LEAD – Saturn’s Heavy Metal

Lead - Saturn's Heavy MetalLEAD – Saturn’s Heavy Metal

“Grey-haired Saturn, silent as a stone.”   Keats

Of the seven ancient planets Saturn is the outermost, circling in its lonely orbit the border of our solar system, marking the threshold between human consciousness and the infinite unknown spaces beyond. Thus Saturn ruled the planetary pantheon before the more recent discovery of Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, whose influences have brought alien mutations into the human sphere.

The mythological Saturn, whose name was given to this planet at least as far back as the 4th century B.C., was a god of ancient Italy, also identified at an early time with the Greek god Cronus who was the youngest of the Titans, the monstrous children of Sky (Uranus) and Earth (Gaea). Hated by his father, who imprisoned bis children in a cave in the earth, Cronus conspired with his mother Rhea to get revenge. He castrated his father with a sickle and took his place as ruler, but he was in turn as ruthless a tyrant. Warned that his own children would one day dethrone him, he ate them at birth. Only his son Zeus escaped and after a long battle overcame Cronus and the violent chthonic powers of the Titans who were banished to the underworld.

The figure of Cronus, or Saturn, lingers on in the popular imagination, the grim reaper of souls with his scythe, the emaciated ‘bone man’ who is Death. While Jupiter, or Zeus, was a god of the light, Saturn came to embody all of the forces of the dark, and the heaviness of earth.


Lead, the metal of Saturn in the old occult and alchemical traditions, is dense and heavy, soft but brittle and easily broken when stretched. Although lead melts easily in the heat of a candle flame into a silvery liquid, when it hardens this shining lustre soon fades into a grey gloomy gleam. It is the metal most powerfully expressive of the earth-forces, chief ofthe heavy ‘base’ metals. There is no moisture in lead, none ofthe vivifying water which brings the sparkle of life. Lead, instead, embodies the hardness of death.

Pure native lead is extremely rare, most often it is found as the ore lead sulphide, otherwise called lead glance, or galenite. The greatest deposits are located in the northern hemisphere, in North America, Europe, in Spain, Germany and Belgium, Australia and Asia.

Lead sulphide is a dense sombre silver-grey mineral. Here the heaviness of lead has subdued the bright volatile sulphur and imprisoned it in primeval rock. And yet, if you hold a piece of lead in your hand it feels surprisingly soft and warm. As Rudolf Hauschka writes, “if one goes on to make a closer study of it, one comes to know another, most important side of lead which has nothing to do with heaviness: the fire that lies hidden in its depths.”11

Apart from lead sulphide there are many other lead ores such as croconite and wulfenite, bright red and yellow ores which sparkle with the fire within. White lead ore brings’ ‘bidden fire to expression in the way it is shaped… a network of glittering laminae. It looks amazingly like bone structure. Thus lead unites two very strong contrasting forces: rigid heaviness and revivifying inner fire.”

This is seen also in lead’s close relationship with silver; it is always found with silver, and during the smelting process most ofthe lead vaporizes to leave a mass of liquid silver protected only by a thin film of lead.

Again lead’s hidden fire is seen in lead crystal (silicate) which when cut, sparkles with the brilliance of diamonds due to the crystal’ s high capacity to refract and disperse light. While silver salts are light sensitive and used extensively in photography,” lead salts are not changed by light; they change it by uniting it intensely with darkness in their own substance.”2

Lead has been known and used for several thousands of years; by the Egyptians and Assyrians, by the Greeks and Etruscans who used silver smelted from lead ores, and by the Chinese and Romans who made coins from lead. In ancient Italy, lead was used by the Romans for their extensive aqueducts. Lead water pipes evacuated after 2000 years were found to still be in excellent condition, although their earlier wooden pipes or stone channels were far more beneficial to the health, as ‘water wizard’ Viktor Schauberger observed. The emperor Titus was recorded as having some 50,000 slaves toiling for him in the Spanish lead mines.

As it withstands weathering so well, lead was used to build roofs and water tanks in the Middle Ages, and was combined with tin to make the common and very useful alloy known as pewter.

Another more esoteric use of lead is described by Mellie Uyldert in Metal Magic,3 in an old tradition from Holland. On New Year’s eve people would melt lead and pour it into a beaker of cold water, and from the shapes it formed as it solidified they would predict the future for the coming year. Saturn, lead’s planet, has long ruled over the auguries and omens of fate.

Today lead is used on an extensive scale, the shielding properties of the insoluble, stable lead compounds being especially valuable as coatings for cables, vats, tanks, boilers, etc. in the chemical industry. Lead paints protect other metals, and the malleable nature of lead has made it indispensable for the manufacture of sheeting and lead plate. It is used in batteries and accumulators, for arms and munitions (from early on as lead pellets for shotguns), and in the textile, ceramics and pesticide industries.

But recent reports have shown an alarming epidemic of lead poisoning in the United States through industrial contamination, flaking paint and lead laden dust. “Before 1950 American towns were literally painted with lead,” the San Francisco Chronicle (August 23,1991) reports, a poisonous legacy now afflicting millions of people, especially young children. It is well known that ingesting minute quantities regularly over long periods of time leads to chronic lead poisoning with nerve and brain damage. Although now banned from most gasoline, the anti-knock compound lead-tetraethyl, heavily promoted by oil executives in the 1920s despite warnings from the health authorities, has been a major source of lead pollution.

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