Flamel, Nicholas (c.1330—?) - Witchcraft Hall of Fame

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Flamel, Nicholas (c.1330—?)
Witchcraft Hall of Fame

The French alchemist Nicholas Flamel allegedly found the secret of the Philosopher’s Stone, gaining immortality and wealth. Although some suggest he died in 1418, others claim to have met him long after and for all we know Flamel may be sitting in some café reading this description of himself even now.

Flamel labored as a scribe; one day while shopping at a bookstall, an unusual volume caught his eye and he purchased it for two florins. The gilded manuscript had 21 pages made from bark, not paper or parchment as was customary. It had a copper cover. Every seventh page lacked writing but was inscribed with, respectively:

Image A serpent swallowing rods

Image A serpent crucified on a cross

Image A vast, arid desert

Written on the first leaf in gilded letters was “Abraham the Jew, Prince, Priest, Levite, Astrologer and Philosopher to the Nation of the Jews Scattered by the Wrath of God in the Gaules [France], Salvation D.1,” followed by various curses and imprecations against those who, unauthorized, attempted to use the book. Many believe this manuscript to be an early reference to the system of Abramelin magic found in the grimoire Abramelin and so influential on the work of the Golden Dawn and Aleister Crowley. (See BOOKS: Grimoires.)

Flamel believed the book to have been a confiscated magical text that had ended up on the bookstall; the bookseller offered no further information. According to the text, a full study of Kabalah was required for comprehension.

He recognized the work as an encoded alchemical text but was unable to decipher it. Flamel fell under the book’s spell and was obsessed with it, spending 21 years trying to crack its code to no avail. Finally his wife Perenelle suggested he go to Toledo to consult with the rabbis there. They spent two years in Toledo. When he returned he was able to transmute mercury into silver and gold.

There are two versions (at least!) of his life:

Image Flamel did not create the Elixir of Life but lived to be 116 years old, dying in 1417 and distributing his considerable wealth to various churches and hospitals. His will provided for the construction of 14 hospitals, 7 churches, and 3 chapels. His wealth and extreme longevity led to rumors of his alchemical career.

Image Flamel did discover the Philosopher’s Stone and, together with his beloved Perenelle, still walks the Earth. An eighteenth-century Turkish dervish, for one, described meeting Flamel in Uzbekistan.