Sow your Gold in Terra Alba Foliata. Atalanta Fugiens sixth emblem puts on display why Alchemy is called a celestial cultivation.
Atalanta Fugiens, first published in Latin in 1617, has always been known because of Merian clueing engraving it and not Michael Mair writing. Probably here the learned Merian wanted to direct researchers attention to the very manual operation of scattering calcinated metallic gold on white foliated Mercurius Philosophorum, our suitable soil (1).
Seminate aurum vestrum in terram albam foliatam. Sow your Gold in the white foliate Earth. The verbatim translation of Maier first epigram line reveals no complications for both syntax and semantics. In fact this sentence is very ancient and Maier can not be held responsible for originating it, since it is attributed to Hermes (Theatr. Chem. Zetzneri, Tome 5, Zadith De Chemia Senioris. Very valuable treatise, indeed). And Merian translation into a design could not be more simple: a farmer sowing coins in a suitable soil. For gold, like a seed, must undergo putrefaction before being harvested. “Celestial cultivation” is the inspirational definition by Fulcanelli.
Gold has to be dissolved in Mercurius Philosophorum. The very operation that so many think to be easily accomplished by Aqua Regia (2). Here we are talking about cultivation, farmers and soil. Not a simple molecular or atomic disposition. What a farmer work is for? To crop a hugely augmented measure of a specie in comparison with the tiny amount of seeds required. So our gold is not only to be dissolved, but be yielded. And this may result in an ethic challenge for alchemists and lead to an Alchemy misinterpretation at large. As a matter of fact Alchemy bad reputation has been ascribed to its gold making art reputation. Indeed someone seems to have cash on it in the past. Flamel doesn’t perturb himself to confess it, for example. And Philalethes too sometimes overtly speaks about his wealth. This is neither celestial nor philosophic. But, as I previously said, there’s no worse person than an alchemist. Contemporary researchers give the impression to be more spiritual than ancient ones. So listen from Canseliet on the topic: “ when this gold is perfectly calcined and elevated to snow clarity, it acquires a natural sympathy to astral gold whose it becomes a real magnet and focuses on itself a great measure of astral gold”, l’Alchimie Expliqueé sur ses Textes Classiques, Paris 1972. First of all: what does Canseliet mean for Gold? Metallic Gold or Philosophers Gold (3)? Let’s for the moment have progress on the easier way, that of metallic gold. Indeed also Philosophers Gold ( Azoth at large and Red Sulphur in particular) may be sown in……Azoth, but this will be the subject of next posts.
We don’t need a metallic gold surplus to get rich, we need a powerful magnet to call a star or Astral Gold. Which is nothing more nothing less than Secret Fire/Celestial Waters. Metallic gold is called “ Sun in earth” or a raw matter extremely rich in Secret Fire (this feature seems to be due to its huge electronic cloud). Indeed Alchemy requires mirrors to work. We can’t sow metallic gold without a previous calcination or reduction to “rust” (4). In fact gold powder is impossible to be achieved without altering its molecule purity.
But let’s go back to this sowing suitable soil. Terra Foliata, foliate earth. Essentially we need the white one to the purpose. Terra Alba Foliata, Hermaphrodite worked out of the volatile Mercurius extracted from putrefied ashes. According to Pernety, Dictionnaire Mytho-Hermetique 1758, Terra Foliata is dry way matter during putrefaction or blackness, the first putrefaction or Primitive Mercurius. Foliata, in latin, signifies either like leaves (folium) or like sheets (folium).
When depositing a book in a fireplace it is soon brought to folii ( sheets) or to an ash laminar structure. This is the reason Materia Tertia or raw matter, in dry way, is sometimes represented as a book to be opened. Terra Foliata Alba o white earth is the achieving of Mercurius Philosophorum from Mercurius or Dianae or Secret Fire finally extracted from raw matter or Universal Solvent or Spirit. Then Hermaprodite, that’s to say a Mercurius that maintains solving ( female) and adds fixity ( male) qualities.In dry way it is also represented as a white lamb or a white wool or a white beard. In wet way Mercurius Philosophorum is an even more aerated version of a too much volatile Mercurius. In wet way the suitable soil will have a more earth-like consistence, but still be mentioned as Terra Alba Foliata.
On the left an engraving from Mylius Philosophia Reformata 1622, second series, seems to be much more precise than Atalanta Fugiens and presents a winged Hermaphrodite during the same sowing operation. Gold inside Mercurius Philosophorum soon begins to putrefy in its turn ( check the Opus Magnum scheme). At this point you can hardly find, in hermetic literature, alike descriptions: some will report necessary chemical separations of elements before arriving to a putrefaction (5), that’s to say a second turn of Labors of Hercules ( of course much shorter) some other write about philosophical separation and so a direct entrance into Main Work putrefaction. Others jump to a prompt Iris or colors procession or Peacock Tail.
Again on the left you can glimpse at another engraving from Philosophia Reformata , first series, by Mylius , which seems to be much more charitable. Angel on the right is playing a trumpet or inflating it (Philosophia Reformata & the Angel with a Trumpet). He/she is our Mercurius during the very operation of turning into Mercurius Philosophorum. Just some air to get fixed. Then it only remains to us to give an Alchemical Marriage with double.
Now we are ready to return to Atalanta Fugiens latin epigram. Verbatim: Ruricolae pingui mandant sua femina terrae, Farmers sow their puffy feminine soil ( pinguis means fat or puffy, inflated, which is our alchemical case)
“Cum fuerit rastris haec foliata suis”. That one has been foliated by them with their rakes,
“Philosophi niveos aurum docuere per agros spargere qui folii se levis instar habent”. Philosophers have taught the importance of scattering gold in snowy fields which raise in sheets.
: Hoc ut agas, illus bene respice, namque quod aurum Germinet, ex tritico videris, ut speculo. To do so pay close attention because gold germinates, as you can learn from wheat, as a mirror (6).