The symbols of the four elements: Air as a chameleon (in medieval times it was believed that the chameleon ate only air) or the form of a bird; Fire as a salamander; Water as a fish, sometimes as water flowing in a stream or from a water jug; Earth as a squirrel. Spirit and soul were often visualized as linked with Water, while the body was associated with Earth.
Seven metals in Alchemy: gold, silver, mercury, copper, iron, tin and lead. Each of these was linked to a particular planet: gold – Sun; silver – Moon; mercury – Mercury; copper – Venus; iron – Mars; tin – Jupiter; lead – Saturn. Seven days of the week were also associated with the planets and metals. It was believed that the planets and metals existed inside every human being. The balance between these made up the human temperament, personality and even physical appearance. It was believed that there are seven different types of person, linked with the seven planets or metals.
The fire was called the Sun or the Inner Sun which symbolized the inner search. The lion represents a lower part of man – the beast – which needs to be refined by the light of the Sun. The image of the Green Lion eating the Sun was used to denote this inner work. When the Green lion has taken the Sun into its being – then the inner process of transmutation is completed. The sequence of the work is the following: “Old Lion”, “Ordinary Lion”, “Red Lion”. The symbolism of the lion is derived from astrology. The Lion or Leo is ruled by the Sun, which rules the human heart.
Alchemy was a science of the soul that’s why the images of the sea, sea creatures and fish appear frequently. In occult symbolism the sea has always been an image of the soul or spirit.The fishtail in occult images is usually a sign of the initiate. The image of the siren is usually intended to indicate a state in which the alchemist has reached the point of breaking through into the other world. The story of Jonah being swallowed by a large fish can be explained as a man who gives up his own lower personality, dies to the world and is then reborn into the world as a new man. This rebirth of soul was the main goal of the alchemists. The water is a symbol of a higher level of consciousness, the Quintessence.
The pictures showing the processes of the alchemists depict changes and transformations taking place in hermetically sealed bottles. The bottle here is a symbol of the human soul or body and the secret changes within the bottle are symbols of the soul’s growth.
In fact, all kind of furnaces and heating apparatus play an important role in occult symbolism. The first step was to burn or boil away all the darkness of the “lower man”. The true alchemist wanted to burn away the lower part of his being and have access to the stars. Continue reading Symbols of Alchemy – seven steps
The symbols of Alchemy reveal the secrets of Inner Rebirth. The main goal of the alchemist was an inner secret, looking for the way to develop his own inner world of vision and understanding. The gold of the alchemists was called Mercury or the Inner Sun. The god Mercury was the one who was responsible for communication with the gods. The alchemists were concerned with spiritual things and not the riches of this earth. They believed that if they worked the untransformed inner life of man, they might to change it into the higher life. The alchemists liked to compare their art with a transformation of a dark, ugly chrysalis into a beautiful butterfly. Alchemists called the search for the inner gold “Great Work” or the “Hermetic Secret”, from Hermes, the Greek equivalent of Mercury, who have taught the secrets of alchemy to men.
The myth tells us that the goddess of love Venus was born out of sea foam and carried on a conch-shell to Cyprus. In Christian culture the seashell represents man’s grave before resurrection. In Renaissance paintings the shell is pictured as an attribute of Mary, John the Baptist uses it for Christ’s baptism as a possible allusion of Christ’s future Resurrection.It is also an attribute of the Saint James, the patron of pilgrims.
As related to Water element, the seashell is a symbol of fertility, the Moon and the Woman.