17 Alchemical Symbols of Change and Growth

17 Alchemical Symbols of Change and Growth May 30, 2019

Several years ago, I became intrigued by medieval alchemical symbols and created the Alchemy Stones. I’m certainly no expert on the subject, but it was a blast to create and experiment with! Creating a set is easy with a trip to the local craft store, or you can pick up a set in my Etsy store. Here are the seventeen symbols and my very basic interpretations.

The Elements

Earth is a base Element, representing the physical realm of our lives. It tells of all the mundane things we go through in life. It is practical, solid, and stoic.

Air is the Element of intellect, reason and logic. It refers to academic pursuits and to thinking as a way of solving problems and resolving issues in our lives.

Fire is the Element of passion and inspiration. It represents creativity, and also the will and determination to make one’s creative visions come true.

Water is the Element of emotions and relationships. It shows how we relate to those around us and how we feel about the changing elements in our lives.

The Metals

Lead represents the very beginning. This is the dullest and heaviest of metals, but within it lies the possibility of Gold. This symbol reminds us that beautiful things can come from the dullest-seeming people or situations.

Tin is the first step in the transformation from Lead to Gold. It is shinier and much more beautiful than Lead, but as a metal, it is no more precious. It represents superficial happiness and delusion.

Iron is a masculine metal, very strong and unchanging. Unfortunately, it can be brittle and rusts easily. Remember that bending and compromise is an important part of being strong.

Copper is a feminine metal, one with very high conductivity. This stone can represent a person going with the flow, someone who is happy to go along with the group. It’s about passivity and empathy.

Silver is the last step before Gold in the alchemical process. This is the final step, the near-perfect metal. This symbol tells us that a goal is close to being achieved. The symbol is difficult to see here; it is a crescent moon.

Gold is the highest of the alchemical metals. It is absolutely pure, and represents the highest point of spiritual growth and evolution.

Raw Materials

Salt is one of the base substances of alchemy; like Lead, it is often used as a starting point of the alchemical process. It is strongly associated with Earth. It can mean the physical realm of career and money, as opposed to spirituality or emotions. It represents the body.

Mercury is also known as Quicksilver, a metal that is liquid at room temperature. This represents the ultimate in femininity and fluidity; it was often used to dissolve other metals in. Mercury represents all of the connections we develop in our lives. It is represented by the color white, and represents the spirit. The symbol is a bit difficult to see here; it’s the typical symbol for the planet Venus.

Sulfur is the male to Mercury’s female, usually represented in alchemical etchings as the color red. It is active, and has hot and dry qualities. It was known to ancient alchemists as the ‘Prima Materia’. It represents the spark of life, the soul within all of us.

The Stages

Nigredo is the breaking down of a substance in order to purify it and make it new. This represents the times in your life when it seems everything is falling down around you – but you can use this opportunity to build your life in a new and better way.

Albedo is the stage in the alchemical process where the mixture turns white and becomes superficially pure. It represents the light that comes at the moment of deepest darkness, and can be associated with the Winter Solstice. It signifies hope and a chance of better things. The symbol is a bit hard to see here; it is the same as the astrological symbol for Aquarius.

Rubedo is the part of the process where the light of the Albedo stage is taken and made steady and strong. Hope may enter our lives, but we have to seize it and build upon it if we want to make use of it. This stage represents action and taking opportunities.

Quintessence is the union of Gold and Silver, representing the ultimate goal of union with the Divine. It is a symbol of transcendence and achieving one’s ultimate goals. It is the ultimate perfection, higher even than Gold.


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