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Dee, John (1527-1608)


John Dee . . .  —  Buy this art print at

An E
nglish mathematician and astrologer, who was adviser to Queen Elizabeth I on occult matters.

In 1555, during the reign of Mary Tudor, Dee was imprisoned briefly under suspicion of using enchantments against the Queen. It seems that Elizabeth I held him in high regard, although Dee himself appeared to have little or no psychic ability. He claimed to be able to communicate with angelic beings, and to be skilled in scrying, but actually employed seers to transcribe alleged angelic communications for him.

Dee was born at Mortlake, at that time a village on the Thames outside London. Young Dee had a retentive memory and early proved an apt pupil. At the age of 15 he went to St. John's College, Cambridge, where he recorded in his diary that he used to spend 18 hours a day studying. His reward came in 1546 when he was appointed Under-Reader of Greek at the newly founded Trinity College, shortly after which he was made a Fellow of Trinity and graduated as a BA at his own college.


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It was while he was still at Cambridge that the first charge of sorcery was leveled against him as a result of an over-realistic stage effect — a mechanical flying beetle — which he created for a production of Aristophanes's Pax. All his life he had a passion for mechanical toys. These early years were spent in travel and study.

John Dee went to the University of Louvain in Belgium in 1547, where he made friends with the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator and brought back to Cambridge two of Mercator's globes, together with newly devised astronomical instruments. In one sense Lee can be said to have been the first Englishman to indulge in industrial espionage, for he realized quite early that the English must increase their knowledge of navigational techniques if they were to expand their empire. Consequently he passed back to England all the information he learned from Mercator and others.


John Dee and Edward Kelly Summoning the Dead, 19th Century . . .  —  Buy this art print at

About this time Dee first took an interest in natural magic, a subject which was then occupying the minds of many Renaissance scholars. A distinction was made both by the scholastic laity and the Church between natural or 'white' magic, and black magic. The view was that the former was a natural and therefore a good force, that it seemed magical because its workings were spiritual and invisible and therefore not normally given to mortals to understand. Black Magic, on the other hand, was a force for evil conjured up by men either for evil purposes or through ignorance and superstition. It was the dividing line between science and the occult which Lee found so fascinating.


Dr. John Dee and his assistant Edward Kelley. . .  —  Buy this art print at

Dee learned much from the orientalist Antonius Gogava, and from Cornelius Agrippa, who had framed the doctrine that the practice of magic was one of the lawful ways by which man could attain to a knowledge of God and Nature. Thus, while teaching logic and mathematics on the continent, Lee was also pioneering in the perilous fields of natural magic, especially in telepathy. The experiments with crystal-gazing were preceded by Dee's preoccupation with his dreams. He made frequent mention of strange dreams in his diaries; similarly he noted the dreams of his wife, for he had married for the second time. His new wife was Jane Fromond, a lady-in-waiting at court.



Dee's interest in crystallomancy was undoubtedly stimulated by his meetings with Renaissance Cabalists and by his genuine and scientific desire to explore the possibilities of spiritualism and telepathy. Dee did not delude himself that he possessed mediumistic talents; he said many times, no doubt with regret, ‘You know I cannot see, nor scry' and he depended entirely on scryers (crystal-gazers). He used a variety of glasses', crystals and special stones for his experiments; two which are alleged to have belonged to him may be seen in the British Museum. But in his choice of scryers Dee was unfortunate. The first, Barnabas Saul, was a rogue who may well have been 'planted' on Dee by his enemies to trap him into indiscretions. The second, Edward Talbott, who on entering Dee's employment changed his name to Kelley, was if anything a bigger rogue, though possibly a more competent, if erratic, scryer. Kelley started life as an apothecary who cherished the idea of finding a formula to manufacture gold, turned to crime and black magic, but on joining Dee was sternly admonished to concentrate on 'conversations' with the angels and not the devils.


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Queen Elizabeth's Magician - John Dee

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Suggested Art prints and Posters:

Frontispiece to "A Little Book of Love" by John Dee
Frontispiece to "A Little Book of Love" by John Dee Giclee Print
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  Dr John Dee and His Assistant Edward Kelley (With
Dr John Dee and His Assistant Edward Kelley (With Giclee Print
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Jack Adams, Astrologer of Clerkenwell London Prepares a Horoscope for a Woman
Jack Adams, Astrologer of Clerkenwell London Prepares a Horoscope for a Woman Giclee Print
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Melancholia Giclee Print
Dόrer, Albrecht
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Suggested Books:

-- Dr. John Dee: Elizabethan Mystic and Astrologer.

-- Enochian Magic: A Practical Manual.

-- Enochian Magic for Beginners: The Original System of Angel Magic.

-- Enochian Tarot (Llewellyn's High Magick).

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-- John Dee: Essential Readings.

-- John Dee: The Limits of the British Empire.

-- John Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance.

-- John Dee's Five Books of Mystery: Original Sourcebook of Enochian Magic.

-- Mathematicall Praeface to the Elements of Geometrie of Euclid of Megara (1570).

-- Private Diary of Dr. John Dee & the Catalogue of His Library of Manuscripts.

-- Secrets of Doctor John Dee: Being His Alchemical, Astrological, Qabalistic & Rosicrucian Arcana: Together with the Trees of the Planets.

-- Talking With Angels: John Dee and the End of Nature.

-- Tarot of Ceremonial Magick: A Pictorial Synthesis of Three Great Pillars of Magick: Enochian, Goetia, Astrology.

-- The Angels' Message to Humanity: Ascension to Divine Union Powerful Enochian Magick (Llewellyn's High Magick Series).

-- The Complete Enochian Dictionary: A Dictionary of the Angelic Language As Revealed to Dr. John Dee and Edward Kelley.

-- The Enochian Experiments of the Golden Dawn (Golden Dawn Studies, Vol. 7).

-- The Enochian Magick of Dr John Dee: The Most Powerful System of Magick in Its Original, Unexpurgated Form.

-- The Life of John Dee (First Impressions Series).

-- The Private Diary of Dr. John Dee.

-- The Truth About the Enochian Tarot (Truth About Series).

-- Three Famous Occultists: Dr. John Dee, Franz Anton Mesmer & Thomas Lake Harris.

-- True & Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits (1659).

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Further info:

-- Angelical Stone.
-- Dr. John Dee.
-- Scrying.
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