The rod of Asclepius (also known as the medical staff) is an ancient Greek symbol associated with astrology, and with healing the sick through medicine. It consists of a serpent entwined around a staff. Asclepius, the son of Apollo, was a practitioner of medicine in ancient Greek mythology. The rod of Asclepius symbolizes the healing arts by combining the serpent, which in shedding its skin is a symbol of rebirth and fertility, with the staff, a symbol of authority befitting the god of Medicine. The snake wrapped around the staff is widely claimed to be a species of rat snake also known as the Aesculapian or Asclepian snake. It is native to southeastern Europe, Asia Minor, and some central European spa regions, apparently brought there by Romans for their healing properties.
According to Greek mythology, Asclepius was said to have learned the art of healing from Chiron. He is customarily represented as a surgeon on the ship Argo. Asclepius was so skilled in the medical arts that he was reputed to have brought patients back from the dead. For this, he was punished and placed in the heavens as the constellation Ophiuchus (meaning "serpent-bearer"). This constellation lies between Sagittarius and Libra. In early Christianity, the constellation Ophiuchus was associated with Saint Paul holding the Maltese Viper. According to some, Asclepius fought alongside the Achaeans in the Trojan War, and cured Philoctetes of his famous snakebite.
Medical staff tattoos represent the power of healing and the knowledge behind the medical profession. The Staff of Asclepius has long been a popular tattoo design with individuals who work in the medical professions, especially with those who provide Emergency Medical Services, such as Paramedics and Emergency Room personnel.