Elemental Alchemy Symbols and Meanings
Meaning of Elemental Alchemy Symbols
At the most basic level, elemental alchemy symbols represent the raw self; having the capacity of being transmuted into a higher, incorruptible self.
This page investigates alchemy element symbols and their philosophical meanings.
It should be noted that the ancient founders of alchemy were avidly loyal to their craft. So much so, that many of the surviving reference material is quite obscure. Alchemists shrouded much of their craft to assure the seeker is determined and devoted to learning. This technique is effective – as once a seeker delves into the world of alchemy; many are dissuaded by the complexity and obscurity surrounding alchemical meaning.
“One secures the gold of the spirit
when one finds himself.”~Claude Bristol
Common Alchemy Symbols and Their Meanings
A metalloid, antimony, resembles metal in its appearance and physical properties, but does not chemically react as a metal. This elemental alchemy symbol represents animal tendencies found in humankind – a wild nature in all of us – wear this symbol when you are feeling meek – it will remind you of the animal power that dwells within you.
Arsenic is a chemical element. This is a notorious poisonous metalloid that has three allotropic forms; yellow, black and grey. Arsenic and its compounds are used as pesticides, herbicides, insecticides and various alloys. The elemental alchemy symbol arsenic was used for medicinal and magical cures. A compound of arsenic and sulfur were said to induce trances of enlightenment and philosophical ascension and direction.
This is one of several alchemy symbols for copper (the other being traditional Venus symbol). Copper is a reddish-colored metal, with a high electrical and thermal conductivity (among pure metals at room temperature, only silver has a higher electrical conductivity). Copper may well be the oldest metal in use, as copper artifacts dating to 8700 BC have been found copper was associated with the goddess Aphrodite/Venus in mythology and alchemy, owing to its lustrous beauty, its ancient use in producing mirrors, and its association with Cyprus, which was sacred to the goddess. The elemental alchemy symbol for copper is also the planetary symbol for Venus. As such, this symbol embodies such characteristics as love, balance, feminine beauty, and artistic creativity.
A soft, shiny, yellow, heavy, malleable, ductile (trivalent and univalent) transition metal. One of the more valued elements, gold represents perfection in all matter, on any level. It also symbolizes humankind’s goal to obtain perfection in mind and spirit. The idea in alchemy of turning iron or lead into gold is more about the human journey to becoming golden…becoming better and transforming oneself into someone of high value. Read more about the Symbolic Meaning of Gold here (on my blog).
Iron is a most abundant metal, and is believed to be the tenth most abundant element in the universe. In alchemy, iron is representative of the planet mars in astrology. As such, iron rules physical strength, and symbolizes predominantly male energy. It is also noteworthy that the symbol for iron is also one in the same symbol for male. Philosophically, iron represents a need to temper primal urges while at the same to embracing the fire within.
Lead has a bright luster and is a dense, ductile, very soft, highly malleable, bluish-white metal that has poor electrical conductivity. This true metal is highly resistant to corrosion. As an alchemy symbol, lead is the ruler of the dark, prime matter. It is Governed by Saturn and combined with silver it is said to create a purified element called the Philosophic Mercury.
Magnesium is a fairly strong, silvery-white, light-weight metal (one third lighter than aluminium) that slightly tarnishes when exposed to air. It is difficult to ignite in bulk, though it is easy to light if it is shaved into thin strips. Once ignited, it is difficult to extinguish. It is the difficulty of extinguishing that makes this elemental alchemy symbol so appealing because it represents eternity, infinite flame, and ascension.
Common phosphorus forms a waxy white solid that has a characteristic disagreeable smell. Pure forms of the element are colorless and transparent. This non metal is not soluble in water, but it is soluble in carbon disulfide. Pure phosphorus ignites spontaneously in air and burns to phosphorus pentoxide. The elemental alchemy symbol phosphorus traps light, and thus it is reputed that phosphorus represents spiritual illumination.
The metal is a beautiful silvery-white when pure, and malleable and ductile. The metal is corrosion-resistant. In the realm of philospohical elemental alchemy symbols, platinum was revered for its endurance. Platinum represents determination, grit, and seeing our manifestations to completion. Platinum in terms of alchemy meaning represents high achievement and reward for crafting our best selves.
Silver is a very ductile and malleable (slightly harder than gold) univalent coinage metal with a brilliant white metallic luster that can take a high degree of polish. It has the highest electrical conductivity of all metals, even higher than copper, but its greater cost has prevented it from being widely used in place of copper for electrical purposes. In alchemy, silver is one of the three base metals often used as prime material at the inception of a work. Further, the alchemy symbol of silver is associated with the moon. As such, silver holds philosophical traits of the feminine persuasion as well as attributes of intuition, inner wisdom, and contemplation. Furthermore, profound artistic expression can be harness by using silver. You can learn more about symbolic meaning of silver on my blog post.
It is an abundant, tasteless, odorless, non-metal. Sulfur, in its native form, is a yellow crystalline solid. In nature, it can be found as the pure element or as sulfide and sulfate minerals. It is an essential element for life and is found in several amino acids. Also considered a transcendent elemental alchemy symbol – sulfur represents the multiplicity of human nature and the eternal aspiration to reach enlightenment. As indicated by the symbol, sulfur represents the triad of ascension – which can be viewed as a holy trinity. Sulfur is also one of the three heavenly substances in alchemical science (the other two being salt, and mercury.
Tin is a malleable, ductile, highly crystalline, silvery-white metal whose crystal structure causes a “tin crystal” when a bar of tin is bent (caused by crystals breaking). Tin acts as a catalyst when oxygen is in solution and helps accelerate chemical attack. Tin as an elemental alchemy symbol is representative of the planet Jupiter. Being ruled by Jupiter, puts tin in connection with breath, and can be philosophically viewed as the breath of life. Tin also adds a philosophical lesson to life that standing alone it is weaker than if it is combined with another alchemy symbol element. See also Jupiter Symbolism as it is associated with tin and may offer more insight into this alchemical element.
Zinc is a moderately reactive metal that will combine with oxygen and other non- metals, and will react with dilute acids to Zinc is a moderately reactive metal that will combine with oxygen and other non- metals, and will react with dilute acids to release hydrogen. Alchemists prepared philosopher’s wool by burning the metal zinc in air. Philosopher’s wool was zinc oxide, which was also sometimes called nix alba (white snow).
May you always experience alchemy in your life
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