John Dee’s Wife Swap and Other Sordid Tales

By Not Sure

17 March 2024


            John Dee’s father served in the court of Henry VIII.  Graduating from St. John’s College, Cambridge at the age of 15, Dee’s abilities were noticed, and he became an original fellow (a learned, high-ranking, privileged member of an institution, sort of like an ‘expert’) at Trinity College, Cambridge, which was founded by Henry VIII.  It’s amazing that Henry found time to start a college, what with his six marriages, starting the English Reformation, and breaking the Church of England away from papal authority.  Not on ideological grounds, of course, but because he wanted to annul his first marriage.

            Dee survived the scandal that accompanied his charting horoscopes for Queen Mary and Princess Elizabeth.  Poor Queen Mary faced a charge of treason for having her horoscope “calculated.”  The Princess looked out for Dee, and when she became Queen, he became her royal astrologer and scientific advisor.  Dee converted to Protestantism.




            Sensibilities can change quite a bit in four hundred years.  When Ronald Reagan was president, and his wife Nancy consulted her astrologer Joan Quigley, if the public thought about it all, it was only to laugh at her eccentricity.  “They’re from Hollywood, after all.”  Reagan’s White House Chief of Staff, Donald Regan wrote:

“Virtually every major move and decision the Reagans made during my time as White House Chief of Staff was cleared in advance with a woman in San Francisco [Quigley] who drew up horoscopes to make certain that the planets were in a favorable alignment for the enterprise.”


John Dee had a good run with Queen Elizabeth I, and for more than twenty years, his advice was sought and respected by her.  From the 1550s to the 1570s, he was advisor on all of England’s voyages of discovery and gave inspiration and support for the British (Brytish) Empire, a term he coined.  By the early 1580s, his influence was waning, and Dee was increasingly discouraged with his progress in discovering nature’s secrets and mastering alchemy.  He began to move toward the supernatural to acquire knowledge.

In 1582, Dee met Edward Kelly, a scryer (fortune teller, medium).  Dee wanted to use Kelly as a go-between to communicate with angels.  Proceeding with Christian caution at their “spiritual conferences”, Dee and Kelly prepared themselves for angelic communication with periods of prayer and fasting.  John Dee claimed that several of his books were dictated to him by angels, in Kelly’s special “Enochian” language.  In 1587, Kelly claimed that the angel Uriel told him that the two men needed to share all their possessions, including their wives.  In other accounts, this order came from a spirit named “Madimi.”

Madimi first appeared to the two men in the form of a young girl of about twelve.  Other magicians had warned that no good spirit would never take a female form, but the angels who visited Dee and Kelly protested this was not true.  Over several years, Madimi’s form became increasingly womanly.  Finally, she appeared before them with no clothes on, and told the two men to “share all things in common.”  Dee initially resisted, and when he told his wife of this command, she cried uncontrollably for a quarter of an hour.  Ultimately, she relented, the two couples drew up a contract and the sharing commenced. 

Two days later, angels appeared and said, “Behold, you are free.”  But then a new form appeared: the Scarlet Woman, called BABALON in Enochian, and the Whore of Babylon in Revelations. Dee and Kelley were terrified—the pair parted ways and the sessions ceased.  Nine months later, on 28 February 1588, a son was born to Dee's wife.  He was named Theodorus Trebonianus Dee and John Dee raised the child as his own.  Dee and Kelly never saw each other again.



Alistair Crowley wrote of Madimi or Babylon’s daughter in The Vision and the Voice:


[From The Vision and the Voice, 9th Aethyr]

We are come unto a palace of which every stone is a separate jewel, and is set with millions of moons.

And this palace is nothing but the body of a woman, proud and delicate, and beyond imagination fair. She is like a child of twelve years old. She has very deep eyelids, and long lashes. Her eyes are closed, or nearly closed. It is impossible to say anything about her. She is naked; her whole body is covered with fine gold hairs, that are the electric flames which are the spears of mighty and terrible Angels whose breastplates are the scales of her skin. And the hair of her head, that flows down to her feet, is the very light of God himself. Of all the glories beheld by the Seer in the Aethyrs, there is not one which is worthy to be compared with her littlest finger-nail. For although he may not partake of the Aethyr, without the ceremonial preparations, even the beholding of this Aethyr from afar is like the partaking of all the former Aethyrs.

The Seer is lost in wonder, which is Peace.

And the ring of the horizon above her is a company of glorious Archangels with joined hands, that stand and sing: This is the daughter of BABALON the Beautiful, that she hath borne unto the Father of All. And unto all hath she borne her.

This is the Daughter of the King. This is the Virgin of Eternity. This is she that the Holy One hath wrested from the Giant Time, and the prize of them that have overcome Space. This is she that is set upon the Throne of Understanding. Holy, Holy, Holy is her name, not to be spoken among men. For Kore they have called her, and Malkah, and Betulah, and Persephone.

And the poets have feigned songs about her, and the prophets have spoken vain things, and the young men have dreamed vain dreams: but this is she, that immaculate, the name of whose name may not be spoken. Thought cannot pierce the glory that defendeth her, for thought is smitten dead before her presence. Memory is blank, and in the most ancient books of Magick are neither words to conjure her, nor adorations to praise her. Will bends like a reed in the tempests that sweep the borders of her kingdom, and imagination cannot figure so much as one petal of the lilies whereon she standeth in the lake of crystal, in the sea of glass.

This is she that hath bedecked her hair with seven stars, the seven breaths of God that move and thrill its excellence. And she hath tired her hair with seven combs, whereupon are written the seven secret names of God that are not known even of the Angels, or of the Archangels, or of the Leader of the armies of the Lord.

Holy, Holy, Holy art thou, and blessed be thy name for ever, unto whom the Aeons are but the pulsings of thy blood.


            John Ruskin was an art historian and critic, a writer and philosopher, a Christian who infused some of his work with moral themes and devotion.  Ruskin’s influence in his day was tremendous and continues.  Many Laborites and Fabians still reference his works.  Cecil Rhodes was said to have carried his handwritten copy of a Ruskin lecture with him for thirty years as he believed it supported his own view of the British Empire.  Ruskin became acquainted with his future wife, Effie Gray, when she was a young girl of twelve.  Rusk wrote a piece of fantasy for her, and she became the artist’s model for a painter he championed, Sir John Everett Millais.

            When Effie turned twenty, she and Ruskin married, but the marriage was never consummated.  It was said that something “about her person” disgusted him.  She eventually had the marriage annulled and married Millais, who used her younger sister Sophie as an artist’s model, starting when she was about ten.  His paintings of young Sophie achieved fame, and nobody seemed too disturbed by the sensual depictions of a prepubescent girl.  Rumors swirled, but Effie defended both her sister and her husband.  Poor Sophie appears to have grown into a rather disturbed and anxious adult.  She died at 38, most likely from what we would call anorexia.

            Ruskin never remarried, became infatuated with a young girl named Rose La Touche when she was ten, and asked a friend of his who illustrated children’s books to supply him with images of young, unclothed girls. 

            Tolstoy called Ruskin, “one of the most remarkable men not only of England and of our generation, but of all countries and times” and Ghandi claimed to have been inspired by Ruskin’s writing, Unto This Last.  Cecil Rhodes used Ruskin’s vision of the British Empire as he worked at federation, starting the Round Table Societies to further his vision, and leaving his fortune to fund the Rhodes Scholarship, ensuring the right sort of education for future leaders.


            That big club that “you ain’t in” is a deviant class, down through time.


© Not Sure