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.
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