by the presence of the rod wings, talking about limitless flight of fancy, without which creativity is simply impossible.

What style to choose

Sketches in the 3D technique is a creative option, which is suitable for people who want to keep up with the times (see photo in the gallery). The unique direction has appeared recently and has gained unprecedented popularity among fans of body painting. The image looks as realistic as possible because the volume is achieved by properly positioning the shadows. It seems as if the snakes are about to crawl up the body, which in itself looks very impressive. Such work requires a high level of skill of the tattooist. In addition to artistic talent, it is also worth taking into account his experience in this particular direction. One wrong movement can destroy the entire composition.

Tattoo on a woman's chest

A less shocking, but no less exciting option is realism. Tattoo looks very natural due to the play of shadows and rich color palette. It is better if the sketch will be in color and large in scale. For the place of application will be suitable shoulder, arm, leg and back. For a small tattoo choose a wrist, ankle, neck or stomach (see photo below).

Fans of monochrome can look into the Dotwork style. The picture is made by small dots, due to what the effect of translucency is created. The tattoo is performed in black ink without the use of additional shades. Despite this, the composition looks stylish and elegant. Such a tattoo will be an excellent decoration for the fair sex.

Video about the caduceus symbol

Photo gallery

The choice of style and placement of the pattern on the body

If we talk about the choice of place, you should be guided by the size of the sketch, and your social status. We have already noted that the caduceus is often stuffed by doctors, whose appearance is subject to special requirements. In their case, it is better to hide the tattoo under clothing, placing it in the back, on the shin or on the shoulder blade. If you want to demonstrate their nudes to others, then a good choice is the shoulder or forearm. In both cases there is enough space to work out the ornament in detail, even if we are talking about a colorful realistic image with an abundance of shadows, details and tonal transitions.

The caduceus is one of the most ancient images in the world, and its interpretation is very versatile. It is not uncommon to see it applied to the body as a tattoo. This symbolism probably means a lot to the wearer, but it is not easy to unravel.


The color scheme of the caduceus tattoo is varied, the image is well perceived as a black and white, and in a colored version. The monochrome version of the main figure with colored additional elements is widespread.

Caduceus tattoo (63 images) - meaning and symbolism on the shoulder, forearm, arm

The variants of the caduceus tattoo are incredibly numerous. There are sketches where the role of the rod is performed by a sword, a dagger, a traced spine.

Often the wings at the top of the staff are carefully derived with biological precision, they are replaced by an eagle, dove or raven.

Snakes can change position, the number of rings around the staff also varies.

Caduceus tattoo (63 images) - meaning and symbolism on the shoulder, forearm, hand

There are unusual versions of the caduceus tattoo, where each intersection of snake bodies marks the point of one of the seven chakras on the back - an obvious link to the world of energy and esoterics. Often the tattoo is accompanied by an inscription.

Caduceus tattoo (63 images) - meaning and symbolism on the shoulder, forearm, hand


For women

For men