Artephius (12th c.) Mysterious Hermetic philosopher and alchemist alleged to have lived more than 1,000 years, thanks to the secrets of the Philosopher's Stone. Artephius was among the most respected of medieval alchemists.

His disciples attempted to prove that he was Apollonius of Tyana. Scholars disagree over whether he was an Arab or a Jew; some have identified him with the Arab poet and alchemist, al-Tughrai, who was executed sometime between 1119 and 1122. Adding weight to the Arab argument is the title of his earlier book, Artefeii Arabis liber secretus artis occultae (The Secret Book of the Occult Art of Artefius the Arab). However, all of Artephius’s writings were in Latin, not Arabic.

Artephius wrote three works on alchemy. Besides the one aforementioned, they are Tractate de vita propaganda (Tractate about the prolongation of life), which he claims in the preface to have written at the astonishing age of 1,025; and Liber qui clavis majoris sapientiae dicitur (The Book Called the Key of Major Wisdom), about the Philosopher’s Stone and other subjects.

The “three vases of Artephius” is a divination method attributed to Artephius, combining the magic mirror, hydromancy (divination by water), and oinomancy (divination by wine). According to the method, a wooden table is prepared that is pierced with holes to receive the rays of the sun and the moon. Three vases are placed on it: an earthenware vase containing oil of myrrh; a green earthenware vase containing wine; and a white earthenware vase containing water. Substitutions of copper and glass vases may be made for the second and third vases, respectively. A lighted candle is placed by each vase. The diviner also has three tools: a poplar wand half stripped of its bark; a knife; and a pumpkin root.

According to an anonymous manuscript:

By the earthenware vase the past is known, by the copper vase the present, and by the glass vase the future. He (Artephius) arranges them in yet another fashion; that is to say, in place of the earthenware vase a silver vase full of wine is set, and the copper one is filled with oil, and the glass with water. Then you will see present things in the earthen vase, past things in the copper, and future things in the silver.
. . .

All must be shielded from the sun; and the weather must be very calm, and must have been so far for at least three days. By day you will work in sunny weather, and by night in the moonlight and by the light of the stars. The work must be done in a place far from any noise, and all must be in deep silence. The operator is to be garbed all in white, and his head and face covered with a piece of red silken stuff or fi ne linen, so that nothing may be visible but the eyes. . . .

In the water the shadow of the thing is seen, in the oil the appearance of the person, and in the wine the very thing itself; and there is the end of this invention.



  • Grillot de Givry, Emile. Witchcraft, Magic and Alchemy. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1931.
  • Patai, Raphael. The Jewish Alchemists. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994.


The Encyclopedia of Magic and Alchemy Written byRosemary Ellen Guiley Copyright © 2006 by Visionary Living, Inc.