Hygiea - a Painting, an Idea, a Balanced Perspective of Hygiene



Hygeia, was one of the five daughters of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and his wife Epione who represented the care needed for recovery. She is the goddess of cleanliness or hygiene, hence we derive that word from her name. She was associated with the prevention of sickness and the continuation of good health.

Her siblings were Aceso, goddess of the healing process, Aegle, the goddess of good health, Iaso, goddess of recuperation from illness, and Panacea, the goddess of universal remedy.

Gustav Klimt painted a very famous image of her. This served as part of my inspiration for this painting.

In ancient times, she was included in the Hippocratic oath that physicians swore before the gods that they would follow a code of established ethical standards of practice.

Hygeia was typically depicted as a young woman feeding a snake, that was often depicted as drinking from the bowl (container) that she held. Her bowl with the snake is one of the typical symbols of pharmacy along with the Rod of Asclepius.


The current concept of hygiene that is being pushed is a misleading one, where hygiene is required under certain circumstances and yet it is not in others, because magically, the illness does not operate.

Hygiene is also being equated with a treatment that does not offer full protection nor prevent transmission. Yet those with a naturally acquired protection are being equated with as being of higher risk and thus unhygienic.

Hence now we see "hygiene" being applied to the populace, with isolation and control, even when such people are not infected. The cleansing of the population is not a new concept with certain regimes in the past taking it to extremes. Will it come to that again? Will balance, perspective and humane caring be lost?

Amongst all of the media hype of hygiene, one key thing is forgotten, the hygiene of our minds. Like our bodies, feeding our minds a constant diet of unhealthy input has consequences, psychologically, which then affects the physiological and ultimately the society of which the individual is a part. It is well acknowledged that the media of today thrives on the unbalanced.

The curative properties of fresh air, sunshine, physical activity and human interaction are not given any platform. These have been cancelled. Instead, fear, suspicion and isolation are the prescription of the day.

Hygiene cannot be equated with being sterile. Living under sterile conditions is antithetical to life. We ourselves, our own bodies are a host to an ecosystem of other organisms that we cannot live without. That said, these very same organisms can also cause us ill health if the overall state of the body (health) is not in balance.

Hygiene is about finding the correct balance cleanliness versus external influences for the optimal state of being.

"Hygeia", 30 x 50cm, oils on canvas

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