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Alchemical symbolism and imagery

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Alchemical symbolism and imagery

Post by Agrimony on Mon Sep 23, 2013 4:36 am

Imagery and symbolism are important facets of alchemy. There are the little graphic signs for alchemical substances and processes, the images of alchemical apparatus and laboratory equipment, and the beautiful and enigmatic emblems and series of emblems that adorn many alchemical books and manuscripts. There are also a number of paintings on alchemical themes, and some artists were influenced, however peripherally, by alchemy.

Egyptian symbols for the metals
Alchemical symbols used in 17th century
Alchemical and chemical symbols used by Scheele (18th Cent)
Further Read

The Imagery of Alchemical Art as a Method of Communication
Samuel Scarborough
Within the Hermetic community, which embraced the various magickal, and practical arts that make up the Western Mystery Tradition, the art of Alchemy is and has been considered since the Middle Ages to be the Royal Art, or the highest form of all the Arts that make up the Western Mystery Tradition. Alchemy, which is widely believed to come from ancient Egypt, is a body of work from which modern day chemistry and even medicine springs, especially from the works of Paracelsus (1493-1541), the early Renaissance alchemist, healer, and metaphysician. Also, the metalworkers, especially the gold and silver smiths, who in the Middle Ages and early Renaissance formed guilds to protect their secrets and craft worked with a kind of alchemy that was later to become metallurgy.

Alchemists, like modern day scientists, would share their findings and works with one another, but there were a couple of problems of the times. One, not all of them spoke or wrote in the same language. An alchemist in Florence may have problems discussing a procedure with a colleague in Prague or Paris, unless they all spoke a language readily available to them. Many did speak and read Latin, which helped with the flow of information between them, but not all the authorities condoned the works of alchemists and writing a procedure in plain language would let the uninitiated into what they were doing. So, how did the alchemical community get around these problems? How could alchemists from various countries and parts of Europe communicate in a safe manner without giving away their secrets? The answers came as allegory and allegorical imagery, which hid, from the uninitiated what was being discussed and shared amongst them.

This form of discussion or conveying information and ideas in allegorical images would later go on to influence several bodies of dramatic initiating orders or lodges. Among these would be the Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, particularly the fringe Masonic bodies, and even the magickal orders of the nineteenth century. This idea that images convey a message and power is powerfully illustrated in a line from the Neophyte Initiation Ceremony:.. Read More

The Rosarium Philosophorum
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