October 26, 2020
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The strangest and most interesting example of the authority exerted by the Enochian angels over Dee and Kelley is the infamous wife-swapping affair. In the spring of 1587, Kelley grew increasingly reluctant to scry into the stone. He wanted to turn all his efforts to alchemy, and advised Dee to employ his eldest son Arthur as a seer. Several times in their relationship he had threatened to leave Dee in Bohemia and return alone to England, but this time he was emphatic. Dee reluctantly tested the seven-year-old Arthur as a scryer.

The boy proved completely unfit for the job. Dee begged Kelley to resume his duties, and Kelley allowed himself to be persuaded. He confessed the real reason for his latest dislike of the angels. They had ordered him to inform Dee that he and Dee should use their wives in common. They told him that if he refused this command, he was free to cease all communication with them. When the angel Madimi appeared to Kelley after young Arthur’s failed attempt to scry, Kelley was incenced: “Madimi opened all her apparel, and her self all naked; and sheweth her shame also. E.K.: Fie on thee, Devil avoid hence with this filthiness, &. Madimi: In the Name of God, why finde you fault with mee? Dee: because your yesterdayes doingsm and words are provocations to sin, and unmet for any godly creature to use. Madimi: What is sin? Dee: To break the Commandement of God. Madisimi: Set that down, so. If the self—same God give you a new Commandement taking away the former form of sin which he limited by the Law; What remainneth then?”[1]

At first Dee would not believe that the command was intended in a carnal sense. Kelley knew better. “I was glad that an offer made of being every seventh day to be taught the secrets of the books already delivered unto us: Thinking that it was easie for us to perform that unity which was required to be amongst us four; understanding all after the Christian and godly sense. But E.K. who had yesterday seen and heard another meaning of this unity required, utterly abhorred to have any dealings with them farther, and did intend to accept at their hands the liberty of leaving off to deal with them any more…”[2]

Dee required some clear proof that the angels really did intend that each should have intercourse with the other’s wife. The command appeared written in Latin on a white crucifix. Dee was shocked. The faith he had placed in the angels seemed to crumble away beneath his feet. “Hereupon we were in great amazement and grief of minde, that so hard, and (as it, yet seemed unto me) so unpure a Doctrine, was propounded and enjoyned unto us of them, whom I always (from the beginning hitherto) did judge and esteem, undoubtedly, to be good Angels: And had unto E.K. offered my soul as a paw, to bdischarge E.K. his crediting of them, as the good and faithful Minister of Almighty God. But now, my heart was sore afflicted upon many causes: And E.K. had (as he thought) now, a just and sufficient cause, to forsake dealing with them any more.”[3]

It did not take long to reconcile himself to this strange doctrine, however. That same night when he left Kelley and went to his bedroom he discovered his wife lying awake, waiting to hear the latest teachings of the angels. “I then told her, and said, Jane, I see that there is no other remedy, but as hath been said of our cross-matching, so it needs to be done. Thereupon she fell a weeping and trembling for a quarter of an hour: And I pacified her as well as I could; and so, in the fear of God, and in believing of his Admonishment, did perswade her that she shewed herself prettily resolved to be content for God his sake and his secret Purposes, to obey the Admonishment.”[4]

The four signed a solemn covenant on April 18, 1587. They agreed to “this most new and strange doctrine” and enjoined the angels to fulfill their part of the bargain and deliver the final teachings in Enochian magic as they had promised. They pledged: “we will for thy sake herein captivate and tread under foot all our humane timorous doubting of any inconvenience which shall or may fall upon us, or follw us (in this world, or in the world to come) in respect, or by reason of our embracing of this Doctrine…”[5]

In return, they expected the angels to reward them for their obedience. Dee write: “Now it was by the women as by ourselved thought necessary to understand the will of God and his good pleasure, Whether this Convenant and form of words performed, is and will be acceptable, and according to the well liking of his Divine Majesty: And that hereupon, the act of corporal knowledge being performed on both our parts, it will please his Divine Majesty to seal and warrant unto us most certainly and power to execute his justice, and declare and declare and demonstrate his infallible verity amongst men, to his honour and glory.”[6]

How long the four continued in their communal marriage is not known. The account of the wife-swapping Covenant is almost the final incident recorded concerning the occult partnership between Dee and Kelly. It has been speculated that the cross-matching was unsuccessful, but there seems no basis for this belief, other than the fact that Kelley and Dee drifted apart soon after the Convenant was signed. However, the reason for this may have been Kelley’s growing acclaim as an alchemist, which caused him to spend more time in the company of the Emperor Rudolph and other Bohemian nobility. Kelley put on a good enough show for Rudolph to persuade the King to give him the title eques auratus, which in England was later interpreted as a knighthood. Dee refered to Kelley as a “Baron of the Kingdom of Bohemia.”[7]

It might be speculated that if the angels fulfilled the promises made to the two men, Kelley was gifted with the ability to manufacture the genuine red powder, at least for a short period. As fanciful as this notion may be, it would explain Kelley’s sudden success as an alchemist. Dee’s eldest son, Arthur, always aminained in later life that he actually seen Kelley make gold in Bohemia,[8] and had played on the floor with the new gold bars. Whatever the truth, Kelley enjoyed a sudden fame and wealth in Bohemia that attracted the attention of the Emperor.

There is no record of how Johanna Kelley felt about the cross-matching arrangement, but she was probably just as horrified as the other three partners. The exchange of wives (or husbands, depending on how you look at it) was carried out only because of the great gifts of knowledge and power promised by the angels if Dee and Kelley would, once and for all, prove their faith. There is little evidence to suggest that lust was the motivating factor, at least on the part of the human beings involved.

It is common for modern critics to regard the whole affair as a trick by Kelley to sleep with Jane Dee. For example, Enochian scholar Donald Laycock in his book The Complete Enochian Dictionary writes that according to him Kelly deliberately “falsified the doctrine for his own ends.”[9] They say the incident is out of character with the rest of the Enochian communications, that Kelley was deeply unhappy with his own wife, and perhaps infatuated with Jane Dee. This is to view the matter from an jaded, modern perspective which dismisses the sanctity of the marriage vow. Adultery was a serious crime in Elizabethan times, particularly to those men and women who considered themselves good Christians.

We can see no reason to suspect that Kelley is any less sincere in his expression of horror than Dee and his wife. As for it being out of character for the angels, they had previously delivered several radical doctrines to Kelley that can only be described as Gnostic, or at least non-Christian: “That Jesus was not God. – That no prayer ought to be made to Jesus. – That there is no sin. – That mans soul doth go from one body, to another childes quickening of animation. – That as many men and women as are now, have always been: That is, so many humane bodies, and humane souls, neither more or lesse, as we are now, have always been. – That the generation of mankind from Adam and Eve, is not a History, but a writing that hath another sense. – No Holly Ghost they acknowledge. – They would not suffer him to pray Jesus Christ; but would rebuke him, saying that he robbed God of his honour, etc.”[10]

The question here then becomes, what was the motive of the angels? Most probably it was to bring about some kind of a symbolic union between Dee and Kelly. We should keep in mind that the angels regarded Dee and Kelly as two halves of a single living unit that would transmit their system of magic to humanity. Both were necessary, and either could succeed without the full dedication of the other. Since neither Dee nor Kelley would ever have agreed to an homosexual union to bind themselves together spiritually with the occult energies of sex, the angels chose the next best option and used the wives as surrogates. Each wife represents her husband. In Christianity, husband and wife are one flesh. By lying with Jane Dee, Kelley was uniting with an extension of Dee himself; similarly, by taking Johanna Kelley to his bed, Dee joined in a symbolic manner with Kelley.

There is a great deal of Gnostic imagery in the Enochian communications and Keys, and one of the features of Gnosticism is the use of sexual energy to bring about a union with the divine in order to achieve a heightened spiritual awareness and enlightened mind. This technique of using sex for spiritual awakening is common around the world. It is evolved in European shamanism, in Voudoun, and in Tantric sects in India, China, and Tibet. It also finds frequent occurrence among some schools of Modern Western magic such as the Odo Templi Orientis, which closely associated with the teachings of Aleister Crowley.

This arrangement, which although productive of some of the most interesting material recorded by Dee, probably barely lasted till July 19th when Dee records “a certayne kinde of recommendation between our wives. Next day saw relenting of E.K. also bt my Lord’s entretly.” Unfortunately with the exception of four pages in Casaubon these MS notes belong to the greate Chasme of 20 years from May 23, 1587 to March 20, 1607: the papers which fell into the hands of Elias Ashmole, but which do not appear to have survived. They contain Dee’s record of the last ‘actions’ with Kelley before he left Dee’s service.

It is frustrating that Enochian diaries break off so soon after the exchange of the wives. Suitably empowered with sexual energy, the revelations of the subsequent scrying sessions probably contained many profound secrets. Perhaps the teachings on how to actually employ the Watchtowers and Keys of Enochian magic so earnestly sought by Dee were delivered in the weeks and months following the union of the four. Perhaps, as Tyson has suggested, Kelley learned the manufacture of the red powder. If so, the transcriptions of those conversations have never been discovered. If there was any such record, it appears to have been lost forever.


[1] Casaubon, True and Faithfull Relation, p.9 of the Action Tertia section.

[2] Casaubon, True and Faithfull Relation, p.11 of the Action Tertia section.

[3] Casaubon, True and Faithfull Relation, p.12 of the Action Tertia section

[4] Casaubon, True and Faithfull Relation, p.13 of the Action Tertia section.

[5] Casaubon, True and Faithfull Relation, p.20 of the Action Tertia section.

[6] Casaubon, True and Faithfull Relation, p.21 of the Action Tertia section.

[7] Casaubon, True and Faithfull Relation, p.32, note; Dee 1527-1608, p.202.

[8] John Dee, Scientist and Geographer, p. 274.

[9] Donald Laycock, The Complete Enochian Dictionary, p.49.

[10] Casaubon, True and Faithful Relation, p. 164.


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