"The hermetic art" of alchemy in the cultural landscape of the Orthodox Slavs of XVI-XVII century: alchemical analysis of the gravure "Chistota aki devitsa"





alchemistry, "hermetic art", alchemical engraving, Western esotericism


The investigation is intended to identify and comprehend the factors influencing the formation of "hermetic art" of alchemistry within the cultural landscape of orthodox Christians in XVI-XVII centuries. There is not much of a ground for the development of alchemy in Ukraine in the early modern period and not that many facts that there was a practical spread of this knowledge, but we have enough to talk about a certain local alchemical discourse. This implies the consistent solution to the following tasks: a) determination of the main sources of information on alchemistry; b) underlining of the connection of the Western alchemistry with the adoption of this "hermetic art" in Eastern Europe. The author studies the superficial interpretation of the previous sources and combines them into a single complex. The method of historical genesis has been used to determine the way alchemical knowledge came to orthodox Christians and its transformation under the influence of local outlook and intellectual traditions. In this case, the story of the mythical founder of alchemy Hermes Trismegist from Krekhiv Palea and the activity of British alchemist and physician Arthur Dee at the court of Moscow tsar is indicative. Also the main handwritten texts and images which, to our mind, relate to the "hermetic art" of alchemistry, have been analyzed. In particular, the main handwritten source is one of Slavic translations of "Secretum Secretorum" found in Bodlean Library by W. F. Ryan. The main discovery is the hermeneutic reading of the imprint of Pamwo Berynda, "Chistota aki devitsa" of the XVII century. Leontii Monk is considered to be the author of the engraving. This person is known as an anonymous monk, and artist. It is possible that the engraver's publisher got acquainted with the ideas of spiritual alchemy during his stay in Lviv, where loads of pharmacists and alchemists were working. The most famous among them was Andrej Thorosowi. He was a very rich man and had a good library, particularly on hermetic philosophy. To our mind, it consists of the main alchemical symbols which are to demonstrate the transmutation of the human soul. This demonstrates the manifestations of the spiritual alchemy of the early modern era in the cultural environment of Orthodox Slavs in XVI-XVII centuries.

Author Biography

Vitalii Shchepanskyi, National University "Ostroh Academy"

PhD, Research Associate


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How to Cite

Shchepanskyi, V. (2018). "The hermetic art" of alchemy in the cultural landscape of the Orthodox Slavs of XVI-XVII century: alchemical analysis of the gravure "Chistota aki devitsa". Skhid, (2(154), 124–128. https://doi.org/10.21847/1728-9343.2018.2(154).129608