How did, or do, alchemists view the myths of the classical world; Actaeon, Orpheus, Jason, Herakles, the peccadillos of Zeus, or the feats of Perseus and Bellerophon? They are copiously illustrated, and allegorical interpretation is universal, ingeniously reflected back to the challenges and achievements of the Great Work. So, in this booklet I explore the Olympian pantheon, and some of the many heroic exploits presented in alchemical sources. Gods and goddesses, fighters and lovers, winners and losers; they are quite a company!
Excerpt from the introduction:
In the heyday of European Alchemy - roughly from the twelfth to the seventeenth century - there is a veritable explosion of vividly illustrated publications, and this is hardly surprising because the alchemical imagination, whether avowedly ‘extrovert’ or determinedly ‘introvert’ (practical or psycho- spiritual), and the two categories are rarely unmixed, naturally expresses itself by means of symbolism and allegory. .... It is therefore unsurprising to find alchemical texts lavishly illustrated with episodes from myth and legend, and the predominant source of these is the classical world of Greece and Rome. There are good historical reasons why this should be the case, but our interest in this booklet is the mythic images themselves, and what they may have represented to the alchemists who employed them.
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