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The Rebis - From the "Book of the Holy Trinity and...


The Rebis in Color

"Book of the Holy Trinity and Description of the Secret of the Transmutation of Metals" (1420)

Public Domain

This image originates in the "Book of the Holy Trinity and Description of the Secret of the Transmutation of Metals" from 1420.

Like all Rebis images, the figure is comprised of a male and female half as it is the result of bringing together opposites and resolving them into a single, unified whole. These two halves are commonly demonstrated with strong gender imagery not just in alchemy but also wider occult systems and even many ancient cultural outlooks in general.

King and Queen:

The union is commonly described as the chemical marriage between Red King and White Queen. Those, both heads bear crowns, and the lower half of the tunic is half red and half white.

The Trees:

Each has a tree sprouting the applicable celestial body. The tree on the male side sprouts suns, as the sun is a male celestial body. The Red King is often depicting standing on a sun. The tree on the female side sprouts moons, a female celestial body. The White Queen is often depicted standing on a moon.

The Wings:

The colors of the Rebis's wings correspond to the color of the blooming suns and moons. The wings themselves, common for Rebis images, represents transcendence. Part of the great work of alchemy that involves this union of opposites in the escape from the limitations of our dual, conflicting natures. Spiritual transcendence frees the soul to more fully manifest, allegorically escaping earthly bounds to connect better with the divine.

Lead and Gold:

The Rebis stands on two stones, one gold and one lead. Alchemy is most known for the idea of transmuting lead to gold. This was not a literal goal, but rather an allegory about taking something coarse and common and refining it into something rare and perfect, as gold was considered the most perfect of all metals.

Lead is also seen as passive, feminine and material, the "fixed principle." Gold is active, male and spiritual, the "volatile principle." These are, again, opposite natures that need to be unified for one to achieve perfections.

The Egg and the Basilisk:

Eggs are a symbol of regeneration, potential, development, creation and often the uniting of male and female, which is biologically necessary to produced a fertilized egg.

A piece of pear-shaped piece of lab equipment was also sometimes called the Philosopher's Egg. It was used for condensing materials after distillation, helping to transform materials into pure components.

The basilisk emerging from the egg represents the early stages of the process of uniting divisions within the self. Mythologically speaking, the basilisk was sometimes thought to breathe fire as a dragon does (another common alchemical symbol), although they were more often known for turning people to stone with its gaze like Medusa. Fire is symbolically transformative, and the basilisk is associated specifically with the transmutation of metals. Here it is connected physically with the stones of gold and lead.

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