In my book, Modern Magick, I gave a brief introduction to one of the most important people in the history of magick, Dr. John Dee (1527–1608 or 1609). More than a magician, Dee was also one of the most interesting and fascinating figures of the Elizabethan Age. When he died, his home in Mortlake (a district of London on the southern bank of the Thames River) had the largest library in all of England. Besides being a magician, he was also an astronomer and astrologer, a geographer, a world traveler, a mathematician, a scholar and…a spy.
His fame allowed him to be an occasional advisor and astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I of England. When others advised her to send out the British fleet to attack the much larger Spanish Armada, he used astrology to determine that she should wait and advised her do so. She took his advice, and the delay allowed the British fleet to safely weather a storm that destroyed much of the Armada (some even say that Dee conjured up the storm). The Spanish, beaten by the storm (and other causes), were exhausted, and the Britons were able to defeat them. The result changed the face of the world and began the domination of the seas by British military.
Because of Dee's knowledge and wisdom, he was welcome in many countries. A traveler and sought-after adviser to royalty, he was able to fly under the radar of observation at the time and function as an agent—a spy—for Elizabeth. When he obtained information he thought valuable, he sent it back to her, often by way of carrier pigeon. He added a special symbol to indicate that the message was legitimate. The symbol was three numbers: 007.
(No, Ian Fleming, creator of super spy James Bond, didn't use Dee's code to symbolize Bond's "license to kill." That now-famous three digit number, 007, happened to be the last three digits of Fleming's agent's phone number. Still, John Dee/James Bond, both monosyllabic names, both numbered 007…it is an interesting coincidence.)
Dee had the ability to see into other planes, but he wasn't very good at it. And, when you add the work of performing rituals and invocations as well as the use of his clairvoyance, Dee found it too much for one medieval mage to ensure success. Instead, he advertised for a medium. He tried working with several people before finally settling on Edward Kelly (his surname is sometimes spelled Kelley).
Kelly was more than a bit of a rogue. He usually wore a hat pulled down over the sides of his head; it is believed he did this to disguise that he was missing both of his ears, which had been cut off as punishment for some crime. He eventually died after he broke a bone while trying to escape from an angry employer who discovered that the gold Kelly had made for him through the supposed use of alchemy was fake. The injury became infected, resulting in Kelly's demise.
Dee used Kelly as a clairvoyant in a series of magickal experiments in the 1580s in which they were instructed by entities he called angels, including the archangel Enoch. The records of that communication gave birth to the language and magickal system Dee merely called "Angelic," but which are now commonly known as Enochian.
The Unlikely Preservation of Dee's Work
In the year 1659, half a century after Dee's death, a man named (Florence Estienne) Méric Casaubon (1599–1671), a French-English classical scholar, published Dee's diaries from the time of his workings with Kelly. They were actually a collection of notes, diagrams, and marginalia; Casaubon gave it the ungainly title, A True and Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Years Between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits.
Casaubon had found Dee's diaries (for a time they had been buried and were molding) and wanted to use them to accomplish a couple of things. First, he wanted to condemn what he called practices that were "a work of darkness" and destroy Dee's reputation. This would also have a side effect of attacking the Puritans who, at the time, were running the government and with whom Casaubon disagreed. Part of Puritan belief was that you could communicate directly with divine sources, and Casaubon didn't accept that. At the same time he wanted to use the book to prove the existence of spirits to atheists, perhaps hoping to convert them into believers.
For the most part, Casaubon's attempt to discredit Dee was successful. His success in this—resulting in mainstream historians ignoring Dee—lasted for three centuries. However, for occultists it had the opposite effect. Enochian magick and language were kept alive and "underground" by mystics and magicians who used this book as a resource. It kept Enochian magick alive until its renaissance in the latter half of the 20th century. This is the book that made Enochian magick famous. Sort of.
Dee's own records changed and were updated as he received new information from the angels. People interested in magick had picked what they thought was right, sometimes modifying it to meet their needs. Most often, they simply used what others wrote. They found the originals so complex (and rare!) that for the most part, they ignored them. Even though Enochian magick developed the reputation of being the most powerful magick available, most people merely copied and practiced what they found in other books, such as The Golden Dawn or among the writings of Aleister Crowley.
This continued for decades. By the 1970s, students and magickal practitioners wanted to know more. They wanted the original, but it was impossible to get. In 1973, Stephen Skinner fulfilled this desire and stimulated the modern interest in Dee and Enochian Magic by republishing A True and Faithful Relation. For the first time in over three centuries, contemporary magicians had easy access to the original information on Enochian magick. As a result, the modern interest in this powerful form of magick exploded. Popular interpretations and modifications of this magick appeared, as well as books with academic accuracy on the system and language, and Enochian became more popular than ever. Poor Casaubon must be rolling in his grave knowing that his attempt to defame Dee had resulted in keeping Dee's legacy alive.
Almost four decades after that publication, Skinner returned to examine that work. In 2012 he published a completely revamped, reorganized, and corrected edition of this book. Titled Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries, it is a corrected and re-typeset edition, now checked against Dee's original manuscript for accuracy. The first "reader-friendly" version of the entire book ever, it includes the preface by Casaubon, extensive footnotes, supplementary writings, illustrations, and perhaps most importantly, sections that were missing from Casaubon's original edition. This is simply the most important book for students and practitioners of Enochian magick. But frankly, there is one small problem with it, or rather, over 50,000 small problems with it.
The Missing Secrets in Dee's Diaries
Some people believe that Kelly, con man and trickster, simply took advantage of Dee. This is in spite of the fact that the angels sent messages to Dee through Kelly by spelling words in their language backwards. That means not only would Kelly have had to devise an entirely new language, he would have had to know it so well he could literally spell things in reverse. Perhaps this was possible, but it is highly unlikely.
Even if we assume that Kelly could do it, there were other safeguards against Kelly doing anything other than acting as a medium between the angels and Dee. At numerous times, for example, the angels spoke to Dee through Kelly using Latin. Dee was a scholar who knew Latin, and Kelly was not. This way Kelly wouldn't know what the angels and Dee were saying.
Dee's records kept the Latin as communicated to him. The Latin is also kept in Casaubon's publication and in both of Skinner's editions. To complete the sharing of what Dee wrote, Skinner has now published a full translation of all the Latin in Key to the Latin of Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries.
The Final Secrets Translated Together for the First Time
You might wonder why Skinner didn't include this in his most recent edition; that's because Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries is 666(!) pages long. Adding this translation would have made it 250–300 pages or more in length, making the book impossible to use and too expensive for most people's pocketbooks. You can read Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries (or other editions of A True an Faithful Relation) to discover the original system of Enochian magic. However, the Key to the Latin of Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries is a vital addition to fully understand what Dee wrote.
The translation was not easy. Dee's Latin is not classical; it's closer to Ecclesiastical. Plus, there are no strict rules governing Latin word order (except that the verb is found at the end). Further, Dee used an unusual, modern word order that was closer to what is found in English grammar. Confusing things even more, Dee sometimes transliterated a Greek word into the middle of a Latin passage. Therefore, using just a classical Latin-English dictionary wouldn't be enough. Skinner began with such dictionaries, and also consulted specialist ecclesiastical Latin dictionaries and a list of medieval English adaptations of Latin. He also made a few corrections to errors, so the Latin in this book is more accurate and true to Dee's original than in any other source.
Key to the Latin of Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries is the book that unlocks the last of the written mysteries of Enochian magick. One of the first things you'll notice is that it is in what I call a "butterfly format." The original Latin is on the left page of each two-page spread. The right-hand pages of the book give an accurate translation of what's on the left. Additional notes are at the bottom.
Note that I have italicized the word "accurate." There are two types of translations, literal and accurate. Literal translations are simple, word-for-word replacements. Accurate translations take into account such things as metaphors, popular expressions, the context of the times, etc., giving the actual meanings and not just a simple word exchange. Skinner's decades of study and experience allowed him to make the most accurate translation of Dee's Latin that have ever been published.
You'll find the page numbers where the Latin appears in Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries next to the Latin on the left pages of Key to the Latin of Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries. This way, you can go anywhere in Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries, find a passage in Latin, and quickly look it up by page number in Key to the Latin of Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries. However, even if you have another version of A True and Faithful Relation you should have no trouble finding the Latin and its accurate translation in this book.
Besides being the first corrected Latin and translation, it is also the only resource that translates all of Dee's Latin combined with expert commentary in one location.
That expert commentary makes this book even more valuable. As Skinner made the translations, he uncovered many insights that had never been picked up on or remarked upon by Dee's biographers. For example, from a footnote on page 101 of Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries, the Latin is: Imperium Brytanicum. On the right page in the Key is the translation, "The British Empire.” That's pretty straightforward. However, considering the date this entry was originally made, Skinner adds the insightful note that changes the importance of this translation of two Latin words:
"Dee was probably responsible for introducing the idea of a British Empire to Queen Elizabeth I, an idea that was responsible for a vast number of historic events over the following four hundred years."
Not only was Dee responsible for giving information that allowed the English navy to stay in port and avoid the storms that destroyed much of the Spanish Armada, he may have also been responsible for starting the idea that England was an empire, a concept that, as Skinner noted, changed the world.
Whether you have Skinner's Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries or another version of A True and Faithful Relation, Key to the Latin of Dr. John Dee's Spiritual Diaries is of monumental importance, making the secrets of Dee's diaries completely available to English readers. I would like to thank Stephen Skinner publicly for the work he has done that will finally make the original form of Enochian magick available to all.