The necessity of earth and/or manure salt extraction is a topic you can often find in ancient treatises. Here’s a modern interpretation by Phantom Play.
Common earth, grave earth, and cow manure. And a device called ESSE, or Earth Salt Self Extractor, as suggested by its inventor. The material is not new for the old hands of the (old) alchemical web, anyway, it can be interesting for beginners, as well as an opportunity to check the differences between the ancient techniques and the alchemical requirements. All the content, including photos, is taken from the expired website Phantom Play.
The Earth Salt Self Extractor & The Extraction of Earth Salt from Cow Manure.
The ESSE is an Earth Salt Self Extractor. It is constructed on a wooden frame on the top of which a clothes dryer drum is mounted, and to the bottom, the lower portion of a plastic barrel is attached.
The clothes dryer drum has numerous holes which permit the flow of water through the earth.
The ESSE was loaded with two wheelbarrow loads of decomposed cow manure.
About ten gallons of well water was added to the ESSE drum to start the extraction.
A small electric pump was mounted to provide circulation of the extracted liquid from the lower barrel back to the top of the drum.
After several hours of circulating the liquid, the manure extract is pumped into a glass carboy. The solution has a considerable amount of suspended material but has no odor.
The extracted liquid was poured into a ten-gallon copper tub. An old gasoline camp stove heated this.
The liquid was boiled for about eight hours to reduce the volume of liquid down to about one gallon. The odor was musty but not objectionable. Almost pleasing.
An additional five gallons of water were added to the ESSE drum. This was circulated for a day while the previously extracted liquid was boiling down. The newly extracted liquid was then pumped into the glass carboy, transferred to the copper tub, and boiled down. Then again, another five gallons of water was added, circulated, pumped out, and boiled down. This was done until the extracted liquid started to look less brownish. The total amount of liquid extracted was a little over twenty gallons.
The manure-extracted solution was placed in a four-quart stainless steel saucepan and reduced in volume to about 500 ml. The solution is syrupy and has the odor of caramelized urine. Yummy.
The first crop of crystals is very fine and dark brown due to a lot of fine suspended organic matter.
The second crop of crystals is also dark but grows into long needle-like forms.
The crude salt melts like candle wax at a low temperature when heated on a stainless steel spoon.
The salt reacts with stainless steel to form a yellow-colored deposit with various hues.
After cleaning and polishing, the spoon which was of a silver color has now been tinged a golden yellow. This effect has spread around the surface of the spoon even the bottom.
Crude salt is a multiple-component substance consisting of salts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. The salt appears to be organic in nature and also seems to be partially composed of niter or potassium nitrate, KNO3. In order to determine the nature of the organic substance, it requires several recrystallizations and purifications.
The result is a volatile organic substance that can be purified by sublimation. It is a very light substance and white as snow, hence “Snow White”.
Earth Salt from a Cemetery Grave.
The Pike Cemetery is located in Pike, New York, USA, and dates back to the late 1700s when it was originally a “Boot Hill” or “Potter’s Field”. The Town and Village of Pike were named in honor of General Zebulon Pike who was killed in a mine explosion in Toronto, Canada in 1813. Many of the graves are unmarked or very poorly marked, and it was, and still is, not unusual to accidentally dig a grave where someone was previously buried. In the past, these graves were dug by hand with a shovel. Since this is a small cemetery in a small town, many of the gravediggers were part-time help and would dig graves in the evening after their day job by lantern light. A job not for the squeamish! New graves are dug with a backhoe, but it is still necessary to clean the new grave out with a shovel. Many times a new grave would be dug next to an old one, and the contents of the old grave would spill into the new one. This happens because the soil isn’t packed tightly on old graves and can still be loose even after two hundred years. In the past, people were buried in wooden caskets which decompose along with the corpse also caused a certain “looseness” in the soil. It is also common to fall into an old grave when standing on top of it.
In the Northeastern United States, the ground freezes hard in winter, so digging graves and burying corpses in the winter was impossible. People died in winter when the frozen ground was temporarily stored in a crypt until the soil thawed and a grave could be dug. Since in the old days, there was no embalming, the corpse was preserved by the natural cold of the weather. This crypt had an odd, but pleasing odor.
This is a freshly dug grave in the Pike Cemetery. You can see the position of the grave is not lined up with the headstone either meaning the stone is in the wrong spot, or the adjacent grave is in the wrong location. The mapping of graves in an old cemetery is a problem. An old grave can be found by driving an iron rod into the ground. If the ground is soft, then there is a grave with a body in it. If the ground is hard, there is no grave. The dates on the tombstone read 1900 – 1991 (Age 91) and 1900 –  (age 100). The grave also has an “odd” odor like the crypt.
To really appreciate the true feeling of a grave it is necessary to climb into one, which is once in a lifetime experience. There’s the soil at the bottom of the grave due to the collapse of the sidewall from the adjacent grave. The color of the soil from the freshly dug grave is black. Exposure of the soil to the air causes it to change its color to brown, and then to reddish-brown. The most remarkable thing is the smell. Fulcanelli mentions a “certain smell of the grave”. This either refers to the smell of rotting, decomposing, decaying, putrefying flesh from a corpse or the aroma of a freshly dug grave. The aroma of a new grave is almost pleasing, like forest soil. This odor can be duplicated by laying a pine board on a damp cellar floor for a few weeks. No doubt the odor in the crypt and in the grave is caused by decomposition products from the corpses and wooden caskets.
Two wheelbarrow loads of fresh dug cemetery grave soil were placed in the ESSE for extraction. The soil is black, but exposure to the atmosphere rapidly changes color.
The water was circulated through the cemetery soil for several hours and allowed to settle to remove the heavier particles. It was then pumped into a glass carboy and transferred to a copper tub where it was boiled down to reduce the volume of liquid. The extractions were repeated until the extracts were running clear. The total amount of water used was a little over twenty gallons.
After the solutions were reduced in volume in a copper tub, the resulting solution was transferred to a stainless steel pan and further reduced in volume to about 500ml. It was allowed to settle and then filtered by vacuum to undergo crystallization and further analysis. The yellow-brown coloration is due to something dissolved in the solution. The sediment consists of iron oxide, silica, and various insoluble salts of calcium and magnesium.
The remaining soil from which the salts were extracted was examined and it mainly consists of larger aggregates of sandstone and shale and smaller pieces of coarse sand and gravel of different compositions.
A few bony, and dental, artifacts were found in the gravel, all animal. In the finer sand of the cemetery soil, there were found two very unusual minerals. These have not been totally identified. One is of a silvery color and the other is golden. Both are highly reflective in the sun. They are not gold, pyrite, or marcasite as they do not appear to be sulfides, but organic in nature. These minerals are difficult to extract from the sand because they are very small leaflets and seem to have the same specific gravity as the sand. The golden material predominates. The local gravediggers call this “fools gold” but this is not pyrite and seems to be formed in the soil of the cemetery. It is not found in soil outside of the cemetery.
This is what remains after boiling down twenty gallons of extracted liquid (about 100 ml). The solution, which is slightly acidic, has a slight golden tinge, but it is negative for iron. It does contain some organic acid salts of potassium, calcium, and magnesium. The organic acids have not been thoroughly analyzed but one of them may be benzoic acid.”
That was Phantom Play’s method. It is interesting to check it with those treated in ancient books, for instance, a drawback is the flight of the “spiritual parts”, or vapors. See on the subject also Orthelius Commentary on Sendivogius. Chapter 2.