Alchemical Glossary

Discription Symbol Alternate
Air   One of the four alchemical elements. Also see Earth, Fire, and Water.   Eagle
Alcohol Sb2S3 Alcohol originally ment a fine black powder, particulary black antimony sulphide. This old meaning persisted and coexisted with the modern meaning (spitit of wine) through the 18th century.      
Alembic   Still-head or complete still.      
Amalagama   A composition of gold or silver and mercury.   
Antimony Sb Antimony is a semimetallic chemical element which can exist in two forms: the metallic form is bright, silvery, hard and brittle; the non metallic form is a grey powder. Antimony is a poor conductor of heat and electricity, it is stable in dry air and is not attacked by dilute acids or alkalis. Wolf
Aqua Fortis HNO3 Nitric acid.Also called Philosophical Spirit of Nitre.    
Aqua Regia HNO3+3 HCl Aqua regia (Latin, "royal water") is a highly corrosive mixture of acids. The mixture is formed by mixing concentrated nitric acid and hydrochloric acid, optimally in a volume ratio of 1:3. It was named so because it can dissolve the noble metals such as gold and platinum.  Green dragon
Aquil Coelestis   See Sal Ammoniac.      
Aquil Alba   Calomel.      
Argentvive   Mercury (see Quicksilver).      
Athanor   Furnace.      
Aurum Potabile Au + H2O Colloidal gold is a colloidal suspension of submicrometer size particles of gold in a fluid, usually water. The liquid is usually either an intense red colour (for particles less than 100 nm) or blue/purple (for larger particles).    
Azoth   Mercury, especially the hpyothetical mercury supposed to be the first principle of metals.      
Bain-Marie   Water bath.      
Birds   Commonly used as a symbol of sublimation (but not always). When used as a symbol of sublimation, the number of birds typically indicated the number of sublimations.      
Black   Symbol for putrefaction or death.      
Black Sulphur   See Antimony.      
Blue Vitriol CuSO4 Copper (cupric) sulphate (also see Vitriol).    
Caduceus   Wand of Hermes or other messenger.      
Calcination   Conversion of a metal or other mineral to a state of a fine powder, typically by means of heat.    
Calx   Product of calcination.    
Ceration   Conversion of a substance into a waxy condition.    
Cinnabar HgS Ore of mercury.   
Circulation   Reflux distillation.      
Cloud   Symbol for God.      
Cohobation   Return of the liquid distallate to its residue followed by further distillation.      
Common Salt NaCl Salt.   
Congelation   Crystalization, the conversion of a liquid into a solid.   
Copper Cu Metalic copper.    
Copperas FeSO4 Ferrous sulphate. Also called Green Vitriol.      
Croslet   Crucible    
Curpel   A crucible made of bone-ask for testing or refining gold and silver.      
Curbit(e)   A flask or "gourd" forming the lower part of a still.      
Day   A period of 24 hours, or the daylight portion of a day. Also see hour.   
Descension   Distillation or fusion in which liquids products flow down into a receiver below.      
Digestion   To soften or decompose with mosture.   
Distillation   Boiling a liquid and trcovering the vapor into a liquid by cooling. In alchemy the term and also mean the removal of liquid from one vessel to another by capillary movement through a wick or strip of cloth.    
Eagles   Like birds, frequently used as a symbol of sublimation. When used as a symbol of sublimation, the number of eagles typically indicated the number of sublimations. Also used as a symbol for air, mercury, and sal ammoniac.    
Earth   One of the four alchemical elements. Also see Air, Fire, and Water.   
Fermentation   Fermentation is a two-stepped process that begins with the putrefaction of the Hermaphroditic "Child" from the Conjunction resulting in the death and resurrection to a new level of being. The Fermentation phase then begins with the introduction of new life into the product of Conjunction to strengthen it and inure its survival.   
Fire   One of the four alchemical elements (he others are Air, Earth, and Water). The alchemists recognized four grades of Fire with which they could work:
  • Elementary Fire: common fire such as the fire of a stove..
  • Celestial Fire: the fiery power of Godís will.
  • Central Fire: which falls between the extremes of Elementary Fire and Celestial Fire, Central Fire is hidden within matter at its very center.
  • Secret Fire: the fire that is part of the life force of the alchemist.
Fixation   Rendering a substance to be non-volatile.    
Glass   Glass is an amorphous (non-crystalline) solid material which is often transparent and has widespread practical uses.    
Gold Au Gold is a bright, slightly reddish yellow, dense, soft, malleable and ductile metal. It is one of the least reactive chemical elements.   Red lion
Green Lion   A symbol for crude material (possibly and acid), copper, ferrous sulphate, mercury, and yellow orpiment.      
Green Vitriol FeSO4 Ferrous Sulphate (also see Vitriol).      
Hen Sitting ON An Egg   Description of the first degree of heat.      
Hermaphrodite   Symbol for the union of opposites such as mercury and sulphur or gold and silver.      
Hour   Alchemists divided days into 12 hours of the day and 12 hours of the night. Thus, the length of hours veried by the season and latitude.    
Hydroststical Principles   Sulphur, mercury, and salt.      
Imbibition   See Cohobation.      
Impaled Serpent   Symbol for fixed mercury.      
Iron Fe Metalic iron.   
King   Symbol for the sun, gold, sulphur, and masculine principle.      
Lac Virginis PbCO3 Suspension of basic lead carbonate.      
Lead Pb Metalic lead.   Black crow
Lime CaO Lime is calcium oxide or calcium hydroxide.    
Litharge PbO Litharge is one of the natural mineral forms of lead oxide.    
Liver of Antimony Sb2S3 Fused antimony sulphide.    
Liver of Sulphur (K2S)n Potassium polysulfide.      
Marcasite FeS2 The mineral marcasite, sometimes called white iron pyrite, is iron sulfide with orthorhombic crystal structure. It is physically and crystallographically distinct from pyrite.    
Microtized Umber Fe2O3 Iron Oxide.      
Multiplication   Transmutation, inducing growth of gold or silver.    
Night   The nighttime portion of a day. Also see hour.    
Nitre KNO3 Niter (American English) or nitre (most English-speaking countries) is the mineral form of potassium nitrate. It is also known as saltpeter.     Dragon
Oil Of Vitriol H2SO4 Sulfuric acid is a highly corrosive strong mineral acid.    
Orpiment   See Yellow Orpiment.      
Ouroboros   A dragon or snake eating its own tail. Symbol for:
  • primal matter,
  • The cyclic nature of the universe, and
  • The cyclic nature of the work.
Pelican   Form of a circulatory still.      
Philosopher's Stone   Originally, an alchemical substance capable of turning base metals to gold. Later thought to also be able to cure all diseases and grant immortality.      
Philosopher's Wool ZnO Zinc oxide. Also called Tutia.      
Philosophical Flowers Of Vitriol H3BO3 Boric Acid.      
Philosophical Foliated Earth CH3CO2K Potassium Acetate.      
Philosophical Sal Ammoniac (NH4)2SO4 Ammonium Sulphate. Same chemical as Secret Sal Amoniac.      
Philosophical Spirit of Nitre HNO3 Philosophical Spirit of Nitre (nitric acid) was made by distilling saltpeter with sulphuric acid. Also called Aqua Fortis.    
Philosophical Spirit of Tartar KHC4H4O63 Philosophical Spirit of Tarter (Potassium Hydrogen Tartrate) was made by distilling tartaric acid with wine.      
Philosophical Spirit of Vitriol HCl Philosophical Spirit of Vitriol (hydrochloric acid) is a clear, colorless, highly pungent solution of hydrogen chloride in water. It is a highly corrosive, strong mineral acid with many industrial uses.   
Philosophical Spirit of Wine C2H6O Grain alcohol extracted from wine by freezing.      
Philosophical Water   Aqua Regia.      
Preciptate Of Mercury HgO Mercuric oxide. Also see Red Preciptate Of Mercury.    
Primal Matter   The ubiquitous starting material required for the alchemical magnum opus and the creation of the philosopher's stone. It is the primitive formless base of all matter.      
Projection   Addition of the Philosopher's Stone to the material prepared for transmutation.    
Puffers   Alchemists.      
Putrefaction   Conversion of a metal into an apparently inert mass or powder.     Crow
Pyrite FeS or CuFeS Originally any "fire-stone" from which sparks could be struck. Eventually came to mean an iron sulfide or iron-copper sulfide.    
Queen   Symbol for the moon, silver, mercury, and feminine principle.      
Quicksilver Hg More commonly known as mercury, quicksilver is a meticalic mineral that is liquid at room tempeture.   Dove, eagle, fish, flying eagle, green lion, serpent, tail of a dragon, or winged dragon.
Raven   Like the skull, the raven is a symbol for putrefaction and death.      
Realgar AsS Realgar (arsenic sulphide) is one of the ores of arsnic. Also see Red Sulphur and Yellow Orpiment.      
Red   Symbol for:
  • Sulphur, and
  • Second stage complete.
Red Precipitate of Mercury HgO Mercuric oxide. Also see Preciptate Of Mercury.      
Red Sulphur AsS Arsenic Sulphide. Also see Realgar.      
Red Work   Conversion of base metal into gold. Also see White Work.      
Regulus   A Regulus ("little king") was metal was reduced from an ore or a heavy substance that sank to the bottom of the crucible. "Regulus" (without further specification) meant regulus of antimony.    
Sal Ammoniac NH4Cl Sal ammoniac is a rare mineral composed of ammonium chloride.    
Sal Mirabile Na2SO4 Glauber's salt, sodium sulphate.      
Secret Fixed Sulphur of the Philosophers'   The calcined residue when sulphur is distilled with linseed oil.      
Secret Fire   The "secret" fire was the primary fire with which the spiritual alchemists worked. The this fire is part of the life force of the alchemist himself. The alchemists called it their "Secret Fire," and they went to great pains to disguise its true nature.      
Secret Sal Ammoniac (NH4)2SO4 Ammonium Sulphate. Same chemical as Philosophical Sal Ammoniac.      
Separation   To isolate or obtain from a compound mixture.   Eagle, or white eagle.
Skull   Like the raven, the skull is a symbol for putrefaction and death.      
Slver Ag Silver is soft, white, lustrous transition metal, it possesses the highest electrical conductivity, thermal conductivity and reflectivity of any metal.    
Solution   Disolving one substance in another.    
Sublimate Of Mercury HgCl2 Mercury chloride Fish
Sublimation   To cause a substance to convert from a solid to a gaseous state by the application of heat or pressure, and then to solidify again. Bird, blue bird, blue eagle, or eagle
Sugar of Lead Pb(C2H3O2)2 Lead acetate. The first recorded artificial sweetener (used by the Romans). Use continued into the middle ages (Pope Clement II died in October 1047 from what is now believed to be poisoning from sugar of lead). Lead acetate is no longer used in the production of sweeteners in most of the world because of its recognized toxicity.      
Sulphur S Sulfur or sulphur is an abundant, multivalent non-metal.   Unwinged dragon
Sword   Symbol for the "secret" fire.      
Tin Sn Tin is a metal. It has been used on a large scale since 3000 BC to make was bronze, an alloy of tin and copper. After 600 BC, pure metallic tin was produced.    
Tincture   Philosopher's stone or its action upon base metals.      
Toad   Symbol for crude matter, dregs of distillation, and petrefaction.      
Tutia ZnO Zinc oxide. Also called Philosophers Wool.      
Vinegar C2H4O2 Chemically known as Acetic Acid.    
Virgin ZnO Symbol for prime matter.      
Vitrol   A hydrated sulfates:
  • Blue, or roman, vitriol is cupric sulfate.
  • Green vitriol is ferrous sulfate.
  • White vitriol is zinc sulfate.
  • Red, or rose, vitriol is cobalt sulfate.
Water   One of the four alchemical elements. Also see Air, Earth, and Fire.   Swan
Weapon   Symbol for the "secret" fire.      
White   Symbol for primal matter.      
White Work   Conversion of base metals into silver. Also see Red Work.      
Yellow Orpiment As2S3 Orpiment is a deep orange-yellow colored arsenic sulfide mineral. It is found in volcanic fumaroles, low temperature hydrothermal veins, and hot springs. Also see Raalgar.     Green Lion