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Vitriol

September 9, 2012 , ,

Vitriol

I am studying the alchemist archtype in my life. I have used the word vitriol, but have not associated it with alchemy until I found it in my reading yesterday.  I purchased a beautiful book, Signs & Symbols by Beryl Dhanjal.  In this excellent art and prose work I discovered that vitriol is an acronym, just like OMG.  It stands for Visita Interiora Terrae Rectificando Invenies Occultum Lapidem,” “Visit the interior of the earth and rectifying (purifying) you will find the hidden stone.” The motto originated in L’Azoth des Philosophes by the 15th Century alchemist Basilius Valentinus.  Both Alchemists and Freemasons use this motto.

In chemistry ancient science referred to sulfuric acid is vitriol.  I have a strong memory of the alchemist in chief in my life, my father, teaching me to make hydrogen bombs. I was probably about 8.   We dissolved magnesium metal bits in hydrochloric acid, but vinegar works, or any acid, I think.  The combination makes hydrogen gas that when ignited, explodes.  At school in the 1950s we had air raid drills about hydrogen bombs.  At home I got to make them.  Both my dad and I liked the little ones we made in test tubes, so we went big one day.  He put the acid and the metal in a gallon jar, which was somehow closed and directed into a plastic tube about 30 ft. long. My dad had no experience in the hurt locker, just in fracking and blowing up oil reservoirs underground.  My mother watched from the upstairs window horrified as my dad lit the end of the hose, which I think was supposed to blow a can in the air.  The tube with the gas in it flamed across my dad’s beloved lawn and the glass bottle blew to smithereens.  I was thrilled, but my father was significantly freaked out.  I think we went on a hiatus from explosion chemistry for a while after that.  I am pretty sure that is when I had to build the crystal radio.  I remember not being nearly as pleased with that radio as I had been with our explosive past.  It is good to have an alchemist for a father.  They combine things that other fathers do not.

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