The Amulet of Cassiel

cassiel

This is an ancient Hebrew amulet bearing the name of Cassiel, one of the major angels of Kabbalah. It is used to drive away one’s enemies. The words on the charm are written with the blood of a bird and then tied to the foot of a dove. The dove is then set to flight, taking one’s enemy with it. Should the bird refuse to fly, it is a sign that one’s enemies won’t depart either.

Traces of this amulet can be found on a house in Amsterdam, known today as ‘the Bloodstained House’ (‘Het Huis met de Bloedvlekken’).

Amstel-216

In the 17th century its facade was covered with Kabbalistic symbols by its owner, Coenraad van Beuningen, a diplomat, former mayor of Amsterdam, and now a half-crazy mystic.

coenraad

The symbols are said to have been drawn in blood, most likely that of the owner, and they are still visible today!

Or did the former diplomat use the blood of a bird, just as the ancient ritual prescribed it?

And who were the dreadful enemies, whom he thus attempted to drive away?

The Golden Sand

Johann Joachim Becher was yet another alchemist, who was very active in the Netherlands in the 17th century. Originally from Germany, he had established his office in Amsterdam, where in 1679 he published his major work, presenting three of his inventions.

Later Becher set up his company in Haarlem, where with the help of his newest inventions attempted to produce gold from sea sand. All attempts failed, however, and Becher quickly became the object of ridicule, so much that even a play was written featuring a fraudulent German alchemist by the name of Goudschalk (meaning ‘gold jester’), who strongly resembled Becher.

‘The Converted Alchemist’ was not an extraordinary play, yet it preserved the attitude quickly forming in the wake of the 18th century, when the alchemists were no longer treated as potential miracle and gold-makers. They had enough time to back up their claims, and having failed to produce gold, they were now being treated with scorn.

The House with Gnomes

‘Huis met de Kabouters’ is home to two gnomes, who are both quite extraordinarily tall – they stand 2 and a half meters!

Local legend says every midnight the ball switches from the hands of one gnome to the other. Others say it happens only on New Year’s Eve, and still others argue it happens only once in a few years, on the 29th of February.

It is unknown why there are gnomes on the facade of this building, but some guess they toss a ball for a reason: the man who commissioned the building was called Van Ballegooijen, and “Ballegooijen” literally means “ball toss”.

The Golden Hand

WLM_-_andrevanb_-_amsterdam,_koggestraat_5_-_detail

Of the many gable stones found in Amsterdam, the Golden Hand stands out, at least as far as our “mystical” pursuits go. In addition to the straightforward symbolism of wealth and material well-being, the hand also has profound alchemical connotations.

As was just mentioned, most citizens used the golden hand to symbolize the wealth being accumulated, just like in the picture above, where the Golden Hand marks a former pakhuis (a Dutch warehouse), where the goods were stored.

Gouden-Hand-2

Others used the hand as a pun on their names. The Hansma’s were a brewery family, who practiced the profession for almost 200 years. The name Hansma, also written as Hantsma, would also explain why they opted for a hand in the production of the gable stone.

It could also be used to signify the ‘golden hands’ of a particular craftsman, or to commemorate your dear ones, as in the example of this next gable stone, where the palm is used for the initials of the family members and the loved ones.

2000hand

But we also shouldn’t forget about Amsterdam’s Alchemists, for whom the golden hand had a very special meaning too.

hand-of-the-mysteries

Johann Isaac Hollandus was a Flemish alchemist of the 16 and 17 centuries. He produced various manuscripts on alchemy, one of which was on the topic of ‘the golden hand’, also known as the Hand of the Philosophers, the Hand of the Mysteries, or the Hand of the Master Mason.

The first printed edition of Hollandus’ “the Philosopher’s Hand” appeared in 1677 in German. Before that, however, and in fact even much later into the 19 and even 20 centuries alchemists continued to hand copy alchemical works when the printing press was long available. It remains somewhat of a puzzle why they did so, but it sure adds another layer to the deep symbolism of the Golden Hand, for it is golden not only because the alchemist strove to transmute lead into gold, but also because the hand was used to preserve the secret knowledge. Perhaps, some even thought that the diligent copying of the manuscript by hand made the secret knowledge more accessible to the one copying it. However, most likely, it had to do with secrecy and the attempt to conceal the secrets of the craft from competitors.

hand.jpg

As put by Hollandus himself: “This is the Hand of the Philosophers with their dear secret signs, with which the old sages united with each other and took secret oaths. Nobody can understand this hand with its secret signs, unless he becomes first a juror of the philosophers, (one who swore loyalty to a philosopher), and has loyally served them in the Art Alchemia.”

And as such the hand holds the keys to divinity, and is used as a secret sign of an alchemist’s oath, but also as an invitation to discover the ‘great secrets.’

 

Silent Crowds On Kalverstraat

 

The plaque on Kalverstraat was placed in 2001 in memory of the Miracle of Amsterdam and Heilige Stede (Holy Place).

Every day the eyes of shoppers are focused on the windows in the main shopping street, Kalverstraat. Once a year, this is not the case during the Silent Procession. Then thousands of eyes do not watch the window of Kalverstraat 87, but the lantern andon the plaque above the storefront. The plaque was placed in 2001 in memory of the Miracle of Amsterdam and Heilige Stede (Holy Place).
On the night of March 15 to 16 is the 671st anniversary of the Miracle of Amsterdam which took place on this address in Kalverstraat. A dying man, bearing the last rites, threw up a wafer, which was thrown into the fire, but the wafer did not burn. The wafer was taken to the Old Church, but it miraculously returned to Kalverstraat. This was repeated once more. The Amsterdam Miracle was born.

Detail of the miracle of the Heilige Stede, the miracle of the undigested wafer – 1505-1518 by Jacob Cornelisz. Oostsanen at Amsterdam Museum

The miracle of the wafer was led to start a chapel, the Chapel of the Heilige Stede. It was inaugurated already in 1347. A stream of pilgrims came, there were two processions annually and the small chapel was continuously expanded and enlarged over time. The wafer continued, according to tradition, preserved its miraculous power. When the chapel fell victim to the city fires of 1421 and 1452, the wafer remained undamaged.
Amsterdam remained a pilgrimage town until 1578 and the Chapel Heilige Stede stood amids the religious life. In that year, however, the old Catholic faith was pushed aside and the city council chose for Protestantism. Monasteries were confiscated, churches were stripped of their saints, altars and decorations. The Chapel Heilige Stede was renamed Nieuwezijds Chapel (New Side Chapel) and continued in use as a Protestant church until 1908. Then the curtain fell. The old building was demolished to the last stone in its place came a new chapel. They only preserved the floor with its old gravestones.
The use for Protestant services and the eventual demolition of the chapel did not mean that the people forgot the Miracle. In 1881, on the initiative of a few individuals, people walked in silence the medieval sacrament processions. Within a few years this initiative had grown into a rapidly growing movement known as the Company of the Silent Procession. Every year in March, the company organizes the Silent Procession with thousands of Catholic pilgrims from the Netherlands to Amsterdam. This Saturday night, March12 to 13, they silently commemorate the Miracle of Amsterdam.

Silent Procession in 2012 with the lantern on Kalverstraat

Source: Silent Crowds On Kalverstraat

The Third Eye

Around 1635 in Amsterdam Rene Descartes wrote about the pineal gland. Located in the brain in the middle of the forehead just above the eyes, Descartes believed this ‘third eye’ to be the ‘principal seat of the soul’.

rene

‘H’ marks the pineal gland. Diagram found in Descartes’ “Treaty of Man”.

Roughly 300 years later, in 1965, Amsterdam medical student and a Provo Bart Huges drilled a small hole in the middle of his forehead. Thus releasing brain pressure, Huges believed this trepanation would ‘enhance brain functionality’ and ‘expand consciousness’ resulting in a ‘permanent high’.
bart

Bart Huges just after his self-trepanation.

Join us to find more about Amsterdam’s mystics, occultists, and esotericists on our Amsterdam Mystic Walk! 

The Philosopher’s Stone on Koningsplein

Not so long ago, sometime in the fall of 2015, an interesting performance took place on Koningsplein, one of the central squares of Amsterdam. A man dressed in what seemed to be a Beetlejuice outfit, with the help of several accomplices, proceeded to draw a geometric symbol right on the pavement, which soon revealed itself to be the geometrical representation of the Philosopher’s Stone. The Alchemist’s attempt to create the elusive substance capable of transmuting base metals into more noble ones, most notably gold, was equalled to a geometer’s riddle of ‘squaring the circle’, a challenge of constructing a square with the same area as a given circle by using only a finite number of steps with compass and straightedge. In 1882 the task was proven impossible. So was the alchemist’s attempt to transmute metals. Or was it? Some alchemists have claimed they achieved success, others continue the pursuit even today. Perhaps, by drawing the symbol of the Philosopher’s Stone this modern alchemist let us know that he too found the secret …

AMSTERDAM’S ALCHEMISTS

UNDER THE SIGN OF SALAMANDER

Magic mushrooms and marijuana are far from being tSalamander_from_The_Story_of_Alchemy_and_the_Beginnings_of_Chemistry (1)he strangest products Amsterdam shops have ever offered. Back in the XVII century instead of mushroom-shaped signs (signifying the location of a smart-shop), or a leaf of weed (which almost all coffee-shops have somewhere in their design), the shops of alchemists were identified by the sign of a salamander, dancing in the fire. Sailors and missionaries rushed to these shops in order to procure alchemically made potions.

ANTIMONY

Iatrochemistry was the name of a subdivision of alchemy, whImage_Parool_blog1ose main preoccupation was medicine. The iatrochemist distilled metals with the purpose of creating a miracle drug, which would cure people of all diseases. Antimony was considered a miracle metal and was extremely popular among the Alchemists of Amsterdam. With the right recipe (and a magical cup, of course) one could make a miracle drink. And even though poisonings were much more frequent than miraculous healings, the metal remained a popular cure throughout the XVII century.

ELIAS THE ARTIST

Of all Amsterdam’s Alchemists of the XVII century (and there were quite a few), only one managed to producHelios-copy-for-websitee gold. Or so he claimed. His name was Johann Friedrich Schweitzer (1625 – 1709). Needless to say, this happened not without the intrusion of the Supernatural, in the face, as it was common those days, of a “Mysterious Stranger“. He was known, to the few Chosen Ones, of course, as Elias the Artist (from Helios – the sun), a legendary alchemist of supreme skill, a semi-god, the Messiah, whose coming would transform the land. On a December night of 1666, Elias the Artist himself paid a visit to Schweitzer’s lab. There, he handed the alchemist the missing ingredient, a tiny bit of the Philosopher’s Stone.

JOHANN RUDOLF GLAUBER

The coming of Elias the Master was also awaited by another prominent alchemist of the XVII century, German-Dutch Johann Rudolf Glauber (1604 – 1670). The scientists remember him even today for his discovery of sodium sulfate, which is called after him “Glauber’s salt“. Elias, however, never showed up. After a severe fall from a carriage in 1666, and in a state of health seriously undermined by all sorts of poisonings known to man Glauber died. He is buried in Westerkerk.

MODERN MAGICIANS

HET LIEVERDJE – “THE LITTLE DARLING”

Het Lieverdje Cor Jaring

Het Lieverdje (with Cor Jaring, author unknown)

“The Little Darling”, or “The Sweetie” is a good-natured rascal, running through Amsterdam, scheming all kinds of treacheries upon his neighbors. The character makes his first literary appearance in a series of magazine installations. In one of them the little No Good reveals he has a Heart of Gold, when he saves a puppy from drowning.

Grootveld and The Sweetie, by Cor Jaring

Robert Jasper Grootveld at the Magical Circle, by Cor Jaring

“The Sweetie” becomes so popular with the public that soon there is a statue of him, unveiled in 1959 on the most bookwormish square of Amstredam, the Spui Square. All went well, until almost exactly 5 years later, strange things began happening on the Spui Square. And it seems like it was the Little Rascal‘s fault again!

THE ANTI-SMOKE MAGICIAN

Robert Jasper Grootveld by Cor Jaring

Robert Jasper Grootveld, by Cor Jaring

After learning that the statue was presented to the city by the prosperous tobacco company, Robert Jasper Grootveld (1932 – 2009), an artist and performer, starts his world-famous Happenings. Grootveld would appear on the Spui Square at midnight, dressed as the Anti-Smoke Magician, which only Grootveld knew what he dressed like. He walked around what he called the Magical Circle, located at the Center of Magic, the circle around the Statue of the boy. Puffing out heavy clouds of smoke, he would chant: “Uche, uche, Klaas Komt!” The first two utterances stand for the cough of the smoker, the other two proclaim the Coming of Klaas. Which Klaas? But Sinter Klaas, of course – the Apocalyptic Santa, who will come to reward the good, and punish the bad!

Modern Graffiti

Modern Graffiti, by Mystic A’dam

What happened to be known as the “Anti-Smoking Campaign” had very little to do with smoking itself. It only saw the tobacco magnate as a symbol for the age of consumerism and its many addictions. Though the campaign lasted only a year, its echo is still quite strong. Quite whimsically, it predicted the tobacco ban that all restaurants and cafes in Amsterdam have now adopted. Also, to this day the iconical “Klaas Komt” tags can be seen in Amsterdam, expressing due praise to the Great Anti-Smoke Magician.