For the first time in living memory the world faces a pandemic. It’s not the only time humanity has experienced this kind of event though. Throughout human history disease has walked invisibly through our communities. Today we combat illness with hygiene, medicine, and care. Three thousand years ago the ancients faced down the invisible enemy with the same tools. In fact the very term “hygiene” is the name of a Greek goddess: Hygeia.
The goddess of health is often paired with Asclepius, patron god of doctors. A cluster of five goddesses support them. Their images appeared on altars and in prayers along with Apollo, Aphrodite, and Athena Paionia. Aesclepius was variously called the husband or father of Hygeia. Sometimes he was called the husband of Epione, making the other goddesses their children and sisters. If you are interested in learning more about them, the web site Theoi.com lists places in the ancient literature where they are mentioned. However their stories matter less than their purpose: they bring healing.
Ritual to Hygeia and Asclepius
You can create a physical altar. Images of Hygeia, Asclepius and Iaso are available online. Decorate the altar with greenery or flowers, a bowl of water, and incense. You can also do this ritual as a meditation, visualizing or sensing Hygeia and the other deities and making the offerings mentally.
Sprinkle a little water from the bowl around the altar. You can use a sprig of rosemary or other greenery, or just use your hand. If you are performing this rite as a meditation you can visualize and sense the cleansing.
InvocationLight the incense and repeat this prayer.
Mother of all,
Bless us with your gift of health.
Patron of healers,
Protect those who battle illness and injury,
Give them strength,
Sustain them in their work.
Soother of pain,
Bring ease to those who suffer,
Let them rest and heal.
Bringer of the cure,
Speed to us urgently with your remedy.
Take the cure from your sister’s hands,
Apply the gift of Panakea
And return our health.
Bearer of healing,
Speed our recovery
And end our suffering.
Lovely and welcome,
Follow on the train of your sisters
Who bring us cure and speedy recovery
And restore us to radiant good health.
Clearly state to Hygeia, Asclepius and the other goddesses what you ask. For example, you can ask for general protection for yourself and your family, or healing for a specific injury or illness. In the time of this pandemic we may all petition Panakea to quickly provide a treatment for COVID-19 that those who have been affected may be healed. You may also ask for relief from fear and anxiety, to find joy in your day and to sleep restfully at night.
Whether you are working at an altar or internally in mediation, this is the time to commune with the deities, to listen to their counsel, or just to feel their presence.
You can do this rite as often as you like. One option is to keep the altar up and change the offerings daily, providing new flowers or greenery, and do the full ritual with incense offering once a week.
May Hygeia protect us all and bless us with continued good health.
I recorded the invocation, there’s space at the end for each of us to make our own petition.