Page 76. " mercury "

Caduceus, symbol of Azoth
Public DomainCaduceus, symbol of Azoth
Mercury, or quicksilver, was one of the seven alchemical metals.  It was believed to transcend the liquid/solid boundary.  It was also known as " Azoth", a word possibly created from the first letter (A) and last letters of the Latin, Greek and Hebrew alphabets (Z/O/Th), representing the beginning and end of all creation. 

Page 76. " salt "

Salt Evaporation, Portugal
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeSalt Evaporation, Portugal - Credit: dynamosquito, Flickr
The three "primal elements" - mercury, sulphur and salt - were considered by alchemists to be the three constituent parts of base matter.  They were also sometimes viewed as spiritual forces.  By alchemical tradition when something is burnt, mercury is the vapour released, sulphur is the combustibility, and salt is the ash that remains.

Page 76. " dragons "

Animals play a representative part in alchemy.  Dragons represent Fire, while oxen represent Earth, eagles are Air and fish are water.  A dragon or serpent with its tail in its mouth is an ouroboros, which symbolizes the cyclic nature of the Universe.

Page 76. " inscribed on the surface of an emerald "

The Emerald Tablet
Public DomainThe Emerald Tablet - Credit: Heinrich Khunrath
 The Emerald Tablet was a fabled text supposedly written by Hermes Trismegistus and describing the fundamental nature of primordial matter.  It is characterized by the famous line, "As above, so it is below".

As Above, So Below
Public DomainAs Above, So Below
Isaac Newton, who held a strong interest in alchemy, made a translation:

1. Tis true without lying, certain most true.
2. That which is below is like that which is above that which is above is like that which is below to do the miracles of one only thing.
3. And as all things have been arose from one by the meditation of one: so all things have their birth from this one thing by adaptation.
4. The Sun is its father, the moon its mother,
5. the wind hath carried it in its belly, the earth its nurse.
6. The father of all perfection in the whole world is here.
7. Its force or power is entire if it be converted into earth.
7a. Separate thou the earth from the fire, the subtle from the gross sweetly with great industry.
8. It ascends from the earth to the heaven again it descends to the earth and receives the force of things superior and inferior.
9. By this means ye shall have the glory of the whole world thereby all obscurity shall fly from you.
10. Its force is above all force. for it vanquishes every subtle thing and penetrates every solid thing.
11a. So was the world created.
12. From this are and do come admirable adaptations whereof the means (Or process) is here in this.
13. Hence I am called Hermes Trismegist, having the three parts of the philosophy of the whole world.
14. That which I have said of the operation of the Sun is accomplished and ended.
Page 78. " Helvetius "

Public DomainHelvetius
Johann Friedrich Schweitzer (1625-1709), known as Helvetius, was a Dutch-German physician.  In 1667, he published The Golden Calf, whose strapline was How the intire Substance of Lead, was in one Moment Transmuted in Gold-Obrizon, with an exceeding small particle of the true Philosophick Stone.  The whole book is available online

Helvetius was most famous as one of the few alchemists who supposedly achieved the transmutation of lead into gold in front of witnesses.

Page 78. " Elias "

Elias Ashmole
Public DomainElias Ashmole
 Elias Ashmole (1617-1692) was the English politician and astrologer whose bequest of a library and a collection of manuscripts to the University of Oxford formed the basis of the Ashmolean Museum. He published a number of alchemical works, including Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum (1652), available online

Page 78. " Fulcanelli "

Le Mystere des Cathedrales
Permission Granted by Copyright Owner for Use on Book DrumLe Mystere des Cathedrales
The true identity of the French "Master Alchemist" known as Fulcanelli is not known.  He lived in the late 19th and early 20th century, and gained a following when he wrote a book claiming the secrets of alchemy were displayed in plain view on the walls of Gothic cathedrals.

Le Mystere des Cathedrales

Page 78. " Geber "

Public DomainGeber
 Geber, or Abu Musa Jabir ibn Hayyan al azdi  (721-815), was a man of many talents.  Engineer, physician, geologist, astronomer and philosopher, he was also called by some the "father of chemistry".  He was one of the earliest practising alchemists, and his ideas strongly influenced later European students.  He believed that the alchemical elements could be classified according to their internal and external qualities of hotness, coldness, moistness and dryness.  So lead was cold and dry externally, while gold was hot and moist.  By rearranging these qualities, he argued, it would be possible to transmute one element into another.

Page 79. " Why did they use such strange language "

Andre Breton
Public DomainAndre Breton
 Andre Breton, the founder of Surrealism, observed in the Second Manifesto that the goals of the surrealists were comparable to those of alchemists searching for the Philosopher's Stone.  Max Ernst, the German surrealist artist, also referenced alchemy and famous alchemists in his work.

Page 84. " The Thousand and One Nights "
1001 Nights
Public Domain1001 Nights

The collection of Arabian and Persian folk tales that forms The Thousand and One Nights dates back to around the 9th century.  They are framed within the story of Scheherazade, the new wife of King Shahryar.  The King, deciding all women are unfaithful, has formed the habit of marrying virgins only to have them executed the morning after the wedding. Scheherazade manages to delay this fate for 1001 nights by telling the King such a compelling story each night - withholding its cliffhanger ending - that he must keep her alive another day to find out how it turns out. 

The most famous characters include Aladdin, Sinbad and Ali Baba.


Page 85. " constantly subjected to tests "

Desert Life
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeDesert Life - Credit: Ferdinand Reus, Flickr
Santiago’s experience echoes the testing of Christ in the desert and typifies the trials of the spiritual initiate. Coelho also points out that by following our personal calling, we will ‘suffer more than other people’, but that ‘the secret of life… is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.’

Page 90. " spirits of good and evil "

Genies were mythological spirits in Middle Eastern cultures.  They were defined as possessing free will, and being formed by Allah from smokeless fire (where humans were formed from earth).  The Arabic word is jinni or djinn.  They can be good or evil.  Satan (Iblis) is an extreme form of the latter.

In the Qur'an, sura 72 is named Djinn, and begins:

It hath been revealed to me that a company of Djinn listened...


Page 94. " the desert, in remote times, had been a sea "

Sahara Waves
Creative Commons AttributionSahara Waves - Credit: Tom T, Flickr
The transformation of form is alluded to here. This also connects to the Narcissus myth in the Prologue, where the lake undergoes an alchemic change from fresh to salt water.

Page 100. " dressed in white and gold "

White and Gold have particular significance to alchemy and numerology.  White represents the master number 11; Gold is number 1.