Every day is a peculiar day in Alchemy. To Make the difference is the Sun orbiting the Earth: we alchemists still consider the sun as seen from the earth.
In our time the zodiac term is unquestionably tied with the deviated prediction practices astrology has been downgraded. When applied to Alchemy it may be seem as a series of complicated methods to predict the “right” day when to start a certain operation.
Don’t misunderstand me: as a matter of fact there are “ right” days in which to start, or draw to a close, a certain operation. But surely not according to planets aspects with one another. Or astrological houses, and/or planets in signs, all those pieces of information composing a natal chart, are not used in Alchemy. We cannot cast an horoscope for our First Matter to start putrefaction or perform the last fixation.
This misconception has started with the mixing up of Alchemy with iatro-chemistry, in medieval age, and spagyric, in the last two centuries. In Alchemy the planets of our solar galaxy are just allegories used to indicate our works phases. So Saturn is our raw matter and/or Primitive Black Mercurius and /or Mercurius and/or Mercurius Philosophorum ( Saturn does play many roles indeed), Moon is our first whiteness, Venus our second whiteness, Mars and/or Sun our redness, Jupiter represents the Grey color and so on……..But, as we have at least three meanings for every symbol, planets also stand for type of metal. Not to mention all the operations known as “regimens of fire” (calcination, sublimation, solution, putrefaction, distillation and tincture). And, last but not least, the Secret Fire density stairs, better knows as “ Heavens” or Coeli. Alchemists are not all out from the same university. Thanks God.
Nevertheless a twelve zodiacal planetarian signs wheel are in the San Miniato floor, but, back at the beginning of thirteenth century, it represents the Ecliptic or, in a world dominated by Ptolemaic System, just the apparent Sun path orbiting the Earth. We will see in this site how there was a Moon path as well and how this astronomical method greatly affected Alchemy.
The zodiac idea took its origin with Babylonians about 2000 b.c. as a method to measure time flowing. The partition in twelve parts is far later and has inspired by the number of constellations the Sun apparently goes through and these constellations gave grounds for zodiacal signs. It was not a chance occurrence that was just the alexandrian astronomer Ptolemaeus in II century a.D. to describe the signs as we know them today. In this Zodiacal calendar Aries corresponds to vernal equinox, the Cancer stepping back grab represents the Sun retiring from its most northern point, Lion is the major summer heat, Libra stands for day and night balance in fall equinox, Pisces are the return to life and so on.
Precession of equinoxes does not affect our alchemical, or agricultural purposes, as we are not interested to make start our “magnetizing” phase under Aries but, instead, a week before the vernal equinox, for example. Although we know that the Roseae Crucis may observed also the planets position (1), anyway not in the sense to cast an horoscope, but as a calendar.
What we call “Asters” is rather the use to calculate the rising or setting constellations to establish a calendar (2). Sun, Moon and Stars are all we need. So when we see a zodiacal wheel we have to know whether was the sun to be considered as orbiting the earth or the other way. The zodiac wheel in San Miniato floor just represents a calendar.
Back to Alchemy, this is a very simple and logic modus operandi for every alchemist since the greatest antiquity, with equinoxes and solstices which are solar aspects. With rising or setting constellations. And Moon phases. The two images below (3) are very ancient, both of the end of nineteenth century and shows one of the first desires photographers have had: to take a sun path shoot. In there we can follow the apparent variation of our star from the earth frame of reference. We can detect equinoxes and solstices and understand their importance. As well as understand why every day is a peculiar day. When I say day I mean the solar kingdom of daylight. Of course we have the kingdom of moonlight. Even more important for an alchemist’s point of view.
We have just made sense of San Miniato zodiac as a calendar. But was this calendar intended to point on a specific date? I recently read a book about the topic: “ The Secret Zodiac. The Hidden Art in Mediaeval Astrology” by Fred Gettings, published by Routledge and Kegan in London 1987.