Dee, Dr John


Dee, Dr John
(1527-1608).
   A learned mathematician, astrologer, and Hermetic philosopher, who had a high reputation both at the court of Elizabeth I and on the Continent. However, many people believed him to be a 'conjurer', i.e. one who raised evil spirits; the influential Protestant writer John Foxe made this accusation as early as 1563, and it was repeated at intervals throughout Dee's life and beyond. In 1583, a hostile mob plundered his home and burned his books in his absence. Dee's work was in fact a pious form of Renaissance ritual 'high' magic, which involved summoning angels and questioning them through a medium who could see them in a crystal; the diaries in which he recorded these sessions were posthumously published in 1659, with a hostile preface by Meric Casaubon, who insisted such spirits could only be devils. By the 19th century it was widely believed that Dee and his medium Edward Kelly had been necromancers who desecrated graves in attempts to speak with the dead.
   ■ Peter J. French, John Dee: The World of an Elizabethan Magus (1972); Edward Fenton (ed.), The Diaries of John Dee (1999).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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