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Ouroboros text
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adammclean
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 Posted: Tue Dec 20th, 2011 10:39 am
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Does anyone know an English translation of the Greek in the centre of the famous Ouroboros? I have seen this in a book some time ago but I cannot locate it now.

I suspect from the semicolons that the text is actually part and continuous with the surrounding text.

Attached Image (viewed 1264 times):

Serpiente_alquimica.jpg

Last edited on Tue Dec 20th, 2011 10:42 am by adammclean

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Tue Dec 20th, 2011 05:10 pm
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That specific illustration is in Sherwood Taylor's "The alchemists", but in the central plate section labelled simply as "The alchemical dragon".  A search of the papers that he wrote that I have copies of turns up other dragons but not that one.

There is a similar one in MS Paris 2327 folio 196 with a translation of the words nearby featured in Stillman "The story of alchemy and early chemistry", page 171. 

However it seems the one you are after is that from folio 279 of that manuscript, according to Sheppard in "The ouroboros and unity of matter".

But frustratingly I can't find a translation in what information I have available, hopefully the above will trigger someone's memory.

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Tue Dec 20th, 2011 06:08 pm
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I think this is an illustration by Theodoros Pelecanos in a manuscript of the alchemical text known simply as 'Synesios', which is in the BN in Paris.

Adam will confirm whether this:

http://www.alchemywebsite.com/synesius_true_book.html

is an English translation of the text or is unconnected.

I think Adam's surmise that the text inside the dragon is not self-contained is correct. I can make out, in the first line inside the dragon, 'tōn mysteriōn' (of the mysteries)
and 'tēs technēs' (of the art), so it may be a chunk from:

"But for my part, I tell you, they have always expressed themselves according to certain truth, though very obscurely, and sometimes fabulously, all which I have deciphered in this little treatise, and after such a manner that the earnest desirer of science shall understand what has been mystically delivered by the Philosophers. And yet if he pretend to understand me and know not the nature of the Elements and things created, as also our rich Metal, he does but lose his labour: but if he understand the concord and discord of natures, he will by God's assistance arrive to the rest. It is therefore my suit to God, that he who shall understand the present secret may work to the glory and praise of the sacred Divinity.

Know then, my dear Son, that the ignorant man cannot comprehend the secret of the Art, because it depends upon the knowledge of the true body, which is hidden from him. Know then, my Son, pure and impure, the clean and unclean natures, for there cannot come from any thing that which it has not. For things, that are not or have not, cannot give but their own Nature. Make use then of that which is most perfect and nearest in kind, you shall meet with, and it shall suffice. Avoid then that which is mixed, and take the simple, for that proceeds from the Quintessence."

Adam will no doubt confirm whether this is the same text or a later work riding on the back of Synesius's fame.

adammclean
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 Posted: Tue Dec 20th, 2011 06:16 pm
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Yes, this is on folio 297 of Ms. Grec. 2327 in the Bibliotheque Nationale, which is ascribed as a work of Synesius. It is a 15th century copy of an earlier manuscript.

Last edited on Tue Dec 20th, 2011 06:16 pm by adammclean

adammclean
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 Posted: Tue Dec 20th, 2011 06:21 pm
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I am almost certain it is in one of Berthelot's volumes.

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Tue Dec 20th, 2011 06:26 pm
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Arnauld's 1612 translation of this text into French will be found here, from page 94 onwards:

http://books.google.com/books?id=XHVTKJSbl2wC&printsec=frontcover&dq=synesius&hl=fr&sa=X&ei=ZeDwTrjkN4aQ8gO82tCjAQ&ved=0CC4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=synesius&f=false

Paul Ferguson
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 Posted: Tue Dec 20th, 2011 06:28 pm
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adammclean wrote:
I am almost certain it is in one of Berthelot's volumes.

Try Volume 1, page 74.

adammclean
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 Posted: Tue Dec 20th, 2011 07:06 pm
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Harry Sheppard has an article on this.

Sheppard, H.J. The Ouroboros and the Unity of Matter in Alchemy: A Study in Origins. Ambix 10 1962. p83-96.

Page 87 has a description, but no translation as such.

Alexander Guthrie Stewart
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 Posted: Tue Dec 20th, 2011 08:04 pm
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If it is any help, I found a web page with this text:

 

Kekulé había soñado con un uróboros, el antiguo símbolo alquimista de los ciclos. En la primera imagen de esta entrada vemos una representación realizada por Theodoros Pelecanos, en el libro Synosius de 1478 (Bibliotheque Nationale, MS. grec 2327, fol. 297), reproducido por S. Klossowski De Rola en Alchemy, The Secret Art (London: Thames & Hudson, 1973). En la iconografía alquímica el color verde de la parte interna se asocia con el principio y el rojo con la consumación.

Which suggests you might find a translation in a book or two by De Rola. 

I can't find any trace of a translation in Lindsay or anything by Sherwood Taylor.  Or anywhere at all. 

 


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