Wormwood, Absinthe & Alchemy


Following on from our discussion about alchemy at the Prague court of Rudoplh II :


Take of cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmegs, zedoary, galangal, long pepper, citron pill, spikenard, lignum aloes, cububs, cardamum, calamus aromaticus, germander, ground pine, mace, white frankincense, tormentil, hermodactyls, the pith of dwarf elder, juniper berries, bay berries, the seeds and flowers of motherwort, the seeds of smallage, the seeds of fennel, seeds of anise, the leaves of sorrel, the leaves of sage, the leaves of felwort, rosemary, marJoram, mints, pennyroyal, stechados, the flowers of elder, the flowers of red roses, the flowers of white roses, of the leaves of scabious, rue, the lesser moonwort, agrimony, centory, fumitory, pimpernel, sow thistle, eyebright, maidenhair, endive, red launders, aloes – of each two ounces, pure amber, the best rhubarb – of each two drams, dried figs, raisins of the sun, stoned dates, sweet almonds, grains of the pine – of each an ounce. Of the best aqua vitae to the quantity of them all, of the best hard sugar a pound, of white honey half a pound. Then add the root of gentian, flowers of rosemary, pepperwort, the root of briony, sow bread, wormwood – of each half an ounce. Now before these are distilled, quench gold being made red hot, oftentimes in the aforesaid water, put therein oriental pearls beaten small an ounce, and then distill it after 24 hours infusion.

This is a very cordial water, good against faintings and infection.

Source: The Art of Distillation by John French Printed by Richard Cotes and are to sold by Thomas Williams at the Bible in Little-Britain without Aldersgate, 1651.

This is basically an alchemist text described as “A Treatise of the Choicest Spagyrical Preparations Performed by Way of Distillation, Being Partly Taken Out of the Most Select Chemical Authors of the Diverse I,anguages and Partly Out of the Author’s Manual Experience together with, The Description of the Chiefest Furnaces and Vessels Used by Ancient and Modern Chemists”

Aqua celestis, or heavenly water, was a medicinal distilled alcoholic beverage, but frequently used by alchemists in their laboratory experiments. It contains the so called “Holy Trinity” prescribed by the new breed of modern day absinthe autocrats at their online kingdoms – fennel, anise and wormwood.

Previously another English alchemist and mathematician Dr. John Dee and fellow alchemist Edward Kelley had spent several eventful years in Bohemia, arriving as early as 1584, and staying with Tadeus Hajek in Prague. It was Hajek that introduced them to Rudolf II, and Kelley went on to work in the royal laboratories.

Four years after the duo arrived in Prague, Jakobus Theodorus Tabernaemontanus set down the principles for Absinthe (in German: wermuth) in his “Neu vollkommen Kräuter-Buch” published in 1588. See: Absinthites seu Absinthiacum vinum. Pages 11-12.

One response to “Wormwood, Absinthe & Alchemy

  1. citron pill, calamus aromaticus (?), juniper, nutmeg, are all in those 19th Century absinthe recipes – I have never heard of rhubarb or crushed oriental pearls being added!
    BTW: Rhubarb leaf is posionous, in case anyone is thinking of trying a bit of alchemy.

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