History and Meaning of Alchemy Symbols
Alchemy is an ancient philosophy and natural science that predates contemporary chemistry. Alchemy is derived from the Arabic term al-kimia. Al kimia is an ancient Egyptian procedure for creating the Philosopher’s Stone or Elixir. Originally, kimia was derived from the Coptic word khem, which may relate to the mystery of the universe’s initial substance or the Nile delta‘s fertile black soil.
Although alchemy predates the discovery of atoms and elements, alchemists were aware that different substances had distinct qualities. Therefore, alchemists invented symbols to distinguish various elements in the 17th century. Alchemist kept these symbols hidden because of persecution. As a result, there are many symbols for a single element.
Until the 18th century, alchemy symbols denote some elements and combinations.
Alchemy elements include modern-day chemical elements such as gold, silver, and iron. It also incorporated other elements such as earth, air, fire, and water. Metal and wood were also important elements in Eastern cultures.
Some of the most common alchemy symbols and their meanings are below:
The Four Classical Elements as Alchemy Symbols
The ancient Greek notion that all matter in the world is made up of air, earth, fire, and water became the foundation of the Classical Elements. Many cultures also had a fifth element, which could be metal, wood, or something else. These four elements aren’t found on the periodic table unlike many of the others in this list. Still, alchemists think they have considerable powers, including the ability to create new elements.
Earth Alchemy symbol
The earth, air, fire, and water alchemy symbols were pretty similar. A triangle represents each symbol. For example, a downward-pointing triangle crossed by a horizontal bar represents the Earth.
The colors green and brown associates with the word “earth.” Earth symbol also relates to the characteristics “cold” and “dry,” according to the Greek philosopher Plato. Further, Alchemy symbol Earth represents physical sensations/movements.
Air Alchemy symbol
An upward triangle with horizontal line crossing through it symbolizes the classical element Air. It is the polar opposite of the alchemical earth symbol.
In alchemy, the air symbol represents the holy spirit and life-giving forces of life, such as breaths.
Fire Alchemy symbol
An upright triangle, or a regular triangle, represents Fire as another fundamental element among the alchemy symbols.
Plato equated fire alchemy symbol with warmth, heat, and dryness. It commonly associates with the colors red and orange.
It signifies “the burning” emotions such as love, passion, compassion, hate, and fury. Fire is a masculine element.
Fire alchemy symbol also represents ‘raising energy,’ which is sometimes related to a desire to attain the divine above us.
Water alchemy symbol
A downward triangle represents water alchemy symbol. The polar opposite of the alchemical fire symbol.
Water is feminine in alchemy, which is another point of distinction between the elements of fire and water. As you may be aware, the descending triangle symbolizes ladies, females, and femininity.
The water alchemy symbol is related to the mercury element in alchemy and denotes intuition.
Plato, the Greek philosopher, identified it with traits such as wetness, moistness, and coldness, and the color blue associates with it.
The Seal of Solomon comprises the alchemical water sign and the alchemical fire symbol.
The Three Primes Alchemy Symbols
Paracelsus, a Swiss philosopher, named the three primes, also known as the tria prima, in the 16th century. He claimed that the tria prima held all of the illness-causing poisons and that alchemists could learn how to cure disease by studying them. He also felt that the tria prima defined humanity, and he assigned each element to a particular aspect of human identity. The three primes in which material substances are immediately composed are Mercury, salt, and sulfur.
Mercury Alchemy Symbol
Mercury can refer to both the element and the planet (one of the seven planetary metals). In either scenario, this alchemical symbol represents the intellect and a state that may be capable of surviving death. Mercury was once known as quicksilver. It was capable of switching between liquid and solid phases. As a result, people believed that Mercury moves between life and death in alchemy.
A serpent or snake, a symbol resembling a cosmic womb, frequently depicts Mercury. Mercury also associates with wetness and cold and the passive female essence. Within its symbol, you can observe the typical “female” indication. This symbol also represent the planet mercury in astrology.
Salt Alchemy Symbol
Alchemists believed salt was a single element. But, people now understood salt as a chemical complex made up of sodium and chloride. The body and physical stuff in general, crystallization, and condensation are all represented by salt.
Salt is generally impure when gathered. Still, chemical processes dissolve and refine it, which some alchemists equated to the purification processes that the human body can go through. A horizontal line bisects a circle as its symbol.
Sulfur Alchemy symbol
The active male equivalent of Mercury’s passive female counterpart is Sulfur, sometimes known as brimstone. Regions as diverse as China, Egypt, and Europe utilized Sulfur as traditional medicine. Both the Torah and the Bible mention it, claiming that Hell smells like sulfur.
Sulfur links with qualities like dryness, heat, and masculinity. It could also indicate evaporation, expansion, or dissolution in alchemy. It portrayed the soul in terms of the human body. Sulfur is the middle element in the tria prima, connecting salt and Mercury.
The symbol for sulfur is usually a triangle on a Greek cross or an upside-down cross, although it can alternatively be a Cross of Loraine atop an infinity symbol. Satan’s Cross is the name given to this emblem, occasionally employed as a satanic symbol.
Philosopher’s Stone Alchemy Symbol
Philosopher’s stone is a mythological alchemical material that is said to have the ability to transmute base metals into rare and valuable metals like gold and silver.
According to legend, the material, also known as the elixir of life or utilized to make the elixir, was thought to have revitalizing powers and might be used to give eternal life.
Alchemy’s ultimate purpose was to create the stone. Many alchemists, including notable scientists like Isaac Newton, worked hard to figure out the recipe.
The philosopher’s stone symbolizes enlightenment, heavenly happiness, and perfection in alchemy.
The symbol is a circle inside a square. Around them is a triangle inside another circle.
The Seven Planetary Metals Alchemy Symbol
Each of these elements is a metal, linked to a celestial object, a physical organ, and a day of the week. Early alchemy included astronomy, and each planet was supposed to “rule” over its associated metal during the classical era, with proximity to other planets and its position in the sky influencing the metal’s qualities.
Uranus and Neptune aren’t represented since these symbols were developed before telescopes existed, and only planets visible to the naked eye were known.
Celestial body: Represent the Planet Saturn
Day of the week: Saturday
The symbol for the element varied over time. However, the two sometimes has the same symbol as the metal connects with the planet Saturn. The lead symbol is a “crescent below the cross,” which resembles a scythe or a stylized “h” with a cross on top.
Celestial body: Represent the Planet Jupiter
Day of the week: Thursday
Tin’s symbol is a “crescent above the cross,” which resembles a stylized number four. This symbol can also represent the planet Jupiter.
Celestial body: Represent the Planet Mars
Day of the week: Tuesday
The alchemical symbol for iron frequently used to represent the planet Mars and male energy.
Celestial body: Sun
Day of the week: Sunday
Gold was one of the most important symbols in alchemy, as it represented mental, physical, and spiritual perfection. Therefore, many alchemists had a major ambition to understand how to transform lead into gold. Two different symbols can represent the gold alchemy symbol. The first is a stylized sun with rays emanating from it, while the second is a circle with a dot in the middle.
Celestial body: Represent the Planet Venus
Day of the week: Friday
The “female” symbol (used to represent planet Venus) or a combination of crossed and horizontal lines can describe the copper alchemy symbol.
Celestial body: Planet Mercury
Day of the week: Wednesday
Mercury’s symbol is the same as when it was one of the Three Primes: the “cosmic womb.”
Celestial body: Moon
Day of the week: Monday
The silver alchemy symbol is a crescent moon, while the sign for gold is a little sun. You can draw the crescent facing either right or left.
Mundane Elements Alchemy Symbols
The alchemical ingredients are broken down into Mundane elements. They are usually newer additions to alchemy and have a shorter history than some other elements. As a result, there is little information about their alchemy symbols and their meaning, despite the fact that they were all utilized by alchemists at one point.
The Antimony depicts humans and their animal nature, the wild and free parts of human nature. A circle with a cross above it (or the upside-down feminine symbol) represents Antimony. Also, wolf represent it.
A swan or swans in alchemy depict Arsenic. This is because the element arsenic, being a metalloid, can change its physical appearance (from a metallic-gray solid to a yellow crystalline one) in the same manner as a cygnet transforms into a swan. Two overlapping triangles serve as its symbol.
Not much is known about how bismuth was used in alchemy and what role it played in alchemical processes.
Bismuth was frequently confused with tin and lead until the 18th century, and nothing is known about how it was utilized in alchemy. Its symbol resembles a number eight with a top that is open.
Alchemists cannot find a pure form of magnesium. Thus, they employed magnesium carbonate in their experiments. In addition, magnesium symbolized eternity to alchemists since it is difficult to extinguish once ignited. Although various symbols can represent it, the most common alchemy symbol is this one.
For alchemists, the chemical element phosphorus was crucial because it looked to have the potential to trap light—the element’s white form oxidizes in air, appearing to glow green in the dark. As a result, its sign is usually a triangle above a double-cross, representing the spirit.
Platinum’s symbol is a combination of the symbols for gold and silver. Alchemists believed it was a combination of the two metals.
Because potassium isn’t found naturally as a free element, alchemists employed potassium carbonate, or “potash,” in their experiments. It is widely used in alchemical processes. A rectangle atop a cross represents Potassium.
Alchemists created zinc oxide, sometimes known as “philosopher’s wool” or “white snow,” by burning zinc. A variety of symbols represents zinc, the most common alchemy symbol of which is given below.
What Do Ancient Egyptian Alchemy Symbols Look like?
While most people are familiar with alchemy symbols from Europe, alchemy was also studied in other regions of the world. Different symbols were utilized by these alchemists. Egyptian symbols, for example, are hieroglyphics rather than letters.
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