The Hand of the Philosophers is an alchemical symbol first appearing in Isaac Holland’s Die Hand der Philosophen, 15th century. Each feature of the hand corresponds to a quality, element and/or ingredient of the alchemical process. The thumb features a crown & quarter moon and represents the chemical saltpetre, which Holland calls “The King & Lord of all salts.”
The index finger features the star with six points, the meaning of which is only available to initiated alchemists, and the salt Roman Vitriol. The middle features the Sun, and represents Sal ammoniac. Above the ring finger is a lantern, representing alum. The little finger represents both the lock and key of the “hand” as well as common salt. In the palm, the fish represents Mercury, and the fire is just fire.
Heavenly bodies are essential in alchemy, particularly the sun, moon, Venus, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Saturn. Symbols of these planets are common in alchemical art along with their Greek god counterparts, and the success of operations were sometimes tied to zodiacal time. Beyond times of the month, day and hour, these heavenly bodies also corresponded to metals, parts of the body, cardinal sins, and cardinal virtues. Images: Clavis artis, Zoroaster, 17th century and De naturae…historia, Robert Fludd, 1680
This image, from “Hermaphrodite Child of the Sun and Moon” by Johann Augustin Brunnhofer (1752), represents an alchemical process, with seven planetary figures in an order relating to its ingredients, actions and elements. It also references a poem, Trevisan’s Fountain, and the many layers of the earth. Source: Embassy of the Free Mind