Atalanta Fugiens picking up golden apples loses her a running race, but just a percentage of alchemical ways can fit this volatile fixation model.
Too many hermetic authors have been using this myth as an allegory to explain volatile fixation. Still, are they fair when saying metallic gold is the unique method to slow down an excessively fast girl?
Michael Maier entitles his Emblemata Nova de Secretis Naturae Chymica, 1618, after a particular episode in Atalanta myth: Goddess Atalanta, who in greek-roman culture is often assimilated into the mainstream of hunting female deities, is the fastest running and one-day taking exercise she feels herself suffering from a violent thirst in nearby an Aesculapius temple. So she strikes a rock and brings forth a freshwater spring, which she drinks. From this introduction, we are allowed to see her as our Mercurius: hunter, so looking for victims (1) to dissolve. Fast running, fugiens in latin, so too much volatile. Bringing forth water from rocks, in so doing precisely as our Universal Dissolvent/Mercurial Water extracting Secret Fire/Waters from minerals to get them unified with Waters from above (2). Hortulus Hermeticus engraving number 29, on the right, provides a good representation of the concept.
Is not a fortuity Venus providing the golden apples to Hippomenes? Venus (3) represents a mercurial phase preceding Atalanta. And now Venus must be made fixed and thus turn into Atalanta.
To adapt our Atalanta/Mercurius to its role as a dissolver, we have to slow her down or better slow down her volatility inside our vessel or fix her volatility. In fact, in all alchemical ways, Mercurius, once achieved, is challenging to handle. But in many wet ways ceases to exist after the vessel opens. Thus, if Hyppomenes wants to marry her, he has to stop her from getting her fixer. The intelligent boy throws three golden apples to arouse Atalanta’s curiosity. In addition to her kinetics or as a direct consequence, the girl is also very curious. Thus she stops her escaping from Hyppomenes to pick up the golden apples. This allows alchemists to quickly conclude that metallic gold has the property to fix Mercurius volatility and turn it into Mercurius Philosophorum (4) to follow the Opus Magnum scheme. But…
- a) often, in some ways, if we try to open the vessel to introduce metallic gold powder, we lose all our Mercurius. And;
- b) metallic gold is not a must for Alchemy. In the sense that we can successfully perform Alchemy without any metallic gold at all. Often all we need is Philosophers Gold;
Michael Maier acknowledged Atalanta solidified or calcinated by metallic gold as an over-simplification. Maier uses the golden apples episode on the cover, preferring the lion-lioness allegory to evoke fixed-volatile emotions in his emblems. But let’s back for help to mythology.
We know only Hyppomenes can be a feasible companion for Atalanta; in fact, he is an offspring of the Water God. Thus another Mercurius, and we cannot be surprised to find him and Atalanta, at a later moment, desecrating the Cybele Temple. Consequently, the irate goddess immediately turns them into a lion and a lioness. Two identical animals, but for their sex. But let’s get back to metallic gold.
One of the differences between dry and wet ways is the lack of a dissolving agent in the first one. However, a dissolving phase is altogether present in both methods. In addition, in wet ways, Mercurius is not uniquely bound to a dissolving task. Dissolving or incrudating a metal should be equivalent to volatilizing it. Or better, mere volatilization should stand for incrudation. However, we are not talking in a chemical sense but an alchemical one.
Alchemical operations are far fewer in number than allegories representing them. If the only way to fix or stabilize Mercurius’ volatility was to put it into metallic gold contact, Atalanta Fugiens emblem sixth and the curious running girl on the cover might be two allegories pointing at the same concept. The operation in which Atalanta/Mercurius has to be fixed could be nothing more, nothing less, the same as that represented in emblem sixth, putting on display the gold sowing in terra alba foliata (6). Alchemical symbolism is nasty but not redundant. Thus golden apples stopping Atalanta may not be made from the metallic gold. Some authors are even ready to provide weights or proportions for golden apples. It is a pity they forget to reveal to us what way and raw matters they intend to start from. Since molecular chemistry is still relevant for our alchemical operations, state of the art cannot tell us if Mercurius is volatile because of its molecular part or the spiritual one (the same concept for its odor) (5). Mercurius Philosophorum still retains dissolving capability despite a new fixity. Nevertheless, the volatile-fixed axiom is not just from a chemical point of view.
Ovidius, in his Metamorphosis, wrote that Hyppomenes was transformed into a lion and Atalanta into a lioness, which we do not find in ancient mythology. Indeed myth said (since myths did not start in a written way) that the two young were turned into a lion and lioness. Male and female sperms. And that’s all. One can guess the remaining. But we are not so sure that Atalanta, in which metallic gold has been dissolved, does retain her female sex. If I remember right, the Mercurius in which gold has been dissolved takes in a male property; indeed, it becomes a male sperm, that’s to say what in ancient superstitions was believed to give all the new life properties. Unless… symbolism here does not intend Atalanta to relate to her partner Hyppomenes, but just a Mercurius that would make metallic gold ready for real incrudation, in so doing giving sex to a Mercurius, because incrudation extracts the real seed of metal (of course metals do not provide seeds). So we have learned that dissolving/volatilizing and incrudation are not the same operations, but dissolving/volatilizing reduces gold in a spiritual substance to undergo real incrudation. That’s to say, dissolved again in different weights or proportions. This is why authors giving weights for Mercurius and metallic gold reactions are pretentious and one of the reasons why the number of salts involved in Marriages or Amalgams is a real enigma (7). Also, the same authors forgive to detail what marriage they mean.
We have not found an answer to the aforementioned points in a and b. But we are ready to accept that a lion, or Mercurius Philosophorum well fixed and ripe, with metallic gold in a spiritual form inside and a virgin lioness Mercurius Philosophorum is now ready to duplicate or mirror themselves in a finally convenient Marriage or Mercurius Duplicatus (8). But a previous convenient Marriage is between fixed and volatile to achieve Mercurius Philosophorum or Lion. The real fixative marriage is to achieve a volatile fixation. And any method, and I can assure you there are countless of them, are welcome.
When, in alchemical symbolism, we find a Lion without any other attribute, we know we are dealing with our Philosophers Gold or a Mercurius Philosophorum, which might be defined as Sulphur or Fixed. And often, we only need to sow just that into our earth. Or sow our land within it.
- See also Blaise de Vigenère & Salt Sacrifice, Victim of Fire ;
- See also Thesaurus Hermeticum & Dry Pythagorean River ;
- Venus stands for the first appearance of whiteness, Mercurius, and the second appearance, White Sulphur. Alchemists do not know a homolog lexicon. Here Venus is standing for Diane/Mercurius;
- See also Introitus Apertus vs Waite’s Open Entrance chapter 2;
- See also Morienus & Mercurius Odor ;
- See also Atalanta Fugiens & Terra Alba Foliata ;
- See also Cabala Mineralis & Three Salts Enigma ;
- See also Atalanta Fugiens & Mercurius Duplicatus ;