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An illustration of an athanor from a 16th- or 17th-century alchemy treatise[n 1]

From Arabic التَنُّور(at-tannūr, the baker’s oven).[1] Doublet of tandoor.



athanor (plural athanors)

  1. (historical) A furnace or stove designed and used to maintain uniform heat, primarily used by alchemists. [from late 15th c.]
    Synonym: philosophical furnace
    • 1686, Lazarus Erckern [i.e., Lazarus Ercker], “How Aqua Fortis is to be Distilled in an Iron Jug or Pot”, in John Pettus, transl., Fleta Minor. The Lavvs of Art and Nature, in Knowing, Judging, Assaying, Fining, Refining and Inlarging the Bodies of Confin’d Metals. In Two Parts. [], London: Printed for and sold by Stephen Bateman [], OCLC 895077579, part I, book II (Of Golden Oars), page 167:
      You may also be inſtructed, That when you are diſtilling of Aqua fort. and that the Coals in the Athanor are almoſt gone out (which happens hardly in 10 or 11 hours) then lift up the Cover from the Athanor, make it full again with Coals and cover it, elſe the Fire will go out, and all will be cold, as Oportunity it ſelf will teach thee and make thee to remember.
    • 1703, George Wilson, “The Introduction”, in A Compleat Course of Chymistry. [], 2nd edition, London: Printed for W[illia]m Turner []; and R. Basset [], OCLC 642325418:
      The Furnace call'd an Athanor, was invented to keep a conſtant Heat for Fourteen Days, a Month, Twelve Months, or more, as ſome Chymical Operations require, which may be augmented or decreaſed, by opening or ſhutting the Regiſters, as you pleaſe, and according to the Magnitude of the Tower, requires no Attendance above once in twenty four, fourty eight, or one hundred Hours.
    • 1866, [Andrew Ure], “ATHANOR or ACANOR”, in Henry Watts, A Dictionary of Chemistry and the Allied Branches of Other Sciences. [...] In Five Volumes, volume I (Abichite–Conglomerate), London: Longmans, Green, and Co., OCLC 743399691, page 430:
      The long and tedious operations of the ancient chemists rendered it a desirable requisite, that their fires should be constantly supplied with fuel in proportion to the consumption. The athanor furnace was peculiarly adapted to this purpose.
    • 1886, Éliphas Lévi [pseudonym; Alphonse Louis Constant]; Arthur Edward Waite, “Magical Equilibrium”, in The Mysteries of Magic: A Digest of the Writings of Éliphas Lévi: [], London: George Redway, [], OCLC 25406863, page 81:
      The Magus should not, therefore, live exclusively in his laboratory, amidst his Athanor, his elixirs, and his pantacles. [] A magical operation should invariably be followed by a rest of equal duration and an analoguous diversion, but one contrary in its object.
    • 1972, Israel Regardie, The Tree of Life: A Study in Magic, 1st paperback edition, York Beach, Me.: Samuel Weiser, Inc., published 2000, →ISBN, page 254:
      Without sincere prayer nothing permanent or divine could be accomplished. Hence while the Operation of the Mass is in progress, and the fire in the Athanor becomes more intense, an enthusiastic invocation, either astral or audible, should be recited.
    • 1978, Edward Whittemore, “Nubar Wallenstein”, in Jerusalem Poker, New York, N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, →ISBN; republished New York, N.Y.: Open Road Media, 2013, →ISBN, part 3:
      Incomprehensible additions and deletions made by dazed scribes suffering from poor candlelight, weak from unbalanced diets, given to sudden attacks of vertigo as they struggled through the night with pen and paper in vaulted medieval laboratories, hopelessly trying to record the great doctor's mutterings, his whispered arcane wisdom that rose with the fumes spiraling up from his vast array of pelicans and alembics, crucibles and athanors.




  1. ^ A watercolour from the collection of the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris.


  1. ^ Compare “athanor, n.”, in OED Online  , Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1885; “athanor” (US) / “athanor” (UK) in Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press.

Further readingEdit




athanor m (plural athanors)

  1. athanor