The Word Foundation



Vol. 23 AUGUST, 1916. No. 5

Copyright, 1916, by H. W. PERCIVAL.


“Familiars” of Alchemists.

A FAMILIAR or several familiars were often created and used by alchemists to aid in the locating and preparing of simples, or in finding metallic bases or in furthering or attending to the processes of external alchemy.

How FamiIiars Come Into Existence.

In creating a familiar, the alchemist followed the plan upon which his own human elemental was created. Not all alchemists knew of the plan. Such knowledge as they had they applied in the creation of their familiars. The creation by a human of an elemental for a special purpose is mentioned in a subsequent article of this series. The creation by alchemists of familiars will be there covered. In creating the familiar the alchemist gave to it a portion of his own elemental, and by that which the alchemist so gave from himself, as blood, lymph, or other fluid, the familiar ghost could come into physical existence. After it was called into physical existence and activity by the alchemist, it was his obedient servant, subject to his command. It disappeared and appeared at his will, performed missions on which it was sent, rendered the service entrusted to it, in watching alchemical processes, handling alembics, attending to the fires and liquids, and other tasks to which its master had set it. The form of the familiar was often that of an animal, sometimes of a human. Hence came the garbled stories of the black owls, ravens, black dogs and cats, and snakes and bats as companions of alchemists. Some people thereupon got a black cat, and an outfit of strange clothing and sat in a laboratory and were believed to be alchemists.

Familiar Ghosts Spoke Through Inanimate Objects.

An elemental could be attached by an alchemist to an inanimate object, become invisible itself, and cause the object to perform certain work (see The Word, Vol. 23, No. 3). Sometimes the elemental was bound to that object and could not leave it, unless loosed by the alchemist. No one could injure or interfere with the object. It possessed a certain power which, if its effects were seen by others than the alchemist, was believed to be a supernatural power. A brazen or other metallic figure, or a figure of stone could be made to produce sounds, answer questions put to it, and give warnings of approaching dangers.

Speaking figures and speaking heads were created and became oracular. The figures possessed the power of divination and of making sounds. The sounds would be interpreted by the hearer in the language which he spoke, and would answer his questions in the spirit in which they were put. When the alchemist disconnected the elemental from the object, the definite power ceased. Even then the object may still have possessed a magnetic influence of its own, due to past connection with the alchemist and the elemental, and, such an object might, because of its magnetic influence, attract other elemental presences, which could act in various ways through the image. Perhaps there still exist in museums some of these figures.

Duties of an Alchemist to His Familiar.

A familiar could be created by an alchemist not without his taking a responsibility nor without danger to himself. The responsibility was like that of a father for a child. The alchemist must not only educate the familiar into methods and functions, but he must pay for all damage the elemental did. This responsibility had to be carried until the elemental became, in the course of evolution, human, and was endowed with mind. Alchemists who created such familiars were made aware of their responsibility, but they did not always know how long that responsibility was to last. Many rash alchemists, not appreciating their duties to their familiars, and eager to become masters before they could themselves serve, created familiar ghosts which they could not control. In so doing they lost their own lives and had, besides, to carry into future lives a responsibility to and for that which they had created.

Fate of a Ghost Familiar and Its Creator.

Once the elemental had been created, that is, many factors been combined into an elemental personality, it had an existence which could not be destroyed save by the destruction of its creator, the alchemist. With the death of the alchemist, the combinations which made up the elemental personality of the familiar ceased to exist. However, the germ of the elemental, the thought of the alchemist, was not destroyed. When the alchemist came again into a new physical body, he created another elemental personality around the germ of the original thought. In this way the elemental would follow him from life to life, and he must, in each life, carry the responsibility for it and its deeds, until he had either mastered it, educated it, and brought it into the human kingdom, or until he should have through it lost his personal existence for all time. Then the familiar would be diffused into the elements and the germ killed.

(To be continued)