View Full Version : Salamander

01-01-2009, 11:33 PM
This is a Phoenix-thread (http://forum.alchemyforums.com/showthread.php?t=7) from the old site (http://alchemy-forums.forumotion.com/forum.htm).

The word salamander comes from the combination of two Persian words namely those of fire and within, and thus by explaining the name of this creature the alchemical features have also been addressed. For sake of argument let's me just mention a few properties of the real salamanders

They are usually small creatures, but in China and Japan there are so-called giant salamanders that can be as large as 2 meters (6 feet). The most peculiar property of the salamander is the fact that they can regenerate lost limbs. Many think they are related to the lizard family, but that is not the case. The oldest known salamander dates back as much as 161 million years.

Salamanders were seen as gods by the Egyptians, the Chaldeans and the Persians. Alchemists employ the image of the salamanders to symbolize the soul. They are also connected with fire, or more so the spirit of fire. Paracelsus writes that “salamanders have been seen in the shapes of fiery balls, or tongues of fire, running over fields or peering in houses.”

There is a real salamander called fire salamander that looks like this:


Leonardo da Vinci thought that salamanders nourished themselves on fire and could, because of this, renew their skin. Benvenuto Cellini, a famous Italian goldsmith, painter, sculptor, soldier and musician of the Renaissance, once had an experience with a salamander that he describes in his autobiography like this:

When I was about five years old, my father happened to be in our basement… where a good fire of oaken logs was burning. He had a viola in his hand and was playing and singing all alone by the fire. It was very cold. As he gazed into the fire, he chanced to see in the middle of the hottest flames a little creature like a lizard which was sporting about in the strongest flame. He instantly perceived what it was, had my sister and me called, pointed it out to us children and gave me a violent box on the ear which immediately made me cry. He comforted me kindly. ‘Sonny,’ he said, ‘I did not hit you for any wrong you did, my darling, but only to make you remember that this lizard which you saw in the fire is a salamander, a creature which has never been seen by anyone else of whom we have a true report.’ And so he kissed me and gave me some pennies.Michael Maier’s book Atalanta Fugiens (http://www.alchemywebsite.com/atalanta.html), published in 1617, the following is explained concering the salamander in what is called Emblem 29 (XXIX), and transcribed by Hereward Tilton:
…the Salamander of the Philosophers… is born in Fire. This is not so with the common Salamander, but if it falls into the Fire by reason of its extreme coldnesse and moisture it is not presently burnt, but can freely passe through the Flame that is Hot and Dry… This Body is like the Truest Salamander, in which the Elements are Equalled by the Balance of their Powers. Concerning this Rosarius out of Geber saith: Likewise the Philosopher would have the Substances of Mercury mortified, but naturally his Mercury is in that Venerable Stone as is plain to all men. And a little further on: Also the Philosopher would have the Substances of Mercury Fixed, as is evident because he teacheth the ways of Fixing with many Cautions and Devices. But who can doubt the Substance of that Precious Stone to be most Fixed? Certainly no man that knows it. By which it appears that the Stone is by Fixation to be reduced to the Nature of the Salamander, that is to the greatest Fixednesse which neither declines nor refuses Fire. For it is no Salamander till it has learnt to endure Fire with the utmost patience, which must of necessitye be effected in long processe of time.
So there you have it. Something to chew on for now. Thoughts?

Interesting information, thank you.

I have a tarot deck (Animal Lords) published by Lo Scarabeo and the symbol for wands is a salamander and all the court cards for wands have salamanders in the image. The Strength card also shows a man with a mongoose head wrestling a cobra. Two salamanders watch and two volcanoes erupt in the background. This helps shed a little more understanding on this deck.

Also the salamanders are shown with their tails coming to their nose, very similar to ororoborus.

Some more on the history of the Salamander...

From wikipedia
Numerous legends have developed around the salamander over the centuries, many related to fire. This connection likely originates from the tendency of many salamanders to dwell inside rotting logs. When placed into a fire, the salamander would attempt to escape from the log, lending to the belief that the salamander was created from flames. Associations of the salamander with fire appear in the Talmud and the Hadith, as well as in the writings of Conrad Lycosthenes, Benvenuto Cellini, Ray Bradbury, David Weber, Paracelsus and Leonardo da Vinci.

From livingunderworld.org
In 1607, Edward Topsel published the book The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents, which, along with illustrations of newts and salamanders resembling serpents and dragons, hypothesizes about the ability of salamanders to extinguish fire, receive nourishment from fire, and traverse through fire unscathed.
Salamanders and newts were also used for medicinal purposes. They were often burned to ashes, which were collected and used in medicinal formulas and concoctions. The saliva of a salamander was believed to make hair fall out. Even today, the skins, bodies, and body parts of salamanders are used in traditional medicine. Torched newts are sometimes sold in Asia as aphrodisiacs, and the skins of certain species are said to cure illnesses.

Salamanders and newts were also negatively associated with cows. It was believed that salamanders or newts would suckle cows if they were caught laying down, resulting in the cows inability to produce milk from that point forward. The origin of this myth is though to come from sightings of dead newts and salamanders who might have released their milky fluid upon being squashed by an oblivious cow.
What we should ask ourselves, is whether or not this is a common salamander, or a philosophical salamander!

Do they mean to say burn a common salamander in the fire? Will this really produce a great and powerful medicine?

... the Salamander of the Philosophers… is born in Fire. This is not so with the common Salamander, but if it falls into the Fire by reason of its extreme coldnesse and moisture it is not presently burnt, but can freely passe through the Flame that is Hot and Dry …

Please do ponder over these words.
Salamander for me, is the equivalent of Phoenix, rising from Fire, nourished by Fire, it is what is Fire itself, and therefore, cannot be burned by it.

You are right in a way. Analyze the word salamander with a certain method (we must look to the words, and break it down into smaller pieces, and then we must look to the smaller pieces), and you will see what the true matter is to be nourished by fire.