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The Rebis from the Theoria Philosophiae Hermeticae

Result of the Great Work in Alchemy

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Theoria Philosophiae Hermeticae - Rebis Image
Theoria Philosophiae Hermeticae, 1617. Public Domain

The Rebis (from the latin res bina, meaning double matter) is the end product of the alchemical "great work." After one has gone through putrefaction and purification, separating opposing qualities, those qualities are united once more in what is sometimes described as the divine hermaphrodite, a reconciliation of spirit and matter, a being of both male and female qualities as indicated by the two heads within a single body.

Union of Venus of Mercury

In Greek mythology, Aphrodite and Hermes (associated with the Roman Venus and Mercury) produced a beautiful child known as Hermaphroditus. Born male, he attracted the unwanted attention of a nymph who called out t the gods for the two to never be parted. The result was Hermaphroditus being transformed into a two-sexed being bearing breasts and a penis in illustrations.

As such, the Rebis is sometimes described as being the product of a union between Venus and Mercury due to the symbolic similarities between the Rebis and Hermaphroditus. The Rebis is also the product of the Red King and White Queen.

Symbols – The Planets

There are a wide variety of images of the Rebis. In the image here, the sun and moon correspond to the male and female halves, just as the Red King and White Queen are similarly associated. All five planetary symbols (the creators of such images were only aware of planets out to Saturn) also surround the Rebis. Contributing the entire spectrum of celestial influences and qualities. Mercury sits at the top between the two heads, the divine communicator as well as relating to one of the three alchemical elements (i.e. quicksilver).

Numerological Spirit and Matter The circle on which the Rebis stands contains a square and triangle. The triangle is spiritual, while the square is material, symbolically linked to many things terrestrial: four seasons, four compass points, etc. The 4 and the 3 are the number of sides each has, and together they make seven, the number of completion, based on the creation of the world in seven days.

Circles are also linked with the divine, but square crosses are material for the same reason as squares, and a circled cross is the symbol for earth as well as alchemical salt.

The Rebis holds two objects. On the left is a compass, which is used with circles. It is held by the male half, which represents spiritual qualities. The female holds a square, used to measure right angles in squares and rectangles, thus representing the material world, with which women are also associated.

The Dragon

The dragon in alchemy represents the prime matter, as well as the third alchemical element: sulfur. The winged dragon suggests ascension, a merging of material and spiritual. Fire is a common transformative symbol.

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