Planets in Alchemy
Commentaries and Glosses on the Opening Verses of Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs’s Shudhūr al-dhahab
The Arabic alchemical poetry collection Shudhūr al-dhahab (“The Splinters of Gold”) by Ibn Arfaʿ Raʾs (fl. 12th and/or 13th c.) has engendered a remarkably rich commentary tradition, both in separate works and in manuscript glosses, written and copied from the 12th/13th to the 20th centuries. Of particular interest to the commentators was the first poem of the collection. It was known as al-Kawkabiyya (“The Planetary Poem”) since the seven classical planets are the principal agents in its two opening verses. After providing a survey of all known commentaries on Shudhūr al-dhahab and of the poetry collection’s manuscripts with glosses on the “planetary” verses, this article analyses their explanations, particularly with regard to the interrelations of astrological and alchemical imagery. It also includes an edition of an alchemical poem of unclear authorship, which was probably composed as an imitation of the first poem of Shudhūr al-dhahab by emulating its references to the planets.
Keywords: Arabic alchemy – Arabic astrology – Arabic manuscripts – commentaries – glosses – alchemical poetry
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