Sunday, June 1, 2014

Wizard of Oz analysis - part 7: Alchemy in the movie; Dorothy is being deceived


Alchemy is an influential philosophical tradition whose practitioners have, from antiquity, claimed it to be the precursor to profound powers. Alchemy differs significantly from modern science in its inclusion of Hermetic principles and practices related to mythology, magic, religion, and spirituality. It is recognized as a protoscience that contributed to the development of modern chemistry and medicine. Alchemists developed a structure of basic laboratory techniques, theory, terminology, and experimental method, some of which are still in use today.[a] The main goal of the alchemists was the generation of the philosophers' stone.

The philosophers' stone (Latin: lapis philosophorum) is a legendary substance said to be capable of turning base metals such as lead into gold or silver. It was also sometimes believed to be an elixir of life, useful for rejuvenation and possibly for achieving immortality. The philosophers' stone was the central symbol of the mystical terminology of alchemy, symbolizing perfection at its finest, enlightenment, and heavenly bliss. Efforts to discover the philosophers' stone were known as the Magnum Opus ("Great Work").[b] The Great Work consisted of four stages. Listed in order of completion, these four stages are:

  1. Nigredo, a blackening or melanosis
  2. Albedo, a whitening or leucosis
  3. Citrinitas, a yellowing or xanthosis
  4. Rubedo, a reddening, purpling, or iosis

Top left: When Dorothy lands in Munchkinland after the tornado, she is wearing black shoes. This represents the blackness of the nigredo, implying that Dorothy's own alchemical process has begun. The nigredo is associated with, among other things, chaos. The chaos of Dorothy's nigredo is represented by the tornado, and specifically, by its ending, when her house falls on The Wicked Witch of the East, who dies as a result. Top right: The red of the ruby slippers, while they are on the Wicked Witch of the East's feet, represents the fires of Hell. Above left: The silver worn by the 'Good' Witch represents the second stage of the Great Work, the albedo, which has been referred to by Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist Carl Jung as the "silver or moon condition."[c] Dorothy's albedo thus occurs when she first encounters the Good Witch. Above right: As a result of the Good Witch's magic, the ruby slippers have now been transferred from the Wicked Witch of the East's feet to Dorothy's. The red of the slippers now represents the rubedo, the final stage of the alchemical process. The Good Witch is, in fact, here deceiving Dorothy: She is giving Dorothy the impression that she (Dorothy) is to undergo some kind of process by which she will achieve enlightenment, immortality, and/or heavenly bliss (all of these being associated with the rubedo stage of alchemy), this process being portrayed as a 'shortcut' through the full alchemical process, i.e., one not incorporating the third stage, the citrinitas. But, the citrinitas is the stage in which the chemical wedding, between man and woman, takes place, and the chemical wedding is necessary to obtain the Philosophical Mercury, without which the rubedo cannot be achieved. Thus, the reality is that there is no such shortcut, and, in fact, Dorothy will actually end up in Hell, at an even deeper level than when she first started.

There's a more extensive hidden plot in The Wizard of Oz, besides just the fact that the 'Good' Witch is deceiving Dorothy. In fact, it's the case that most or all of the main characters are working against Dorothy. In this scenario, the Tin Man is working with the Good Witch, who wears a silver crown and jewelry, with tin being similar in color to silver. The Scarecrow and the Wicked Witch of the West are initially working together (note the similarity of their hats, as shown in the above two screencaps), with her setting him on fire later, at her castle, when she discovers that he has turned against her.

Above left: The Scarecrow is only feigning being afraid when he encounters the Witch, while traveling on the road with Dorothy and the Tin Man. Above right: The witch intentionally misses the Scarecrow with the fireball she throws at him in this scene, since she is working with him at this point.

As indicated above, the Wicked Witch actually does set the Scarecrow on fire at her castle, after she somehow discovers he has turned against her.

a. Wikipedia, 'Alchemy'. Web, n.d. URL =
b. Wikipedia, 'Philosopher's stone'. Web, n.d. URL =
c. Jung, C.G. The Collected Works of C.G. Jung, Vol. 12. Princeton University Press, 1968. para. 334.


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