A Dictionary of Alchemical Imagery by Lyndy Abraham

By Lyndy Abraham

This dictionary records alchemical symbolism from the early centuries advert to the late-twentieth century, to be used via historians of literary tradition, philosophy, technology and the visible arts, and readers attracted to alchemy and hermeticism. every one access features a definition of the emblem, giving the literal (physical) and figurative (spiritual) meanings, an instance of the logo utilized in alchemical writing, and a citation from a literary resource. There are fifty visible pictures of photo woodcuts, copperplate engravings and painted by hand trademarks, a few reproduced right here for the 1st time.

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Up until the sixteenth century the opus was divided into four main stages represented by the four colours, black (‘ nigredo), white (‘ albedo), yellow (‘ citrinitas) and red (‘ rubedo). Artephius wrote of these colours: ‘And as heat working upon that which is moist causeth or generates blackness, which is the prime or first colour; so always by decoction, more and more heat working upon that which is dry begets whiteness, which is the second colour; and then working upon that which is purely and perfectly dry it produceth citrinity and redness, thus much for colours’ (SB, 37).

Colours One of the ways in which the alchemists divided the opus alchymicum into stages was by identifying the various colours through which the matter of the Stone passed in the alembic. Roger Bacon wrote: ‘thou shalt knowe the certaine maner of working, by what manner and regi­ ment, the Stone is often chaunged in decoction into diverse colours. Wherupon one saith, so many colours, so many names’ (Mirror, 12). The young Swiss mathematician, Nicolas Fatio de Duillier, wrote to Isaac Newton in a letter dated 4 May 1693 that mercury and filings of gold sealed in an ‘egg’ and placed in a sand heat ‘grow black and in a matter of seven days go through the coulours of the philosophers’ (Dohbs,Janus, 172).

Alchemy is based on the Hermetic view that man had become divided within himself, separated into two sexes, at the fall in the garden of Eden and could only regain his integral Adamic state when the oppos­ 36 ing forces within him were reconciled. The union of these universal male and female forces produced that third substance or effect which could heal not only the disease of the physical world but also the affliction of the separated soul. Metaphysically, the chemical wedding is the perfect union of creative will or power (male) with wisdom (female) to produce pure love (the child, the Stone).

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