The snake shape on Edward’s jacket is one of the most recognizable symbols from FMA, not only does it appear on Edward’s red jacket, the author also used it on the back cover of tankobon, the start of chapters, and many other places. So I started to wonder about the meaning of such a symbol.

When I first saw the snake, my first association was the World Health Organization(>_>). Sidetracking, the logo for WHO was decided at the 1948’s first conference of the organization. The flag of the World Health Organization is identical to the UN flag, with a Rod of Asclepius added. The rod of Asclepius is an ancient Greek symbol associated with astrology, and with healing the sick through medicine. It consists of a serpent entwined around a staff. 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”). (thanks wikipedia…)

“Brought patients back from the dead”,sounds familiar? That’s why my first thought was that the Elric brother’s trying to bring their mother back from the dead, and also healing Edward’s arm and Alphonse’s body. So I thought the rod of Rod of Asclepius is a very good inspiration for Edward’s symbol. Especially when the Rod of Asclepius can be seen and understood easily by everyone. That’s what I thought at first…

But there is a flaw with my theory. The Rod of Asclepius is a snake around a stick, not a cross, not to mention with some random wings and crown on top of that. I was tempted to assume that the author (female) added those elements for aesthetic reasons. Okay, I read too much Clamp… Crosses, wings, crowns… Sounds familiar? Useless symbolism? But! Some light research on alchemy shows how wrong I was. I guess Hiromu Arakawa definitely did her research(?).

If you read/watched Harry Potter, you might remeber Nicolas Flamel. He is the creator of the Philosopher’s stone in the first book. Since Nicholas Flamel is a real person(?), he has a journal with some very familiar images:Page 3 and Page 13. That’s right, the lift side of Page 3 shows a snake twining itself on a cross, with a crown on top of it. Page 13 has the wings on the staff. The symbol on Edward’s jacket resembles much closer to Nicolas Flamel’s notebook than the Rod of Asclepius. Though Flamel’s notebook drawings are probably inspired partly by Rod of Asclepius and has some sort of special alchemical meaning. But the story of Nicholas Flamel also fits perfectly with FMA, since the Elric brothers was seeking the philosopher’s stone for the whole time.

Though these are just my own speculations… Maybe she did just come up with it on a whim?

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