Hygeia (we get the word hygiene from her name) was the daughter of Asclepius, who was the son of Apollo, who was the son of Zeus. As the Greek goddess of healing both the mental and physical illnesses of people and animals, she advised rest, a wholesome diet, and cleanliness to prevent disease in the first place.
So, why is she posed with a snake? The Greeks regarded snakes as sacred. Even their venom was thought to have curative value. Moreover, their shedding was viewed as a rebirth and renewal. So while snakes are symbols of treachery in our culture, the Greeks associated them with healing. And so, the symbol for the American Pharmacists Association is the bowl of Hygeia, a chalice with a snake twined around its stem.
Still, in The Deadliest Hate, Miriam is frightened when a hurled tablet ricochets against an ebony door:
In the instant that followed, he hurled the tablet whereupon it ricocheted against one of the ebony doors and smashed the water jug beside it to smithereens. After the clatter, I heard a hiss, and then a coppery-red Egyptian cobra about three feet long, probably bewildered by the unfamiliar light, undulated laterally through the wreckage before sidewinding on the smooth marble floor.
I can’t tell you what Miriam did, but I can tell you what she thought she should have done: “I should have run from him then. When I had the chance. Out through the doors, down the peony-lined walkway, and into the street.”
But if you want to find out what she did, just click here.