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First Key

To see illustrations: [Key1] [Key1b] [Key1c]

A King on the left side and a Queen on the right standing in an open landscape. The King holds a sceptre in his right hand and the Queen holds a three-blossomed flower in her right hand and a peacock feather fan in her left. In front of the King a wolf or jumps over a triangular crucible placed on a basin of fire. In front of the Queen, and old man with a scythe and crippled leg (a Saturn figure) steps across a fire on which a vessel (Cupel) is being heated.

Mr.Canseliet in French edition, "Les Douze Clefs De la Philosophie", comment the first figure as following:

«The King and the Queen of the Work, that is, the gold and the philosophical silver, spagyricaly designated by the wolf and the great metallic button on the cupel.

This and the crucible in the middle of the flames, indicate clearly the dry way, in which represents a great place the secret fire...»

Albert Poisson in his book Théories & Symboles Des Alchimistes, p 87 says:

«The gold and the purified silver constitute the remote stone matter. The Sulphur is extracted from gold, the Mercury from silver, being the closer matter.»

Report us now to the text of First Key in its more essential parts:

«Everything that is obtained from the mines has its value unless, indeed, it is adulterated.»

«Let the diadem of the King be of pure gold and let the Queen that is united to him in wedlock be chaste and immaculate.»

«Let my friend know that no impure or spotted things useful form our purpose. For there is nothing in their leprous nature capable of advancing the interest of our Art. There is much more likelihood of that which is in itself good being spoiled by that which is impure. Everything that is obtained from mines has its value, unless, indeed, it is adulterated. Adulteration, however, spoils its goodness and its efficacy.»

«As the physician purges and cleanses the inward parts of the body and removes all unhealthy matter by means of his medicines, so our metallic substances must be purified and refined of all foreign matter in order to ensure the success of our task. Therefore, our Masters requires a pure, immaculate body that is untainted with any foreign admixture, which admixture is the leprosy of our metals.»

«Let the diadem of the King be of pure gold and let the Queen that is united to him in wedlock be chaste and immaculate.»

«If you would operate by means of our bodies, take a fierce grey wolf, which though on account of its name it be subject to the sway of warlike Mars, is by birth the offspring of ancient Saturn, and found in the valleys and mountains of the world, where he roams about savage with hunger. Cast to him the body of the King, and when he has devoured it, burn him entirely to ashes in a great fire. By this process the King will be liberate; and when it been performed thrice the Lion has overcome the wolf, and will find nothing more to eat in him. Thus our Body has been rendered fit for first stage of our work.»

«The King travels through six regions in the heavenly firmament, and in the seven he fixes his abode.»

Having in account that the commentator says and also Albert Poisson in reference of the figures of woodcut, everything would take us to conclude that the King represents the gold that will be purified by the Wolf and the Queen the silver also it purified by Saturn on the cupel, as one can see for the metallic button. This purification process of the two noble metals was very usual in that time.

This is a possible interpretation which to the first view, it seems the most appropriate and for a long time we accept it but with reservation.

If you read carefully the text of this first key, you will see that the Master does not make any reference to the purification of the Queen. He refers, just, to the King’s purification and of there our doubt.

Never accept willing the comments of the translator and commentator, (French edition) author of several books about our Art, that we respected to much, because they are not agree with the text and we find very strange that he did not make that repair.

Later, we acquire Basil Valentine’s last published book, "Le Dernier Testament" (The Will and Last Testament). As the title indicates, probably, it will have been one of the last ones, Master’s book and perhaps that, one of the most generous and clear.

In referred book, we confirmed our reservation because the Master describes in clear language some of the keys of his book "The Twelve Keys" that, in the original, as we saw, are described in symbolic language.

Let us see, then, what the Master says on the First Key, in p 215 (French edition):

«The First Key teaches to seek, if you want, your seed in a being or metallic substance that is the gold...

The purification of the gold is made so that it is beaten well slim and very thin, then, molten and melted three times for the antimony, that after the King melted with antimony steady in the bottom, be recast before to be blown with very strong fire and then, purified by Saturn.

Then, you will find the most splendid, more beautiful and highly more brilliant gold that one can want, similar to the clear radiance of the Sun and very pleasant aspect...»

The text is clear and it does not place to any doubts. Only the King and just the King it is purified by the antimony or grey Wolf (the wolf jumping over the crucible) and, then, gone by the Cupel by means of Saturn (the old with a crippled leg with a scythe), having a cupel under with a metallic button of purified gold as shows the illustration. As Key text refers, Saturn it is the seventh city in the Celestial firmament (seventh alchemic planet). The Wolf, represent symbolically the antimony and Saturn the lead.

Now I ask yours: Why in the figure of First Key the King and Queen they are together if in the text the Queen has not any role?

«Let the diadem of the King be of pure gold and let the Queen that is united to him in wedlock be chaste and immaculate.»

Where in part of the text he said that the Queen is united to the King when and how? Nowhere.

Only the King is purified three times (the three flowers) by antimony in a crucible and after by lead in the Cupel as you can read in text.

In the Second Key we will see why.

To see illustrations: [Key1] [Key1b] [Key1c]

Rubellus Petrinus