Cabala Mineralis is a medieval neologism to fit with urine work. A comparison between this watercolors sequence and Hollandus’s treatise on the same topic.
This British Museum manuscript n. 5235 was attributable to Rabbi Simeon ben Cantara, according to a note written in the frontispiece. It is bizarre that a rabbi uses the word “Cabala”, apparently from the Jewish Qabbalah. So strange that it seems to rather derive from the latin caballus or horse. To be more precise, she horse, a caballa.
We are not here before the tradition of mystical interpretation of the Bible, but rather before the horse tradition, as in Europe was sometimes called the hermetic cryptic language tradition.
Mineralis is another neologism: in ancient Latin, a mineral is instead rendered with “metallum”. Here we are not dealing with ores but salts.
The other actor in picture 1 is even younger and allows himself to urinate in a basin. The word accompanying the boy showing off appears to be “Aenatis”, similar to the latin plural Aenatores, or trumpeters. An informal to define the boy’s urinating organ. But not only, as we will see.
Another neologism hovers above the same boy, that’s to say “Ponticitas”, from the latin pons-pots meaning bridge. So Ponticitas appears to be a new word for “capacity to build a bridge”.
The latin sequence of phrases in the scene’s top right angle says: “Fodina Mercurii nostri sal petra nostrum non vulgi. Ponticitas vitriolum nostrum non vulgi Aenati. Ammoniacum (or armoniacum) nostrum non vulgi”. The phrases contain the usual syntax errors one can expect to find in quite all hermetic seventeenth-century works.
So: “ Dig and bury the stony salt of our Mercurius not vulgar. Make a bridge of our vitriol, not of a vulgar trumpeter. Our Ammoniacum (1), not vulgar”. It is imprecise but clear enough, and the painted scene helps us decrypt it.
A blossomed plant with three blue flowers, three crows in a row, and other crows around a flask over a flame. Another accomplished flask with a radiant star inside stands at the picture border—definitely an alchemical environment. The plant is our vegetative matter or Secret Fire/Mercurius in all its textures and color transmutations.
Here we have to consider the blue flowers as being black. Crows are allegories for our black putrefactive phases (2). No alchemical work cannot be foreign to a putrefactive phase; in this stage, bodies undergo a necessary “spiritualization” or dissolving action. The black phases are three. One for every work (see an Opus Magnum Scheme). The first putrefaction of preliminary work is painted as a flask surrounded by many crows. Urine is directly poured into it.
The urinating boy does provide the raw matter for our Secret Fire: young boy urine indeed. I have published some articles on urine salt works (3). The first two (4) were by ancient chemists are about preparatory works, while the last one was by Johannes Isaac Hollandus, a real alchemist, on a pretty complete work. And it will on that Hollandus treatise on urine I cannot but make a comparison with the proceedings represented in Cabala Mineralis.
The importance of urine in alchemical works should not make any wonder, for these salts contain volatile components (5) to “volatilized” other metallic salts not so willing to sublimate. Alchemy is all about salts sublimations.
See some religious thirteenth-century artworks to understand the importance of urine in ancient chemical environments. I have already presented the embossed child strange rendering in the San Marco Treasure Ecclesiola. I am aware of an Amiens Cathedral low relief I have not written about yet (image on the left).
So from urine salts’ repeated sublimation, we can obtain our Secret Fire/Mercurius, that’s to say, the radiant star inside the flask at the corner. As we can understand, this product can no longer be defined as vulgar urine. But “our”. This Mercurius will at first be volatile inside the closed flask, and consequently, it has to be made “like a Bridge” or fixed. The result, or Aqua Pontica (6), is our Mercurius Philosophorum to be more easily worked. This matter is also known as our Vitriol, or better V.I.T.R.I.O.L., a substance that has nothing to do with ancient chemical vitriols series. But that could take advantage of them (7).
This Mercurius Philosophorum will become a real fixed fertile soil to be cultivated and sown (6) with a calcinated metallic salt to be reduced as a “Tree” or another Mercurius Philosophorum (8), to be then joined in marriage (9).
The second and third watercolors are on preparatory works, the labors of Hercules to achieve the Mercurius Philosophorum or the soil to be sown. And since Glaser’s and Lancillotti’s provided essays on the same stage, I will include them in the comparison list.
Let’s see the picture: the preliminary putrefaction. A little black-winged dragon biting its tail is placed in what may seem (and it is) the basin where the boy’s urine has been gathered. Little black clouds hover above the basin, and rain hits the dragon. A motto around the basin: “Mercurii Germen. Hermaphroditum”.
Preliminary putrefaction is not the first putrefaction. Instead, it is before it. We have always been told of the must to undergo a putrefactive stage. Still, hardly anyone has unveiled if this implies a decay process before raw matter distillation (or sublimation). The answer is within the image. More precisely all depends on those little clouds and rain. Yes, because serious putrefaction has always to be performed in closed conditions: if clouds had not encountered a wall, rain would not have fallen on the dragon but flown away.
Glaser’s essay on urine doesn’t talk of a preliminary decay stage. He seems interested only in the extraction of volatile salts, so he is losing all Secret Fire prerogatives. While Lancillotti, in his extraction system by putrefaction, says: “Take a good quantity of urine from children then put in very well closed long flasks to putrefy for 40 days then distill…”. Hollandus conducts putrefaction only after preliminary distillations. Anyway, all his distillations are in well-closed condition. Hollandus is attentive to keeping Secret Fire “vapors” from flying away, but his system is rather complicated to be carried out. While in Cabala Mineralis, the preliminary decay follows the easy Lancillotti’s raw putrefaction method.“Mercurii Germen”, or the Mercurius seed, lays on this wet dragon, representing our Primitive Mercurius. As well, Hermaphrodite, because of its fixity-volatility features (10), that’s to say active and passive agents are already within it. The biting tail is an allegory for continuously self-repeated fixed-volatile actions (11).
We can notice a little hole in the alembic ( which, in reality, cannot exist ), but it is a sign that our little black dragon has to undergo distillation. To this extent, it is helpful to remember that selective distillation was useless and not wanted in Alchemy. All inside the flask should have to rise. As I mentioned above, Glaser only looked for volatile salts, while Lancillotti introduced the concept of a partial rising of Caput Mortuum along with more uncomplicated volatile substances. This leads to the alchemical theory of volatile substances as lifting agents.
Hollandus method is the middle of the way. But he appears to me as searching for excessive complications. Was it necessary for all that work with previous salt extractions then be soluted and separately distilled? Or could the urine operation be performed in a single vessel and a single process ( although through a series of repetitions of the same process)? In Cabala Mineralis, watercolor sequences all appear so quickly. But it is not, of course.
The child inside the alembic represents our putrified urine, defined as “Mercurius Hermogenus”, or Mercurius generator of Hermes. The translation in a more intelligible lexicon is easy: from that Primitive Mercurius, we can extract our Secret Fire/Mercurius. So vapors accumulate in the head and then should pass in the recipient flask (commonly, a recipient flask gathered distillation products through the opening in the upper neck part, as we can see in Pernety planche number 7 ). The operation is described as “ Mercurii Germen. Aqua viva, volatilis, partes novem. Fixa pars una Mercurii: Hermogenitas Aqua Viva Aenata”, or “the Seed of Mercurius, Living Water, volatile, nine parts. Do fix one part of Mercurius. Living Trumpeting Water generator of Hermes”.
Seed of Mercurius: from the substance inside alembic will be born all our following matters because all the matter we will use is just that one. Hence this is a flowing volatile, and living substance. Nine parts: a partition should not be involved in that stage, but a series of repetitions. Nine seem reasonable, indeed.
What comes next is the more difficult part of the whole work. Since causing the volatile Mercurius inside the recipient flask to acquire a fixity is a pretty challenging operation. The operation is known in Alchemy as “Secretun Artis”, or the secret of the Art. For that reason, Hollandus has divided his work into all those stages and operations: to manage and fix volatile substances. Nevertheless, the caduceus inside our flask does suggest a successful fixation of volatile Mercurius. The motto below the image says. “ Mercurius Noster Aqua Viva Pontica”, or our Mercurius the living Aqua Pontica, or the Water making a bridge between two sides, the volatile and fixed, the water and earth. Our Mercurius Philosophorum indeed. But has the fixation been performed inside the same flask without dangerous, and quite impossible, extravasations?
Alembics commonly were without holes – however, we know that special tools were provided with holes to cause air movement for various uses or prevent problems – here, the author suggested the putrified urine be poured inside. But what about the gathering flask? Is it joined to an alembic, as the image shows? This is not a useless question. This is just the question. We know we must fix our volatile substances without pouring them into another vessel because of the operation difficulty. Are alembic and flask placed on the following pages as separate representations?
“Fixa pars una Mercurii” or Do fix one part of Mercurius. This is puzzling, indeed. Why just one part? Perhaps because we already need to start making partitions?Perhaps because it would result in impossible to fix the whole? And further, perhaps because this fixation is being performed through an imperceptible and partial operation?
Some time ago, I published an article on those troubling volatile substances fixations (12). Be aware that very hardly an allegory is to serve a single concept, but at least three, and the Trumpeter cannot make an exception. The Flask is over a fire or heat conditions. We don’t see bubbles form in the liquid substance, but a kind of tempest on the surface. Something seems to rise upward from the bulk liquid mass. Is it a chance occurrence that the caduceus is placed within this tempest? Ripples can be caused by an object dropping into liquid or a slight breeze. No object can be seen falling from the closed mouth. So a slight breeze remains. And the alembic protruding duct line gets directly to ripples—or at least another pipe since a lambic and flask are in separate pages. Christophle Glaser refers to the possibility of such an operation, defined as “venting” (13). Generally, inside flasks, substances were allowed to rise; due to long necks, a chimney effect was provided. Zephirus allegory, too, doesn’t serve a single concept.
Once achieved a stabilized Mercurius Philosophorum, or Aqua Pontica, we know that it retains its dissolving action to perform all the Main Work. The preliminary works on urine can be considered finished. We are now to afford all washings.
To be continued at Cabala Mineralis or the She Horse on Urine Work part 2 .
- See also Lemery & Aqua Regia First Step: Sal Armoniac and Universal Sal Armoniacum & Hollandus Sal Armeniacum ;
- See also Black Haida Crow destructing Matter Shell ;
- See also Glaser and the unladylike, but volatile urine salt and Lancillotti and the Magisterium of Urine on Caput Mortuum , Hollandus, How Urine Salts Extract a White and Red Dye ;
- See also Phantom Play’s Tribute to the Raising Benzoin ;
- See also Giorgione, Tempest and Aqua Pontica ;
- See also Weidenfeld and Basilius Oleum Vitriolis ;
- See also Atalanta Fugiens and Terra Alba Foliata ;
- See also Atalanta Fugiens and the Golden Apples ;
- See also Atalanta Fugiens and Mercurius Duplicatus and Cabala Mineralis & the Three Salts Enigma ;
- See also Fulcanelli and the Antimony of Wises, Wenceslaw Laviunius and the Sky and Earth Properties, and Stoll, the Lacinius Translator on Male and Female Elements ;
- For other Ouroboros allegories, see also Codex Marcianus Ouroboros and Cesare Ripa and the Hot Frozen Ouroboros World Machine ;
- See Philosophia Reformata and the Angel with a Trumpet ;
- See Glaser 2 and the Three Active Principles ;