Asclepius started out as a man, a physician who treated wounded soldiers on the battlefield at Troy, but later, he become elevated to the status of a god. The Greeks created a cult around Asclepius, and he became the pagan god of healing. Devotion to Asclepius was widespread throughout the lands dominated by the Roman Empire. Snakes were a key component of Asclepius’s cult of health and healing. Even today, one of the key symbols of modern medicine is a pole with a snake wrapped around it. During the Hellenistic period, the Greeks built these ancient healing centers, all across the Greek Empire and there were more than 400 healing centers throughout the Roman Empire functioning to meet the needs of sick people. The ill and disabled would congregate at these regional healing centers. They would drink and bathe in the waters and then sleep within the temple’s walls. They slept on mats laid which were supposed to induce divine dreams, that would give the sick clues about their healing.
The Greeks attributed the healing powers of natural springs to spirits. The cult of Asklepius built their temples near sacred springs with shallow pools and baths. Participants would wait by the water, praying, fasting, chanting, etc., until Asklepius or his helpful “serpent spirits” churned the water. In Bethesda there were two Roman Pagan pools, one dedicated to Fortuna the goddess of fortune and the other to Asclepius god of healing. The stirring up of the water was part of a ceremony when the priests of the Asclepius temple opened the connecting pipes between the higher and the lower portions of the pool. Because one set of pipes was higher than the other, this caused a “stirring” of the water in the pool. When bubbles or ripples made their way from the spring to the pool, this was considered to be the best time for a healing miracle.
The Gospel story (John 5:1-3) tells that Jesus came to Jerusalem and healed a man at the Pool of Bethesda. In John’s scripture it says that an angel went down at a certain season into the pool and troubled the water. That whosoever stepped in was made whole. People were told that at certain times of the day, an angel would stir up the waters in the pool and whoever would enter the water first, after it was stirred up, would be cured. Many sick, blind, lame, or paralyzed people come there every day and they wait for the waters to move, so they could be the first to wade into the healing water to be cured of whatever disease they had.
John 5:1-3 New International Version The Healing at the Pool
5:1 Sometime later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 5:2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 5:3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.
Written for Mindlovemisery’s Menagerie Tale Weaver – #240 – September 12 – Wading.