“What kept you?”
– The Hobbit: an Unexpected Journey
…Not that we were going to let that stop us.
The next two leaves of the book can be taken together and it was these entries more than any others perhaps which gave us inkling that the book may be describing a ritual.
Leaves ‘Three’ and ‘Four’:
Certainly one of the things the Alchemists could seemingly never agree upon was the number of actual operations leading to the successful culmination of their art… Three, Five or Seven were the usual candidates but here in this ‘little book’ we had a possible solution to the conundrum and what’s more, by giving these operations a spatial direction in the round, as it were, they had also been reduced to a whole.
Where else could the Nigredo commence or the Rubedo finish?
Our admiration for our unsteady and elusive visitant grew immeasurably…
“…Great Work…” she had whispered before collapse.
Great Work indeed!
…and we had not even considered the ‘Fourth’ Leaf yet…
We recognised immediately the titles of the Atu from our studies yet it had never, and probably never would have, occurred to us that they could be the overseers of the Alchemical Operations.
As a test to the validity of this arrangement one need only consider the following:
The Black Phase is overseen by Atu XXI, the White Phase by Atu IXX!
No wonder she swooned.
It is almost too perfect to bear.
Dare we turn another leaf?
It would be foolish not too…
That is too much already…
As a summary of the first four leaves it is exquisite.
It leaves us expressionless…