Author: Cody Smith
Why I Fell in Love
I really fell in love with spagyrics when I first heard Sajah Popham talking about the alchemical process of working a plant through the spagyric work. Understanding how the process was to consciously help the plant move through its evolution, helping it reach its most perfected form absolutely blew my mind. I believe, just like ourselves and our own psychology, we move through processes of calcination, dissolution, filtration, and evaporation. These alchemical processes help and evolve us into a more perfect version of ourselves. This is what the spagyric work is doing: moving the plant through the alchemical process, helping it to overcome its challenges, helping it to remove what doesn’t serve itself so that it can best live out its truth.
Through the Alchemic Lens
Spagyrics really began to get popularized around the 16th century when a man named Paracelsus pioneered this alchemic work. However the history of spagyria is quite extensive dating back to Egypt where it was believed that the god Thoth, created writing, all sciences, and medicine. He was believed to create a form of understanding called hermeticism which is where a lot of alchemic ideology stems from, which is where a lot of Paracelcian and alchemic logic also stems from. Through the hermetic and alchemic lens, everything manifests from one source, which they call the Prima Materia. From the Prima Materia it then splits into two. Celestial Salt and Celestial niter, these comprise what we would refer to as masculine and femanine energies, or active and receptive qualities. From Celestial Salt and Celestial Niter, we get fixed and volatile components which the alchemist and spagyrisits understood as Earth, Water (fixed), and Air, Fire (volatile). These four elements give birth to Salt (earth, water), Mercury (water, air), and Sulphur (air, fire).
The Philosophical Principles
Salt, Mercury, and Sulfur were understood to be contained in everything. Spagyria is a pre-scientific art and works mostly with archetypes and metaphors, so when we speak about salt, mercury, and sulfur don’t mistake these for their chemical elements. The salt, corresponds to the body of a thing. For herbal pharmacopeia, we would understand salt as the body of the plant and its mineral salts the plant contains. Mercury is the spirit of a thing, that which animates the organisms. In plants, the Mercury is the alcohol content the plant contains when it is fermented. This is also why we call alcohol spirits. It was a name alchemists ascribed to the the liquid that would come out when the plants fermented, or died. It would release its spirit. Sulfur, is the soul, its purpose, its truth that it is supposed to live out. For the plants, this corresponds to its phytochemical constituents, its volatile oils which the alchemist called volatile sulfur, and its more dense constituents which they referred to as fixed sulfur. The spagyric process utilizes the alchemic procedure of calcination, dissolution, filtration, and evaporation to separate the Salt, Mercury, and Sulfur from the plant, separating the mineral salts from the plant, the volatile oils, the more fixed phytochemical constituents, and the alcohol. We purify these components, working them through their phases of evolution until they are fully exalted in their truth. We then recombine all the components together making the plant whole again, creating a spagyric tincture.
There are many reasons why we would use a tincture over a tea: you can get dosing so much more exact, understanding how to extract specific constituents in the plant is more precise, and the tincturing process allows the shelf life to last years. But why use a spagyric over a tincture? When taking a regular tincture, it is believed that the body has to combine those phytochemicals with other cofactors to make them bioavailable for metabolizing. The body will take digestive acids, mineral salts, and bio-synthesis with the phytochemicals to create an esterification process so that the phytochemicals can be absorbed and metabolized. This ultimately uses a lot of materials and components from the body and uses a lot of energy, and the phytochemicals lose a lot of their bioavailability.
In spagyria, when the tincture is done, and we strain it we take that leftover herb (marc) and we incinerate it, take those ashes and move it through the process of calcination, leaching, and harvesting the potassium carbonate that is contained in there. It is believed that when these mineral salts are introduced back into the tincture, it combines with the constituents in the tincture creating an esterification process, allowing all those wonderful phytochemicals to be more potent and bioavailable. This process is believed to make the medicine stronger and more readily available for the body. And because the medicines are more bioavailable, you don’t need as much as you would with a regular tincture. The process is intricate and slow but it facilitates such a beautiful deepening of relationship to the plants, to ourselves, and the growth process. The alchemic work has such profound applicability in creating fabulous offerings for ourselves or for our community. Amongst the many things I love about this work is that it provides a rich tradition into how we can deeply touch the land and learn how this land also touches and transforms us back, helping us to learn our truth.
Real Alchemy by Robert Allen Bartlett
Spagyrics by Jean Dubuis
Occult Science in Medicine by Franz Hartmann
Spagyrics The Alchemical Preparation of Medicinal Essences, Tinctures and Elixirs by Manfred M. Junius