Alchemical symbol

Alchemical symbol

Overview

Alchemical symbols, originally devised as part of alchemy
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

, were used to denote some elements and some compounds until the 18th century. Note that while notation like this was mostly standardized, style and symbol varied between alchemists, so this page lists the most common.

According to Paracelsus
Paracelsus
Paracelsus was a German-Swiss Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist....

, the Three Primes or Tria Prima are
  • Salt (base matter)
  • Mercury
    Mercury (element)
    Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

     (fluid connection between the High and the Low)
  • Sulfur
    Sulfur
    Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

     (omnipresent spirit of life)



Western alchemy makes use of the Hellenic elements.
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Alchemical symbols, originally devised as part of alchemy
Alchemy
Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose early practitioners’ claims to profound powers were known from antiquity. The defining objectives of alchemy are varied; these include the creation of the fabled philosopher's stone possessing powers including the capability of turning base...

, were used to denote some elements and some compounds until the 18th century. Note that while notation like this was mostly standardized, style and symbol varied between alchemists, so this page lists the most common.

Three primes


According to Paracelsus
Paracelsus
Paracelsus was a German-Swiss Renaissance physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist....

, the Three Primes or Tria Prima are
  • Salt (base matter)
  • Mercury
    Mercury (element)
    Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

     (fluid connection between the High and the Low)
  • Sulfur
    Sulfur
    Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

     (omnipresent spirit of life)

Four basic elements



Western alchemy makes use of the Hellenic elements. The symbols used for these are:
  • Earth
    Earth (classical element)
    Earth, home and origin of humanity, has often been worshipped in its own right with its own unique spiritual tradition.-European tradition:Earth is one of the four classical elements in ancient Greek philosophy and science. It was commonly associated with qualities of heaviness, matter and the...

     
  • Water
    Water (classical element)
    Water is one of the elements in ancient Greek philosophy, in the Asian Indian system Panchamahabhuta, and in the Chinese cosmological and physiological system Wu Xing...

     
  • Air
    Air (classical element)
    Air is often seen as a universal power or pure substance. Its supposed fundamental importance to life can be seen in words such as aspire, inspire, perspire and spirit, all derived from the Latin spirare.-Greek and Roman tradition:...

     
  • Fire
    Fire (classical element)
    Fire has been an important part of all cultures and religions from pre-history to modern day and was vital to the development of civilization. It has been regarded in many different contexts throughout history, but especially as a metaphysical constant of the world.-Greek and Roman tradition:Fire...

     

Seven planetary metals


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
Wandering Stars
Wandering Stars is an anthology of Jewish fantasy and science fiction, edited by Jack Dann, originally published by Harper & Row in 1974. It represented, according to the book cover, "the first time in science fiction that the Jew - and the richness of his themes and particular points of view --...

 visible to the naked eye, and the extra-Saturnarian planets such as Neptune
Neptune
Neptune is the eighth and farthest planet from the Sun in the Solar System. Named for the Roman god of the sea, it is the fourth-largest planet by diameter and the third largest by mass. Neptune is 17 times the mass of Earth and is slightly more massive than its near-twin Uranus, which is 15 times...

 are not used.
  • Gold
    Gold
    Gold is a chemical element with the symbol Au and an atomic number of 79. Gold is a dense, soft, shiny, malleable and ductile metal. Pure gold has a bright yellow color and luster traditionally considered attractive, which it maintains without oxidizing in air or water. Chemically, gold is a...

     dominated by Sol
    Sun (astrology)
    The sun is considered a very important part of astrology. It, as well as the Moon, are the most important of the astrological planets, and the two of them are often referred to as the luminaries. In Greek mythology the sun was represented by Apollo, the god of light, and Helios, the god of the sun...

     ☉ ☼ (  )
  • Silver
    Silver
    Silver is a metallic chemical element with the chemical symbol Ag and atomic number 47. A soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it has the highest electrical conductivity of any element and the highest thermal conductivity of any metal...

     dominated by Luna
    Moon (astrology)
    The Moon is the Earth's companion satellite. The Moon is large enough for its gravity to affect the Earth, stabilising its orbit and producing the regular ebb and flow of the tides. The Moon is also familiar to us for its different phases, waxing and waning in appearance in an unchanging cycle...

     ☽ (  )
  • Copper
    Copper
    Copper is a chemical element with the symbol Cu and atomic number 29. It is a ductile metal with very high thermal and electrical conductivity. Pure copper is soft and malleable; an exposed surface has a reddish-orange tarnish...

     dominated by Venus ♀ (also:  )
  • Iron
    Iron
    Iron is a chemical element with the symbol Fe and atomic number 26. It is a metal in the first transition series. It is the most common element forming the planet Earth as a whole, forming much of Earth's outer and inner core. It is the fourth most common element in the Earth's crust...

     dominated by Mars ♂ (  )
  • Tin
    Tin
    Tin is a chemical element with the symbol Sn and atomic number 50. It is a main group metal in group 14 of the periodic table. Tin shows chemical similarity to both neighboring group 14 elements, germanium and lead and has two possible oxidation states, +2 and the slightly more stable +4...

     dominated by Jupiter ♃ (  )
  • Mercury
    Mercury (element)
    Mercury is a chemical element with the symbol Hg and atomic number 80. It is also known as quicksilver or hydrargyrum...

     (quicksilver) dominated by Mercury ☿ (  )
  • Lead
    Lead
    Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

     dominated by Saturn ♄ (  )


The Monas Hieroglyphica
Monas Hieroglyphica
The Monas Hieroglyphica is an esoteric symbol invented and designed by John Dee, the Elizabethan Magus and Court Astrologer of Elizabeth I of England...

 is an alchemical symbol devised by John Dee
John Dee (mathematician)
John Dee was an English mathematician, astronomer, astrologer, occultist, navigator, imperialist and consultant to Queen Elizabeth I. He devoted much of his life to the study of alchemy, divination and Hermetic philosophy....

 as a combination of the planetary metal glyphs.

Mundane elements


  • Antimony
    Antimony
    Antimony is a toxic chemical element with the symbol Sb and an atomic number of 51. A lustrous grey metalloid, it is found in nature mainly as the sulfide mineral stibnite...

     
  • Arsenic
    Arsenic
    Arsenic is a chemical element with the symbol As, atomic number 33 and relative atomic mass 74.92. Arsenic occurs in many minerals, usually in conjunction with sulfur and metals, and also as a pure elemental crystal. It was first documented by Albertus Magnus in 1250.Arsenic is a metalloid...

     
  • Bismuth
    Bismuth
    Bismuth is a chemical element with symbol Bi and atomic number 83. Bismuth, a trivalent poor metal, chemically resembles arsenic and antimony. Elemental bismuth may occur naturally uncombined, although its sulfide and oxide form important commercial ores. The free element is 86% as dense as lead...

     
  • Boron
    Boron
    Boron is the chemical element with atomic number 5 and the chemical symbol B. Boron is a metalloid. Because boron is not produced by stellar nucleosynthesis, it is a low-abundance element in both the solar system and the Earth's crust. However, boron is concentrated on Earth by the...

     
  • Magnesium
    Magnesium
    Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation number +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth most abundant element in the Earth's crust and ninth in the known universe as a whole...

     
  • Phosphorus
    Phosphorus
    Phosphorus is the chemical element that has the symbol P and atomic number 15. A multivalent nonmetal of the nitrogen group, phosphorus as a mineral is almost always present in its maximally oxidized state, as inorganic phosphate rocks...

     
  • Platinum
    Platinum
    Platinum is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Pt and an atomic number of 78. Its name is derived from the Spanish term platina del Pinto, which is literally translated into "little silver of the Pinto River." It is a dense, malleable, ductile, precious, gray-white transition metal...

     ☽ ☉
  • Potassium
    Potassium
    Potassium is the chemical element with the symbol K and atomic number 19. Elemental potassium is a soft silvery-white alkali metal that oxidizes rapidly in air and is very reactive with water, generating sufficient heat to ignite the hydrogen emitted in the reaction.Potassium and sodium are...

     
  • Stone
    Rock (geology)
    In geology, rock or stone is a naturally occurring solid aggregate of minerals and/or mineraloids.The Earth's outer solid layer, the lithosphere, is made of rock. In general rocks are of three types, namely, igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic...

     
  • Sulfur
    Sulfur
    Sulfur or sulphur is the chemical element with atomic number 16. In the periodic table it is represented by the symbol S. It is an abundant, multivalent non-metal. Under normal conditions, sulfur atoms form cyclic octatomic molecules with chemical formula S8. Elemental sulfur is a bright yellow...

     
  • Zinc
    Zinc
    Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

     

Alchemical compounds

  • Sal ammoniac
    Sal ammoniac
    Sal ammoniac is a rare mineral composed of ammonium chloride, NH4Cl. It forms colorless to white to yellow-brown crystals in the isometric-hexoctahedral class. It has very poor cleavage and a brittle to conchoidal fracture. It is quite soft, with a Mohs hardness of 1.5 to 2, and has a low specific...

     *
  • Aqua Fortis
    Aqua fortis
    Aqua fortis, or "strong water," in alchemy, is a solution of nitric acid in water. Being highly corrosive, the solution was used in alchemy for dissolving silver and most other metals with the notable exception of gold, which can only be dissolved using aqua regia...

     A.F.
  • Aqua Regia
    Aqua regia
    Aqua regia or aqua regis is a highly corrosive mixture of acids, fuming yellow or red solution, also called nitro-hydrochloric acid. The mixture is formed by freshly mixing concentrated nitric acid and hydrochloric acid, usually in a volume ratio of 1:3, respectively...

     A.R.
  • Spirit of Wine S.V.
  • Amalgam
    Amalgam (chemistry)
    An amalgam is a substance formed by the reaction of mercury with another metal. Almost all metals can form amalgams with mercury, notable exceptions being iron and platinum. Silver-mercury amalgams are important in dentistry, and gold-mercury amalgam is used in the extraction of gold from ore.The...

    a
  • Cinnabar
    Cinnabar
    Cinnabar or cinnabarite , is the common ore of mercury.-Word origin:The name comes from κινναβαρι , a Greek word most likely applied by Theophrastus to several distinct substances...

     (Mercury sulfide
    Mercury sulfide
    Mercury sulfide, mercuric sulfide, or mercury sulfide is a chemical compound composed of the chemical elements mercury and sulfur. It is represented by the chemical formula HgS...

    )
  • Vitriol


Alchemical processes


The alchemical magnum opus
Magnum opus (alchemy)
The Great Work is an alchemical term for the process of creating the philosopher's stone. It has been used to describe personal and spiritual transmutation in the Hermetic tradition, attached to laboratory processes and chemical color changes, used as a model for the individuation process, and as...

 was sometimes expressed as a series of chemical operations. In cases where these numbered twelve, each could be assigned one of the Zodiac
Zodiac
In astronomy, the zodiac is a circle of twelve 30° divisions of celestial longitude which are centred upon the ecliptic: the apparent path of the Sun across the celestial sphere over the course of the year...

 signs as a form of cryptography. The following example can be found in Pernety's
Antoine-Joseph Pernety
Antoine-Joseph Pernety, known as Dom Pernety was a French writer. At various times he was a Benedictine, and librarian of Frederic the Great of Prussia...

 1758 Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary:
  • Calcination (Aries
    Aries (astrology)
    Aries is the first astrological sign in the Zodiac, which spans the zodiac between the zero degree and the 29th degree of celestial longitude. The Sun enters Aries when it reaches the northern vernal equinox, which is usually on March 21 each year, and remains in this sign until around April 20...

     )
  • Congelation
    Congelation
    Congelation is the process by which something congeals, or thickens. This increase in viscosity can be achieved through a reduction in temperature or through chemical reactions. Sometimes the increase in viscosity is great enough to crystallize or solidify the substance in question.In alchemy,...

     (Taurus
    Taurus (astrology)
    Taurus is the second astrological sign in the Zodiac, which spans the zodiac between the 30th and 59th degree of celestial longitude. Generally, the Sun transits this area of the zodiac between April 21 to May 21 each year...

     )
  • Fixation
    Fixation (alchemy)
    Fixation in alchemy refers to a process by which a previously volatile substance is "transformed" into a form that is not affected by fire...

     (Gemini
    Gemini (astrology)
    Gemini is the third astrological sign in the Zodiac, which spans the Zodiac between the 60th and 89th degree of celestial longitude. Generally, the Sun transits this area of the zodiac between May 21 to June 20 each year...

     )
  • Dissolution
    Dissolution (chemistry)
    Dissolution is the process by which a solid, liquid or gas forms a solution in a solvent. In solids this can be explained as the breakdown of the crystal lattice into individual ions, atoms or molecules and their transport into the solvent. For liquids and gases, the molecules must be compatible...

     (Cancer
    Cancer (astrology)
    Cancer is the fourth astrological sign in the Zodiac. It is considered a water sign and one of four cardinal signs. Cancer is ruled by the Moon. Individuals born when the Sun is in this sign are considered Cancerian individuals...

     )
  • Digestion
    Digestion (alchemy)
    In alchemy, Digestion is a process in which gentle heat is applied to a substance over a period of several weeks.This was traditionally performed by sealing a sample of the substance in a flask, and keeping the flask in fresh horse dung or sometimes in direct sunlight...

     (Leo
    Leo (astrology)
    Leo is the fifth astrological sign of the Zodiac, originating from the constellation of Leo. In astrology, Leo is considered to be a "masculine", positive sign. It is also considered a fire sign and is one of four fixed signs ruled by the Sun.Individuals born when the Sun is in this sign are...

     )
  • Distillation
    Distillation
    Distillation is a method of separating mixtures based on differences in volatilities of components in a boiling liquid mixture. Distillation is a unit operation, or a physical separation process, and not a chemical reaction....

     (Virgo
    Virgo (astrology)
    Virgo is the sixth astrological sign in the Zodiac, which spans the zodiac between the 150th and 179th degree of celestial longitude. Generally, the Sun transits this area of the zodiac between August 23 to September 22 each year...

     )
  • Sublimation (Libra
    Libra (astrology)
    Libra is the seventh astrological sign in the Zodiac, originating from the constellation of Libra. In astrology, Libra is considered a "masculine", positive sign. It is also considered an air sign and is one of four cardinal signs...

     )
  • Separation
    Separation process
    In chemistry and chemical engineering, a separation process, or simply a separation, is any mass transfer process used to convert a mixture of substances into two or more distinct product mixtures, at least one of which is enriched in one or more of the mixture's constituents. In some cases, a...

     (Scorpio
    Scorpio (astrology)
    |Infobox align="right" style="border:3px solid white;"||style="text-align: center;"|Scorpio is the eighth astrological sign in the Zodiac, which spans the zodiac between the 210th and 239th degree of celestial longitude. Generally, the Sun transits this area of the zodiac between 24 October and...

     )
  • Incineration
    Ceration
    Ceration is a chemical process, a common practice in alchemy. Pseudo-Geber's Summa Perfectionis tells us ceration is "the mollification of an hard thing, not fusible unto liquefaction" and stresses the importance of correct humidity in the process. Ceration is performed by continuously adding a...

     (Sagittarius
    Sagittarius (astrology)
    Sagittarius is the ninth astrological sign in the Zodiac, which spans the zodiac between the 240th and 269th degree of celestial longitude...

     )
  • Fermentation
    Fermentation (biochemistry)
    Fermentation is the process of extracting energy from the oxidation of organic compounds, such as carbohydrates, using an endogenous electron acceptor, which is usually an organic compound. In contrast, respiration is where electrons are donated to an exogenous electron acceptor, such as oxygen,...

     (Capricorn)
  • Multiplication
    Multiplication (alchemy)
    Multiplication is the process in Western alchemy used to increase the potency of the philosopher's stone, elixir or projection powder. It occurs near the end of the magnum opus in order to increase the gains in the subsequent projection...

     (Aquarius )
  • Projection
    Projection (alchemy)
    Projection was the ultimate goal of Western alchemy. Once the Philosopher's stone or powder of projection had been created, the process of Projection would be used to transmute a lesser substance into a higher form, often lead into gold....

     (Pisces )

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