Sunday, May 01, 2005

Dr. D!

There is no record of the birth of Doctor John Dee. No doctor's notes, no baptismal record, no town hall registry. We know the particulars of his birth, appropriately enough, from an astrological chart which gives the place, date, and even time of the event.

John Dee was an advisor to Queen Elizabeth I. He was an exceptional practitioner of mathematics and astronomy, along with the then related disciplines of astrology, alchemy and prophecy. Many accounts call him Elizabethan court magician. In fact, he served her in a far more useful capacities.

He is linked to Walsingham, Elizabeth's chief of secret intelligence. It is quite possible that Dee devised the secret service codes and ciphers used by the hidden agents. Some even claim that Dee was the first British secret agent to claim the designator 007.

It is known that Dee was acquainted with Christopher Marlowe, the brilliant playwright also rumored to dabble in espionage. Marlowe may have based parts of his character Dr. Faustus on Dr. Dee. Dee is also a possible inspiration for Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest. Both men are scholarly magicians with extensive libraries. Dee's collection of books was widely considered the best in England.

Dee's major contribution to western magic was his quest to contact Angels. A major current in western magical theory is the use of spiritual powers -- either angelic or demonic -- to effect magic on bahlf of the magician. Dee sought most of his life to contact angels, and eventually found a man who claimed to channel communications from Angels. One of the reasons Dee was convinced the man was authentic was his knowledge of a language he claimed to be spoken by the Angels, called "Enochian." Opinions on Enochian vary, but it has a general consistency in sound, syntax and grammar that make it sound like a true language. How much of this is the result of Dee imposing order on the sounds, and how much is due to some linguistic brilliance on his friend's part is unknown. Creating a language is extremely difficult, but as any Star Trek geek can tell you, not impossible.

Despite his fame and position, Dr. Dee died destitute. But like any good magician, his work was not yet finished with his death. H.P. Lovecraft credited Dee with translating a German edition of the Necronomicon into English. Those with an interest in believing the Necronomicon is real believe Dee had a copy of the work. Some even say that Dee owned the mysterious -- and real -- Voynich Manuscript which they insist is the Necronomicon, and Dee cracked the code because it is actually in Enochian! (Whew, that last statement was so cross-referenced I probably lost many of you.) In any event, a modern Necronomicon appeared (in paperback) in the 1970's that purpoted to be parts of the Dee translation. These copies are considered collectibiles now.

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