Sunday, January 09, 2011

HEALTH is a Greek word

HEALTH is a Greek word

I would hate myself if I wished to you all "have good health for 2011" if I did not feel in my heart that this word is also Greek, despite a great dispute by linguists.

I start by explaining how the etymology of "heal" (and the noun derived from it, i.e. "health") goes back to the Proto-Indo-European root *kailo- ("whole, uninjured, of good omen"). But "kalo" is also a greek word with the same positive meaning. From "kailo" or "kalo" derived the Proto-Germanic *khailaz, literally "to make whole", but also "to make sound and well".

In Old English this became hælan ("to make whole, sound and well") and from the same root came the Old English hal ("health").

This is also the etymological root of the adjectives "whole" and "hale", but also of "holy".

Who can deny though that the same Proto-Indo-European root took the path through Greek holos ("whole") to the modern English holistic (from the theory of holism, which states that things cannot be broken down into their parts, but must be understood as a whole) and the prefix holo- in hologram (lit. "whole writing"). So we could state that health which literally means "to make whole" comes from the greek word "holon", bearing all variations of years that followed its first conception.

But I don't want to leave you with this bitter taste of doubt. I will give you a brief verbal tour on the science of healing, which is mainly a Greek science, as most sciences.

Let's talk about the ancient God of Medicine, Asclepius (Latin Aesculapius). He is the god of medicine and healing in ancient Greek religion. He was one of Apollo's sons, and they both shared the nickname Paean ("the Healer"). His mother died in labour and he was to be burnt with her, but his father rescued him, cutting him out of her womb. "To cut open" is the phrase which in ancient Greek gave the name "Asclepius". Apollo carried the baby to the centaur Chiron, where Asclepius was raised and introduced to medical arts.

Asclepius represents the healing aspect of the medical arts; He gave to Greek Mythology the daughters Hygieia ("Hygiene"), Iaso ("Medicine"), Aceso ("Healing"), Aglæa/Ægle ("Healthy Glow"), and Panacea ("Universal Remedy"). What is more, a snake winds around the rod of Asclepius, and this remains a symbol of medicine until nowadays, but do not mistake it with the "caduceus", which has two snakes winding. The symbol of snakes comes from the fact that snakes were often used in healing rituals. Non-venomous snakes were crawling on the floor of the dormitories of the sick and injured. From about 300 BC onwards, the cult of Asclepius grew very popular and pilgrims flocked to his healing temples (Asclepieia) to be cured of their ills. He was associated with the Roman/Etruscan god Vediovis. Some healing temples also used sacred dogs to lick the wounds of sick petitioners. Now, you should also take into consideration that the original Hippocratic Oath began with the invocation "I swear by Apollo the Physician and by Asclepius and by Hygieia and Panacea and by all the gods ..."

Some religions long after the fall of the Greek empire claimed their origins to Asclepius. In the 2nd century AD the magical healer Alexander claimed that his god Glycon was an incarnation of Asclepius. But it is all so very important to keep in mind the claim that the myth of Asclepius had served as a source for claims of Jesus's healing powers.

Finally, if this is useful to you, the botanical genus Asclepias (milkweed), is named after him, and includes the medicinal plant A. tuberosa or "Pleurisy root".  I know about temples of Asclepius at Epidaurus in north-eastern Peloponnese. Another famous healing temple (or asclepieion) was located on the island of Kos, where Hippocrates started his training.

I hope all the above brought back to you to a lost likeness of the Greeks, even more than you ever had. Because it is no wonder why the foreigners appreciate Greece even more than we do. Perhaps it is because they know things we have never been taught from our school! What a pity!
Do not forget Hippocrates as well, as he is a historical person.

Dear friends, have good health and wholeness for 2011


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