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"Then began [for Paracelsus ] a period of wandering which really lasted for the last dozen years of his life. This time was mainly one of learning in many ways of many things. The ground he covered must have been immense, for he visited Colmar, Nurnberg, Appengall, Zurich, Augsburg, Middelheim, and travelled in Prussia, Austria, Hungary, Egypt, Turkey, Russia, Tartary, Italy, the Low Countries and Denmark. In Germany and Hungary he had a bad time, being driven to supply even the bare necessaries of life by odd--any--means, even to availing himself of the credulity of others--casting nativities, telling fortunes, prescribing remedies for animals of the farm such as cows and pigs, and recovering stolen property; such a life indeed as was the lot of a mediæval “tramp.” --Famous Impostors (1910) by Bram Stoker

"The “stomach” of the brain lies outside it in the upper interior parts of the nose and it is through the latter that brain excrement is voided. It is from here, the brain's “stomach”, that Tartar causes insanity, mania and similar disorders, commonly attributed to blood changes." --Paracelsus cited in Paracelsus: An Introduction to Philosophical Medicine in the Era of the Renaissance (1958) by Walter Pagel

"Hence the significant use to which Paracelsus puts the word Tartarus. Greek Mythology tells us of a place beneath Hades — at the uttermost ... Paracelsus goes on to describe the manifold stomachs belonging to all portions of the body, and to show how difficult it is for a person unversed in Occultism to follow his meaning, we may instance the manner in which the great teacher discourses on the " stomach " of the brain." --The Occult Causes of Disease (1911) by Elise Wolfram

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Paracelsus (c. 1493 – 1541) was a medieval physician, botanist, alchemist, astrologer, and general occultist known for books such as Die grosse Wundartznei (1536) and A Book on Nymphs, Sylphs, Pygmies, and Salamanders (1566).

Born Phillip von Hohenheim, he later took up the name Paracelsus, meaning "equal to or greater than Celsus", the Roman encyclopedist from the first century known for his tract on medicine.

Paracelsus rejected the idea that abnormal behaviors were caused by witches, demons, and spirits and suggested that people's mind and behaviors were influenced by the movements of the moon and stars.



Paracelsus was born and raised in the village of Maria Einsiedeln in Switzerland. His father, Wilhelm Bombast von Hohenheim, was a Swabian chemist and physician; his mother was Swiss. As a youth he worked in nearby mines as an analyst. At the age of 16 he started studying medicine at the University of Basel, later moving to Vienna. He gained his doctorate degree from the University of Ferrara.

His wanderings as an itinerant physician and sometime journeyman miner took him through Germany, France, Spain, Hungary, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden and Russia.

Paracelsus rejected Gnostic traditions, but kept much of the Hermetic, neoplatonic, and Pythagorean philosophies from Ficino and Pico della Mirandola; however, Hermetical science had so much Aristotelian theory that his rejection of Gnosticism was practically meaningless. In particular, Paracelsus rejected the magic theories of Agrippa and Flamel; Paracelsus did not think of himself as a magician and scorned those who did, though he was a practicing astrologer, as were most, if not all of the university-trained physicians working at this time in Europe. Astrology was a very important part of Paracelsus' medicine. In his Archidoxes of Magic Paracelsus devoted several sections to astrological talismans for curing disease, providing talismans for various maladies as well as talismans for each sign of the Zodiac. He also invented an alphabet called the Alphabet of the Magi, for engraving angelic names upon talismans.

Paracelsus pioneered the use of chemicals and minerals in medicine. He used the name "zink" for the element zinc in about 1526, based on the sharp pointed appearance of its crystals after smelting and the old German word "zinke" for pointed. He used experimentation in learning about the human body.

Paracelsus gained a reputation for being arrogant, and soon garnered the anger of other physicians in Europe. He held the chair of medicine at the University of Basel for less than a year; while there his colleagues became angered by allegations that he had publicly burned traditional medical books. He was forced from the city after having legal trouble over a physician's fee he sued to collect.

He then wandered Europe, Africa and Asia Minor, in the pursuit of hidden knowledge. He revised old manuscripts and wrote new ones, but had trouble finding publishers. In 1536, his Die grosse Wundartznei (The Great Surgery Book) was published and enabled him to regain fame. Paracelsus' life is connected to the birth of Lutheranism, and his opinions on the nature of the universe are better understood within the context of the religious ideas circulating during his lifetime.

He died, aged 48, of natural causes and his remains were buried according to his wishes in the cemetery at the church of St Sebastian in Salzburg. His remains are now located in a tomb in the porch of the church.

After his death, the movement of Paracelsianism was seized upon by many wishing to subvert the traditional Galenic physics, and thus did his therapies become more widely known and used.

His motto was "alterius non sit qui suus esse potest" which means "let no man that can belong to himself be of another"


Paracelsianism was a medical movement based on the theories and therapies of Paracelsus. It was prominent in late-16th and 17th century Europe and represented one of the most comprehensive alternatives to the traditional system of therapeutics derived from Galenic physiology. Based around the principle of maintaining harmony between the microcosm, Man; and macrocosm, Nature; Paracelsianism fell rapidly into decline in the later 17th century, but left its mark on medical practices; it was responsible for the widespread introduction of mineral therapies and several other formerly esoteric techniques.


Published during his lifetime

  • Die große Wundarzney Ulm, 1536 (Hans Varnier); Augsburg (Haynrich Stayner (=Steyner)), 1536; Frankfurt/ M. (Georg Raben/ Weygand Hanen), 1536.
  • Vom Holz Guaico, 1529.
  • Vonn dem Bad Pfeffers in Oberschwytz gelegen, 1535.
  • Prognostications, 1536.

Posthumous Publications

  • Wundt unnd Leibartznei. Frankfurt/ M., 1549 (Christian Egenolff); 1555 (Christian Egenolff); 1561 (Chr. Egenolff Erben).
  • Von der Wundartzney: Ph. Theophrasti von Hohenheim, beyder Artzney Doctoris, 4 Bücher. (Peter Perna), 1577.
  • Von den Krankheiten so die Vernunfft Berauben. Basel, 1567.
  • Kleine Wundartzney. Basel (Peter Perna), 1579.
  • Opus Chirurgicum, Bodenstein, Basel, 1581.
  • Huser quart edition (medicinal and philosophical treatises), Basel, 1589.
  • Chirurgical works (Huser), Basel, 1591 und 1605 (Zetzner).
  • Straßburg edition (medicinal and philosophical treatises), 1603.
  • Kleine Wund-Artzney. Straßburg (Ledertz) 1608.
  • Opera omnia medico-chemico-chirurgica, Genevae, Vol3, 1658.
  • Philosophia magna, tractus aliquot, Cöln, 1567.
  • Philosophiae et Medicinae utriusque compendium, Basel, 1568.
  • Liber de Nymphis, sylphis, pygmaeis et salamandris et de caeteris spiritibus

See also

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