The term Spagyria means a particular technique of processing materials coming from the Three Kingdoms of Nature (Mineral, Vegetal, Animal), in order to extract remedies or substances for therapeutic use, that can enhance to the highest degree those that are the potential biochemical virtues of the plant treated, as well as their subtle or spiritual aspect. Its Vital Force. The rules, the principles, the dictates and the way of operating in Spagyria, are given by the philosophical concepts, the principles and the postulates on the basis of Alchemy.
In this context we will focus on Vegetal Spagyria: consisting on the sum of processes and extractions that are carried out in the Plant Kingdom. Especially regarding plants or aromatic herbs, also called ‘essenzifere’, so ‘carriers of essences’ – precious substances such as aromas and perfumes.
There is nowadays a renewed interest in Herbal medicines, Phyto-therapy, Flower-therapy or, in general, for the treatment, utilization of plants and the vegetable kingdom; there is therefore a renewed interest also for Spagyria, capable of transforming plants into remedies and therapeutical substances. This is the most common application purpose of Spagyria.
In the lymph, fluids and ‘milky waters’ of plants, treasures are hidden: true mines of ‘green gold’ for the increasingly precarious human balance, commonly destabilized by the lack of useful references in leading him to find the true meaning of human existence.
Spagyria is also called ‘Green Alchemy’ or ‘Vegetable Alchemy’. This ancient art consists in separating the Three basic principles of plants (Three constituent principles, present in the whole matter), purifying them and reuniting them in a single incorruptible being over time, as devoid of impurities (terrestrial residues, waxes, fibers, minor corruptible substances, etc.) that may affect, alter and consequently compromise the quality of the medicament obtained.
In the Plant Kingdom there are THREE constituent parts, Three Energies, Three forces; they are intensely more or less present, according to the plant. Clearly, each of these THREE Principles will also be variable not only between different species, but also between plants of the same species. In Alchemy these forces are commonly called: SULPHUR, SAL and MERKUR. Here we are not talking about chemical substances, at all! The first one of an oily nature; the second of a saline, mineral, crystalline nature; the third of a fluid, watery nature. They are considered respectively: the Soul, the Body and the Spirit of the plant.
The vehicle of the fixed nature is the Sal, or the oligo-elements, crystalline structure, salts and minerals of the plant, which are extracted and which summarize the Mineral Kingdom of the same. The Plant Kingdom is expressed by the Merkur or Mercurial Spirit (fluid, watery); while the Animal Kingdom is identified with the Sulfur, the instinctive animating principle.
Summing up then:
– active OILY vital principles – SULPHUR
– active VOLATILE vital principles – MERKUR
– salts – SAL
The salts in the plant perform the task of harmoniously maintaining the previous two natures, or polarities, cohesive and coexisting at the molecular level. As they are different, extreme, opposite and complementary (masculine and feminine).
We see how the Kingdoms of Nature, they combine one inside the other in a plot that offers us the proof of the uniqueness of the Whole, in which nothing is averted or in itself. But only different levels or aspects of the same uniqueness.
The question concerning the etymology of the word “Spagyria” is tangled and not completely clear or defined. It is said that this term was used for the first time by Van Helmont¹, one of Paracelsus’ best-known disciples. He states that this term was coined by Paracelsus² himself.
In more recent times, the word Spagyria is derived from the union of two ancient Greek terms: σπάω, spáō-spaw, + ἀγείρω, ageiro.
Later the comments and definitions about the term Spagyria are copied each other in the echo of a subtle, albeit considerable, linguistic and grammatical error. According to these comments, the term “spao” would mean “to separate”, “to divide”, and the term “agheiro” to “unite”. Thus confirming the meaning and concept particularly dear, present and used in Alchemy of “solve et coagula” (separate and reunite); which outlines the sum of alchemical and spagyric operations.
In this regard, we can observe that Paracelsus, without detracting himself from the precious realism of his teachings and the importance of his existence in the field of Alchemy, Medicine, Sociology, History, Esotericism, etc., actually did not know ancient Greek. He knew Latin well enough, mainly he used the medical-scientific terms, and he wrote mostly in the current language of the time (the Gothic), according to the popular use of his time. All his writings are mostly written in German. Paracelsus, however, certainly had many contacts with well-educated men, scientists and researchers of the time, as for example with the Abbot Tritemio³, Benedictine of the convent of Spanheim, from whom he may have learned some knowledge or terminology related to ancient Greek.
Unfortunately, the Greek dictionary states that the term “spao” does not mean “separate”, but rather “extract”, “take out”, “pull out”. The second term then, absolutely does not seem to respect the rules for the formation of neologisms from the Greek language. In fact, when a final ‘w’ meets an initial ‘a’ a vowel should appear in the middle; so the term should be similar to “spaeghiria” or “spaighiria”. From this it is logical to deduce that the second term is improper and that it should be a term that starts with a ‘g’, such as “geros” or “geras”.
The interpretation of Dr. Angelo Angelini⁴ appears to be more correct. He claims that “gyria” originates from the Greek word gheros which means “old”, not of age, but of experience; or even “divine gift”. In fact, the term “gheras” similar to “gheros”, indicates “the divine gift”, something celestial, elevated and ancient “old of many years and experience” and, by extension, “divine”, “the most ancient”, as Archetype, Principle, Essence or Divine Cause. The same term that for other composes the word “hieroglyphic”, which we translate as “divine glyph”.
Spagyria at all levels, is identified and is therefore recognized in the Divine that surrounds us, in the Macrocosm and in the Microcosm. It is not by chance that the place where Spagyric works are carried out, is called Laboratory: that is, a place where work and prayer are combined together (labor = work, labor, fatigue, effort + oratory = prayer, place of prayer).
Spagyria could thus more correctly mean “extracting what is divine” from some individual of nature present in the Creation. Extract its intrinsic, spiritual and subtle qualities. In the most precise meaning, literally: “Extract the divine gifts within Nature, or in/inside Nature.”
¹Jean Baptiste Van / Von Helmont (Brussels, 12 January 1579 – Vilvoorde, Belgium, 30 December 1644).
²Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, called Paracelsus or Paracelsus (Einsiedeln, November 14th 1493 – Salzburg, September 24th 1541). Medical Doctor and Alchemist.
³Johannes Trithemius, pseudonym of Johann Heidenberg (Tritenheim, 1 February 1462 – Würzburg, 15 December 1516). Abbot of the Benedictine Monastery of Sponheim in the Rhineland, Germany.
⁴Angelo Angelini (1925 – 1997, Milan) chemical engineer; he was one of the founders of Riza and of the Kemi publishing house (MI).
– Alchimia Verde. The alchemical preparation of herbal substances – Manfred M. Junius, ed. Mediterranee (Rome), 1979/2005.
– Alchimie et Spagyrie – Patrick Rivière, 1986.
– Les Clefs De La Philosophie Spagyrique – Le Breton 1722, ed. Mediterranee (Rome), 1983.
– Il Serto di Iside. Manual of alchemical herbalism, vol. I & II – dr. A. Angelini, ed. Kemi (MI), 1978.
– Il Volo dei Sette Ibis – Angelo Gentili, ed. Kemi (MI) 1980.
– Various articles on Spagyria – KemiHathor Magazine (MI), years 1982 to 1997.
– Course of Alchemy 1° 2° 3° years – (audio recordings), dr. A. Angelini ed. Kemi (MI), 1997.
– Manuale di Medicina Spagyrica – Stefano Stefani, Marco Vittori, Carlo Conti, ed. Techniche Nuove (MI), 2008