symbolism

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

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Ulrich Ruosch’s Alchemical Manual, 1680, is a pocket sized manuscript containing an overview of alchemy and the meaning of planets, numbers, letters, and elements. Alchemical implements, philosophy, and symbolism representing each stage of the process are also found inside.

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Emblems from Sammlung unterschiedlicher bewährter chymischer Schriften, Johannes Isaac Holladus & Michael Sendivogius, 1746, including The Hand of the Philosophers and a Globus cruciger. Source: Embassy of the Free Mind

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The title plate from Michael Maier’s Arcana Arcanissima, 1614. Above are three figures from the Egyptian myth of the dismemberment of Osiris by his brother Typhon, and reassembling by his sister Isis. The Greek gods Hercules and Dionysus flank the sides and below are the Egyptian mythological creatures of Ibis, Apis, and Cynocephalus.

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Tuberculosis, syphilis, breast cancer, and diphtheria from Richard Tennant Cooper’s series of symbolic paintings depicting death and disease, 1920s. A official war artist, Cooper painted these after returning from World War I before moving to commercial work.

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Pages from The Complaint, and the Consolation ; Or, Night Thoughts by Edward Young, 1797. Source: The John Rylands Library

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Diagrams of Alchemical Processes from Das Buch mit Sieben Siegeln, Anonymous, ca. 1700. From Manly P Hall’s Collection of Alchemical Manuscripts, Box 4.MS 19.Vol 2

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Tables showing occult correspondences of “seven rulers of the earth,” celestial spirits of the planets. The second chart shows how to recognize them in geomantic divination, and the correspondences to help with interpretation of the reading. From Theomagia, or, The Temple of Wisdome, John Heydon, 1663. Source: The Getty Alchemy Collection


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Spread found in the book Les Plus Secrets Mystères des Hauts Grades de la Maçonnerie Dévoilés (The Most Secret Mysteries of the High Ranks of Masonry Revealed) by Karl Friedrich Koppen, 1768. Source: Embassy of the Free Mind

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Alchemical emblem 2, Atalanta Fugiens, Michael Maier, 1618. Depicted on bottom: Romulus nursed by a wolf and Jupiter nursed by a goat. The “Child of the Philosophers”, referring to either the Philosopher’s Stone or alchemist themself, nurses from the Earth Mother. Colorized by Eve Harms, CC0. Source: archive.org


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Alchemical art from Alchemy: Ancient and Modern by H. Stanley Redgrove, 1911. The sea represents the body, and the two fish represent the Soul and Spirit. Colorized by Eve Harms. Licensed under CC0


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Alchemical Diagrams from De Roode Leeuw, of het Sout der Philosophen (The Red Lion, or the Sout of the Philosophers) by Goossen van Vreeswyk, 1672. Source: Embassy of the Free Mind

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