al·che·my[al-kuh-mee] noun, plural -mies for 2.
1. a form of chemistry and speculative philosophy practiced in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance and concerned principally with discovering methods for transmuting baser metals into gold and with finding a universal solvent and an elixir of life.
2. any magical power or process of transmuting a common substance, usually of little value, into a substance of great value.
I like to say that I practice and perform Alchemy quite regularly. Really! It's not the "lead into gold" type, which is fine (even though sometimes I wish I could do that!). This particular Alchemical process occurs about every six weeks.... Those who know me know what I'm talking about. Coloring my hair! Yes, it's chemistry, and yes, it transmutes my gray hair into the red that I enjoy so much! See? <grin>
Alchemists of days gone by were the predecessors of today's scientists. Their practices are noted in the annals of history. Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Madame Curie, Jonahs Salk, and so many others back through time. Everything they did involved taking something that really didn't amount to much on its own, and the results were "gold". "Because their goals were so unrealistic, and because they had so little success in achieving them, the practitioners of alchemy in the Middle Ages got a reputation as fakers and con artists. But this reputation is not fully deserved. While they never succeeded in turning lead into gold (one of their main goals), they did make discoveries that helped to shape modern chemistry. Alchemists invented early forms of some of the laboratory equipment used today, including beakers, crucibles, filters, and stirring rods. They also discovered and purified a number of chemical elements, including mercury, sulfur, and arsenic. And the methods they developed to separate mixtures and purify compounds by distillation and extraction are still important." (From The American Heritage Science Dictionary, 2002)
I believe that Alchemy is all that and so much more. And I believe that many of us living in the "magickal realms", as I like to call it, practice it a lot more than we might realize.
As a Pagan Witch, I believe that every time I participate in a ritual or do a magickal spell working, I'm performing Alchemy. Okay, so sometimes the results are spiritual instead of physical. Still the same thing in my mind.
Some folks do artwork, some make jewelry, some make garb, some work with clays, glass, metal, wood, etc. In each and every case, at the beginning, there are very basic elements. For the artist, a blank canvas and pencils or paints. Through the process of applying the creative mind and the individual's will, the end result is something entirely different than what existed at the beginning. For the jewelry, the beginning is wire or cord, and lots of individual beads. Alchemy is applied, and voila, the finished product is a beautiful necklace or bracelet. In sewing, we start with cloth and thread, and end up with ritual robes, cloaks, dresses, etc. Those who work with clays, glass and metal always amaze me the most. Think of a potter. At the very beginning, there is a pile of, well, dust (for lack of the correct word for it). Water is added, more powders, more water, more powders, and suddenly there is a pile of thick mud. The mud is put on the potter's wheel, and through the application of the potter's hands (and feet on the wheel peddle), the pile of mud starts to take shape. With time, there emerges a bowl, a cup, a plate, or a vase. How's that for a transformation?
Are you getting my train of thought with this? I think you might be...
All of these alchemical workings that I have mentioned so far involve physical things. We can touch them, feel them, see them with our physical eyes, and so can others. They are beautiful to behold. And it's nice when we make something, to have somebody else say, "wow, that is beautiful!"
I think that the more important Alchemies are performed on the spiritual, energetic level. We make choices every day to be more positive, to take control of our lives, to walk away from bad relationships, to change something negative into a positive, to take a "leap of faith" and change jobs, to start a new relationship, to fight an illness or disease, to quit smoking or drinking or using drugs. Each and every one of these examples are Alchemy in my book. And I've already lived quite a few of them. (No, I haven't quit smoking yet, I still enjoy it, and it's the only vice I have left! LOL) Many of them have been quite the important milestone in my life. Some I work on daily. I'd like to share one of the biggies with you...
In my other "A" Blogpost, I shared about being a domestic violence survivor. When I got out of that relationship, even though I had made the choice to leave, and did it, I was pretty much a mess. Years of hearing, from someone who supposedly loved me, that I was worthless, couldn't do anything "right", was a waste of airspace, would never find anyone else to love me, was fat, ugly, yada yada yada... It did a lot of damage. The only thing that I knew for sure was that I wanted to live, to not die, and I had to leave to do that. I really had no clue about what was going to happen after that, and some pretty hefty doubts about succeeding at it. I did know that I had to try. Yes, Yoda, I know it's "Try not. Do. Or do not. There is no try." At that point in time, the best I could do was try. And I did.
For the first six months after I moved into my own apartment, I really didn't do much other than work, eat, sleep, take care of my animals, and work on changing me. My personal Alchemy. I wanted and needed to change me from being a scared, wounded, worthless human being who I didn't really like much into someone I could like, even love, when I looked in the mirror. I needed to heal the wounds that had almost killed me, so that I would be able to live, enjoy my life, and be happy. The primary Alchemical tool that I used was a journal and an evaluation system that I had been told about by a clinical psychiatrist many years before when my first marriage ended. It's all about positives and negatives, likes and dislikes, pros and cons. Sound familiar? Yep, that's the one.
Write down what the problem is. In my case, it was me, as a person. On one page I wrote down the things about me that I liked, that I considered good. That was a really short list at the beginning. On the next page, I wrote down the things about me that I didn't like, that I considered bad or wrong. It was about every single aspect of me, physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, creative. That was a VERY long list. Took up a couple of pages, in fact. I think it took a week of spending some time on expanding those lists every day until I couldn't add anything else to either one of them. It was rough to try to be objective. Then I took a week off from it. Just put the journal away and rested. Didn't think about it, didn't work on it, just took care of me. Then I got to work, and started the Alchemy. I'd read through the list of positives, almost as an affirmation. Took them inside, and nurtured them. Then I started on the list(s) of negatives, taking them one at a time. I'd look at the item, trying to stay detached, like it was a science experiment, and decide if it was something that was really a factual thing, that I could really do something about or not, and if I really needed to change that thing or not. There has to be a balance of light and dark in all things, right? Right! And then I got to work. I put the energy needed to change a negative into a positive, and in the long run, to change the me that had existed into the me that I wanted to be. Alchemy at its finest!
These days I use Alchemy quite frequently actually. It can be applied to almost any situation or circumstance. It can take a lot of work, but the outcome is usually worth it. It can be as simple as changing your attitude, changing your reactions to things that happen in this crazy life we're living, or just changing the color of your hair. Think about it. You're an Alchemist too, aren't you? Yep, you are! The possibilities are endless, pick one, and see what happens....