by John Souttar
This article was originally published in the April 2010 edition of Soul Search, the journal of The Sole Society
Inspired by the ancient High Priest’s ‘shew-stone’, Dr Dee owned a crystal ball and for twelve years he looked for what he termed a ‘scryer’ to enable him to make contact with the archangels Raphael and Michael, whom he had been invoking for knowledge since 1569. Barnabas Saul was recommended as a ‘good seer, and scryer of spiritual apparitions, in crystalline receptacles, or in open air’.¹
What little is known about Barnabas Saul is to be found in the diaries of Dr John Dee, the famous 16th century scientist and magician. Many of Dee’s diaries and books survive and are in the British Library in London and the Ashmolean Museum and Bodleian Library in Oxford. However most of the diaries have been collated by Edward Fenton in ‘The Diaries of John Dee’, which is written in plain English and benefits from illuminating notes. There is also a good website with transcriptions of Dee’s private diaries. This Gutenberg version³ is also annotated. And there are facsimiles of Dee’s original handwritten spiritual diaries on a website² devoted to this magical side. These begin with Dee’s transcription of a famous séance with Barnabas Saul on 22 December 1581.
I have included here extracts with direct relevance to Barnabas Saul. The first diary entry mentioning Saul is:
‘8.10.1581 I had news of the two chests of books found by Oundle in Northamptonshire. Mr Barnabus Saul told me of them, but I found no truth in it.
9.10.1581 Barnabus Saul, lying in the chamber over the hall, was strangely troubled by a spiritual creature about midnight’.¹
Dee then noted in his diary that after this he rode to visit Mr Hickman in Warwickshire, who we understand to have been one of his first scryers and also his last. The round trip took him 11 days from Mortlake via South Mimms, St Neots, Towcester, Oxford and Wycombe and back. It must have taken him through, or very close to Stratton Audley, the home of the Saul family as we discover later in the diary.
The next entry relating to Saul is the séance, which Dee would call an Action. This involved him setting up his crystal ball, or stone, for Saul to look into. This Action commences a new spiritual diary, or ‘spiritual conference’ in the words of the man who preserved them, Elias Ashmole, for whom Oxford’s famous museum is named. These were also published by Dr Meric Causabon in London in 1659. Dee calls it a Book of Mysteries. He used a triangular symbol for his spoken questions and then recorded what the scryer replied:
Mysteriorum Liber Primus
(There follows in Dee’s writing a long prayer in Latin which can be seen on the aforementioned website 3188.02f2a-7b.jpg – page 7. Briefly it is his prayer to the Omnipotent Lord of Lords, King of Kings, Jehovah Zebaoth, in the name of the Trinity, and to the Creator and Jesus Christ to allow the good angels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel to come to Mortlake. Dee liked to do things properly and safely)
‘22 Dec (1581) Mane, Mortlake. After my fervent prayers made to God, for his merciful comfort and instruction, through the ministry of his holy and mighty angel, namely Anael, I willed the scryer (named Saul) to look into my great crystalline globe, if God had sent his holy angel Anael, or no: and Saul looking into my foresaid stone (or crystal globe) for to espy Anael, he saw there one which answered to that name. But being earnestly requested of me to tell the truth if he were Anael, another did appear very beautiful, with apparel yellow, glittering, like gold, and his head had beams like star beams, blazing, and spreading from it: his eyes fiery.
He wrote in the Stone very much in Hebrew letters, and the letters seemed all transparent gold, which Saul was not able either presently to read that I might write after his voice, neither to imitate the letters in short time.
A bright star did go up and down by him.
There appeared also a great number of dead men’s skulls likewise and a white dog with a long lead.
And many other visions appeared with this second: the first being voided quite away. Thereupon I said as followeth:
‘In the name of Jesus Christ, who are you?’
He answered to Saul his hearing: ‘All power is granted to me’
ê: ‘What power?’
Anael: ‘Good and evil’.
Then appeared in the stone these two letters, MG. I then asking him some question about hidden treasure, he answered: ‘be not troubled, for these things are of no importance.’
And withal appeared many dead men’s skulls, on his left hand. He said to me:
‘Where is your power’.
ê’Why do you ask about any power of mine?’
Anael: ‘Why? I have shown you, it does not please me’. I thereupon set by him the Stone in the frame, and said: ‘Is any good angel assigned to the Stone?’
ê: ’Is that the good angel who is mentioned in the Scriptures?’
ê’Is it possible that I may see him and work with him’.
And therewith appeared this character A
ê: What do you wish to convey by this?’
Anael: ‘It is the character of another angel’.
ê: Why are you showing me – why here and now?’
Anael: ‘For a great cause. Make an end: it shall be declared, but not by me’.
ê: ‘By whom then?’
Anael: ‘By him that is assigned to the Stone: but not until after the feast. And then thou must prepare thyself to prayer and fasting. In the name of God, be secret. And in all thy doings praying, till thou hast thy desire: which shall not be far off. After New Year’s tide, deal, but not on the Sabbath day. Pray continuously. When it shall please God to stir thee up, then proceed. In the brightest day, when the sun shineth: in the morning fasting, begin to pray. In the sun, set the Stone. Deal both kneeling and sitting. I have done for this time.
‘My name is ANNAEL. I will speak it once more to thee: and then farewell: for thou shalt not have me any more’.
‘Be not too hasty in wrath’.
ê’Is this that you meant to speak?’
Anael: ‘Aye. Do good to all men. God hath sufficient for thee, and for all men. Fare well’.
Remember that divers other particulars might have been noted of this day’s Action: but these may suffice: and yet it is not forgotten, that as he said his name was Annael (with a double n) so he also confessed himself to be the same Annael which is governor of the planet Venus: and also chief governor-general of this great period, as I have noted in my book of Famous and Rich Discoveries.’²
We do not have records of Dee’s other scrying sessions with Saul but this one must have meant something special to him because when he found his scryers to be deceiving him, he destroyed the records. The next mentions of Saul are in the personal Diary:
‘17.1.1582 Randal Hatton came home from Saul’s father at Stratton Audley. Libri Soyga fumig. (The Book of Soyga was Dee’s most precious book which he may have hidden in a chimney as suggested here – this comes up later. In this book there were 36 tables in a script he could not decipher)
27.1 1581 Barnabas Saul his brother came
12.2.81 About 9 of the clock Barnabas Saul and his brother Edward went homeward from Mortlake: Saul his indictment being by law found insufficient at Westminster Hall: Mr Serjeant Walmesley, Mr Owen and Mr Hinde, his lawyers at the bar for the matter, and Mr Ive, the clerk of the Crown Office, favouring the matter.’¹
From this we wonder if Saul was up on charges of heresy or magic, which is possible, in which case he escaped with his life. We should also note that he has friends in high places who protect him.
‘6.3.1581 Barnabas Saul came this day again about 1 of the clock and went to London the same afternoon. He confessed that he neither heard nor saw any spiritual creature any more.’ ¹
Perhaps his recent court appearance had something to do with this. Dee’s next scryer was named Edward Talbot, but he later took the alias ‘Kelly’ as a surname. We might wonder if he first appeared to Dee as one Edward Saul.
‘8.3.1581 Mr Clerkson and his friend came to my house. Barnabas went home again about 3 of the clock, he lay not at my house now: he went I say on Thursday, when Mr Clerkson came. The sky seemed to be on fire, and to grow red like blood as it spread in different directions, at about 9 at night, especially to the north and east: while overhead, the blood-red clouds were carried toward the south.’¹
Dee may have found auspicious the red sky that accompanied this visit.
‘9.3 82 Friday; at dinner time, Mr Clerkson and Mr Talbot declared a great deal of Barnabas’ naughty dealing toward me: as in telling Mr Clerkson ill things of me that I should mock his friend: and that he was weary of me: that I would so flatter his friend the learned man that I would bereave him of him. But his friend told me (before my wife and Mr Clerkson) that a spiritual creature told him that Barnabas had cozened both Mr Clerkson and me etc. The injuries which this Barnabas had done me divers ways were very great. The learned man after dinner promised to do what he could to further my knowledge in magic….with fairies,,,,A monstrous and horrible lie.’¹
But Edward Talbot has scribbled out these last two sentences and written in his hand ’You that read this underwritten assure yourself that it is a shameful lie, for Talbot neither studied for any such thing nor showed himself dishonest in anything’¹ . Above this Dee has written ‘this is Mr Talbot, or that learned man, his own writing in my book, very unduly as he came by it’.¹
It would not be surprising at a time that people were being burned if no one wanted to be associated with the magical practices of Saul, least of all in a diary. But if Talbot is the ‘learned man’ he is also someone known to Saul. Mr Clerkson is thought to be a man who brought likely scryers to Dee.
Edward Kelly (or Kelley) became a renowned alchemist and scryer, responsible for receiving the so called angelic alphabet from angels in scrying ‘Actions’ with Dee. This ‘Enochian’ language is still used by magicians today as they seek to recreate these 16th century spiritual conferences.
There is a contemporary Edward Talbot who was the third son of the 6th Earl of Shrewsbury. This Edward was born in 1560 and inherited the title in 1616. There are many reasons why he might be the man also called Kelly. One is that he was almost certainly a spy working for Britain’s then spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham. Walsingham was a party to Edward Talbot’s marriage agreement (4) with Jane Ogle and her father Baron Ogle and was possibly instrumental in this matter. Edward Talbot had graduated from Oxford in 1579 and was certainly a learned and very unusual man. Little is known about him and the one likeness we have is on his fabulous tomb in Westminster Abbey. For a premier earl who attended Elizabeth’s court as a young man and was known to be liked by her, it is extraordinary that he was able to disappear for many years.
Dee certainly had a good relationship with Walsingham, who lived nearby, and he records meeting him on several occasions. Indeed, he was sent by him to Europe to consult physicians over the Queen’s health at one time, but eventually Dee came to believe (from a spirit called Madimi in an Action) that Walsingham was acting against him.
Edward Kelly is thought to have died in mysterious circumstances trying to escape from a castle near Prague and has no known grave. He is said to have spent at least ten years in Europe and was knighted by the Emperor Rudolph. There is no consensus on his death but this is usually said to have happened in the 1590’s (Dee records on 25.11.1595 ‘News that Sir Edward Kelly was slain’) If Kelly is that same Edward Talbot we might also note that there is another agent called Saul, who is also a British spy around this time, as documented in the Saul Family Journal but I will come back to that.
‘29.5.82 I understood of Ed. Talbot his wicked nature and his abominable lies’¹ (This has been crossed out by Talbot)
‘13.7.82 Mr Talbot came about 3 of the clock after noon, with whom I had some words of book dealing: who parted on friendly terms’.
16.7.82 I have confirmed that Talbot was a cozener’¹ (fraud – deleted by Talbot again)
‘19.7.82 Barnabas Saul came to me about 10 of the clock before noon.’¹ (Talbot has scribbled out these next sentences and written in ‘the arrival of a horrible cozener’) ‘Barnabas Saul came to see me at Mortlake. I chid him for his manifold untrue reports etc Hor 9 ½. He tarried not. He brought me two….chests.‘¹
In fact Saul had proved to be correct about the books at Oundle and here they were in two chests.
‘16.2 83 Saul
18.4.83 (The Queen had visited Dee outside his house this day and he later did an Action with Kelly and a spirit called Il. Dee asks about his Book of Soyga which may have come from Saul’s father and he is here mentioning Saul)
êIt was reported to me by this scryer that he had certain peculiar books pertaining to Soyga: otherwise named Ysoga and Agyos’.
Il: ‘Soyga signifieth not Agyos. Soyga alca miketh’
ê ‘What language is that?’
El: ‘A language taught in Paradise to Adam’…………
ê:’As concerning that chest, I pray you how came the Macedonian or Mr Sanford to know of it so particularly as he did?’
Il: ‘Husey told of it openly at the board at Brainford in the hearing of divers. Your chimney here will speak against you anon: yet I am no bricklayer’.
(Dee writes) True it is, I had hidden there in a capcase the records of my doings with Saul and others etc.’¹
‘4.7.83 Shortly after said E.K. to me: ‘Certainly here is a spiritual creature in my right shoulder, who sensibly saith to me “Come away” ‘.
‘So,’ said I, ‘did one say to Saul, when they would have had him away to have drowned him, whom I stayed in this study by force, and so hindered the Devil of his purpose then: as appeareth by that unhappy man yet alive’.
‘Nay,’ said E.K. ‘they have told me that if I tarry here I shall be hanged….’ ¹
Finally on 11.5.86 Dee wrote a letter to Sir Francis Walsingham from Leipzig which describes the relationship he is enduring with Rome. He then writes
‘No human reason can limit or determine God his marvellous means of proceeding with us. He hath made of Saul (E.K.) a Paul but yet, now and then, visited with a pang of human frailty ’ ¹
That is the last diary reference to Barnabas Saul, as far as we know. Dee does use discretion with his diary and it would have put him in a lot of danger had he not. It may be therefore that Saul made an appearance in later years with a new name, but was more polite than Talbot who wrote for us in one diary, next to an entry where Dee first mentions his new name, Kelly, on 10.11.1582, ‘which before went by the name of Talbot’.¹
A question remains; how did Saul know about the two boxes of hidden books, some on magical themes and of especial interest to Dee? If Barnabas Saul was an agent there would be no difficulty in this. The Secret Service would have had access to the many books and treasures taken from the monasteries in their recent history. Perhaps they were setting Dee up.
It is of the greatest interest therefore to read in ‘Soul Search’ of an Arthur Sale who was at Magdalen College in 1572. This is the Oxford College from which Talbot matriculated in 1579. There is also a book, ‘The Famous Game of Chesse-Play’, by A. Saul which was published in 1614. And most intriguingly there is an Arthur Saul, who in 1600 reported to Robert Cecil concerning his surveillance of someone at Court. Cecil had by that time taken over the Secret Service as Walsingham died in 1590. Cecil was a cousin of Dee. In September 1615 Arthur Saul was sent to the Continent to spy on English Catholics. This is all particularly well written up in the Saul Family Journal, Soul Search. (The Sole Society – The Mysterious Lives of Arthur Saul by Tony Storey August 2006 - http://www.sole.org.uk/mysterio.htm )
Dr Dee is credited with important discoveries in navigation and he is also credited with Britain’s vision and claim to its eventual Empire. This claim was seen through Welsh Tudor eyes and Dee and Cecil were both from Welsh families. Dee maintained that America had been discovered by Madog ab Owain Gwynedd, a mythical Welsh Prince who legend has it discovered America in 1170 and that it was therefore a British Colony 5. Some people appear to think that he was responsible for a spell which raised the storm that sank the Armada. He worked with Kelly in Europe on some undefined mission for six years and then returned to England in 1589 to become warden of Manchester University. He died in poverty in Mortlake in 1609 aged 82.
Edward Kelly is notorious. In December 1586 Dee wrote that Kelly transmuted 1 ¼ oz of mercury into an ounce of gold with a grain sized piece of a special powder, the philosopher’s stone, before him and two witnesses. But it should be noted that Kelly had been using mercury to extract gold from mining slag for the emperor. Also that the two witnesses were the Garland brothers who were probably also working for Walsingham. Elias Ashmole wrote about this after Kelly died and it has long fascinated would be alchemists.
Kelly and Dee often argued and eventually separated, but not until the angels had told Kelly that they were required to swap wives, which they did. This has caused him even greater notoriety. But perhaps he was an agent pretending to be a great magician, with State support. If so, Saul was a major part of this mission, as was Clerkson who brought these agents to work with Dee. After Kelly’s celebrated vision of the Four Castles on 26.6.1584 Dee notes ‘Hereby may you subvert whole countries without armies: which you must, and shall do, for the glory of God’.¹
Was this the real reason for the European mission? Certainly this vision is still a magnet to would be magicians and probably has been of interest to Secret Services ever since. It is inscribed on a CD sized gold disc which is now in the British Museum, with a crystal ball and an Aztec Obsidian mirror that they used in the actions. Dee records that this crystal ball miraculously appeared on the floor one day and that he was directed to it by Kelly who was scrying. Kelly told Dee that the angels took it back in April 1587 for a while before returning it again. Dee had been a talented psychic investigator at one time so one might wonder why he should believe this. I would suggest that it was a much wider European audience who were supposed to be taken in. Little declared by the angels to Dee and Kelly came to pass, and of that most would have been known by the Secret Service at the time. Dee was promised that he would live past one hundred and become very rich. It never happened.
¹ Edward Fenton ‘The Diaries of John Dee’ (1998 Day Books Oxfordshire)
² 3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madoc
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