What exactly is spagyrics?
Renaissance-era physician Paracelsus made up the word spagyric—pronounced spa-jeer-rick—from two root words that literally mean separate and recombine. Our work comes from a tradition of alchemy, but spagyrics specifically applies to plants and healing work. Homeopathy is a complementary but completely different tradition.
What goes into making your formulas?
We have a lab where we take a plant completely apart and extract the minerals, essential oils, or some fermentation product. Then we purify everything separately and put it all back together again. Refining essences and formulas that treat symptoms on the physical level is a one- to two-month process. Our Spiritualized Essences, which include balancing tonics, take seven or eight months. Our highest-level extraction, Magisteries, focus on the soul level. Refining those is a yearlong process.
How does someone use one of your products?
If you have a purely physical ailment—say, you catch a cold—you can take some echinacea, a simple physical remedy. But if someone is constantly catching colds no matter how much echinacea he takes, you might give him a long-term tonic therapy like astragalus or codonopsis (similar to ginseng). One way to take our spagyrics is right under the tongue, which can be intense; but it’s just a few drops so it’s not too bad, and the taste is the first part of what the plants are communicating to your body. The other, more traditional way to take spagyrics is in wine, which also carries a life force from its process of fermentation and so doesn’t kill the spagyric. We have played around with other live liquids, and they seem to be OK too: kefir, yogurt, kombucha. Those can be better options for kids or pets.
How did you get started with this work?
My cofounder and husband, Paul Bartscher, comes from a background of hermeticism, kabbalah, and the Western mystery tradition. I grew up with hippie, nature-oriented parents and come from a plant healing background. Alchemy brings that all together.
How has your work changed since you first began?
When we opened our practice 22 years ago, we were only making seven magisteries, one for each classical planet—the moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, Jupiter, and the sun—with a focus on using spagyrics for meditation. But it was hard at that point to get people to think about taking echinacea for a cold instead of going to the doctor for antibiotics. So we started working with more familiar herbs—goldenseal, nettles—that people already knew.
Now our higher-level products are our focus and what our customers tend to ask for more often. Ideas have changed about herbs only being useful for physical conditions. We also work with practitioners—naturopaths, chiropractors—and we do a lot of wholesale to them.
For the past five years, we’ve also run a school where we teach spagyrics as a healing modality and lab practice. We’ve received so much from our teachers, and that needs to be received and continued by others. We won’t be here forever.
Micah Nilsson is the cofounder of Al-Kemi Spagyrics located on the southern Oregon coast. She studied with alchemists including Jean Dubuis. She may be reached online at Al-Kemi.com
Originally published as "Ask a Practioner: So What’s It Really Like To Be A Spagyric Alchemist?" in the January/February 2014 issue of Spirituality and Health magazine.