The Peg Leg symbol is displayed in Philosophia Reformata in an explicative environment, that’s to say the need for perfect wedding dress measurement.
The substitution of a human leg bone with a wooden prosthesis is not so frequently seen in the alchemical symbology, but we know Johann Daniel Mylius loves learned and erudite symbology. In Philosophia Reformata, Frankfurt 1622 Lucas Iennis publisher, he directly sets the Peg Leg character where we cannot fail to give him a suitable interpretation: beside our freshly married alchemical pair. Philology and semantics provide the key.
On Philosophia Reformata page 243 we find four images of our alchemical newly weds. They are simply made: the woman is the result of serial salts volatilizations, so our Mercurius ( the end of preparatory works). The man is the so called Sulphur, nevertheless he comes from she Mercurius. They are our Mercurius Duplicatus (1). There are two thought schools. The first states the volatile Mercurius needs to be fixed, and made Earth, and to the purpose our calcinated metallic powder ( called Sulphur) may be useful to slow our girl, who in turn will be happy to dissolve him.
The second, that our metallic boy, before getting married, should first be dissolved into a Mercurius, the dissolution then is to be dissolved again by an official marriage, the beginning of the Main Work ( see an Opus magnum scheme). This operation is not symbolic, but to make sure the metal is very dispersed, much more than a single dissolution. The more the metal is dissolved and dispersed, the more easily and fast turns dark till real blackness. This is the beginning of a “Reincrudation” (2).
Sometimes the produced Mercurius is so filled with Secret Fire to powerfully dissolve the metallic powder without any further distillation or sublimation. This seems not to be the case with Philosophia Reformata image number five, in fact two eagles are carrying Suns and Moons back and forth: Moon is the volatilizing phase, while the Sun represents the following downward moving, or simply fixation. Eagles are allegories for lifting, or raising, operations.
Now the male spouse is supposed to be sufficiently dissolved and the couple is put to putrefy in image number six. They are tightly closed in their crystal alcove and naturally turn black, the male can get really dispersed.
This is a Saturnian phase, Regimen Saturni, well represented by the scythe holding skeleton. A skeleton because they are being born by salts, the scythe because they are to die, or to putrefy. Let’s aside, for the moment, the Peg Leg character. We see in image number seven that during the deadly phase the two are really deceased, as their spirits of life abandon the corpses. Nevertheless they are well tightly closed inside the vessel, so to prevent their spirits of life from flying away and keep them to descend again ( image number eight).
Mylius defines image number five as “Conjunctio sive Coitus”, that’s to say Conjunction or Coitus. He says: ” Coniunge ergo filium tuum Gabricum……cum sua sorore Beya”, tie your son Gabricus
with his sister Beya. As the sulfurous metallic male is to be dissolved into a Mercurius girl. They are born by the same mercurial mother.
Beya ascends to merge Gabricus and includes him in her uterus. But there is no generation without Gabricus……of course he is the “seed”. All will be converted in Gabricus nature.
Image number six is presented as “De Conceptione sev Putrefactione”, that’s to say on conception or putrefaction. Mylius defines the operation as an Earth putrefied with its Water, in this way is purificated. There is in this chapter a long disquisition of masculine and feminine seeds accordingly to the seventeenth century idea of the seed as a masculine prerogative and the ground of gestation as a feminine prerogative. It is very likely this latter idea was just an alchemic reminiscence. In fact the she Mercurius could act, to an external observer, as a uterus. Although a uterus shaken by turbulence, as the marriage is not that “quiet”. In fact the he Mercurius ( many calls it Sulphur, indeed) tends to agitate the girl ( love fight). Apart from that, to be defined as a ground it need a necessary requirement: to be more in volume and weight than the seed.
We know that Beya dissolves Gabricus, incorporating him. Gabricus agitates Beya. Consequently we need more Beya than Gabricus. Also bearing in mind the metal should be twice dissolved.
Here our Peg Leg could find his role script. The character is strangely naked, just a piece of fabric to hidden his low parts. From the greatest antiquity, gods and heroes were represented as naked characters, to underline their being above and beyond humankind. So Peg Leg is not a human, he is an entity representation. No wonder, he is a Mercurius. A weigher Mercurius.
The replaced piece leg under the knee is obviously a tibia, a bone. In my article on the Latin word radius and the Greek ράβδος I omitted the anatomy meaning, the rod-staff bone. In the marriage of the Virgin and Joseph, I said the Virgin may also represent the sacred knowledge, while Joseph the carpenter is the proportions maker ( radius also means “geometry) (3).
Any alchemist knows that we need the exact proportions for the marriage to be successful. Not to mention, that sometimes we need someone officiating for the wedding ceremony, an additional Secret Fire/Mercurius. But, always, all in the suitable proportions. In the image we are examining, Peg Leg points at the couple closed inside the crystal alcove. The vessel should be perfectly geometrically planned, not to let any Spirit of Life to flee outside, and inside the “weighs” are to be carefully observed and implemented. The more Beya, the less Gabricus and a bit of officiant priest also. The earth cannot putrefy without water, a preponderant part of water: “……una parte corporis videntur accipienda propter putrefactionem trigesima sextae partes aquae.” For an acceptably good putrefaction one part of body and thirty-six parts of water (Water is our water, the Mercurial Beya).
Hephaestus, or Vulcan? The vessel has already been tightly closed. Les jeux sont faits. Our newly-weds now have to fend for themselves.
In regimen Saturni, once closed, we absolutely need proportions. Definitely, we have to sew a sumptuous and large wedding dress for the Mercurius girl. That will be a Peg Leg, the measurer, task.