Alchemy. Everyone’s heard of the mineral kind; lead into gold. However there are a few more kinds: herbal, mineral, sexual and spiritual, and yes, I’m talking about Western traditions. Since spiritual and sexual alchemy have no equivalent in Skyrim (you don’t really need them to swing a sword), then we’ll leave them for a later post. As far as herbal alchemy goes, there are two methods; the one written in Greer’s Encyclopedia of Natural Magic, and one in a book by Albertus which I can’t find right now (some people lose their socks, I lose my favorite books.) With Greer’s method, you have to calcine the herb in a very hot oven, around the temperature that one of those self-cleaning ovens get to, which means that if you live in an apartment and try this, the fire department is going to be very cross. Therefore, you need to live in a house.
If you live in a house and want to practice this form of alchemy, then you have many things to consider, the first of which is timing. You can practice alchemy without bothering with timing, but you will have more success if you do use timing. All substances in natural magic are ruled by an element, planet, and astrological sign. At certain points of the year, certain times are better to make potion x because the energy conditions are more suited to making that potion. As an example, say you wanted to make a potion of courage. One of the traditional herbs used for courage is borage. Borage is ruled by Jupiter, which governs all things associated with good fortune and growth. Therefore your timing would be ruled by Jupiter. Jupiter’s day is Thursday, so any working would have to be done on a Thursday. Since the phases of the moon also have a bearing on magical energy, that would have to be considered as well. Etheric energies are strongest at the full moon, and when the moon is waxing from new to full, the energies foster growth. So therefore, you have to start the potion on a Thursday in the after the second quarter of the moon.
So therefore, the next Thursday in is in the waxing moon is on December 20th. Since the full moon is on the 28th, you have two Thursdays to start your potion. The planets also rule the hours of the day and night, so if you want to get really anal about timing, you can also add in the hour of Jupiter as well. This, however, requires lots of calculations, and that seems to be too much work, in my opinion.
So if you use Skyrim’s ‘make the potion when you find a table and have the time’ method then you may or may not have success. However, I will say this about Skyrim-style alchemy: judging by the equipment on the table, I’d say that it’s more like the other method of alchemy which requires a lot of laboratory glassware. As soon as I find that damn book again I’ll write up on that.