ALCHEMY, TALISMAN AND MYSTIQUE IN WEST AFRICA
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Alchemy, as an expression of an 'abstract' and 'popular' culture, practised in the underworlds of professionals (craftsmen, magicians, healers, pharmacists, etc.), has not drawn yet much attention of African scholars. The aim of the paper is to show the importance of alchemy in the history of Africa to the South of the Sahara. Data from written sources and information collected on the mystical knowledge will be analysed to show the practice of alchemy and the techniques of development of the magic formulas. As to the source of the doctrines it is certain that alchemy, being of divine essence, proceeds from the knowledge of the prophets who hold the keys to them and communicate them to their followers. Like their Eastern and Maghrebian colleagues, West African alchemists, while Islamising and Arabising themselves, enriched the practice of alchemy with knowledge coming from the different civilisations. The aim is to identify old and current spiritual perspectives for these magic-syncretistic practices constituting the common heritage of the religious culture.
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