Practical Magic(k)

The Three Alchemical Principles

The Three Alchemical Principles are Sulphur, Mercury and Salt. These three primes work together through the Law of the Triangle, which states that two components combine in order to produce the third. Paracelsus identified Sulfur, Mercury, and Salt (also known as the Tria Prima) as the three bodies in which Aristotle’s four classic elements existed.

SOURCE: KymiaArts.com


This substance represents the individual soul and expansive force. In chemistry and alchemical formulas the symbol of Sulfur was used to describe evaporation and dissolution. Its qualities are flammable and hot as a metaphor of mankind’s aspirations. The symbol itself portrays fire above matter and denotes activity of the soul. The flame of the soul within man rises above the confines of matter. It is this active nature of Sulfur which allows motion to exist.



Mercury is the omnipresent life force that bridges the body and spirit. It represents the classical element of Air and the properties of the intellect. Alchemical Mercury transcends the liquid and solid states, a metaphor for being beyond the dualities of life/death and heaven/earth. The symbol of Mercury is the most inclusive: a crescent moon lies at the top representing a receptacle; the circle is a symbol for infinity; and the cross at its base symbolizes matter. Together, these symbols denote light (crescent moon) shining the infinite nature of God (circle) which is channeled through matter, (cross) the body.





Lastly, Salt symbolizes the physical body and matter through which the soul and its life force works. It is base matter, the element of Earth and Water. Salt is the constrictive force, the opposite of Sulfur, and displays the process of condensation and crystallization in chemistry. This alchemical substance represents matter in a complete form without division. Regarding its symbol, the horizontal line within its infinite circle within represents time, limitation and life within the context of the eternal spirit.

How To Use the Three Principles in Everyday Life

As stated above, the aim of alchemy is both spiritual and physical. The concepts of Sulfur, Mercury and Salt are easily translated into terms of the psyche: Sulfur represents the Freudian Superego, Mercury represents the Freudian Ego, and Salt represents the Freudian Id. Where Sulfur depicts the spiritual life, Mercury portrays the mental. Together, these forces must be in balance in order to promote the health of the body, or Salt principle.

To begin, we have to be conscious of these aspects in ourselves and our environment. Think about what makes you angry and try to identify what it means when your individuality is threatened (Sulfur) or when you are depressed and spiral into negative thinking (Mercury). Consider how these forces interact and affect your physical health (Salt) and the decisions you take in rectifying this balance.

Ask yourself: which principle am I strongest in? How do I increase the essence of the other principles? Take each day at a time and keep track of how your emotions fluctuate, how they influence your habits, and how those habits manifest in the physical world around us. Instead of trying to fix everything at once, take note at which principle needs the most aid, and focus on that for a week. Record your results and slowly you will learn to balance them.

Meditation heals the body and active soul through the principle of Mercury, while finding new and exciting engagements activate the principle of Sulfur in your everyday life. To heal the body, or Salt principle, moderate exercise, yoga, and proper nutrition will go along way in balancing the Tria Prima. This is real, spiritual, mental, and physical alchemy. By separating these three principles in your life, you have begun the journey that alchemists across the ages have dedicated their life and work to.


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