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Rob Tow's "Chymical Marriage" TattooIn the late 1980s I was drawn into the reading of early Renaissance Alchemical manuscripts, by way of exploring the roots and origins of the Scientific Revolution in the time of the 17th century Enlightenment and the period just before - particularly the curious alchemical writings of Isaac Newton. Many of these works are highly illustrated, with coded meanings embedded in detailed line drawings and engravings. The texts are hardly less obscure. Much of this obscurantism had to do with the necessity of avoiding trouble with the Church. One work in particular caught my imagination and interest - "Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz", the third of three influential anonymous Rosicrucian manifestos that fired attention and controversy in the early 17th century. It is an allegory of psychic and spiritual transformation.For several years I meditated on the curious symbolism in this work and others. I scanned numerous illustrations into digital form, and played with arrangements of the symbols, seeking one that spoke to my own Self. Finally, I came upon a pleasant and compact visual arrangement. I printed it out, and went to an excellent tattoo artist (Pat Fish), and she placed it into my skin, where I see it every day, and use its presence as a meditation... where I have used the human body as an edit surface, and strive to make which is inside the same as that which is without.The symbolism works like this:
  • The triangles are the Alchemical symbols for Water and Fire. They also evoke the modern physicist's delta, the symbol for change. They are pointed towards each other, implying movement.
  • The green triangle stands for the Water (my birth sign is Cancer, a water sign), combined with the green of the Celtic Greene Man, the male principle of the forest, and of the living earth.
  • The red triangle stands for Fire, combined with the red of the red blood of the menses, the female principle of flowing generation.
  • The center element is the symbol for Mercury; here denoting the Philosophic Mercury, or Philosopher's Stone - a state of higher consciousness. It is arrived at by the intersection of the Male and Female principles - which in Alchemy was known as the Hermetic Androgyne. It transcends material existence.
  • Inside the circle of the Mercury is an Egyptian "all seeing eye" - evoking the idea of a transcendent consciousness at the core of the Great Work of changing one's Self.
  • The details of the Mercury are drawn to suggest both the horns of a bull - Taurus - and also the image of a snake biting its own tail - the Worm Ororobos. The latter also flirts with the modern symbol for infinity.
  • Playfully, the center element of Mercury plus eye can be partially decomposed into several other symbols; a circle with a dot in the center for the Sun; a circle with a cross for the astrological symbol of the Earth or for the chemical element Antimony; and a cross for the Four Elements, the Four Directions, and the Four Tools - the Wand, the Blade, the Cup, and the Discs.