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Alchemical MercuryA Theory of Ambivalence$
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Karen Pinkus

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804760324

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804760324.001.0001

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Excursus: Mercury

Excursus: Mercury

Chapter:
(p.84) Excursus: Mercury
Source:
Alchemical Mercury
Publisher:
Stanford University Press
DOI:10.11126/stanford/9780804760324.003.0005

This chapter reviews the different meanings and images attached to “Mercury,” which can be a dog or wolf or as a winged putto on the top of a wheel. At times he is present as the winged messenger of the gods, god of medicine in its healing and destructive senses, the pharmakon, and the hermetic. Mercury is a floating signifier, impossible to pin down. Philosophy needs it in order to posit the fixed as fixed: the sun or fixed matter that only knows itself in contrast to the volatile. The so-called philosophical alchemists distinguish between common mercury (Hg) and “philosophical mercury” composed of a combination of sulfur and argent vive.

Keywords:   Grimm brothers, fairy tales, alchemy, greed, ambivalent, king, miller's daughter

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