The gods of ancient Greece had complex and volatile relationships. As an example, there’s the story of Ophiuchus, a constellation that’s low in the eastern sky on June evenings.
In ancient Greece, Ophiuchus represented Asclepius, the god of medicine and the son of the god Apollo.
In one version of this story, Asclepius killed a snake with his staff. But another snake dropped some herbs on the dead one, bringing it back to life. Asclepius then used those herbs to resurrect the son of King Minos.
Business was so good for Asclepius that fewer people were entering the underworld. So Hades, the god of the underworld, complained to Zeus, the king of the gods. Zeus then killed Asclepius with a lightning bolt.
But that didn’t sit well with Apollo. To appease him, Zeus placed Asclepius in the sky. Today, those stars are known as Ophiuchus, the serpent bearer. He’s depicted with a snake wrapped around his waist. And that’s why the symbol for modern medicine is a pair of snakes wrapped around a staff — it’s a representation of the story of Ophiuchus.
Look for the serpent bearer low in the east and southeast as darkness falls. Its stars are faint. Under a dark sky, though, they form a pattern that resembles an old coffee pot, which is on its side in early evening, and upright later on.
The constellation’s brightest star is at the top of the coffee pot — Rasalhague, the “head of the serpent bearer.”
We’ll have more about Ophiuchus tomorrow.
Script by Damond Benningfield