Transmutation: Gold, Gods, Mythology, and Gene Editing

Through the ages some alchemists had the goal of transmutation of non-precious metals into gold.  Many worked on additional hypotheses and associated experiments, thus much of their work provided the basis of our current scientific methodology.

In mythology, several deities take other forms, transmute, temporarily or permanently. I often wonder if mythological figures and stories are actually embellished tellings of real people and events – we’ll get there in a moment.  Many deities are told to also have the ability to change, transmute other unfortunate beings into something else – Medusa turned men to stone when their gaze fell upon her, Zeus turned Daphne to the laurel bush to help her avoid the pursuit of Apollo (who the heck thinks being a shrub is better?).

I am going to make a massive leap from alchemy to CRISPR gene editing technology… or is it such a big leap? Both were born of a desire to alter something into a “better” product. Both were worked on for an inordinate amount of time, for their relative passage of discoveries during that time. Both saw other significant advancements occur as unintended discoveries. Both were and are embroiled in controversy and discussions of ethics, necessarily so.

CRISPR Cas-9 is a beautifully simplistic gene editing process. CRISPR = Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats in the DNA.

The Cas-9 enzymes are the “scissors” and RNA functions as the guide for where we want the “scissors” to “snip out” the unwanted pathogenic DNA and replace with the CRISPR sequence.  This is a simplified explanation.

If your “CRISPR” interest is piqued, I included what I thought to be solid explanatory short and interesting links at the end of this blog post.

Let’s have some fun postulating for a moment. What if Medusa knew how to instantaneously turn men to stone by having a way to summarily change portions of the hapless man’s DNA through a deified CRISPR process, causing the victim to be petrified? 

When one considers how far we have come in our understanding in science, and what we potentially lost during the dark ages, is it really that far-fetched? A Mystical Musing for you to ponder.

Another example, we have Hera, jealous and vengeful wife of Zeus, who turned Callisto into a bear out of revenge for having borne Arcas, an illegitimate son of Zeus. Arcas, hunting, came upon his bear mother, notched his arrow to kill her, her identity unbeknownst to him. Zeus stopped Arcas then, according to myth, transmuted Arcas to a bear form and sent mother and son into the heavens to be the constellations Ursa Major (Callisto) and Ursa Minor (Arcas).

Humans to bears, hmmmm, maybe? Even I will admit that is a bit far fetched. Bears to constellations? Out of the ballpark… scientifically, we know such is not possible. It does make for a  great story.

Then we have the myth and legend of werewolves, which have been postulated upon for centuries, and as it turns out, millennia, based on my research. Of course, Zeus was also in the middle of this self-serving treachery, not at all a nice guy. During one of the court feasts held by Arcas’ grandfather, King Lycaon – see the connection to Lycanthrope, Arcas was placed upon the burning altar as a sacrifice to the gods. Not happy about this situation, legend has it Arcas made a smart ass remark to Zeus about rescuing him. Zeus, in his beautiful, vengeful rage, rescued Arcas then turned his anger onto King Lycaon, transmuting the King, who was only trying to please the gods by offering up a valuable sacrifice, into the 1st werewolf. 

Is it possible that the werewolves of legend for thousands of years are related to an ability for a human to change up their DNA/genes, to temporarily make recessive characteristics into dominant characteristics or something along those lines? Considering what we know now about the ease of CRISPR technology and gene editing, maybe not so far out there in believability, any more.

Either way, it is fun to hypothesize. I hope you are enjoying musing with me – postulating, amalgamating the ancient and the current.  

Gene editing by the Ancients, the gods, is especially fun for me to ponder as I work on the “Of Alchemy & Angels” series, I hope it is for you, as well.

Of note, werewolves do not make an appearance in the series “Of Alchemy & Angels.”

Wordplay side note – “palindrome”, which is referenced as “Palindromic” in the CRISPR acronym, is a fun beast in of themselves.  A “palindrome” is a word spelled the same forward or backward, such as “RACECAR”. Mother Nature has given us palindromes in DNA sequences.

If you have something you would like to see considered for “Mystical Musings”, please drop me an email via my website at .

Elementally Yours –
Danielle Ancona

Explanatory, short & sweet links, worth a gander:

New research could fine-tune the gene scissors CRISPR:

TED Talks Videos


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