Cwicly, the Calomel Claw Orbits the Sun

Ooooh, I get to cite one of my favourite little poems. I discovered this in a used chemistry textbook when I took a chemistry course via correspondence about 22 years ago.

There are two Mercury Chlorides, one is a non-soluble form called calomel that is used in medicines, and the other is a soluble, highly poisonous salt called corrosive sublimate.

Auntie Jane gave baby Nell
What she thought was calomel;
But alas, what baby ate
Was corrosive sublimate.
Not much difference, I confess
One atom (and one baby) less.

I thought this was a scream and memorized it while cooking pasta one night, running up to my husband brandishing the spork I was using to stir the spaghetti, and reciting this poem repeatedly until I got each line memorized.

On to the card from the marvelous Elemental Hexagons deck.

80 – MERCURY – MUTABILITY – QUICKSILVER – Metaphysical World: Hell
HEART – Love, deep affection, caring.
CLAW – Be careful—do not take risks.

(click to enlarge)


That’s right, be careful how you combine your atoms. Deep affection reminds me of warmth and wow, Mercury does orbit closest to the sun, it all ties in.


Here is today’s interesting fact: back in 350 B.C. Aristotle was the first person to refer to mercury as liquid silver. Therefore, the chemical symbol Hg is used for Mercury because it comes from the Latin hydrargyrum which means liquid silver. The term quicksilver comes from the Old English cwic which means living, and I suppose translates to the silver liquid as a living, moving thing.

It is a rather reddish substance, or can be if you turn baby’s extremities pink from too much calomel. The card shows the Brahms Crater on the planet Mercury, and represents sensitivity to one’s environment and hopefully balancing those atoms in chemical equations. The world can be hell without love and a careful avoidance of big, red claws.

It’s not Brahms, but let us hear a rendition of Mercury, the Winged Messenger from Gustav Holst’s The Planets.

I think that covers it all, and cwicly too.




6 thoughts on “Cwicly, the Calomel Claw Orbits the Sun

  1. Ha ha, the poem is a macabre delight! As for the cards, while it may be good to react quickly to a perceived risk, love follows a slower path… 🙂

    • I like that extra interpretation. Yeah, that’s a good one.

      I was too busy yakking about calomel to fashion such insight. Ah dear, the poems of youth.

  2. That poem is a hoot (though cringe-worthy!). Makes me think of other rhymed warnings: “Leaves of three, let them be” (poison oak/ivy) and “Red and black, scratch his back; red and yellow, kill a fellow (coral snake).
    What an interesting group of cards with a direct message about love and affection; the heart can enable and entangle or it can encourage and ease a hurt. It’s all relative… 🙂

    • It’s all relative, like various orbits around the sun.

      I have been having fun with the juxtapositions of the Tea Leaf cards. Considering I picked cards based on colour, some interesting things have popped up. I suppose by now I shouldn’t be surprised but I always find cards surprising.

      I remember a time about 10 to 12 years ago when mixing cards up would have been frowned upon.

        • I used to get all kinds of snarky comments about “proper” use of cards. That morphed into that whole idea of IDS (intensive deck study) as if you wouldn’t learn anything if you didn’t stick to one deck for long periods. That morphed into ridicule of people who collected cards, which is why Adam McLean started his Tarot Collectors Forum.

          Looking back, it wasn’t until people started blogging and using cards the way they wanted that our ideas gained a more general acceptance.

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