Angels in the Smoking Mirror

Obsidian Aztec Mirror and other objects in the possession of Dr John Dee
Obsidian Aztec Mirror and other objects in the possession of Dr John Dee

There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy-Hamlet-William Shakespeare

For all his polymathic achievements and influence upon Elizabethan England and beyond, Dr John Dee is best known for the Angelic Conversations he conducted in conjuration with his scryer, the alchemist and convicted counterfeiter Edward Kelley.

These ‘actions’ as Dee called them, were made with the aid of an obsidian Aztec mirror that had come into his possession.

Tezcatlipoca Smoking Mirror Skull
Tezcatlipoca Smoking Mirror Skull

Mirrors were an attribution of Tezcatlipoca (Nahuatl: Smoking Mirror), the God of the Night Sky, Obsidian and Sorcery. The mirror had made its way into Europe some time after Cortes’s conquest of Mexico in 1530. 

After  a period of rigorous fasting, abstinence and prayer Kelley would gaze into the ‘shew-stone’ and report his visions of the spirits within the mirror while Dee dutifully recorded the conversations, some of which were in Enochian, the divine language supposedly spoken by prelapsarian humanity. For a period of many years in Dee’s house in Mortlake and later in Bohemia at the court of the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, Dee and Kelley would converse with a myriad  of spirits, mostly angelic but occasionally demonic which resulted in hundreds of recorded conversations.

The conversations came to an end soon after the infamous wife-swapping episode. At the urging of an insistent angel named Madimi, Dee and Kelley swapped their wives Jane and Joanne for one night. Afterwards Madimi reportedly appeared and said, ‘B hold you are become free: Do that which most pleaseth you.’

Among Dee’s other claims to fame is that he is the person responsible for first coining the term ‘British Empire’; he was also the inspiration behind the magician Prospero in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Legend has it that at the behest of Queen Elizabeth I he destroyed the Spanish Armada with his magical powers, an event that decisively effected the balance of power within Europe and the New World.

John Dee-The Holy Table
John Dee-The Holy Table

 

14 thoughts on “Angels in the Smoking Mirror

      1. The letters are written in Enochian, a language ‘revealed’ by the angels to Dee and Kelley, so called because Enoch (seventh in descent from Adam in the Bible)was supposedly the last human to speak this language of the angels. There are a lot of magic squares as well. A lot of Renaissance magic is heavy into codes.

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  1. Dearest Mr. Cake if only the conversations hadn’t come to an end, just imagine!!! Darn wife that swapping! Okay, enough kidding, what do you make of The Holy Table? I would love your take on some images that to date I haven’t been able to pinpoint the origin, searching for years. You just maybe the one to point me in the right direct, laughing, is there a right direction? Hope you’ve been well and enjoy this life as we know it! ~ Miss Cranes – Hahaha!

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    1. Dr Dee had the best library in Europe at the time, he had around 3000 volumes while Oxford University had around 500. Some of the images and the general tone is of the medieval magic books, but unfortunately only around 10 percent of his library survived so it hard to trace back. Also Dee and Kelley were trying to invent a new style of magic. I have been well I trust you have also Miss Cranes.

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    1. Dee and Kelley were both fascinating characters and though the Angelic Conversations appears very strange it reflects a certain strand of thought in Europe on the cusp of the Enlightenment. My pleasure as always.

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  2. Mr Cake, you have introduced me yet again to someone that I have never heard of Dr John Dee, your knowledge is very vast and I would like to thank you for opening up my mind to new ideas. One thought Dr Dee must have been a very rich man to have over 3000 books in his library, I wounder where the 10% of his library are now housed and wouldn’t it be a dream to go and see the original books.

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    1. Well he did enjoy the patronage of Elizabeth until he didn’t… he was probably also a spy… he signed his letters to the Queen 007. When he went to Bohemia his books got stolen. It would be nice to see went his collection was like…the other 90 percent have vanished for all time. Thanks for the comment.

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  3. Thank you Mr Cake for more information on Dr Dee, he sounds a very interesting man and certainly it appears a mystery regarding the stolen books. I wonder Mr Cake if you would like to be a spy?

    Liked by 1 person

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