Ophiuchus as Asclepius

The Greeks equated Ophiuchus, the Serpent Wrestler, with Asclepius, their God of Medicine, who used snakes in healing rituals. The staff of Asclepius, with two snakes entangling it, is to this day used as a symbol of medicine. But Ascelpius was not the originator God of Healing. In Western myth, the first such diety is Isis, the Egyptian Goddess of Healing. It would seem that at some point the Greeks, with their patriarchal designs, subsumed the myth of Isis -- filtered through Ophiuchus -- and produced the god Asclepius. But the cult of Isis must have run deeply, and her place of veneration was not dispelled by changing her name and gender. Thus, in a final fit of patriarchal wisdom, the Greeks expunged her from her rightful place in the zodiac, thereby reducing what had become their own God of Healing to a mere footnote to the tales from Mount Olympus.

It is true that the Greeks needed to remove one of the original 13 consetallations from the zodiac -- defined as those constellations on the ecliptic and through which the sun passes in the course of a year -- in order to accomplish their desire to have each sign rule for an even 30º of sky, but why they would choose Ophiuchus/Asclepius over Scorpio can only be because of his goddess origins in Egypt, as one of the most powerful dieties, on par with Osiris and Thoth, all of whom answered only to Ra.


Asclepius enters prominence in Greek myth with the death of Orion. Orion, the Great Hunter, having already been blinded by Aenopion for ravaging his daughter, Merope, was later cured with the aid of Vulcan and decided to instead "dwell" with Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, who is associated with the moon and the Roman goddess Diana. Unfortunately, Orion rapes one of her followers (some say he raped Artemis herself), so she sends the Scorpion to poison him, which it does, killing him.

Enter Asclepius, pupil of Chiron, who is able to cure him of the Scorpion's poison and thus resurrect him. After this, Orion ends up in the sky (by varying means in various stories) as the constellation we know, exactly opposite the constellation of the Scorpion (Scorpio). That cad, Orion, from his new height, then spied the 7 Pleiads and began to covet them.

Asclepius' part in the Orion myth is short, but far from insignificant. Zeus, recognizing the actions of Asclepius, transforms the mortal into the immortal Ophiuchus and places him in the sky -- some say as punishment, some as veneration -- with his heel ever grinding down on the back of the Scorpion.

Orion, it is well known, is equated with the Egyptian god Osiris, and the healing diety's role in the story of Osiris is treated with the full importance it deserves.


Isis was the sister and wife of Osiris. Both were born of Nut, with the aid of Thoth. It seems Nut, the wife of Ra, had a bit of trouble with fidelity and found herself pregnant, but not by Ra. Ra thus cursed her that her child could be born in "no month of no year." At this point, Thoth -- another of Nut's lovers -- steps in and plays a game akin to checkers against the Goddess of the Moon, winning from her the 72nd part of each day of the 360-day year, creating 5 days that were "no month of no year." Nut is then able to deliver Osiris on the first of these five days, and Ra's curse is broken. She then gives birth to Horus on the second day, followed by Set, Isis, and Nephythys on the remaining days.

Osiris grows up to be the Great Civilizer -- the god who brought agriculture and civilization to Egypt, eradicating cannibalism from the land. He decides to then spread the arts of agriculture and civilization to all the lands of the world, and sets off, leaving his wife/sister, Isis, in charge. This enrages his brother, Set, who conspires with 72 other to kill Osiris.

Set and his conspirators trick Osiris into climbing into a coffin, at which point they seal it and hurl it into the Nile. Upon hearing the news, Isis consults Thoth and he advises her to hide in the papyrus by the river, lest they come for her next. In order to protect her, he sends 7 scorpions to accompany her. At some point, in the form of a hawk, Isis finds Osiris' corpse, and their brief reunion creates Horus. Unfortunately, Horus, son of Isis, is stung and killed by one of the scorpions. Ra, taking pity on her, sends Thoth to her aid, and he teaches her a spell that will heal her son. Sure enough, the poison is extracted and Horus is resurrected.

In the meantime, the body of Osiris in its coffin floats out to sea and comes ashore in Byblus, where a sycamore tree sprouts and encases the coffin. Isis hears of this and goes to reclaim her husband's body, which -- after some trouble -- she succeeds in doing. She hides his remains and goes to find their son, Horus, but in the meantime Set finds the body and, fearing the new healing powers of Isis, cuts it up into 14 pieces and scatters them far and wide.

Eventually, Isis is able to recover 13 of the pieces, leaving a shrine at every place she found one. The 14th piece -- his genitals -- was, however, eaten by fish. Still, Isis manages to reassemble Osiris and, with the help of Anubis and Nephythys, does manage to resurrect him, at which point he becomes the God of the Underworld, or God of the Dead, and takes his place in the heavens as the constellation Orion. At the time, Orion set at sunrise on the winter solstice, thereby symbolically entering the Underworld, to be reborn as he rises heliacally on the summer solstice.

Ophiuchus as Isis

There can be little doubt that Ophiuchus is Asclepius. In fact, most sources that recount the myth of Ophiuchus begin by explaining that she was the Greek god Asclepius, then go on to recount his story. But why Asclepius changed names when Zeus made him immortal is not clear. It could be that the constellation he became already had a distinct name and character -- Ophiuchus -- which is now lost to history. The name change at least seems to allude to the fact that the Greeks simply hijacked a much older myth and retooled it to their own needs.

That Ophiuchus -- literally, in Greek, "snake bearer" (Ophioukhos) -- is Isis also is of little doubt. Both Isis and Asclepius gained notoriety by resurrecting a person struck down the by the poison of a scorpion. They both also resurrect the same god, under different names, who was to become the constellation Orion. Snakes also feature prominently in stories of the two healing dieties, as does the Goddess of the Moon. In many ways, the Greek myth of Orion and Asclepius seems to be a ragged echo of the tale of Osiris and Isis, filtered through millennia and the politics of place and time.

But most compelling to declaring Ophiuchus Isis is Ophiuchus' position in the sky. In most all ancient myths, a point in time -- and a solstice or equinox especially -- is defined by both the rising and setting constellations. Fittingly, as Orion/Osiris "dies" (sets at sunrise) on the winter solstice, Scorpio does rise -- but with Ophiuchus on its back, rising heliacally. And as Scorpio "dies" -- when Orion rises heliacally in the summer -- Ophiuchus also is setting, driving the Scorpion down into the Underworld beneath her. In fact, a more accurate observation of the sky belies the fact that Ophiuchus is the true astronomical opposite of Orion, as she is the constellation closest to being 180º away from him.

Click [here] for visual aids.

So saying, in myth the opposite of Osiris/Orion -- God of the Dead -- was none other than Isis, Goddess of Healing (or the Living). Thus, astronomically, as well as mythologically, Isis is certainly Ophiuchus.

Missing Ophiuchus

Given the roles of Ophiuchus/Isis and the Scorpion when linked to the tale of Osiris/Orion, it doesn't take much logic to see which sign should be expunged from the zodiac -- if, indeed, one must go. Surely that creature which killed Orion and slew the offspring of Osiris should be denegrated the rubbish heap of myth, unworthy of mention? Instead, the Greeks removed Ophiuchus -- a Goddess of the Living who could resurrect the dead -- and left in the villian, a mere animal. The only reason for so doing, as stated earlier, seems to be that the origins of Ophiuchus as the powerful and wise Egyptian goddess Isis -- the mother-goddess and protector of pharaoh -- did not sit well with their new patriarchal outlook on the world.

We feel she should thus be restored to her former glory, not only to retain the original concept of a 13-constellation zodiac, but also to retain the memory of her and her contributions to humanity.