Thursday, March 17, 2011
In the old alchemical writings, the black toad is one of the lesser used symbols for either the process of fermentation (ruled by Scorpio) or for the Prima Materia undergoing the same. The identity of the Prima Materia in alchemy is kept secret in all the old written texts. Generally, it is said to be a substance widely and cheaply available but everywhere despised. I’ve seen a woodcut of it represented as blocks of wood on the road that people are tripping over. Elias Ashmole describes it this way in his poem about alchemy called “Hunting the Greene Lyon”:
And choose what thou shalt finde of meanest price:
Leave sophisters, and following my advice,
Be not deluded; for the truth is one,
‘Tis not in many things, this is Our Stone:
At first appearing in a garb defiled,
And, to deal plainly, it is Saturn’s childe.
His price is meane, his venom very great
His constitution cold, devoid of heat.
Often this has been taken to be a description of lead (cheap, venomous, cold, dull (garb defiled), and definitely Saturn’s childe), but in some alchemical graphics, the Prima Materia is represented by a black toad–also considered venomous, also in a garb defiled (covered with warts), despised, cheap (free), and Saturn’s childe. You can see the toad at the “root” of this alchemical tree in the illustration. Perhaps one reason why the toad is connected with fermentation is because it develops from a fish creature (Water) to a land animal (Earth) with functioning limbs: toads are all about transformation, and transformation is an essential part of fermentation (turning, for instance, grapes into wine). Also, toads hibernate by burrowing down into the ground. They appear to be dead and can even freeze, but they awaken later, fine. Talk about a (literally) chthonic symbol.
So here is the riddle: Within its singular nature mind and matter are united, and it is both the beginning and the end of the work.
The Bearer of Light!
¡Strange and mysterious name given to
Spirit of Darkness!
¡Lucifer, the Son of the morning!
He is who bears the Light, and its intolerable glares
blind Souls weak, sensual or selfish?
Do not hesitate, because Traditions are full of Revelations and Inspirations
divine inspiration and is not an age, or creed.
Plato and Philo also inspired."
Montague Summers - BAPh metis - "Baptism of Light"
Madeline Montalban - Bfmaat - "The Opener of the Gates"
Solve et Coagula — Separate, and Join Together