The winged disc
Once upon a time we worshipped beneath this symbol of unconditional love:
The origins of this pattern are discussed here, however it remains one of the most popular designs in history. Today the caduceus inspires logos around the world:
Mercury (Hg) embodies the qualities of rearing snakes in the name hydrargyrum or “water-silver”. Since mercury isn’t really a solid it lacks a crystal structure and technically isn’t a mineral but rather a mineraloid. Embodying both the solid and liquid states, mercury was therefore symbolic of the human heart. With an atomic number of 80 it was often represented by a serpent. Mercury is the only metal for which the alchemical name remains the common name. In refined form, it resembles a mirror.
Above: cinnabar or mercury sulphide (HgS)
In the liquid crystal structure above the snakes are apparent. The primary mercury ore is cinnabar, which when heated readily decomposes leaving behind pure, metallic mercury which sinks to the bottom of the vessel. The richest mercury ores contain up to 2.5 per cent mercury by mass.
Cinnabar generally occurs within volcanic veins and alkaline hot springs. The mineral resembles quartz in symmetry because it exhibits birefringence. This is responsible for the phenomenon of double refraction whereby a ray of light is split by polarisation into two rays taking slightly different paths. Crystals with non-cubic structures are often birefringent.
To produce liquid mercury, crushed cinnabar ore is roasted in rotary furnaces. Pure mercury separates from sulfur in this process and easily evaporates. A condensing column is used to collect the liquid metal, which is most often shipped in iron flasks.
Once mercury is purified, it can dissolve metals such as gold and silver to form amalgams. Iron is an exception, and iron flasks have traditionally been used to trade mercury. Alchemists thought of mercury as the “First Matter” from which all metals were formed. In alchemy, this prima materia was the material otherwise known as the Philosopher’s Stone.
Above: balance brings forth the wings of Isis
On a romantic level, the rearing snakes emerging from the disc (at top) can also represent twin flames—a soul that must split in two in order to return to physicality. This “twin soul” is a person who you feel connected to not just on a physical and emotional level, but also on the spiritual plane. This is another example of birefringence.
When the Stone starts to replicate, it eventually creates the High Heart. The caduceus therefore, symbolises a relationship of different yet complementary wave signatures that combine to form unconditional love.
The heart shape is formed from two fibonacci spirals that can also be drawn as twin snakes facing each other. The serpents of the caduceus represent duality and the eventual unification of opposites. As such, they speak of the balance required to strike harmony—the essence of creation.