Lesson 3) A Celestial Kind of Change
Hello my esteemed students. I am delighted to welcome you back to yet another week of Alchemy! I enjoyed reading your essays from last week! I would like to remind you that the Great Work takes a long time to complete and many alchemists can't even get to the Rubedo stage before the end of their life. However, it's fine to condense it down for narrative purposes.
I'm sure this week is one you have been looking forward to. Today is all about using the transitionals of the seven planetary aspects for transmutation. The lecture today will be additional knowledge to what you already know, then we get to get our hands dirty with some lab work. Let's get started!
One of the prime concepts alchemy was founded on is the idea of transmuting lead into gold. Transmutation is the action of changing or the state of being changed into another form. Typically this refers to changing base metals into noble metals or vice versa, however this isn't always the case as transmutations can come in many forms. There can also be transmutations of a base metal into another base metal or a noble metal into another noble metal. The Great Work is considered to be a spiritual transmutation, since you are changing your inner state. With alchemy spanning across different cultures throughout time, it's common sense that these are only a few of several methods used for transmutation.
The method we will be talking about in particular today is celestial transmutation. Celestial transmutation is the transmutation of metals based on the transitions of the seven planetary aspects. The elements being transmuted and the characteristics that are changing are determined simply by which celestial transition you plan to use. Each transition has its own characteristics, aligned with a classical planet, and a set number of days which it lasts.
The trick to actually using this method of transmutation is catching the transition you want to use when it starts. For example, say you want to transmute from Mars to Venus. You would need to start the transmutation at midnight on the day when Mars starts to transition into Venus. You will also need to end the transmutation process right before the next transition starts. If you start too late, you won't have enough time for the element to fully transition over before the next transition starts and it will therefore result in an incomplete transmutation. If you end the transmutation too early, it will also end in an incomplete transmutation. Time is very crucial when tampering with the elements.
No one truly knows who mapped out the transitional periods first, though a lot of alchemists point their fingers at Aristarchus of Samos. Aristarchus was an ancient Greek astronomer who first proposed the idea of the Sun being at the center of the solar system. Notice how the Sun has an infinite transitional period and is considered to be the source of immense power. Early alchemists believed that someone who placed that much importance on the Sun, in an era where most astronomers placed the Earth at the center of our solar system, may have had a lot to do with the seven planetary aspects theory. Of course, there's no way to prove that it was indeed Aristarchus, as the only surviving work of his is a book about the sizes of the Sun and the Moon, as well as their distances from the Earth.
How exactly do you know when the transition starts and ends? Most alchemists chart out the transitions into a planner or a calendar. For our lab work today, I set up a calendar for you to refer to. You may find it here. Do pick a transition that can be completed before our next class.
How exactly does this relate to magic? While the transitions dictate what elements change and how long it will take for them to undergo the changes, magic is what causes the elements to react to the transitions. Magic initiates the actual transmutation of the element and ends the process when complete. There are four spells used in celestial transmutation: Vicis Nigredo, Finis Albedo, Vicis Citrinitas, and Finis Rubedo. Each of them line up with a phase of the Great Work.
We learned in Year Two that a transitional is split into two parts: aditus (the beginning) and barathri (the abyss). Aditus is the start of the transition and the actual process itself, while barathri is the end of the transition, when everything is complete and over with. How does this relate to the actual transmutation? When working with celestial transmutation, you transmute the characteristics of the starting element first into your target element's characteristics. This is done with the first two spells, Vicis Nigredo and Finis Albedo. Think of Vicis Nigredo as the aditus and Finis Albedo as the barathri. The first spell starts the process and keeps it going and the second spell is used to complete the characteristic transmutation. The latter two of the four spells are used to physically transmute the element, and the same concept of aditus and barathri applies there. Basically, the point I'm trying to make is that while the transmutation itself has a beginning and an end, there are smaller processes going on, within the overall transmutation, that have their own beginnings and endings, that need to be done to achieve your ultimate goal of changing an element completely.
How do you know when to cast these spells and how long do you have to wait until you cast the next one? To know the total amount of the time needed for transmutation, look at the transitional period (TP). For example, Venus to Mars has a TP of one day, or in other words, twenty-four hours. You will need half of the total amount of time to transmute the characteristics while the other half is needed to transmute the physical aspects. Therefore in this case, you need to allot twelve hours for the first part of the transmutation and another twelve for the second part. Once again, time is very important. After you cast Vicis Nigredo, you need to wait the other half of the full twenty-four hours of Venus to Mars before you're able to cast Finis Albedo. After casting the second spell, you will need to immediately cast Vicis Citrinitas, wait another twelve hours, and cast Finis Rubedo as the transitional period is ending.
Sounds difficult, right? Luckily, these spells are quite easy to perform in general. The actual difficulty lies within the transition itself and the timing. I would strongly advise you to stay away from Mars to Venus, as it's known for its explosive backfires and I would rather not send you on a trip to the hospital wing. The others (not including the Sun) should be fine but do review the side effects of the transitional again before making your final choice for your assignment. As for timing, my best advice is to keep a timer with you for shorter transitions or set alarms to make sure you get to your element in time to cast the next spell.
Name: Blackness Aditus Spell
Incantation: Vicis Nigredo
Movement: Start from the left and drag your wand horizontally to the right. Then, take your wand and start above the middle point of the line you just drew and go straight down. When you reach the bottom of your line, bounce your wand back up and curve it as if you were drawing a sickle.
When done correctly, a black cloud of smoke will surround the target metal. When casting this spell, focus on the characteristics of the element you want to turn your target metal into. Always keep your goal element in mind, otherwise your transmutation will fail.
Notice how the wand movement for this spell is the alchemical symbol for Saturn. Every celestial transmutation spell's wand movement is the symbol for the planets that represents the phase the spell is modeled after.
Name: Whiteness Barathri Spell
Incantation: Finis Albedo
Movement: Starting at the top, make a curve to the right as if you're drawing a semicircle. From the bottom point, make an outer curve and connect back to your starting point at the top. The movement should resemble a crescent moon.
When cast correctly, the black cloud of smoke from Vicis Nigredo will clear away and the metal will be surrounded by a white glow for a few minutes before it fades away completely. If you failed to transmute the characteristics correctly, by either not giving it enough time to transmute or giving it too much time, the black cloud of smoke will leave a powdery residue behind on the metal. This step is where the majority of backfires produced by the Mars to Venus transition typically occur.
Remember that the two aforementioned spells only change the characteristics of your metal. Always cast the spells in the order of the phases of the Great Work. Never go out of order because the results are typically unpredictable and can be quite harmful in most scenarios. Also be sure to use the metals associated with the planets and their transitions when using celestial transmutation (i.e. don't try to transmute anything into antimony, don't transmute iron into ruthenium, etc.). We will discuss other methods of transmutation that are better suited for other metals in future years.
If you don't remember exactly which planets are associated with which metals, refer to the chart above. Notice how the Sun isn't on this chart. That's because the Sun is the powerhouse of all our magic. It's so powerful and massive that tapping into it can achieve unexpected, and perhaps apocalyptic results. No one has ever been able to actually use the Sun for a celestial transmutation, even though it represents all the elements represented by the other planetary aspects. Even then, in theory, a transmutation using the Sun wouldn't work because there's no way to correctly perform any barathri spells, as the transitional period is infinite. Now, onto a demonstration of the spells that directly change the physical aspects of an element.
Name: Yellowness Aditus Spell
Incantation: Vicis Citrinitas
Movement: Draw a semicircle, trace back down to the bottom of the semicircle and form a full circle with your wand. Continue tracing your circle until you reach the bottom and then draw out a cross, as seen pictured right. This should be one fluid motion, with the exception of drawing the horizontal line on the cross.
This spell needs to be cast directly after casting Finis Albedo when the white glow is still around the element. If the white glow fades before you cast the spell, the Yellowness Aditus Spell will not work. When this spell is performed correctly, the metal will glow bright yellow and bubbles will surround it, giving it an illusion that the metal itself is bubbling. During this part of the transmutation, side effects stemming from the actual transitions themselves may happen (i.e. hallucinations from the Saturn to Moon transition). Let this bubble until the end of the transitional period.
Name: Redness Barathri Spell
Incantation: Finis Rubedo
Movement: Draw a circle around your target element with your wand and then make a jabbing motion in the center.
When this spell is done correctly, the bubbles and the yellow glow fade off of the element. The element itself will resemble the element you intended on transmuting it into and it will slowly glow red three times before the transmutation is deemed complete.
If the spell isn't performed on time or otherwise fails, the bubbles will go away but the target element will remain yellow. It will also look like the same substance it did at the beginning of the transmutation with a gigantic crack in the middle, rendering it useless for further transmutations. If this happens, place your failed transmutation in the bin by my desk and take another metal from the lab cabinets to start over. There is a potion I can soak the failed elements in so they can be usable in the future. Metals, especially noble metals, can be quite expensive and I would rather not spend a fortune on replacing every failed experiment.
That's all I have for you today. Since transmutations can be quite lengthy and difficult if your timing isn't correct, your transmutation will be due when you take your final. However, I will encourage you to start on it today after I dismiss class, as you will most likely be unsuccessful on your first attempt. With a three week schedule, this will give you plenty of time to complete one transmutation by the time of the final.
Since the timing of this project is crucial, the Alchemy laboratory will be open at all times but there will be a PA stationed in here to make sure that there is no funny business. If you have any questions, run into any problems, or would simply like to chat, you may always reach me by owl.
By the next time we meet, I would like to see a reflection on the beginning of your transmutation. With that being said, class is dismissed!