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Metal Mercury: Folklore & Symbolism

Updated on:


Written by: Dawn Black (Witchipedia)


Reviewed by: Tina Caro

The metal mercury is also called quicksilver and hydrargyrum.

Mercury is the only metal that is liquid at room temperature. It does not become solid until it is cooled to -38.72 degrees Celsius and it becomes a gas at 375 degrees Celsius. When heated with an electrical charge, mercury can be used for lighting.

Mercury is number 80 on the periodic table and its symbol is Hg. Mercury is a very dangerous neuro-toxin, especially in its gaseous state. It was used extensively in the felting process prior to the 1940s and its exposure by hat makers is the origin of the term “mad as a hatter”.


Mercury, with its chemical symbol Hg and atomic number 80, is an extremely hazardous neurotoxin.

In folklore and symbolism, mercury was revered by ancient cultures for its enigmatic seepage from rocks and formation from heated cinnabar, symbolizing the transcendence between liquid and solid states, heaven and earth, and life and death.

The symbol for the metal mercury is sometimes identical to the symbol for the planet Mercury, emphasizing its mystical connection between celestial and earthly realms.

Folklore & Symbolism

The ancients found mercury seeping out of rocks and collecting in pools in grottoes. It could also be obtained by heating cinnabar. It was impressive to see the silver liquid oozing out of the rock.

When nitric acid and mercury are heated together, a red vapor hovers over the material and bright red crystals form below.

This impressive reaction earned mercury a special place in the hearts of alchemists.

Mercury was said to transcend both liquid and solid states and to exist above and below. It symbolized heaven and earth, life and death, etc. It was used to make deadly poisons as well as medicines that were used by the ancients.

Mercury symbolizes the Roman messenger God Mercury and the Greek messenger God Hermes, the guides between worlds.

The symbol for the metal mercury is sometimes identical to the symbol for the planet mercury.

About Morningbird (Witchipedia's Founder)

I am a homesteading hearth witch who grew up along the shores of the Hudson River and has lived among the Great Lakes for the past 20 years. Together with my musical husband and youngest child, I steward a one-acre mini homestead with herb, vegetable and flower gardens, chickens, ducks, geese and rabbits, and areas reserved for native plants and wildlife. 

I have three children; two are grown, and I have been practicing magick alone and with family and friends for over 30 years.

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