Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Chad Norman writes


Mary gathering driftwood for a fire;
a small sealed box in a circle of stones
I tell you the colour is a fiend,
and I do dare reveal
what a vigorous flirt,
after all
no other seduction won
my notions on the fertility of Death,
a morose season
I may soon abjure,
until then may night be suffice
unlike the Past,
when black
snuck from my mind
into the griefless light
of a room,
intending to violate
the brief valour
I woke to behold,
the aching ink
in the page's kind silence,
the fierce erect quill
my tiny life lived within. 

 Cabala Mineralis 04:


  1. Nigredo (blackness) in alchemy meant putrefaction or decomposition and was the first step toward the creation of the philosopher's stone (lapis philosophorum), which symbolized perfection, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. Based on the 11th-century notion of Abu ʿAli al-Ḥusayn ibn ʿAbd Allah ibn al-Ḥasan ibn ʿAli ibn Sina ("Avicenna") that “All life proceeds out of corruption,” his 13th-century commentator Arnau de Vilanova instructed, “When you see your matter turning black, rejoice: for that is the beginning of the work." The traditional process incolved seven steps (calcination, dissolution, separation, conjunction, fermentation, distillation, and coagulation), and ech one was symbolized bya planet and a mineral: Saturn (lead), Jupiter (tin). Mars (iron), Venus (copper), Mercurius (mercury), Luna [moon] (silver), and Sol [sun] (gold). [in 1471 Sir George Ripley's influential "Liber Duodecim Portarum" (The Compound of Alchymy; or, the Twelve Gates leading to the Discovery of the Philosopher's Stone) prescribed a 12-step program: calcination, dissolution, separation, conjunction, putrefaction, congelation, cibation, sublimation, fermentation, exaltation, multiplication, and projection.]

  2. The process began by collecting the prima materia, including lead, excrement, mud, darkness, and carrion birds, cleansing them, and then cooking them in an ovum philosophicum, a glass vessel with an oval body and a long neck, in order to give birth to the stone. The seal of Hermes would be applied by melting the sides of the neck together to make the vessel airtight (i.e., hermetically sealed) and then kept heated for 30-40 days until the material became caput corvi ("the head of the crow"), otherwise known as nigredo nigrius nigro ("blackness blacker than black"). The next step was to continue heating for several more days, as the material went through a process of short-lived and often-changing colors, or cauda pavonis ("peacock's tail") until it bleached out completely, thus achieving the stage of albedo. At this point the alchemist could remove the white material and, by adding silver and other ingredients, be able to transmute base elements into silver, or could continue heating it; it would gradually turn yellow and then deep red (rubeo). At that point ithe extremely dense, brittle material would be fermented with gold, then incerated (by adding mercury to make it fusible, so that it cold penetrate metals the way oil penetrates paper). The resultant philosopher's stone would be able to transmute metals by about 10 times its own weight, but the effect could be multiplied: After wrapping it in paper or wax, it would be projected into a crucible (from the Latin "projicere," to thow upon) and the fire would be made gradually hotter by redissolving it and redigesting it through the black-white-red stages by using mercury to blacken it and sulfur to redden it. Both Shelleys were well-versed in the subject and occasionally alluded to it. In "Alastor, or the Spirit of Solitude" (1816), Percy invoked "Medea's wondrous alchemy" and discussed "the dream / Of dark magician in his visioned cave. / Raking the cinders of a crucible / For life and power." He assisted Mary when she wrote "Frankenstein," and Victor Frankenstein, after many discussions about famus alchemists of the past, described his own creative epipahany thus: "from the midst of this darkness, a sudden light broke in upon me -- a light so brilliant and wondrous, that [I] became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated." The resultant monster was made from corpse parts and given life though Victor's secret methods. After the publication of "Frankenstein," Percy wrote "A Defence of Poetry" (1821,): "Poetry turns all things to loveliness; it exalts the beauty of that which is most beautiful, and it adds beauty to that which is most deformed; it marries exultation and horror, grief and pleasure, eternity and change; it subdues to union under its light yoke all irreconcilable things. It transmutes all that it touches, and every form moving within the radiance of its presence is changed by wondrous sympathy to an incarnation of the spirit which it breathes: its secret alchemy turns to potable gold the poisonous waters which flow from death through life; it strips the veil of familiarity from the world and lays bare the naked and sleeping beauty, which is the spirit of its forms."


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