“Putrefaction is so effective that it destroys the old nature and form of the rotting bodies; it transmutes them into a new state of being to give them a totally new fruit. Everything that has live, dies; everything that is dead putrefies and finds a new life.”Antoine-Joseph Pernety, 1758
Our first alchemy book was Taschen’s “Alchemy and Mysticism”, it was a very long time ago but it defined very well the path we later followed. The whole book is very rich in odd and mysterious pictures and it’s like a treasure chest for those who look for inspiration. We remember how attracted we were by the darkest illustrations which were described as part of an alchemical step called Nigredo.
The dark process initiates the Great Work to find the Philosopher Stone. This journey has been used to illustrate a deep personal and spiritual transmutation.
The ”black work” describes the moment we dive into our inner darkness as a journey of self-discovery The darkest part of this introspective voyage is to find and confront the parts of ourselves we’ve been repressed such as fears, traumas or desires. It is a period of transitions and self transformation where we get rid of things that no longer serving us in order to walk toward a new stage. Every major transformation has its demons but it is demanding to face them so we can progress in our lives.
This process is frequently explained as the “Dark Night of the Soul” just like Juan de la Cruz expressed his spiritual crisis during his journey toward the union with God.
“The dark night of the soul is a stage in personal development when a person undergoes a difficult and significant transition to a deeper perception of life and their place in it.
This enhanced awareness is accompanied by a painful shedding of previous conceptual frameworks such as an identity, relationship, career, habit or belief system that previously allowed them to construct meaning in their life. (…) Some common associated conditions like ‘existential crisis’ and forms of depression are more recognisable.” medium.com
Working with the “prima materia” we frequently hear about the stage of Putrefaction as part of Nigredo. This stage’s objective is to convert the matter into his primordial shape, its essence and then to rebuilt it into a new shape in the next steps.
The Putrefaction or decomposition could be made by fire or water. In this particular case, we find the “wet way” more interesting. Maybe because it finds a lot of similarities with our favourite comic book character : The Swamp Thing.
The swamp creature was born from a dramatic accident in Louisiana bayous. The scientist Alec Holland invented a bio-restorative formula that can solve any nations’ food shortage problems. A big company was not satisfied with the successful results and hired two thugs to sabotage the project by planting a bomb.
The explosion set Alec’s body on fire and he threw himself to the swamps. He died but his body was drenched in the bio-restorative formula, and this affected the plant life of the swamp.
From the amalgam of putrefying human body and growing plants, a new being emerges.
The Swamp Thing reflects the alchemical decomposition and its body-essence suffered a drastic transformation.
He rebirth as a new creature with a new purpose.