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Aelia Laelia Crispis

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From: (Adam McLean)

On reading an article by Steven Rosen recently, I recalled the 'Aelia Laelia Crispis' allegorical inscription (supposed found in Bologna) which some 16th and 17th century alchemists (including Maier) puzzled long over. Has anyone done any work on this? or has any ideas about it? Jung translates the text from the Latin in his 'Mysterium Coniunctionis',

Aelia Laelia Crispis,
Neither man nor woman, nor mongrel, nor maid, nor boy, nor crone, nor chaste, nor whore, nor virtuous, but all.
Carried away neither by hunger, nor by sword, nor by poison, but by all.
Neither in heaven, nor in earth, nor in water, but everywhere is her resting place.

Lucius Agatho Priscius,
Neither husband, nor lover, nor kinsman, neither mourning, nor rejoicing, nor weeping, [raised up] neither mound, nor pyramid, nor tomb, but all.
He knows and knows not [what] he raised up to whom.

This is a tomb that has no body in it.
This is a body that has no tomb round it.
But body and tomb are the same.

Adam McLean


I am certain it will be of little use in terms of a scholarly investigation, but the passage quoted strikes me in much the same fashion as "Thunder Perfect Mind" found in the Nag Hammadi texts. I can post it if you are not familiar with it.



From: Tony Hutchins <>

>Jung translates the text from the Latin in his 'Mysterium Coniunctionis', < I've never heard of the said epitaph. But I enjoyed reading it in the early hours here. It reminded me of existentialism, something I read in Satre or Heidigger), not a person even,...felt good afterwards. This inscription goes further than that though - and becomes a paradoxical riddle, using categories that are mutually exclusive anyway.

"carried away by all", "body and tomb are the same".

I don't think this is as ridiclous as Jung claims. Maybe it is just the early hour but .. well what appears to be the case is not always so. This epitaph is actively seeking out the "opposite phenomenon", perhaps trying to then effect a true conjunction and initiate something in the reader.


I found it hard to believe that Jung considered the Crispus quote either nonsense or utterly cryptic. But that seems to be the case. What is even more astounding is that there is--at least from what I understand--a tangible source for *Aelia Laelia* that is in fact cryptic, and for necessary reasons, and that Jung hits upon it without knowing it by what he selects to quote from Maier and Bernaud.

He notes, for example:

"'Neither mound' etc. is again explained positively by Maier: Aelia is herself the mound, which endures as something firm and immovable. This is a reference to the incorruptibility which the opus sought to achieve. He says the pyramid signifies a 'flame to eternal rememberance,' and this was Aelia herself. She was buried because Lucius 'did everything he had to do in her name.' He takes her place. as it were, just as the *filius philosophorum* takes the place of the maternal prima materia, which till then had been the only arcane substance." (MC, p.62)

The Alchemists are in effect noting the position of alchemy in their society of the time as akin to a time when Christianity was enforced to replace the old pagan religions and cults that persisted, especially in rustic or farming areas. In an old Slavonic tradition, for example, the new religion (Christianity) is compared to the folk ritual of "bringing in summer." A Krackow legend speaks, accordingly, of *Lel* and *Po-Lel* two spirit entities chasing each other around in the field and bringing Summer, and which was refered to thereby as "Flying summer," because gossamer-like.

The early apearance of cobwebs and spider strings were a sign of theapproaching summer, hence the presence of gossamer (spirit sprites) in the field. But Lel and Polel were likened to twins, often compared to Castor and Pollux and insofar as Romans were likely to swear by such demigods the same was true for the gossamer twins refered to as *Fliegender sommer, flugsommer* by which the white threads of spring were called. They were also indicated as *maidensummer* or "Mary's yarn" so that white gossamers were relevant to the virgin spring by which summer is heralded. What must be kept in mind here is that such pagan references were dangerous to voice or demonstrate, or invite punishement by the zealous Christianizers. Hence, the cryptic and encoded form they took. They were hardly nonsense but akin to the cryptic symbolism found among modern day Slavs who embedded the like in their art forms to put off the recent Soviet censor.

The old time (pagan) religion of the ancient Slavonic and the Teutonic peoples were very much involved with tummulus mounds and the old mother cults. As Maier notes, the mounds represented the persistance of the old cults despite Christianization, a parallel that was not lost to the later practice of alchemists. Why Jung should have missed the "gossamer twins" and field dryads, the Slavonic Lels an Po-Lel when he quotes Maier, who was right on the money (whether he knew it or not): "Maier maintains that Aelia and Laelia represent two persons who are united in a single subject, named Crispus. Barnaud calls Aelia 'solar.' presumably a derivation from *helios*, 'sun.' Laelia he interprets as 'lunar.' Crispus (curly-haired), thinks Maier, comes from the curly hairs which are converted into a 'very fine powder.' Maier obviously has in mind the tincture, the arcane substance. Barnaud, on the other hand says that 'our materia' is 'obvoluta intricata,' therefore curly."

But even more in reference to the hair of gossamer dryads Maier notes that they are neither man or woman, likened accordingly to an hermaphrodite (as sponsus and sponsa) and which would correspond to the nature of the gossamer twins. But the "nonsense" encrypted to render it persistant and subversive to Christianization is even more obvious as the Roman *Florealia* which not only etymologically includes "Aelia Laelia" as well as Lel and Po-Lel, but is also a spring festival.

What is celebrated here is akin to the Carnival and Lenten celebration of the "killing of death" (winter). In this case an old lady, hag or witch is used to represent Winter and she is ritually done in by "sawing the old lady in half," in Italy as *segare la vecchia.* This is also celebrated in Switzerland and Swabia as "breaking the neck of the fast" at which time summer is almost in place. The sacrificed old crone is replaced by the gossamer spirit sprites who are in effect the ghosts of the dead and broken in half Old Lady Winter and who announce by their virginal gossamer whiteness that a brand new summer is about to arrive.

The process involved in this would certainly draw the attention of alchemy. But with it would also come the the Christian proscriptions and hence need for encryption.

With this background in mind Aelia Laelia, however it was misconstrued by Jung (although hardly by Maier and Bernaud) is undone as nonsense (all my references to the Florealia and Lel and Po-Lel are drawn from the work of Jacob Grimm).

At another time I would hope to deal with this line by line and draw it further into perspective.

Bernard X. Bovasso

Dear Tony Hutchins,

This is just a quick note to say that I appreciated your reaction to and interpretation of the Aelia Laelia inscription. I believe your impression is correct.

Also, I too find a resonance between Heidegger and alchemical paradox.

Steve Rosen