VITRIOL : The Green lion devours the Sun……

This is one of my alchemical prints. Not one for everyone’s walls 🙂

Vitriol today means harsh and nasty criticism…the root of this word lies in Alchemy.

Vitriol is the most important liquid in alchemy, bar none, serving as a catalyst for all subsequent reactions. It was distilled from an oily, green sulphate substance that formed naturally from the weathering of sulfur-bearing gravel. This Green Vitriol is symbolized by the Green Lion in alchemical drawings. After it was collected, it was heated and broken down into iron compounds and sulfuric acid. The acid was then separated out by distillation. The first distillation produced a brown liquid that smelled like rotten eggs (sulfur), but further distillation yielded a nearly odorless, yellow oil called simply vitriol.

This print shows my  interpretation of a medieval text on alchemy: the Rosarium Philosophorum – which consists of a series of 40 woodcuts describing the alchemical processes . Many alchemists associate this particular image as being one of the most powerful in the ancient art. On a chemical level this is a metaphor for when a bright green, liquid sulfate called “vitriol” purifies matter, leaving behind the gold within the matter. Very pure vitriol is an acid that eats through practically anything, except gold. To naturalist alchemists, the Green Lyon metaphor described the process whereby plants used the rays of the sun to facilitate their own growth – a process we call photosynthesis. On a human level, the green lion eating the sun is a metaphor for when a person’s “consciousness is overwhelmed by violent, frustrated desires. In other words, inside a person, when the metaphor of the green lion eating the sun takes place, the person is compelled to act out destructively. In contrast, when the green lion eats the sun in a person on a higher spiritual path the person allows the green lion to eat them in order to be purified — to become spiritually golden.

 “There is this one green lion, which closes and opens the seven indissoluble seals of the seven metallic spirits which torments the bodies, until it has perfected them, by means of the artist’s long and resolute patience.” — “The Cosmopolite,” (16th century)

Alchemy: Green lion devouring the sun

Alchemy: Green lion devouring the sun

ros18‘medieval woodcut ‘

VITRIOL is a motto used in alchemy and freemasonry…..

“Visit the interior of the Earth and purifying you will find the hidden stone.”



About redseedsgatherer

Linda Hill
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4 Responses to VITRIOL : The Green lion devours the Sun……

  1. alohaleya says:

    This word has been in my mind quite a lot lately, in terms of ‘vitriolic’ judgments and thoughts. I had no idea of its alchemical roots but it makes perfect sense – fascinating! Thanks, Aleya

  2. rose cook says:

    Incredible, thank you. Such research transposed into a stunning image. And it comes at a time of Brian Sewell’s death, an example of vitriol. xx

  3. suefjsuefj says:

    Very interesting and a superb image! X

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