Dr. John Dee

This is actually not a picture of John Dee. It’s an image of Dee’s associate, Edward Kelly; nonetheless, the misattribution has persisted as far as being repeated in John Belair’s House with a Clock in Its Walls, a premiere volume of young adult occult horror.



Dee was born in London, the son of a mercer; his early reputation as a magician was gained as a result of his production effects for the Aristophanes play, Peace. Dee excelled in his studies; at Chelmsford Chantry, at St. Johans College, as a founding fellow at Trinity College, and across the continent, studying with prominent figures of the Renaissance, such as Mercator. When Queen Elizabeth took power in 1558, John Dee became Beth’s advisor in Weird and scientific matters. He was the first to officially propose plans for a British Empire, and wrote eight volumes exploring the framework of conquest in terms of established law and mythological imperative. After amassing the largest personal library in London, Dee was regularly visited by the political and philosophical elite of British society who sought access to his collection.

Dissatisfied with his achievements in his elder years, Dee fled England one night in 1583, and pursued a nomadic life of Hermetic mysticism. Together with spiritual partner Edward Kelly, he practiced rituals of purification, prayer, and fasting, alchemical experiment, and the channeling of spirits, angelic and demonic, in order to relieve messages from beyond. John Dee’s scrying stone, used in this actions, is yet displayed in a the collection of the British Museum. The messages were relayed to Dee and he partner in the Enochian language, and several volumes of text were produced this way this way. The partnership between he and Kelly ended when the angel Uriel told Kelly to tell Dee that the two of them should trade their wives; after Kelly indeed slept with Dee’s wife, Dee broke off all correspondence, and they never saw one another again.

After the death of Elizabeth, royal interest in the supernatural was quashed, and John Dee was forced to sell what possessions of his had not been stolen in his long absence. He died in poverty at Mortlake, aged 82; his daughter, Katherine, tended him to in his final years.

Further Reading:

The Private Diary of John Dee