Asclepius' Myths and Healing Narratives: Counter-Intuitive Concepts and Cultural Expectations
Open Library of Humanities
This article suggests a bio-cultural approach to the Asclepius cult in order to explore the attractiveness and memorability of the religious ideas, myths, and narratives about the divine healer. The transformation of Asclepius from a mortal doctor to a divine physician is traced in mythical sagas developed in Greek antiquity. The interference of local religious, political and financial interests in the formation of myths are briefly presented. Then, the focus is shifted to the inner features
... e inner features that were embedded in the myths and attracted people's attention. Following Guthrie's theory (1992), it is suggested that the anthropomorphic perception of the ancient Greek gods was projected onto Asclepius. Boyer's theory (1996, 2001) of counter-intuitive concepts of religious ideas is applied to the myths of Asclepius. It is suggested that his actions, rather than the portrayal of his figure and character, are what violated human-intuitive expectations about the world, grabbing the attention of supplicants and becoming conserved in memory. Further, the correlation of intuitive ontological expectations and mundane knowledge acquired through cultural conditioning is examined. The healing inscriptions from the asclepieia seem to support the findings of research conducted by Porubanova-Norquist and her colleagues (2013, 2014), according to which violations of cultural expectations have similar effects in attention and memory processes as the counter-intuitive concepts. It is further suggested that the activity of Asclepius violated cultural expectations shared by people of the ancient Greek world. This activity was particularly salient because it pertained to human experiences of illness and disease, and revealed Asclepius' willingness to help the sick.