Alchemical symbol

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Alchemical symbols in Torbern Bergman's 1775 Dissertation on Elective Affinities

Alchemical symbols, originally devised as part of alchemy, were used to denote some elements and some compounds until the 18th century. Note that while notation like this was mostly standardized, style and symbol varied between alchemists, so this page lists the most common.

Three primes[edit]

According to Paracelsus (1493-1591), the three primes or tria prima are[1][2]

Four basic elements[edit]

Main article: Classical elements

Western alchemy makes use of the Hellenic elements. The symbols used for these are:[1]

Seven planetary metals[edit]

Seven metals are associated with the seven classical planets, and seven deities, all figuring heavily in alchemical symbolism. Although the metals occasionally have a glyph of their own, the planet's symbol is used most often, and the symbolic and mythological septenary is consistent with Western astrology. The planetary symbolism is limited to the seven wandering stars visible to the naked eye, and the extra-Saturnarian planets such as Neptune are not used.

The Monas Hieroglyphica is an alchemical symbol devised by John Dee as a combination of the planetary metal glyphs.

Mundane elements[edit]

"Squaring the circle": an alchemical glyph (17th century) of the creation of the philosopher's stone

Alchemical compounds[edit]

A table of alchemical symbols from Basil Valentine's The Last Will and Testament, 1670

Alchemical processes[edit]

The alchemical magnum opus was sometimes expressed as a series of chemical operations. In cases where these numbered twelve, each could be assigned one of the Zodiac signs as a form of cryptography. The following example can be found in Pernety's 1758 Mytho-Hermetic Dictionary:[3]


Unicode 6.1 adds support for an Alchemical Symbols block.

Alchemical Symbols[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
1.^ As of Unicode version 7.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points


  1. ^ a b c Eric John Holmyard. Alchemy. 1995. p.153
  2. ^ Walter J. Friedlander. The golden wand of medicine: a history of the caduceus symbol in medicine. 1992. p.76-77
  3. ^ Antoine-Joseph Pernety. Dictionnaire mytho-hermétique, dans lequel on trouve les allégories fabuleuses des poètes, les métaphores, les énigmes et les termes barbares des philosophes hermétiques expliqués. 1758. p.99

External links[edit]

Media related to Alchemical symbols at Wikimedia Commons