ALCHEMICAL SYMBOLS


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Alchemical Symbols

The art/science of alchemy was handed down through the centuries from Egypt and Arabia to Greece and Rome, and finally to western and central Europe.  The word is derived from the Arabian phrase ‘al-kimia’, which refers to the preparation of the Stone or Elixir by the Egyptians.  The Arabic root ‘kimia’ comes from the Coptic ‘Khem’ that alluded to the fertile black soil of the Nile delta.  Esoterically and hieroglyphically, the word refers to the dark mystery of the primordial or First Matter (the Khem).

In simple terms, the aims of the alchemists were threefold: to find the Stone of Knowledge (The Philosophers' Stone), to discover the medium of Eternal Youth and Health, and to discover the transmutation of metals.  To the mediaeval alchemist's mind, the different elements were but the same original substance in varying degrees of purity, with gold being the purest followed closely by silver.

In the early days of alchemy, the astronomical signs of the planets were also used as alchemical symbols, then in the centuries of mediaeval persecution and suppression every alchemist invented his own secret symbols.  Charlatans, quacks and cheats took over and alchemy became, along with sorcery and witchcraft, infamous for fraud and extortion.  In the 18th century CE, scientists tried to pry loose the real achievements in chemistry, pharmacology and medicine from this confusing cornucopia of science and magic.

According to Paracelsus (1493–1541), the three primes or tria prima, of which material substances are immediately composed, are Mercury, Salt and Sulphur.  Western alchemy makes use of the Hellenic elements.  The symbols used for these are Air, Earth, Fire and Water.

Seven metals are associated with the seven classical planets, and seven deities, all figuring heavily in alchemical symbolism.  Although the metals occasionally have a glyph of their own, the planet's symbol is used most often, and the symbolic and mythological septenary is consistent with Western astrology.  The planetary symbolism is limited to the seven wandering stars visible to the naked eye, so the extra Saturnian planets Uranus and Neptune are not used.

  • Lead dominated by Saturn
  • Tin dominated by Jupiter
  • Iron dominated by Mars
  • Gold dominated by Sol
  • Copper dominated by Venus
  • Mercury (quicksilver) dominated by Mercury
  • Silver dominated by Luna

Alchemical Symbols

Air


alcohol (ethanol)
diluted 1


alcohol (ethanol)
diluted 2


alcohol (ethanol) 1


alcohol (ethanol) 2


Alum 1


Alum 2


Alum 3


Amalgam 1


Amalgam 2


Amalgamation


Ammonia


Annealing


Antimony 1


Antimony 2


Antimony 3


Antimony 4


Aquafortis 1


Aquafortis 2


Aquaregia


Arsenic 1


Arsenic 2


Arsenic 3


Arsenic 4


Arsenic 5


Arsenic 6


Arsenic 7


Arsenic 8


Arsenic (Red) 1


Arsenic (Red) 2


Arsenic (Sulfur)


Arsenic (White) 1


Arsenic (White) 2


Arsenic (Yellow) 1


Arsenic (Yellow) 2


Bismuth 1


Bismuth 2


Borax 1


Borax 2


Borax 3


Boron


Brass


Chalk


Cinnabar


Cobalt


Composing
(Function)


Copper 1


Copper 2


Copper 3


Copper 4


Copper 5


Crucible


Decomposing 1
(Function)


Decomposing 2
(Function)


Distillation
(Function)


Distilled Vinegar


Distilled Wine
Spirit 1


Distilled Wine
Spirit 2


Earth


Fermentation
(Function)


Filtration
(Function)


Fire


Gold 1


Gold 2


Gold 3


Gold 4


Gold 5


Gold 6


Gold 7


Gold 8


Gold 9


Gold 10


Gold 11


Gold 12


Gold 13


Gold 14


Gold 15


Gold 16


Iron 1


Iron 2


Iron 3


Iron 4


Lead 1


Lead 2


Lead 3


Lead 4


Lead 5


Lead 6


Lead 7


Lead 8


Lime


Lye Alkali 1


Lye Alkali 2


Magnesia


Magnesium 1


Magnesium 2


Magnesium 3


Magnesium 4


Magnesium 5


Melting
(Process)


Mercury 1


Mercury 2


Mercury 3


Mercury 4


Mercury 5


Mercury 6


Mercury 7


Oil of Vitriol


Pewter


Phosphorus 1


Phosphorus 2


Phosphorus 3


Platinum 1


Platinum 2


Potassium 1


Potassium 2


Potassium 3


Precipitation
(Function)


Pulverising
(Function)


Purification
(Function)


Salt 1


Salt 2


Silver 1


Silver 2


Silver 3


Silver 4


Silver 5


Steel


Sublimation
(Process)


Sulfur 1


Sulfur 2


Sulfur 3


Tin 1


Tin 2


Water


Zinc 1


Zinc 2


Zinc 3







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