Doctor Dee and His Mirror of Magick

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The greatest magician of all time was undoubtedly the Englishman John Dee. His life and his works are wrapped in shrouds of mystery, surrounded by all sorts of rumours. In November 1582, an angel appeared in his laboratory. Uriel, the Spirit of Light, carried a black mirror with him, that would send Doctor Dee on a strange mission to Prague...

Magic, Murder, and Secret Societies in Elizabethan England

As a man of science, Doctor Dee wanted to find all out all about the powers and the possibilities of the black mirror. We now know of the hypnotic effects of looking into a crystal ball of shew stone, and it is possible that the assistant of Doctor Dee, the seer Edward Kelley, driven by his instincts and lowest desires, was visited by hallucinations, projected in the black anthracite dephts of the mirror where he was desperately searching for some light. Kelley seems to have been dragged along by impulses of which he was not aware, while Dee - seeking knowledge and wisdom - was sitting at his side and taking notes, trying to understand the phenomena occurring before his stunned eyes.

The black mirror was not inhabited by the one superhuman spirit of Uriel, the Angel of the Light. There lived other inhuman entities in and outside the mirror, which could only be seen by the seer and who spoke through his mouth, while his body was in action or lying lifeless on the floor. Doctor Dee neglected his other work and soon was plagued by financial problems. His inquisitive Patron, Queen Elizabeth, was of the opinion that he must be able to solve them himself, since he was an alchemist. But unfortunately, Doctor Dee hadn't discovered yet the technology that could turn lead into gold.

One day a desperate doctor Dee asked the female angelic spirit Madimi if she could lend him one hundred pounds for a few weeks. But Madimi said in a previous life she had throwned all her money out of doors and windows, and she got angry when Kelley tried to pry under her skirts.

Uriel refused also refused to help them. "Silver and gold I have not to give," he said. "My blessing is far more valuable than the scum of the earth."

At that time the Polish Prince Alasco stayed at the English court, and Dee asked him if he would like to be the patron of a number of alchemical experiments the Doctor and his seer wanted to conduct by using the black mirror. Dee made an appeal to the vanity and ambition of Prince Alasco. The mirror spirit Galvah predicted that the Prince, whom he called "Laski", one day certainly would become the King of Poland, provided that he possessed an inexhaustible source of gold. But of course, in that case he had to pay Dee and Kelley for conducting the alchemical experiments. Unfortunately, Laski had to return to Poland urgently, and he left a sum of money, so that Doctor Dee, his wife and son Arthur, and Kelley and his wife could travel to Poland.

Dee took his black mirror and a number of books with him, Kelley his "powders of magick" and an alchemical manual. Before reaching the vast estates of Prince Laski however, the relationship between Dee and Kelley got in a serious crisis. In May 1584 they found themselves in Krakow, where the spirits of the mirror said to Kelley that he should burn all the books and records Doctor Dee had brought with him. should burn. It is not clear how Dee responded to this. Several other famous and infamous magicians were at one point asked by beings living in higher spheres to burn their own books of magic: Solomon, Simon Magus, Roger Bacon, Nostradamus... Every time there was this question of a spiritual crisis, a mysterious necessity, a certain threat.

As they approached the estate of Laski, Galvah began to see Prince Laski no longer as the future King of Poland and the benefactor of the rest of the world, but he predicted the Prince would be destroyed too, just as the good old Doctor Dee, who was nothing more than a miserable beggar. The spirits of the mirror again insisted that Dee should burn his wicked and blasphemous books. would destroy, but Dee didn't not succumb to their threats.

All documents remain silent about the events that took place between September 1585 and the end of April 1586. Probably it was Kelley who ritually burned the books of Doctor Dee; apparently he was too afraid of the ghosts of the mirror to resist any longer. Three of Dee's books came back to him in what he called "a miraculous way". Later, other documents also seemed to have been saved from the fire, but it was not clear who did this, or how and when it was done.

The two magicians left Prince Laski for what he was, and before they reached his castle, they turned and moved on to Prague. Dee wanted to speak to the Emperor Rudolf II, but Rudolf had just received a message, also from ghosts, and although no one knew what exactly it was they had said, it must have been a very unpleasant message, because when Doctor Dee arrived at the court, he was promptly thrown out the palace.

Meanwhile, the questioning of the spirits in the mirror had led to a new discovery. The numbers and symbols that appeared together with the ghosts in the mirror, could be reduced to letters and words, and they started to unveil the secrets of the wonderful black mirror. Dee wrote down, in a code, their statements about life in and out the mirror, the forces of the mirror and its effects on the human spirit. This document starts as follows:

Logaeth seg lovi brtnc

Dox Larzed ner habzilb adnor

Doncha Larb frog hirobra

EXI Fri zednip taiip chimvane

Cher mach lendix nor zandox

"In these words are the Mysteries of Our Creation, of Eternity and of the End of the World," the spirits said.

According to Kelley during the experiments not only numbers and symbols were seen, but also dragons and toads. He tried to stop the sessions, but Dee wanted to go further. In this book titled "Logaeth" and dictated to him by the spirits in an almost unbreakable code, all the knowledge and wisdom were reflected, of human and superhuman spirits and since the beginning of Time. Kelley began to exhibit increasingly chaotic behavior, then categorically refused to continue the séances and finally fled from Doctor Dee and his family. Dee's wife Jane and his eight year old son Arthur took his place before the Black Mirror of Magick, but Jane only saw some points and figures without any cohesion and in Arthur's visions there were men with crowns and lions, but no numbers or symbols that could be turned into letters ands words.

Kelley returned and the female spirit Madimi now shamelessly showed herself naked to him, ordering the two magicians to go for "a woman exchange". Both the women of the Magi protested vigorously, and ultimately the experiments were stopped. Some scholars have stated that this was all a trick of Kelley to get Mrs Dee in his bed - but Kelley was speaking in tongues now and seemed to have lost his mind completely.

Nobody knows what finally happened between the two magicians and their wives. In the autumn of 1589 Dee returned with his family back to England. Kelley would come after him, but he wanted to go first to Antwerp for some vague reasons. But Kelley didn't come back and Doctor Dee had to travel through Western Europe again, looking for a new and indispensable assistant. During his absence, his library and his laboratory in Mortlake, were plundered by a mob that called him "the friend of the hell hounds".

Kelley would later pop up in Prague, where Rudolf II asked him to carry out a number of alchemical experiments. When he failed to make gold out of lead, he was imprisoned. The Emperor only released him to perform the "Great Work". Kelley lost his patience and killed a soldier. He was thrown in prison again and in 1595, he tied some sheets together and climbed out of the window. He fell down and broke his neck.

Dee didn't find another seer like Kelley. Queen Elizabeth gave him occasionally some small sums of money. He wrote a report, mentioning his triumphs and also his many misfortunes, but not saying a word about the black mirror. In the year of Kelley's death, Elizabeth appointed him as a teacher in a school in Manchester. But the doctor resigned soon after that and retreated to Mortlake, where he earned a living drawing horoscopes for young couples.

Doctor Dee was once called "the companion of the dogs of hell". The University of Cambridge dismissed him because he was into the black arts. The successor of Elizabeth refused him for exactly the same reason a modest pension. Whatever the nature was of the spirits that Kelley had raised for him, as one had predicted, he died like a beggar in 1608 or 1609...

The Magick of Doctor Dee

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Comments 11 comments

XTASIS profile image

XTASIS 7 years ago from The Beginning

Very interesting story! Nicely written. I like 15-16th century history stories very much. Thank you !


mysticdave 7 years ago

A very interesting and spooky story, it captured my attention immediately....stories like this one about magick and secret societies are my favorite, but of course i do like all of your stuff as well... :)


Chris Marlowe II 7 years ago

I SAW BRITNEY SHAKESPEARS IN HER BATHROOM MIRROR!

Hey you, I’m talking to you. Yeah, you!

Have you seen yourself in the mirror lately?

I have. I have seen you, but you have not seen me.

Nope. You have not seen me.

I have seen this guy not too big

and I have seen this gall not too small

and I have seen this chick not too thick

and you have not seen me!

I have seen you all through

the Fabulous Shew-Stone of Doctor Dee

but I prefer blondes, I do admit:

the Marilyn Monroe Kind of Bitch

that writes about how to to use a vibrator

and that sort of shit.

I have seen you with your long blonde hair

and your eyes like icicles, like

the cool lakes of death, I have seen you

without your itsy bitsy titsy teenie weenie

yellow polka dot bikini,

I have seen the Nordic Queen

and she has not seen me!

It’s pretty funny watching you through

the Shew-Stone, but it’s Big Fun

watching this Iron Maiden of mine.

You can call it ‘voyeurism&rsq?uo;, I guess.

You can call me a dirty old man

but to see you naked, from head to toes

and shivering in the dark…

Ah, that makes my day!

I see you right now in your bathroom mirror,

you’re so charming – a Hilton in Paris

and I can hear you thinking

this Marlowe guy is talking about me

and there you go, shivering & shaking!

Come on, baby! Shiver & shake it

as if you were in a Thriller Clip

of the Late

Wacko Jacko Show!

Ah my Pretty Dumb Blonde,

does that sound really crazy

& maybe

a little bit like if I am

a weirdo too?

But I do see you.

I can see you all, although I prefer

Dumb Blondes like, let’s say

Britney Shakespears

or something like that.

So… watch out for the Bogeyman!

Yours Truly,

Chris Marlowe II


gusripper profile image

gusripper 7 years ago

I dont know my friend,he was great or a CHARLATAN ALCHEMIST?if you find read the book about THE VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT,you may found some trueth about him.Your hub is very very good


Richard Wing 7 years ago

This history you provide is so interesting and amazingly deep, I really have to research this whole era of time you seem to be so well versed in. The poetry...well, that's right up my alley Sally! RS/Christianson


RKHenry profile image

RKHenry 7 years ago from Your neighborhood museum

Another superb article. I really enjoy the historical subject matter, you choose to write about.


Numerology Calculation 6 years ago

Very well told... Shame Dee's field of study isn't taken seriously anymore nowadays.


Bob @ Numerology Calculation 6 years ago

The story is indeed very interesting, but didn't they always say that Merlin was the greatest magician of all time?


The Lost Dutchman profile image

The Lost Dutchman 6 years ago from Flanders (Belgium) Author

Merlin probably wasn't a historical person.


Marcus Donnelly 5 years ago from europe

I do not understand any of the above comment from marlowe. I wish someone could enlighten me. Marcus


hamid 5 years ago

if u read the book talk about it on hear

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