Alchemy attempts to transform base metals into gold. The three prime elements that it works with are Sulfur, Sodium and Mercury. But before you say, ah- I’m not interested in metals- realize that we are not just talking about metals. We are talking chemical changes that occur everywhere in nature. We are talking about our bodies as well as our psyches. Astrology and Alchemy are very intertwined in their symbolic language and we can learn a lot about ourselves and the world we live in by realizing these parallels.
The great physician and philosopher Paracelsus was a committed alchemist who believed in natural healing in a natural and magical world. He said that sulphur mercury and salt are the 3 substances that give EVERY single thing it’s body. Using the example of a piece of wood as a “body”, the part that BURNS is the sulphur the SMOKE is the mercury and the ASHES is the salt.
Okay so let’s bring these three alchemical elements into their planetary forms, starting with Sulfur.
Yellow as yellow gets!
Of all of our planets what does this photo most remind you of? The Sun right? Bold and yellow like our Father Sun.
It is often found near volcanoes and hot springs. Heat is associated with Sulfur, like the Sun.
Sulfur is the substance sparks the fire of a match
It is also the prime ingredient in fireworks.
Sulfur is also known for it’s pungent smell. Think rotten eggs. This is another shade of it’s boldness- it’s “isness”. Sulfur is akin to the SOUL, like the word “SOL” which is latin for Sun. The Sun is the “I am” principle. Our “being”. In french “I am” is “Je suis”. Jesus is the “Son of god” (Sun?) and “walks on water”.
Like this? Here is the Sun “walking on water”. This idea was introduced to me by the great Santos Bonacci (Mr. Astrotheology)- of whom I’ve watched HOURS of youtube videos.
The yoke of an egg is loaded with Sulfur. Yellow and round like the Sun. It is the egg’s center, it’s core (“coeur” is french for “heart” which the Sun rules)
Father Sun is that part in us that is the “inner king”, like a lion. Leo the lion is the sign associated with the Sun. We all need this masculine roaring “isness” in order to know what we want and where we are trying to go in life. This is the essential vital principle within us, the Qi that flows through the body.
Moving on to Sodium.
What does this substance remind you of?
The familiar iridescent glow of the Moon is found in rock salt, one of the most common compounds of Sodium. The Moon, as we have discussed in other posts has been associated with the word MUNDANE, meaning “of the earthly world”, with Monday being it’s symbolic day. Sodium is akin to the BODY. Remember the Sodium is the ASHES of the stick, falling back to the earthly ground when the other two substances are gone, it remains.
In the Bible, Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt when she longingly “looked back” behind her. Eurydice, the beloved wife of Orpheus, disappeared without a trace when he looked back as he was leading her away from the Underworld. Getting stuck in the past can keep you from healthy transformations (fire and smoke). When those things are done you are left with a pile of ashes, or a pillar of SALT.
Of course the Moon is associated with the past, which can take on a dreamy tint.
As in “she has a past”
In fact, everything about the Moon is elusive, and just beyond reach. Mystery surrounds all things with the Moon, which is funny because the Moon is supposed to be connected with mundane Mondays! What is going on?
Let’s take a look at the metal that is associated with the Moon, beautiful shiny and perfectly reflective Silver.
Commonly used as currency throughout history, MONEY is very associated with the MOON. The latin word for Silver is “Argentum”, as in l’argent, the french word for money.
We wake up on a mundane Monday to go out and make some MONEY? And then we all turn into ASHES at the end of it?? Is the Moon all about this bleakness?? I don’t think so..
The term “matter” is associated with “mother, moon mundane” but ANOTHER word that joins this club is “MATRIX”. What if what we see is only a glimpse of a deeper more mysterious MATRIX of a magical world?
There are 7 metals in Alchemy, with Silver being the 7th yet containing the previous 6 in “spiritual form”. I’m not saying I know what that means but I think it is safe to say that even though Silver is MUNDANE it is also MAGICAL.
Here is a nice chart showing the 7 metals with their respective corresponding planets. Up in the left corner we see our familiar trifecta of the burning log analogy.
Silver (Moon) is also the best conductor of electricity of all the metals. Sodium (Moon) is key in the operation of all electrical signals to and from the brain in the human body.
Paracelsus saw the Moon to be associated with the brain. He believed all the mysteries of the universe (the macrocosm) could be contemplated by studying the human body and nature (the microcosm).
Okay, so to review, the Sun is associated with Sulfur and the “spark of life”. It is the Soul of a person (aka SOL which is latin for Sun). In other words it is a person’s vital essence. The Moon is associated with Sodium and the body, and all it’s many mysteries. What about Mercury? What about the smoke?
The smoke is also Bogey’s BREATH.
Mercury is thus symbolically associated with the SPIRIT, a.k.a “RESPIRE”. It is the ANIMATING principle of the soul within the body. InSPIRation is an animating word that puts the SPIRIT back in someone’s heart and mind, thus motivating them, ANIMATING them. Where does this root word “SPIR” come from?
Back to this image and the idea of magic in the mundane world, the latin root word SPIR means “coil”. This is where the word “spiral” comes from.
Spirals are found all around nature. What is this animating life-force that the ancients associated with Mercury?
The caduceus is the symbol associated with Mercury and displays two SPIRALING snakes.
We recognize the ancient ANIMATING COIL when see a picture of our self-replicating DNA
The circle represents totality and wholeness. “God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere” -Hermes Trismegistus
There is no animation on this picture but it sure does appear to be spinning! This optical illusion shows how a spiral can trick us (Mercury the trickster!) into seeing movement (ANIMATION).
Spirals emphasize CHANGE which paradoxically is the only thing that is consistent in the Universe.
“The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change” -Heraclitus
I find it helpful as an astrologer to view the birth chart as a spiral AS WELL as a circle. Embracing changes of the spiral, yet finding peace within the circle of wholeness.
Anyway- before I go off in too different a direction here (thanks to Mercury and his bag of tricks) I will sign off. I look forward to learning more about the principles of Alchemy and how they tie into Astrology and the natural world.