Just took a quick look at the calendar and realized that the best-laid plans of mice and men (and me) to blog on-time and with regularity have, shall we say as Robert Burns did, gang aft agley. Well, still time to recover from this so here we go!
First, an update on me, your very own Curious Cat: Yes, I’m still a resident in good standing at stately Broom Closet Manor. I’ve made a few more Pagan friends and made a few surprising discoveries among existing friends (of the “oh, you too!!!” variety) but overall, things haven’t changed much. Have a lot more practical knowledge under my witch’s hat, and the interior decorating inside the closet is coming along nicely…even found some cool wallpaper that I’m considering for the sitting room.
What do you all think of it? Cthulhu would be pleased, I’m sure.
Back to alchemy – I have discovered that one of the practical applications of the Craft which I enjoy most is “making stuff” – charms, potions, incenses, oils, etc. In essence, chemistry toward a metaphysical end.
This is probably as good a time as any to supply a definition of sorts so, borrowing a quote from those fine folks at Wikipedia: Alchemy differs significantly from modern science in its inclusion of Hermetic principles and practices related to mythology, magic, religion, and spirituality. It is recognized as a protoscience that contributed to the development of modern chemistry and medicine. Alchemists developed a structure of basic laboratory techniques, theory, terminology, and experimental method, some of which are still in use today.
Ah, our forefathers! More on them shortly; don’t know about any of the rest of you, but this sounds suspiciously like spellcraft to me.
Considering a few things about my earlier life, my being drawn to these tools of the Craft in particular isn’t all that surprising – many girls of my age cohort asked for dolls for Christmas; I asked for scientific instruments and lab equipment. Yes, perhaps I was an odd kid. Oh well; what’s important to note here is that I asked for (and received) a chemistry set. I made lots of stuff that created smoke, smells and some seriously impressive booms – my poor grandmother was often freaked out by what went on in my bedroom!
So of course I went on to minor in Chemistry in college and even joined the national professional fraternity for chemists. However, even though I trained as a scientist, I ultimately did not join the workforce as one. But those skills did not go completely fallow; I’ve always had an interest in natural/folk remedies and if I say so myself, I’m one hell of a cook!
And then one day came the call of the Goddess…
I like history, in the sense that I like to know how people lived their lives – not in the “in 1492 Columbus sailed the ocean blue” sense. (And yes, he did sail the Atlantic in 1492 – he just wasn’t the first one to stumble upon the Americas.) And, as a pledge in the aforementioned fraternity, we had to memorize a lot of stuff – such as the entire periodic table of the elements (in order) and the history of the chemists who went before us…which ultimately took us back to the alchemists. And I certainly learned about quite a number of them; in addition to being alchemists, some of them were very interesting characters in their own right and prone to getting into hot water with the local authorities. I imagine that some of them (like yours truly, your blogger) gained some degree of practical experience with doing their workings in plain sight from inside the broom closet.
In closing, one often hears debate on whether the Craft is a modern construct, germinated from the imagination of one Mr. Gerald Gardner. I submit to you for your consideration the following items, records of from some of our Craft forefathers…:
Image from The Alchemy of Happiness, a text on Islamic philosophy and spiritual alchemy by Al-Ghazālī (1058–1111).
The Emerald Tablet, a key text of Western Alchemy, in a 17th-century edition
Page from alchemic treatise of Ramon Llull, 16th century