HAND OF THE PHILOSOPHER
Those who have not this Hand and do not understand its secret signs... they do not possess the philosophers' treasure.
The Hand of the Philosophers is an alchemical symbol first appearing in Isaac Holland’s Die Hand der Philosophen, 15th century.
Each feature of the hand corresponds to a quality, element and/or ingredient of the alchemical process.
In this Hand is locked the secret of the philosophers, that is, of the seed and the earth.
Thumb. First look at the thumb on which a crown stands below the quarter moon. By this is meant saltpetre. For just as the thumb vigorously finishes off the hand, saltpetre does in the alchemical art, for he is the King and Lord of all salts. He is the mill through which everything must be ground.
Index finger. The second sign and secret of the philosophers is the star with six points, standing above the forefinger next to the thumb. It is compared to Roman Vitriol, because no work that is to be perfect can be completed without vitriol, for it is the greatest and strongest salt after saltpetre.
Middle finger. The third sign is the Sun standing above the middle finger. By it, Sal ammoniac is designated, for, apart from saltpetre and vitriol, nothing more powerful is found.
Ring finger. The fourth sign of the philosophers is the lantern standing above the fourth finger of the Hand, whereby alum is indicated. For without alum, no perfect work can be accomplished, because it is required for the red and the white. It has an astonishing nature and a most subtle spirit.
Little finger. The fifth secret and sign is the key of the philosophers, standing above the little finger. Simultaneously, it is the lock of the Hand. That is why the key is standing on it. By it, common salt is designated, for salt is the key in this art.
Middle of the hand. The sixth secret sign is the fish. It stands in the middle of the Hand and signifies Mercury, for without Mercury or the fish nothing can be done. He is the beginning, the middle and the end, and he is the priest who must marry everything. He is the male and the seed; he is the water out of which all metals have originated; and he is the principal factor of all arts, and the greatest of all secrets.
Palm. The seventh sign of the philosophers is fire. By this Sulphur is indicated. It is the earth and beginning of all metals. It is the female who brings forth the fruit. For no seed can grow unless it be first thrown into fertile soil. Then beautiful fruit will come from it. Thus it also happens that when a pure Mercury is joined to a pure Sulphur, this brings forth pure fruit. Thus, they are man and woman, father and mother, fire and water, seed and earth.