Three Goddesses at Portland's Medical Dental Building1020 SW Taylor, currently named the Jaffery Center Building – formerly known as the Medical Arts Building – was designed by Houghtaling & Dougan architects, probably in the 1920s, contains offices of the Portland Baroque Symphony, the Oregon State Bar, and dozens of therapy types. It’s quiet, central, nondescript and the Taylor Street windows on the upper floors have wonderful views of the huge elm trees outside of the Central Library.

At the cornices of the building are these goddesses. Who? Perhaps we can guess.

Not the Moiroe – Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropus, the Fates. They are always shown with their specific symbols – a loom, a balance, a spinal of thread. Not the Gorgons, born old, sadly shared one tooth and one eye between them.

Three sister goddesses, Hestia, Hera and Demeter, join their three brother gods, Posidon, Zeus and Hades, as the first Olympian gods.

At the left, is Hestia, goddess of home and hearth, lazily holding her younger brother Hermes’ magical staff, the Caduceus, here without wings. The notation should be the task of Hermes was to lead the dead to the underworld. Hestia is modest but the longest lived of all Greek gods – her symbol might be in your home now as the feminine andirons in your fireplace. Why does she hold the Caduceus? Dunno.

In the center is Hera, the white-armed, cow-eyed sister-wife of Zeus, Queen of Olympus, goddess of marriage, and as the stories go, of those cuckolded. She’s holding a tube, which has been broken. Perhaps a scroll?

Holding a skull at the right is Demeter, mother of Demeter, and mother in law of her brother Hades. She is goddess of the harvest, bringer of the seasons, of transformation, of agriculture, of sustenance, of fertility. A powerful ancient goddess.

I like to think the skull is the remains of Ascalapus, the first doctor, who became so good at his craft he could bring the dead back to life. Hades complained to Zeus of Ascalapus interrupting natural order – souls weren’t arriving on time, and Zeus brought down Ascalapus with a lightning bolt.

Once in the underworld, Ascalapus witnessed Persephone eat the pomegranate pips and told Demeter. Considering Demeter’s first instinct finding her daughter stolen by Hades was to destroy the world, holding Ascalapus’ skull shows modest temperance on her part.

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