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Metamorphoses discussion topics > Greek myth and Alchemy.

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message 1: by S. Kay (last edited Jun 13, 2008 09:44PM) (new)

S. Kay (cobwebs) | 27 comments I'm still reading the Introduction to my edition, so I haven't gotten to the actual content. In timely fashion, I saw a brief bio a few nights ago about Isaac Newton-- apparently he dabbled in alchemy and held the belief that Greek myths were alchemical recipes. Newman did an experiment based on this in the program:

NARRATOR: Newton believed that in the distant past, people knew great truths about nature and the universe. This wisdom was lost over time, but Newton thought it was hidden in Greek myths, which he interpreted as encoded alchemical recipes.

BILL NEWMAN: In some instances he interprets the myths in a very, very exact way, so that they correspond to actual recipes.

NARRATOR: One of Newton's recipes, called "the net," comes from the writings of the Roman poet Ovid.

In his poem "The Metamorphosis," Ovid tells the story of the god Vulcan catching his wife, Venus, in bed with the god Mars. According to the myth, Vulcan made a fine metallic net and hung the lovers from the ceiling for all to see. In alchemy, Venus, Mars and Vulcan mean copper, iron and fire.

Viewed this way, the myth becomes an alchemical recipe. And if Bill Newman has interpreted the recipe correctly, he should get the same results that Newton got 300 years ago, a purple alloy, known as "the net," which was believed to be one step towards the Philosopher's Stone.

Here, Newman performs a copy of Newton's experiment.

BILL NEWMAN: Behold: "the net." It worked—a purple alloy with a striated net-like surface—it worked perfectly.

(A full transcript of the show is here)

Anyway, I had never heard this before. Has anyone here read published studies of this kind of translation of the myths? Would be interesting to see just how far people took it, or just how much the people who wrote them knew about chemistry.

message 2: by S. Kay (new)

S. Kay (cobwebs) | 27 comments Replying to myself that a good place to start would probably be to actually read something about alchemy itself before I ask these things...

(on a side note: if this topic isn't topical, let me know. Haven't participated in discussion groups in a while, so I'm not sure of the boundaries yet.)

message 3: by Nancy (new)

Nancy (nancyh) | 13 comments
Definitely topical. I don't know about alchemy but it's interesting. Thanks.

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