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Dee, Lies and Necromancy

To: alt.magick
From: (Clay Holden)
Subject: Dee, Lies and Necromancy (was Re: Graveyard Rituals)
Date: Sun, 22 Mar 1998 03:55:36 GMT

Shez  wrote (in response to a post on the
original thread by Jesse a.k.a. WiccanTree a.k.a. BlackMyst):

> >: >: [...] do some research for goodness sake. [...]

A damned fine idea, whoever suggests it, Shez.

My issue with you begins with this statement of yours, which is 
demonstrably false:

> >: >:  [...] Doctor John Dee, an Elizabethan
> >: >: necromancer. he tried to bind the souls of the dead to give him
> >: >: information about the future. not very successfully.

This never happened, and no historian worth their salt has ever reported
it as having happened. If you get your history from popular accounts and
gossip in crappy coffee-table picture books rather than historical works,
I suppose this is to be expected.

As was pointed out to you by someone else on this thread days ago as well,
it was Edward Kelley who was accused of this, not Dee. Since you have
insisted on defending your opinion on the matter as being as good as
anyone else's, I'm responding to this thread one more time.

> >: >_Please_ do your homework before you dirty the reputation of scholars you
> >: >have not bothered to read or study. This libel was addressed at Edward
> >: >Kelley, not John Dee, and is evidently untrue as well, based on the
> >: >historical evidence.
> >
> >: But I have bothered to read and study, I have simply drawn different
> >: conclusions from my reading and studying than you have.
> >
> >From what you have posted, you appear to have done very little reading or
> >studying on this subject.
> Oh dear one of those ........

If you wish. Nothing which follows from you suggests otherwise. Do you wish
to contradict me on this statement?

> >: that is the point of independent historical research , that those who do
> >: study it, can often come up with very different conclusions.
> >
> >Before you can claim this, you must have the historical facts to back up
> >your conclusions. You do not.
> according to you

If you wish. Alright, then, what "historian" do you claim as the source
for Dee being a "necromancer" who "tried to bind the souls of the dead to
give him information about the future"? This is the issue, after all.
You're the one who made this statement, not me.

> >: You have obviously decided, to beleive every word you read, I have not,

Based on what? I am not the one repeating known falsehoods here as fact.

> >I have certainly read much more on Dee than you are ever likely to, and
> >the historical facts simply do not confirm the statements you have made.
> according to you.

If you wish. Show me wrong then.

If you believe the historical record bears out your statement, let's see
some references to sources, or at least some sound historical background.

> >: I suggest you reread some of the available research on John Dee.
> >
> >Why don't you list a few of the works you consulted, Shez. I already
> >listed several written by scholars that you are obviously not familiar
> >with.
> Because I did not mention them  dosnt mean I dont know of them, or have
> not read them.

Which of the sources I mentioned before _have_ you read, Shez?

> >: 1547-1608 who was regarded even by his contempories as a Charlatan and a
> >: fake, none of my reading has ever given me any reason to think that he
> >: was anything other than this.
> >
> >Obviously you haven't done much reading. If so, what have you read?
> probably much the same books you have, but I have spent time in the Brit
> museum, several university libraries, and within local libraries.

Not studying Dee, I don't think. I sincerely doubt you've cared enough to
read as much on Dee as I have. He has been my main course of study for over
a decade, whereas I suspect you have been largely occupied with "chatting".

I doubt, for instance, that you have read I.R.F. Calder's _John Dee
Studied as an English Neoplatonist_, nor Nicholas Clulee's _John Dee's
Natural Philosophy: Between Science and Religion_, nor Peter French's 
_John Dee: the World of an Elizabethan Magus_, nor any of the works of
Dame Frances Yates. Nor more recent works like William Sherman's _John
Dee: The Politics of Reading and Writing in the English Renaissance_.

I doubt you ever made it through Casaubon's introduction to the _True and
Faithful Relation_ for that matter, let alone the rest of the book.

On the other hand, I have no doubt that you have read Deacon, and wouldn't
be terribly surprised to learn that you had at least had a glance through
Charlotte Fell Smith's bio (which never calls him a "necromancer" either).

> >: His greatest claim to fame was that he was
> >: Astrolager Royal to Queen Elizabeth the first.
> >
> >No it wasn't, dear.
> It was in England, its how most people populaly saw him. or are only
> considering that schoolars have an opinion. ?

No, Shez, everybody's got one, as the saying goes. But in historical matters,
yes, the opinions of scholars are usually the only ones worth noting.

> > It's just the only thing you appear to have noticed.
> >He was also the author of a number of well-regarded books, none of which
> >you appear to be familiar with. I'ts obvious you've never read any of them.
> You do repeat yourself.
> John Dee R. Deacon
> The arts of the alchemist C.A. Burland.
> D.P. Walker Spiritual and Demonic magick
> Crystal Gazing T Besterman.
> The myth of the magitian . Butler.
> The Angelic conversations are available from the Brit museum.

I said books _by_ Dee, Shez. Not popular works about him.

Books published during Dee's lifetime such as _Monas Hieroglyphica_, the
_Mathematical Preface to the Elements of Euclid_, _General and Rare
Memorials Pertayning to the Perfect Art of Navigation_ and _Propaedeumata
Aphoristica_, for example.

That is *not* repeating myself (though I am certainly guilty of it).

As for the titles you list, not one of them supports your "necromancer"

> John Dee R. Deacon

Deacon never stoops to calling Dee a "necromancer". His book is
entertaining, but a piece of junk as history, as he relies on his
imagination to fill in the blanks when the facts do not suit him.
It does have some lovely plates that are otherwise hard to find.

> The arts of the alchemist C.A. Burland.

Burland's work never makes any such suggestion, treating Dee and Kelley
purely as alchemists (and with some respect, I might add). The word
"necromancer" does not appear at all in the section on them.

> D.P. Walker Spiritual and Demonic magick

D.P. Walker's book (_Spiritual and Demonic Magic: from Ficino to
Campanella_) does not mention Dee *at all*, let alone call him a
"necromancer", so why you are mentioning it here is a mystery 
to me (perhaps because Deacon lists it in his Bibliography?).

> Crystal Gazing T Besterman.

Besterman nowhere in his short section on Dee and Kelley refers to either
of them as a "necromancer".

> The myth of the magitian . Butler.

E.M. Butler reports Edward Kelley as being the one accused of attempting
to raise the dead (on pp. 164-5 of _The Myth of the Magus_). *Not* Dee.

For the record, this is where the story originates. A.E. Waite writes in
his edition of Kelley's _Alchemical Writings_: "The original source of the
accusation appears to be John Weever's _Discourse of Ancient Funereal
Monuments_, London, 1631, fol., pp. 45, 46, and is to this effect, that he
caused by his incantations a poor man that had been buried in the yard
belonging to Law Church, near to Wotton-in-the-Dale, to be taken out of
his grave (meaning not the exhumation of the body but the evocation of the
spirit of the deceased), and to answer to such questions that he then
proposed to him."

He goes on to observe that the report came to Weever anonymously from an
individual who claimed to have gotten the report from Kelley's accomplice
at the alleged incident. Hardly a reliable source. But, in this case, the
primary source.

> The Angelic conversations are available from the Brit museum.
> and some of those were in fact published in 1659 by Maric Casaubon.

I am well aware of this. I was one of the editors of the last published
edition (1991). I have microfilm copies of all of the relevant materials
in the British Museum. None of the Spirit Diaries were published in his
lifetime, and could not have had any influence on the opinions of his

> >: He was a remarkable Scholar, being an expert on navigation, optics,
> >: mathamatics, and astronomy.
> >
> >No, Shez, you just said he was only a charlatan and a fraud, known for
> >nothing better than being Elizabeth's "Astologer Royal" (which you make
> >sound like an official title, which it was not).
> So he was except in more Schoolarly circles, unfortunatly the popular
> perception of Dee was as a very egotistical and vain fake.

The "popular perception" of an individual has never been of any value.

Perhaps some of them were a bit jealous of the Queen's regard for him.

Being egotistical and vain is certainly a common enough sin. But who
ever referred to Dee as a "vain fake"? None of the sources you mention.

Who were some of these folks whose "popular perception" you are making
claims for? How about a name or two?

> >: but not a remarkable necromancer or mage.
> >
> >Probably has something to do with the fact that he hever claimed to be
> >either of these.
> You dont have to claim those thing, when those around you are claiming
> them for you.

I see. So the slander of the ignorant is the standard by which one's
reputation ought to be judged, yes?

This is a particularly silly and contemptible remark coming from a
self-professed pagan. False claims made by others were responsible for
hundreds or thousands of innocent people being hanged and burned, weren't

> >: The Biographica Britania describes him as being, a deluded enthusiast,
> >: as well as being remarably credulouse, vain and egotistical.
> >
> >It describes him as being a lot more than that,
> What do you want the whole thing...? my my.

No, just a recognition that it gives a more balanced account than the
little bit you cribbed here. Frankly, I doubt you read it anyway, since
Deacon quotes *exactly* that line on page four of his book...

> > but it's not a
> >particularly good primary source. What else have you read? That probably
> >took you all of five minutes to read.
> (chuckle) because I read it it can not be a good primary souce, eh.

It's *not* a "primary source". You don't appear to know what a primary
source is. Dee's manuscripts are a primary source. Dee's published books
are a primary source. Accounts of those who knew Dee are primary sources.
The _Biographica Britannica_ is *not* a primary source on the life of Dee,
unless you are citing it as an example of published opinions of him. And
then it is only a "primary source" if it is where you took your quote
from, rather than just copying it out of Deacon.

> because I came to different conclusion than you, any research I did must
> have been fault.

Because you make statements about Dee that are known falsehoods, and are
unwilling to admit they are wrong. This is not the result of research. It
is the result of believing gossip proven false and repeating it as fact.

> Come on now. this is not a competion its a discussion.

It is neither.

I am correcting an erroneous statement of fact, and am taking issue
with your insistence on that false statement being accepted as a valid

You are denying the facts, and are insisting that your opinion on the
matter is just as good as anybody else's. This does not constitute a

> >: His interest in magick started as natural magick and he learned from
> >: both Agrippa and Gogava, both contemperys of his.
> >
> >Agrippa was _not_ Dee's contemporary, dear. Again, your facts are wrong.
> Quite right my mistake I should have said was conversant with Agrippas
> teachings. My appologies.

That's alright, Shez. Deacon didn't really make it all that clear. He also
suggests that Dee's interest in Gogova involved the I Ching, rather than
his translation of Ptolemy's _Tetrabiblos_.

> >: and studied telepathy
> >: in the hopes of bringing man closer to a god like power.
> >: One of his studies was in Necromacy....
> >
> >Nonsense. Name your source for this.
> That was my conclusion from several sources, including Mauric Casablaun

I see. No source then, nothing you can point to. Casaubon never once
refers to Dee as a "necromancer", and never once mentioned the word
"telepathy" in his introduction to the _True and Faithful Relation_.

So you're just making it up as you go. Yet another example of your fine
standards of historical research.

Meric Casaubon's sole reference to "Necromancers" comes as part of
an anti-semitic remark he makes with regard to the opinions of Rabbis:

"...It is the opinion of some Jewish Rabbins, That what Ghosts or Souls
are raised by *Necromancy*, they alwayes appear *inverso corpore*, that
is, their head dowards [sic] and feet upwards. Though nothing is to be
wondered at in Rabbins, who (commonly) are as full of ridiculous conceits
as ever came into the head of any Bedlam :..."

Casaubon was not one of Dee's contemporaries either, and wrote his
introduction with political agendas in mind. In fact, the book was
published to damage the reputation of Dee, and show the dangers that even
a great man faced if he attempted to pursue religious studies outside of
the protecting confines of the Church.

But even Casaubon treats Dee with more respect than you do.

> >: >Your assertion is libelous and completely untrue, or to put it more
> >: >bluntly, a complete crock of shit.
> And no doubt John Dee is going to come back and take me to court...
> (sigh) he is a dead man has been for centurys, what would he care.

Dee cared very much when he was alive, and did sue for his reputation.

He cared enough about the reputation of Roger Bacon, a scholar who died
centuries before he was born, that he wrote a work defending his
reputation against charges of necromancy and demonology (the very sort of
stuff you accuse Dee himself of practicing).

The fact that an individual has been dead for centuries makes it no less
unacceptable for you to promulgate falsehoods against his reputation.

I doubt that Dee would care much about your opinion, but then he wouldn't
very likely be engaging you in conversation anyway if he were alive.

> indeed what would you care.

You'll never understand, and it's not worth the effort to try explaining
it to you.

>    Do you feel you have to Support his poor
> reputation with such strong words. your becoming very emotionaly
> involved in what is after all a historical research project.
> most unusual.

Not at all. Your original statement was false. I took issue with it in a
strong way. If you don't like my opinion, tough. Calling that statement
"a complete crock of shit" _is_ in fact my opinion. Not an issue of fact
like your statement.

> >: In your opinion. Something you seem to have forgotten. it is your
> >: opinion, I am perfectly entitled to mine, and I find Dee to be what his
> >: contemperies found him a fake and a charletan as far as magick goes.

You have not cited a single instance of this being the opinion of "Dee's
contemporaries". I doubt that you can produce one. In any case, Dee never
made claims to being involved with "magick" publicly, so there would have
been no public opinion suggesting that he was a fake or a charlatan with
regard to magick. That claim is yours alone.

> >No, Shez, it is not my opinion. It is what the facts indicate. You are
> >perfectly entitled to be wrong if you like. Dwell in darkness. You are
> >_not_ perfectly entitled to make erroneous statements about historical
> >figures in public based on ignorance without being taken to task for it.
> And you have decided to take me to Task.. :) clay this is a historic
> personage, and historians make of them what they will,

You are very clearly not an historian, Shez. You are a rumor-monger.

Historians work to produce an accurate record of history, not to
promulgate known lies and errors. They seek to correct errors of fact,
not repeat them.

If you wish to write fiction, write fiction and identify it as such.

>  their will always be those who see things differently than you. as a
> historian you have to learn to accept that everyone is going to have
> their own take on the subject it is not and never will be Your opinion
> only....
> So I see Dee in another light than you do, is that a crime, that you
> have to cry libel on it or throw personal insults.

Calling a slanderous and false statement a "crock of shit" is not a
personal insult unless you are so personally attached to that false
statement that you confuse it with being a part of you. Nevertheless,
if you insist on taking it personally, be my guest.

> or is it simply a
> difference of perspective, which it always should be.

No, Shez. There are facts and there are falsehoods. One will never be the
other based on someone's opinion. If you state that a man did something
illegal and immoral when it is a known fact that he did not do this thing,
you are making a libelous statement. The fact that you may believe it to
be true does not make you right, and it does not make that statement any
the less wrong or libelous. Absence of malice only makes it unactionable

> their are and will be new books, and new opinons on this subject comming
> along all the time, and not all of them will fit with your or my
> perspective on Dee.

There are not likely to be any new books forthcoming which will stupidly
accuse Dee of being a "necromancer".

>    but I certainly would not write to the authors of
> such books and take them to task because I did not agree with their
> conclusions on the reasearch available to them.

If they didn't bother to do any research before publishing, or made
statements known to be false, I would certainly feel within my rights to
point out their error(s).

> I would accept they have a different opinion and read the book with
> interest

If someone publishes a study filled with known errors, that writer is not
going to be accepted as an "historian" by any current definition of the
word. He or she will be laughed out of the business.

To call Dee a "necromancer" who "tried to bind the souls of the dead to
give him information about the future" when it is a known falsehood
suggests that you are either incapable of historical research or

That you refuse to acknowledge that you are in error when the facts are
pointed out to you suggests the latter.

I don't think there is any point in belaboring this any further. You aren't
going to acknowledge your error, and I don't care to devote any more of my
time to what is fairly obviously a troll on your part.



                                 Clay Holden
                                     ( - )
                                                         ( + )
                        "Super caelestes roretis aquae:  __:__
                         Et terra fructum dabit suum."     |
                                  -John Dee              /^|^\

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