Nigredo: “Blacker than the Blackest Black”

(Continuing on the theme that “The way out is through“, that depression after a trauma is not something that can be easily denied or medicated away…)


Dream of Ravens


On the mythological level, nigredo signifies the difficulties man has to overcome on his journey through the underworld. Nigredo is sometimes called ‘blacker than the blackest black’. Hercules had to accomplish twelve, almost impossible, tasks. The pilgrim traditionally encounters shadows, monsters, demons. In the ancient mysteries the candidates had to undergo difficult, sometimes painful and even dangerous initiation tests.

Putrefaction is so effective that it destroys the old nature and form of the rotting bodies; it transmutes them into a new state of being to give them a totally new fruit. Everything that has live, dies; everything that is dead putrefies and finds a new life .
(Pernety, 1758)


(Basilius Valentinus, Azoth, Paris, 1659)

The black crow is another symbol for Nigredo. The two birds coming out of the body are the soul and the spirit. One needs to become aware of one’s soul and spirit. The circle emphasizes the idea of union or unification.

In alchemy, one of the symbols of nigredo is the ‘decapitation’, and also the ‘raven’s head’ (caput corvi). Those symbols refer to the dying of the common man, the dying of his inner chaos and doubt because he is unable to find the truth in himself. In one of his works, Hercules cleanses the Augias stables. It is the cleansing of all the impurities in oneself.

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