I know very little about alchemy, I'm going to say that out front. If you learn anything from this we will have learned it together.
My weekly drawing of Tarot revealed a week that had very little difficulty in it. I was then free to ask the deck different questions, not centered on my immediate experiences as I went through the week. Through my daily divination it was asked and then revealed that learning alchemy would make me a more effective magician, so that is what I am going to set out to do.
I have this vague notion that the primal elements air, water, fire, and earth, figure into alchemy somehow so I asked for a secret of the alchemical element of water to be revealed to me. I was rewarded with Queen of Pentacles.
My analysis of this card in reference to my question is that it is the connection of water to earth and that water is the key to earth's fertility. Water as it is connected to Earth represents intelligence, honesty, and grace, but also emotional moodiness. It is ever changing and cyclical.
Last weekend I caught the lecture by Gary Lachman titled 'The Hermetic Jung'. In his lecture he referenced a book I happened to have picked up at a used bookstore a number of months ago, Aion. Armed with the above largely inscrutable analysis, I flipped through Aion that day over lunch and saw a connection to water where Jung writes about the alchemical symbolism of the fish. The next morning I asked the deck 'What is the secret of the alchemical symbol of the fish?' And was rewarded with the Six of Cups.
This is an interesting and infuriating card for me. Since I began drawing cards every day this past winter solstice, the Six of Cups comes up again and again, it is what I have begun to refer to as a 'stacking improbability'. It is highly improbable that the same care would come up, sometimes three times in a single week out of a seventy eight card deck, well shuffled and cut multiple times. I'm taking it as a message.
Since this card comes up repeatedly I did a deep analysis on its meaning, which includes a sense of renewal and regeneration, a process of healing, and a surrender to faith. This is the faith you had as a child. A joy in the act of pure mental creation. It also represents the deep past, as in time depth, memories not my own but possibly from prehistorical incarnations. The Kia draws you back as far as human memory will allow and then resonates. The water leads to the fish as an animate stone and the attractor of primal chaos. The symbol of the fish is my gateway to attracting pure chaos, of touching the ocean of the spirit world. I should look to the stories of the memegweshi because they understand water. I should look to the underwater panther.
Armed with this knowledge from my deviations, I looked deeper into what Jung had to say about the fish, to see if there were any more correlations.
In Aion by C. Jung, particularly the chapter on the Alchemical Symbolism of the Fish, the alchemist is painted as a type of sailor or fisherman. This wizardly fisherman is using magical tech to draw the fish to the surface towards his boat. The fish are at once fish and they are at once made of stone, and the tech our wizard is using is a type of magnet. To quote Aion:
"The magnet of the wise which is to draw the wonder working fish to the surface can, our text says, be taught. The content of this secret teaching is the real arcanum of alchemy: the discovery or production of the prima materia. The doctrine or theory is personified - or rather - concretized - as 'Mercurius non vulgi', the philosophical Mercury."
The Magnet attracts our stone fish have a core of quicksilver, which is what moves them through the water. The sea our wizard floats on is the Prima Materia, the water of life. In relation to the cards, this can also be the past viewed as a body of water. We always float on top of it but are able to dive down into its depths for certain periods of time, bringing back treasures.
The Magnet we are using attracts the quicksilver at the core of our shoal of stone fish. This quicksilver is, as referenced in Aion, called the Magnesia. Magnesia is the root-component of the philosopher's stone and is "synonymous with chaos".
The Magnesia make the stones animate. In Ojibwe language and culture, and by extension, most Algonquian American Indian culture, there is a type of gender to the language that indicates wether or not the object being referred to has a spirit. Stones are always referred to as animate. This leads us back in time-depth to a time when the concepts that inform alchemy and those that inform the Algonquian world view are from the same fountain. Our fish, although made of stone, move through the ocean created from magical thought, deed, and text, and are examples of lapis animalis, living things that are attracted to the magnet of our wizard fisherman who wields in his hand an encapsulation of primal chaos, the fish magnet. This object can be viewed as a sphere filled with a type of heavenly dew. The magnet can also be taught, it is the alchemist's doctrine, a living text that feeds off of the influence between itself and the quicksilver inside our arcane stone shoal. This interaction is the path to the lapis philosophorum, the fabled Philosopher's Stone or the source of all knowledge.
As is the prerogative of alchemy, the symbols are often confused, which can explain confounding analysis when asking the oracle of tarot to comment on it or reveal a secret to the seeker. Again from Aion:
"Sometimes the arcane substance is magnesia, sometimes the water, sometimes the magnet, sometimes the fish; and yet they all mean the prima materia from which the miraculous birth ensues."
The magnet is the doctrine, the grimoire, the spells and workflow of the sorcerer, but it is also his consciousness. Jung uses the phrase 'thesaurus of knowledge', which is at once a dictionary of objects and a list of correspondences to other instantiations of that object. This is concisely described by Jung as
"the treasure hidden in the prima materia... the 'alchemical' procedure takes place within and without."
To return to the analysis of the cards, we sit on top of the ocean of the past, holding a clear sphere that holds this magical substance that is drawing a shoal of animate stones to the surface for us to use, to add to our doctrine, our alchemical procedures. The Queen of Pentacles are the waves, the ever changing winds of the present that stir up the placid ocean. The Six of Cups is telling saying that we should be brave and meet this coming shoal half way by diving down into our past, increasing the connection between our magnet and their spirit. This is a reference to experimentation.
Again from Aion:
"we cannot be resolved of any doubt except by experiment, and there is no better way to make it than on ourselves."
The past is a primal element in magical work and amazing things can come from attracting its secrets to the surface. By diving down, through experimenting with our magical tech and our worldview, we are able to fill our boat with lapis animalis, our stone fish filled with spirits, and take this haul to shore to be traded for new secrets in the alchemical fish market.