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Monday, January 08, 2018

ARTIFACT #1, THE AZOTH WOODCUT, TESSERACTS 22 ALCHEMY AND ARTIFACTS


IN ORDER TO PROMOTE TESSERACTS 22 Alchemy and Artifacts, one of the things Lorina and I felt we needed was an ‘unofficial’ symbol that conveyed the nature of the anthology, a bit of visual alchemy that appealed and challenged at the same time. After a bit of searching, I came across this artifact - a woodcut from Basil Valentine’s Azoth series, dated at around 1659; it's one of twelve pictures depicting the alchemical process of making ‘azoth’, a precursor to the Philosopher’s Stone or a universal medication or solvent – the Elixir of Life. It was often associated with the element mercury. This woodcut is the fifth or sixth in the series; as to which one it is, not all sources agree.

To me, it works well as a symbol for literary creation – the process of making story. One of the things I plan to do with this and future posts, is to present various artifacts that might ignite the imagination.

This Azoth woodcut contains a number of intriguing symbols. The first is the androgyne, the two-headed being. It represents a divine marriage between solar and lunar, male and female energies, which together, were seen as the highest form of spiritual attainment. Surrounding the androgyne are seven symbols for the planets (gods) and their metallic counterparts. From left to right are Venus (copper), Mars (iron), Sol or the Sun (gold), Mercury or Hermes (mercury), Luna or the Moon (silver), Jupiter (tin), and Saturn (lead). The androgyne also holds a compass and the set-square, two tools of architecture, important in Freemasonry.

Upon the androgyne’s chest is the sign, R.E.B.I.S. I’ve yet to find what these letters stand for. If any of you know, please enlighten me. As mysteries go, this is a good metaphor for the sense of mystery Lorina and I hope to find in the submissions we receive.

The winged dragon can be seen as an alchemical symbol for fire and volatile elements. The fact that the androgyne is standing upon the dragon, subduing it, is significant. This may actually point to a specific part in the alchemical process. The dragon is also associated with the element, sulphur.

Both androgyne and dragon stand precariously upon a Cosmic Egg. The egg is a symbol of both cosmos and creation – of potential. Lines and numbers intersect its surface. The numbers might stand for the four elements - air, earth, water, and fire - or have different meanings (ie., 1 to represent the primal force, 2, duality, etc.) There are many interpretations. 

Speaking of numbers, I came across this interesting titbit while looking into the above symbols. In numerology (whatever you make of it), the number 22 is considered the most powerful of numbers. It's known as the Master Number and Master Builder. As Master Builder, it takes fantastic dreams and turns them into realities. I can’t think of a better process to describe what Lorina and I plan to do with Tesseracts 22. 

One might say it's almost...alchemical.

Until next time - Susan.

3 comments:

  1. Hi, everyone. Since posting this, I received an answer from Ariella Elema regarding what the REBIS sign on the androgyne might mean. She writes: "I think REBIS is "re bis", Latin for "in twofold form". It's referring to the figure of the androgyne." (To me, this fits. Thank you very much, Ariella.)

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  2. I agree with what Suzenmy said above. Rebis is the end product of the alchemic cycle. When the alchemist returns to the starting point, the individual elements are still present, but they have been transformed and united, not quite separate any more, but also not so joined that they have lost their individual properties. Hence, the twofold form.

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  3. This is is why I love the writing community. If you don't know something in particular, someone else will. Thanks so much for sharing this, Sharon.

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