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Seraphim Yefimov
Seraphim Yefimov

Spiritual And Demonic Magic: From Ficino To Cam...

These ten objects have provided a glimpse of how amulets can tell stories about the history of healing. They have demonstrated their diversity in many ways. Their material composition ranged from natural to manmade, or human to animal; to metals, papers, woods and plastics. Some were inscribed and stamped, denoting symbols, images, numbers and words. Most were suspended from bodies; others from buildings. Some material properties were featured often, commonly available and sought after; whilst the value of others was determined by their status as rarities. The primary function of some amulets was to heal or protect a body, animal or home. In other cases, the curative or prophylactic role of an amulet was a secondary function, established and perpetuated by the owner, collector, possessor or wearer. Some aligned with religious and spiritual potency; others drew upon the faculties of astrology, magic, fate, fortune or luck. Yet despite this great variety, culturally and materially distinct elements work in symbiosis in the manufacture and use of an amulet. No single material, feature or source of power is incompatible with another. In many cases, these objects gained potency and value precisely by combining several elements together (we need only remember our last two amulets).

Spiritual and Demonic Magic: From Ficino to Cam...


Avoiding the angels' importance to Dee's inquiries intothe natural world has become a historiographic tradition. As Frances Yatesnoted, the angel diaries served as an impediment to a serious appraisal ofother aspects of Dee's natural philosophy, and only "in the presentcentury has the rehabilitation of Dee been begun by historians of science,who, ignoring the spiritual diaries and their reputation, have rediscoveredDee the scientist."(7) In most scholarship since this rehabilitation,Dee has been cast necessarily as the victim of a fraud perpetrated by hisscryers, most notably Edward Kelly. The angels thus become something entirelyseparate from Dee's intellect, a feature of Dee's life that wecannot associate with any other. Peter French, the modern scholar mostsympathetic to Dee's interest in angels, was still unable to incorporatethe conversations satisfactorily into his portrait of Dee's life andwork. Nonetheless, French had to conclude that "Dee undoubtedly believedthat his angelic communications were the crowning success of hiscareer."(8) Recently Nicholas Clulee devoted a portion of hisintellectual biography of Dee to an examination of the angel conversations.Clulee's focus on the connections between Dee's natural philosophyand his religion - an ideal place to begin an analysis of the angelconversations - helped to illuminate the role that theories about the magicalimportance of language played in the angel conversations. Nonetheless, theangel conversations remained something of an oddity. Clulee argued, forexample, that the angel conversations "cannot be considered as scienceor natural philosophy" despite their inclusion of concepts from thekabbalistic and alchemical traditions.(9)

When the curtain drew aside and the images finally appeared,additional parallels emerge between the shows in Dee's showstone andcontemporary theater. The visions were not set, as one might initially think,in a scholar's study, alchemical laboratory, or church. Instead, thesettings resembled those common to the Elizabethan stage, such as roads,meadows, forests, mountains, streets, market-places, gateways, bridges, andgreat halls.(39) Typically the visions began in an interior setting, wherethe angelic spirits gathered around a "chair of perfection."(40)The chair thus becomes an authoritative device similar to the throne whichElizabeth I occupied in a pageant and the "Judgment seat" occupiedby Christ in a religious play. The angel with the highest rank in thespiritual hierarchy sat in the "chair of perfection" to introducethe show, and after the show ended, the angel returned to the chair toexplain it in more detail. As the show began and new characters wereintroduced, the interior setting dissolved, giving way to a series of outdoorspaces. One show, for example, followed a spirit as she moved along a roadfrom a banquet hall to a hill, a bog, a thorned hedge, a "fairplace," and a castle exterior.(41) Another featured a spirit moving froma hill to a garden and continuing on to a bridge, gates to a castle, and awilderness.(42)

An examination of the connections between the angel conversationsand plays presented in Elizabethan England will only take us part of the waytoward understanding the messages delivered to Dee. To understand theremaining symbolism, we must turn from theater to alchemy. Alchemy was one ofDee's life-long passions, and the spiritual and material quest involvedin acquiring the philosopher's stone was as appealing to him ascommunicating with the divine levels of the cosmos. Dee's interest inalchemy became more marked during the period when he was engaged in the angelconversations, and his scryer Edward Kelly was a key participant in thealchemical experiments that Dee undertook between 1583 and 1587.

The goal of alchemy was a state of spiritual perfection representedon the material level by a transmutation of base metals into gold. Alchemicaltexts varied regarding how this transformation was to take place. Simplystated, the process involved the purification of various materials, theapplication of heat while the materials were in an enclosed vessel whichengendered color changes, increasing the strength of the mixture throughmultiplication, and finally projecting the resulting mixture onto othermatter to cause transmutation.(53) The result of this transmutation was theelusive philosopher's stone, which was believed to bestow immortalityand to have the power to perfect all that came into contact with it. Changesin the color of the materials progressed from black to white, green oryellow, and finally red. These four colors predominate in the angelconversations, and when the colors are considered in light of Dee'sinterest in alchemy, our interpretations of some shows can be altered. Whilea figure in red garments in traditional symbolism might have meant war, orthe god Mars, in alchemical terms such a figure also would have suggestedadditional meanings related to the alchemical process, specific metals, orplanetary influences that affected the transformation.

At the beginning of the first cycle of images, Uriel'sconsecration of the altar with a censer bears a striking similarity to apassage in Revelation. In Revelation 8:3-6, an angel consecrates an altar inthe same fashion, and this action serves as a link between the opening of theseventh seal that brings a profound silence to the world and the sounding ofthe first trumpet of the war between good and evil. Kelly and Dee were castinto the show as birds transformed from sparrows - the most humble of birds -into swans, which were joined together wing to wing. Generally, birdssymbolized the human spirit, and throughout the Middle Ages the swansymbolized the soul's journey toward salvation through its ascension tothe kingdom of heaven.(63) The symbolism of spiritual transformation andsalvation was mimetically underscored by the words of the angel Michael, whosaid "Necessarily you fall: and of necessity you shall rise again."The notion that spiritual redemption will lead to a mastery over the naturalworld was dramatized when the two birds reached into the heavens andreordered the stars. The reordering of the stars had its own apocalypticovertones, and, as we have seen, any change in the pattern of the heavens wasviewed as a sign of great importance in the sixteenth century. Thesignificance of the new heavenly order might have been revealed in thebirds' next action, when they leveled the mighty with their wings,leaving the weak standing.

32 Dee's four known scryers were Barnabas Saul, Edward Kelly,Arthur Dee, and Bartholomew Hickman. The first mention of Barnabas Saulappears on 8 October 1581 in the private diary and on the following day Deementions that Saul was "strangely trubled by a spirituall creature abowtmydnight." See Dee, 1842, 13. The only extant transcript of proceedingsinvolving Saul are from 22 December 1581, however. See Dee, 1988, 2:12-16.Bartholomew Hickman arrived at Mortlake on 22 June 1579 with his uncleRichard Hickman and a "Mr. Flowr," all recommended to Dee by SirChristopher Hatton. This is some time before the first transcript of ascrying session involving Hickman in 1607. See Dee, 1842, 1, and Dee, 1659,*32-*44. Arthur, Dee's son, was used as a scryer only once on 15 April1587 and was not adept at the practice. See Dee, 1659, *4. EdwardKelly's efforts dominate the existing angel diaries, and he appears tohave been Dee's most influential assistant. 041b061a72


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