There is something enduringly romantic about the image of the alchemist in their laboratory. It is no wonder that J.K.Rowling said “I’ve never wanted to be a witch, but an alchemist, now that’s a different matter.” Alchemy emerged into recorded history in Alexandria, in the West, and in China and India, in the East, at about the same time: the fourth to the third century BC. No one is sure whether this happened independently, or whether it first arose in one part of the world and was then carried by travellers to the other, which would certainly have been possible, since the Silk Route was already in operation.
By the sixteenth century alchemy was flourishing in England, and although most alchemists were male, one of the most unusual and talented women in England’s history – Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke – maintained an alchemical laboratory, assisted by Sir Walter Raleigh’s half-brother Adrian Gilbert, who also created an elaborate magical garden in the grounds.
Mary Sidney is remarkable for being one of the few women whose names appear in the history of alchemy in England and, indeed, the world. She was also the first English woman to achieve a significant literary reputation.
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And here's a clip from Monty Python about witches. Just because.