Alchemy in art and entertainment
References to alchemy in art and entertainment are too numerous to list. More titles can be found in the philosopher's stone article.
Additional recommended knowledge
Novels and plays
Many writers lampooned alchemists and used them as the butt of satirical attacks. Two early and well-known examples are
- Geofrey Chaucer, Canon's Yeoman's Tale (ca. 1380). The main character, an alchemist on the way to Canterbury, claims that he will "pave it all of silver and of gold".
- Ben Jonson, The Alchemist (ca 1610). In this five-act play, the characters set up an alchemy workshop to swindle people.
In more recent works, alchemists are generally presented in a more romantic or mystic light, and often little distinction is made between alchemy, magic, and witchcraft:
- The Alchemist (book) (1988) is the name of a novel by Paulo Coelho where the main character meets an alchemist and is taught the principles of alchemy
- Mary Shelley, Frankenstein (1818). Victor Frankenstein uses both alchemy and modern science to create Frankenstein's monster.
- Vladimir Odoevsky, Salamandra (1828).
- Goethe, Faust, Part 2 (1832). Faust's servant Wagner uses alchemy to create a homunculus.
- Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). An alchemist named Melquíades adds to the novel's surreal atmosphere.
- Marguerite Yourcenar, The Abyss (1968). The critically acclaimed historical novel centers around the fictional character Zeno, a Flemish alchemist of the Renaissance era.
- Umberto Eco, Foucault's Pendulum (1988).
- Teresa Edgerton, the Green Lion trilogy: Child of Saturn (1989), The Moon in Hiding (1989) and The Work of the Sun (1990). The heroine is an alchemist's apprentice. (The second trilogy in this setting did not touch on alchemical themes.)
- Richard Garfinkle, Celestial Matters (1996). Deals (unusually) with Chinese Alchemy.
- J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (1997). Features Nicolas Flamel as a character. The whole series is built around the principles of alchemy. Harry Potter is both the base metal being changed into gold and the alchemist producing change.
- Neal Stephenson, The Baroque Cycle (2003–2004). Features real and imaginary alchemists such as Isaac Newton, Fatio de Duillier, and Enoch Root.
- Martin Booth, Doctor Illuminatus: The Alchemist's Son (2003) A children's version of alchemy set in present day.
- Margaret Mahy, Alchemy (2004).
- John Fasman, The Geographer's Library, whose plot revolves around thirteen alchemical artifacts.
- Gregory Keyes, The Age of Unreason series . Features Isaac Newton and de Duillier.
- Cornelia Funke, Dragon Rider (2004). Twigleg the homonculus was created by an alchemist.
- Antal Szerb, "The Pendragon legend" (1934)
- Some of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novels (1983-present) feature a Guild of Alchemists. They are noted for blowing up their own Guild building on a regular basis. They play a particularly important role in Men at Arms (1993).
- In the movie Silence Becomes You (2005), alchemy clearly influences the decisions and lives of the characters.
- In Ian Watson's science fiction novel The Gardens of Delight, an alchemist of the far future, aided by a powerful extraterrestrial being, creates a planet based on Hieronymus Bosch's painting The Garden of Earthly Delights, in which Bosch's alchemical allegory takes on real substance.
- William Shakespeare's The Tempest is the most Alchemically influenced of all his work, steeped as it is in Alchemical imagery (dying Kings and sons, Ariel as the spirit Mercurius etc) with Prospero as the archetypal Magus.
- John Crowley's 'Aegypt' quartet of magic realism novels deal extensively with Dr. Dee, Alchemy, Astrology and Magic.
Film and television
- Documentary "Secrets of the Occult" an examination the history of science versus occult topics. View information at http://www.myspace.com/secretsoftheoccult
- The show Charmed uses the idea of alchemy in its classic sense
- The film Yesterday Was a Lie uses allusions to Jungian alchemy as a philosophical/spiritual discipline.
- In the Star Trek universe, the fictional concepts of the replicator and transporter are frequently used as alchemical plot devices where base raw materials can be rearranged at the molecular level in order to produce objects, devices, foodstuffs, and chemical compounds of virtually any nature.
- In the show Blackadder II, Percy tries to save Edmund's fortune by discovering the secrets of alchemy the very same afternoon.
- The Impatient Alchemist 2002 Argentine film
Modern art and exhibition
Some contemporary artists used alchemical symbols in their work.
- Tryptukos is a parallel between modern physics and alchemy exposed at Liverpool by an unknown artist. The right part of this triptych is an original 14th century engraving from the Naturæ Liber, property of the Alchemic Museum, Kutna Hora, Czech Republic.
- Four Ways of Measuring the Distance Between Alchemy and Contemporary Art explains why alchemy is marginal to current visual art, and why alchemical thinking remains absolutely central. This article has been published in the International Journal for Philosophy of Chemistry.
- Alchemy1977 and Alchemy Gothic jewellery, artwork and lifestyle designs, conceived in England by Alchemy Carta in 1977 and showcased each year in a 'coffee table' catalogue.
Comics, cartoons and video games
- In the Castlevania series, the legendary whip, the Vampire Killer is made with alchemy. In Castlevania: Curse of Darkness, the player can collect various metals and elements to combine to make weapons, armour and potions for use by the player.
- Alchemy is a major theme in the game Haunting Ground. The player can collect medallions, which can be transformed into explosive or toxic materials that can be thrown at the enemy for self defense.
- World of Warcraft, an immersive MMORPG, has a player based trade & profession system including Alchemy and Herbalism, which give the user the ability to make potions that aid or give the user special abilities, such as speed increase, invisibility, restoring health and mana, and stats bonuses. The Alchemy profession also has an operation called Transmute which is used to turn some metals gained from the Mining profession into their next higher neighbors.
- In Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), Anime/manga series by Hiromu Arakawa, alchemists can transform anything within the principle of Equivalent Exchange—the "Law of Nature" as it is referred to in this manga series. The main characters, much like the Western alchemists discussed near the top of this page, are also in search of the Philosopher's Stone. Alchemy is performed using diagrams known as "Transmutation Circles" in this series.
- Chakan: The Forever Man, Sega Genesis and Game Gear video game (1992). An immortal swordsman collects potions around the elemental planes—each with ingredients of four elements. Chakan has the option of mixing any two potions (e.g. fire and air, earth and earth, etc.). A variety of Alchemic solutions result, with effects such as healing Chakan, damaging surrounding demons, enhanced abilities in jumping and strength, as well as granting elemental properties of fire, ice, thunder and lightning to Chakan's two swords.
- Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, Fantastic Four comics (ca. 1962–). Villain Diablo is an alchemist.
- Darklands, PC game (1992). Alchemy features prominently throughout the game.
- Mike Mignola's Hellboy comics (1993–). The character Roger the Homunculus was created by alchemy.
- Aidyn Chronicles: The First Mage video game. Alchemy is featured as a skill.
- Verant Interactive's smash hit computer game Everquest (1998-). Shaman characters may learn and train in this skill.
- Nintendo's Golden Sun video game (2001). Psynergy is a force that threatens the world, which is connected to many displines: Ki, Chi, Ply, and of course, Alchemy.
- Nobuhiro Watsuki, Buso Renkin manga, the title literally means "Arms Alchemy" (2003–2006).
- Kazuki Takahashi, Yu-Gi-Oh! GX anime (2004–). The character Lyman Banner (Daitokuji) is an alchemist who preserved his soul within a homunculus.
- Square Enix's Final Fantasy series features the Alchemist as a job in several games (for example, as a Dresssphere in Final Fantasy X-2).
- MMORPG Final Fantasy XI also has Alchemy as a crafting skill. Alchemy is used to make various potions and powders, as well as items like fireworks. One item that can be used in certain alchemy recipes is the Philosopher's Stone.
- Cristal Chronicles- In this final fantasy game user pick a family job as they start their quest. One of the Jobs is an Alchemist, as an alchemist your family makes you weapon scrolls which are plans to make weapons.
- Bethesda Softworks' The Elder Scrolls series prominently features alchemy as a method of creating various potions for use by the player.
- Konami's Shadow of Destiny is a cinematic "mystery" videogame where a young man named Eike is given the chance to avoid his own unescapablee death by using an odd, yet simplistic arcane device unsing energy scattered around the world by a frail "artificial" being of unknown gender who calls himself "Homonculus". That being suggests to Eike to go back in time using that device and to thward his own death while trying to find the "Philosopher's stone". The stone is eventually discovered and given to an alchemist living in the past, who uses it to either make the elixir of life in an effort to save his dying wife or to create said "Homonculus", who then grants the alchemist a wish... making him "forever young" but taking his memory as toll. That being wanders the earth lost as "Eike" for centuries until his destiny comes full circle and he is given his chance to make or break his fate by making or not making "Homonculus".
- Indiana Jones and the Emperor's Tomb, computer game (2003). A large portion of the game is centered around a castle in Prague formerly owned by an alchemist king.
- Ultima Online computer game (1997). Alchemy is one of the player skills and professions.
- Zork Nemesis video game (1996).
- Secret of Evermore (1995) for the SNES, uses an alchemy combat system where the player mixes ingredients for combat effects, in lieu of typical magic systems.
- RuneScape, the massive online mulitplayer game by Jagex, allows a player to turn items into gold with spells once they have achieved a certain mage level. There is also a quest in which a player creates a homunculus, guiding it in the path of magic or logic.
- Alchemy is a key plot point and aspect of gameplay in the Playstation 2 RPG, Atelier Iris: Eternal Mana.
- In the popular MMORPG Ragnarok Online a playable character class called Alchemist is able to create potions, explosives, simple plant type monsters, and homunculi that fight for them.
- In the video game Haunting Ground (2005), alchemy is a large plot point, and the main character is trapped in a castle owned by powerful alchemists and their creations, whom chase her in order to obtain "the Azoth" in one way or another. The stalkers are all clones of a great alchemist from the Middle Ages, and the whole story revolves around enlightenment and purification, rife with symbolism for alchemy in general and what its practitioners believed.
- In Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident a brief reference is made to alchemy; specifically, that it can be achieved through greater technology.
- In Square Enix's Star Ocean: Till the End of Time, Alchemy is a trade that a character can learn in the shops.
- In The Big O (1999-2003) act 8 Missing Cat, a modern alchemist, Eugene, transmutates humans and animals into chimeras.
- The Atelier Iris games revolve heavily around alchemy, where spirits of nature (Mana) are used to extract elements from the environment, and transmute them into a variety of items.
- The fantasy webcomic Gunnerkrigg Court often makes reference to alchemy and its symbols, and while no actual alchemy is involved, the symbols are often clues to the plot. For instance, the protagonist's name is Antimony. With her parents also named after types of metals, these metals may give an insight in to the characters strength and weakness.
- In the game Devil May Cry, a character named Dante uses the Philosopher's Stone to enter the underworld.
- In the animated film directed by Ross Woodfield Alchemi(S4C,2001),the processes used by Alchemists are likened to that of modern day geneticists and cloning.
- The anime series Buso Renkin also uses the term "alchemy".
- The game Tomb Raider: The Angel of Darkness is based in a serial killer alchemist called Pieter Van Eckhardt who wants give life to the last Nephilim or The Sleeper
- Leonard Cohen's album New Skin for the Old Ceremony features an alchemical diagram on the cover.
- The Smashing Pumpkins, album Machina/The Machines of God (2000). The album concept and design is based on alchemy and its symbols.
- Tool (band), album Lateralus (2001).
- Susumu Hirasawa, album Philosopher's Propeller (賢者のプロペラ, Kenja no Puropera)" (2000).
- Bruce Dickinson, album The Chemical Wedding (1998). The Album's concept and artwork are based on William Blake's works as well as Alchemy and its symbols.
- XTC album Mummer features the song "Human Alchemy" about the early philosophy behind slavery.
- Marilyn Manson's album Holy Wood makes many references to alchemy both in its lyrics and imagery.
- Alchemy, the first of Dire Straits' two live albums
- Home (band), The Alchemist, 1970s progressive rock concept album.
- Yngwie Malmsteen, album Alchemy. (1999)
- The Alchemist, who uses his sampling skill to make "ordinary metals (musics) into gold".
- theLoveCraft, album Alchemy and The Chemist (2006). The track, "forsaken one" is based on the rediscovery of the lead singer's spirtitual roots through Alchemy, after having previously abandoning them because of his education in chemistry.
- Mudvayne's album, The End of All Things to Come, has various references to alchemic theories. See Solve et Coagula, and Mercy, Severity.
- Alesana's album, On Frail Wings of Vanity and Wax includes a song titled Alchemy Sounded Good at the Time.
- Thrice's album, The Alchemy Index focuses its 4 disc album on the four elements: earth, wind, fire, and water.