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Things that are on my Christmas list that probably aren’t on yours


Caput mortuum. It’s a pigment. An earth pigment. An iron oxide, to be exact. It looks like a dull brown, but mixed with white it becomes a lovely velvety purple. Very popular for painting pope robes.

The term means “dead head” and it’s derived from alchemy. It refers to (presumably worthless) stuff left in the bottom of your alchemical vessel after the more important things had…evaporated off. Or whatever they do. My alchemy is rusty.

The original pigment may indeed have been a byproduct of alchemy. All the early artificial pigments were.

Because alchemy is full of flowery metaphors, caput mortuum is also symbolic of your mortal remains after the soul has floated away. Its alchemical symbol is therefore a stylized skull, often just three dots in a circle.

Just to confuse matters, the pigment mummy was sometimes sold under the name caput mortuum, though they aren’t similar colors at all. That is an even more interesting paint, but it turns out I already wrote a post about it years ago.

I’m thinking of making paint again, but not really caput mortuum. I love the name, but I’m not really into purples.


Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: December 6, 2017, 10:58 pm

My soul will not float away.

I am a Frisbitarian – when I die, my soul goes up on the roof and you can’t get it down.

Comment from Armybrat
Time: December 7, 2017, 12:42 am

Durnedyankee- hubby is a veteran, entitled to free burial in any veteran cemetery. I can be buried with him,but we gotta pay for me. Hubby LOVES to fish. I have proposed that we just be cremated, have our ashes mixed, be dumped in the ocean and let him feed the fishes one last time. I wonder what color we would be as we are mixed with ocean water…

Comment from Uncle Al
Time: December 7, 2017, 12:50 am

@Durnedyankee – Your soul will hit the roof because your soul is good. Evil souls, such as those belonging to people who make comments about putting razor blades on Frisbees, skid along the pavement and come to rest dead (!) center under a large hippie van. That’s only natural because the strongest force in the universe, even stronger than the repulsive force between Donald Trump and Joe Scarborough, is Frisbee Disc Truck Suck.

Comment from Ripley
Time: December 7, 2017, 2:58 am

So THAT’S what that emoji means…

Comment from Wolfus Aurelius
Time: December 7, 2017, 2:45 pm

This is why I like Latin. Caput mortuum just sounds soooo much cooler than “dead head,” or “head of death,” or whatever. In nomine patris, et filii, et Spiritu Sancti has a neat sonorous quality that the English doesn’t.

If you want to hear plain ol’ Vulgar Latin used in a creepy situation, watch Dragonslayer from 1982 or so. The dragon is really impressive too.

Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: December 7, 2017, 7:30 pm

Latin is cool, it’s the British aristocrat accent of languages.

Comment from Nina
Time: December 7, 2017, 11:50 pm

Is it the ultra violet purple that is Pantone’s color of the year for 2018? 😜

Comment from peacelovewoodstock
Time: December 8, 2017, 12:01 am

Hey I’m a caput mortuum, saw them about 75 times between 1971 and 1995.

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