Saturday, March 28, 2020

Petit Albert Grimore: Some Alchemy

Apparently, this month is the Alchemy Carnival!  What better way to celebrate than continue my long project of translating the Petit Albert, focusing this time on spells that are particularly "alchemical" in nature.

An ointment by which one can be exposed to fire without being burned.
It has been many centuries since trial by fire has been used, where criminals were to prove their innocence via exposure to fire. However, it was decided that this was not legitimate - who are we to ask God to intervene to protect the innocent? Also, there were frauds during these trials, the custom has thus been entirely abolished.

Ancient historians say that the activity of fire could be suspended. Here is the most reasonable means I could create: One must mate an ointment composed of hibiscus sap, fresh egg white, plantago seeds, powdered lye and horseradish sap. Crush and mix together well, and put on parts of the body needed to be protected from fire. Let the ointment dry, and reapply a total of 3 times. After that, you will be able to easy withstand a trial by fire without being injured.

speaking of fire....

To Make Greek Fire

This fire is so violent that it will burn all things to which it is applied and cannot be extinguished - neither with urine, strong vinegar or sand. It is made with live sulfur, tartar, tragacath (? sarcocole), alcohol (?), heated common salt, pentreole (?) and common oil. All these compounds are boiled together, until they consume a piece of cloth put within. It must be stirred with an iron spatula, and this composition must be made in a courtyard and not inside, because if a fire were to start it would be impossible to put out.

Historically, there is great uncertainty about how Greek fire was made. The uncertainty will remain, as I don't know what several of these ingredients are (sorry!) Pentreole *might* be a form of petrol?

To turn one self's invisible with the use of a fixed (solidified) mercury ring

There are reports of the famous Gyges , who gained the thrones of Lydia by the use of a magical ring, which made him invisible, thus allowing him to easily commit adultery with the queen and kill the king. Cabalistic sages have given us the method of making rings which have the virtue of invisibility.

This important operation must be started on a Wednesday (in French Mercredi, day of Mercury... but in English, day of Wotan) in spring, under the auspices of Mercury, when it is know that this planet is in conjunction with another favorable planet (the Moon, Jupiter, Venus or the Sun). Using a well purified and fixed (solidified) mercury, a large ring will be crafted, fitting the middle finger of the hand. In this ring a small stone, found in the nest of a hoopoe, will be set.

Around this ring you will engrave the following words

Jesus passing + in the middle of them + went on his way +

You will then lay the ring on a small plaque of fixed mercury, and you will prepare the perfume of Mercury. The ring, resting on the plaque, will be exposed to the vapors of the perfume three times in a row. The ring will then be wrapped in a piece of taffeta of the color corresponding to the appropriate planet (the one in conjunction with Mercury) and then put into the nest of the hoopoe where the stone was taken, and left there nine days. The ring will again be exposed to the perfume of Mercury, and will then be kept in a small box made of fixed mercury, to be used when needed.

To use the ring, put it on your finger, with the stone facing outward. The stone has the virtue of being so fascinating to the eyes of onlookers that you can be amongst their mist without being seen. If you want to be seen, twist the ring so that the stone faces the inside of your hand and then close said hand into a fist.

I'll note that for a complete recipe, I should give the recipe for how to "fix" (solidify) mercury *and* how to make the Mercury perfume, but this would be ridiculously long. Given the complexity of this formulae, one can doubt if it was ever attempted.

The author gives a modification of the recipe, involving the wrapping of a ring with the hairs of a furious hyena, in the following pattern.

He then gives a counter to the invisibility ring - another ring!:

To make a ring that will counter the invisibility ring

As there are no poison in nature without its antidote, the sage providence of the Creator has made all things in proportions, thus no artifice is without remedy. IF you want to ward yourself against the effects of the cabalistic mercury ring, you will make a ring in the following manner.

The ring will be made with lead, well purged and purified (the procedure being explained earlier in the book). In this ring you will set the eye of a young weasel, that has been with child but once. On the ring you will inscribe the words:

Apparuit Dominus Simoni

This ring will be made on Saturday, when Saturn is in opposition with Mercury. You will make three times the Saturday perfume and you will then wrap the ring in a piece of a funeral shroud. You will burry it in a graveyard for 9 days. After retrieving the ring, you will make three times the perfume of Saturn and use them.

Those who invented the ring used the principle of antipathy which is found between the maters which compose these two rings, with such opposed effect. In fact, nothing is more anathema to the hyena than the weasel. And Saturn is almost always in opposition with Mercury - when they meet in one of the Zodiac signs, it's almost always a bad omen.

A rather topical one: 

A balm against plague

This recipe is against the plague and any contagious illness. It was a present from a king of Spain to his daughter, Queen of France, that I obtain from her first
(main?) doctor, and anyone can make it due to its great facility. (... we'll see about that!)

You will rake well twelve roots of black salsify, you will cook them in three pints of white wine, while covering the pot well to avoid excessive evaporation. Once well cooked, you will press them through a cloth. To this liqueur you will add the juice of 12 lemons, half an ounce of ginger, half an ounce of cloves, half an ounce of cardamom, half an ounce of agarwood; crush everything well. You will then add an ounce each of the following herbs: rue leaves, elderberry, salvia and blackberry. You will make this all boil together at a low simmer, until a quarter has evaporated. You will then pour it promptly through a double cloth, then you will store in a jar made of strong glass and well sealed.

You will drink in the morning without food for nine days, about a third of a pint. By this mean, you will made resistant against bad air, even if you were to frequent the plague-afflicted. For those already afflicted by a contagious illness, they will add to this drink the juice of root of bulbous
(?) and of knapweed (not sure of the species here), from which they will decant a good theriac; and with this they will purge themselves of the mortifying venom. And to those who have the charbon (skin lesion caused by cutaneous anthrax), they will crush the leaves of blackberry and of elderberry with mustard seed, they will form a poultice on the charbon and, with the help of God, will heal.

Alas, this does not work against the plague or any modern pandemics... I mean I shouldn't have to say that, but with all the scams going around @_@ (don't you *dare* sell this as a cure!!)

Finally, the *classic* alchemical work, to make gold. There are 6 such spells in the book (ie less spells than love spells or fish-catching spells), here is one of them:

To change lead into fine gold:

There are people who reject the method that the wise chemist Falopius left to change lead into fine gold, because it seems too easy for such an important work. However, he is not the only philosopher who spoke of such a similar method: Basile, Valentin & Odomarus said almost the same. No matter, here is the way: You will infuse a pound of couperose de Cypre
(copper sulfate) with a pound of foundry water (well clarified by filtration), this infusion must last 24 hours so that the couperose be completely dissolved. You will distill it by filtration through pieces of clean felt, and afterwards by with an alembic in a bed of sand heated by fire. You will conserve this distillate in a jar of strong glass, well sealed.

You will then take an ounce of good fine silver
(quicksilver?), that you purified in a crucible, covered to stop evaporation, when it starts to boil you will add an ounce of fine leaf of good gold, and you will immediately retire the crucible from the fire. This being done, take a pound of fine lead, purified by the following method: Take a pound and 4 ounces (you will need excess because of losses). Melt it, then quench it in a strong clarified vinegar. You will melt it again and quench it in the juice of swallowwort; then melt it again and quench it in salt water. The last melt will use a strong vinegar, said vinegar having quenched quicklime prior to use.

The purified lead will then be melted, and then you will incorporate the mixture of gold and fine-silver
(quicksilver?) that you prepared and mix well together these three things with an iron wire. When all is well mixed, add an ounce of the couperose water and let everything digest on the fire for a short period of time. When this has cooled, you will find that the composition is now good gold.

Good luck on making gold!  (and yes, this spell was easier than the other ones...)

(the original French Text can be found here)


  1. Thank you, I really appreciate this series.

    1. Thank you for your kind words! I know this is not the most accessible of content and it takes a fair bit of work, so it's good to receive encouragement :)

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