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Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Hygieia's Legacy


The are vagaries of the spirit, unutterable and eidetic, invoked by meditative doodles in early autumn night:

They call me back through old Portuguese-Semitic-Roman-Greek genetic memories to times and places painfully hard to recall. I do my merely mortal best, and reach back along a line of increasingly ancient deities to Hygieia:


Hygieia, the beautiful Greek goddess of sanitation.  I should have known after my recent encounter with  a backporch snake ; I should have recognized the omen.  Yes, it got in under a door but the signs and portents were obvious. I should not have been surprised when the toilet started rocking and hissing --but I was.

Hygieia (also spelled Hygeia, Hygiea, Ὑγιεία but these things happen) is always depicted with her snake, Wisdom, and her bowl, which contains medicinal potions.  The snake, being wise --therefore knowing good from evil--  climbs up Hygieia and feeds from the bowl.  Yes, religions often get answers by peeking at the mythic structures of religions sitting in desks next to them. 

That being so, and with all the pressures of testing these days, it's not surprising Hygieia's Bowl has become the symbol of pharmacy worldwide. Snake has been run up around the  medical caduceus.  Hygieia herself has retired to sanitation, sending omens (snakes) to those of us whose sanitary bowls she worries about.

I'm a believer!

28 comments:

  1. As far as I can discern, you're telling us you have plumbing, specifically toilet, issues. Yes?
    I have a tendency to wax philosophical at times, I admit. But I have yet to drag the Greeks and their ilk into it. Geo, I'm not sure what 'one toke over the line...' ever really was a metaphor for, but we may have approached it here.

    Regards, your pal,
    Mike

    B

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    1. Mike, waxing philosophical can help sometimes but in this case I was in greater need of a new wax flange. I am intrigued by the later canonization of Vincent Ferrer as the patron saint of plumbers. There's always a need in sanitation work to invoke a higher power --sometimes loudly.

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  2. I'd have been a bit more concerned about how sanitary my floor was after that.

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    1. Nothing a few pieces of new floor tile can't fix, and maybe a flamethrower.

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  3. I would be terribly upset at Hygieia for leaving me all those snakes. Not nice.

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    1. It's just her way, Emma. She communicates impending calamity however she can. There were a lot of snake incidents in Exodus which warned off an 11th plague of stopped-up toilets. I'm no theologian but suspect that was Hygieia's doing.

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  4. I always look for snakes lurking in the toilet before I sit on it.
    Nothing mythical here. I picked up that habit when I lived in Texas.

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    1. I must admit, my primitive childhood toilet training included that precaution and it has never left me. Laxatives were never needed when a cesspool serpent might appear and scare the crap out me.

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  5. Wonder what Hygieia and Wisdom have to say about a float valve that thinks it's playing in a water park instead of regulating our precious resource. BTW I know that pose in the photo.

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    1. Modern plastic floats develop tiny cracks that widen, take on water, expel the even more compressible air, at which time one must study physics and assume devotional posture toward Hygieia.

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  6. Hi Geo., coming back to Blogland just in time to find such exciting debates! I read that America's FDA is banning antibacterial additions to many things - and right they are: soap will do.

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    1. Dear Brigitta, so happy to hear from you! It's true, anti-bacterial cleaners compromise the biochemical principles of septic tanks. In fact, bottled suspensions of enzymes and bacteria keep systems working.

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  7. Still dying to know what kind of snake visited you.

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    1. I think he was a very young, and fortunately good-natureed, gopher snake who will find greater happiness and prosperity outdoors.

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  8. Every good plumber carries a snake in his van......now I know why lol.

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    1. You're right, Delores. There is a good reason for calling that particular tool a "snake." Its presence at a plumbing job is a tribute to Wisdom.

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  9. Our bathroom is lined in spider poop and fly wings. Would prefer a snake. Or more sanitary minded spiders. But I do appreciate their company.

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    1. Having mainly lived in a succession of old farmhouses, I am quite familiar with the decor you describe. Our spiders are happily of calm disposition. Panic, however, sometimes overtakes snakes and I hate seeing them upset.

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    1. Arleen, those are anxieties shared by all humanity, which is why I admire Hygieia so much --for the hope and comfort she spreads across the entire social spectrum.

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  11. A few years ago, the bowl was leaking and I tightened the nuts and cracked it... While taking the bowl out of the house, I got a nice slice on my hand. I could have as easily been snake bitten.

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    1. It is so discouraging when the tensile strength of porcelain gets over-torqued, and it's so easy to do. I too have been bit by a toilet and would prefer the snake.

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  12. Now I'm wondering if that time we had trouble with all three toilets at once if there was actually a snake (or three) around and we just didn't notice it in all the upheaval ... Actually I'm just as glad we didn't see it/them if that's the case.

    I hope your throne feels better soon. Or should I say, behaves better soon.

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    1. O Jenny, you are so fortunate to have a three-holer household. We raised 4 kids in a one-holer and had to keep it in constant working order --especially during the upheavals of flu season. Positive upshot is, it made an expert of me and is behaving nicely. I'll wager a three-hole crisis was solved at some convergence by the sort of plumber's snake Delores refers to 4 comments up. Hygieia's work never ends.

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  13. Oh, dude, your "merely mortal best" is always outstanding.

    My mother and her bazillion siblings grew up in a one-seater household, and I can only imagine how chaotic it must have been when she and several of her sisters were all teenagers at the same time. Even today, when Smarticus and I return from an outing, one or the other of us is likely to comment about how grateful we are to have a two-seater. :) (For many years, we just thought we'd added a second bathroom when we put on an addition. Thanks to the wonders of HGTV, we now know we've actually had a "en suite" all of these years!)

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    1. Thanks, Susan. The conversion of your 2nd bathroom into an "en suite" sounds surprisingly easy. I must start learning more terms from home and garden shows!

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  14. I used to worry about snakes getting into the outhouse we had as a bathroom at the Indian fish camp I lived on in Lac Seul. If that outhouse had been hissing and shaking, I would have run away as fast as I could, I'm cursed with a big imagination! You have a delightfully funny imagination!

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    1. When I lived by the river as a child, my grandparents' outhouse contained creatures and odors that easily outstripped my imagination. I never lingered overlong in there and yes, sometimes ran away as fast as I could. I suspect you and I both became proponents of indoor plumbing.

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