Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 13, Vol. 2. Vernal Equinox 2007
The Little Book of Black Venus – Part Two
by Vincent Bridges and Teresa Burns
As discussed last issue, the claims which follow “John Dee’s” greeting seem extremely odd: he tells “Lovers of the Art of Magic” to not worry about reading any of the “difficult volumes” concerning the “Negromantic Arts,” but to just trust him, and follow directions. If these “Lovers” are familiar enough with the real John Dee’s magickal system as this work seems to assume they should recognize this immediately as a blind and further, that the “Negromantic Arts” refer to alchemy. They would know to read this with an understanding of Dee’s greatest alchemical work, the Hieroglyphic Monad, which itself forms links between the more feminized alchemical tradition of Isis, Cleopatra, and Maria the Jewess and an intermediate tradition likely located in southern France and northern Italy. They would know this far more palpably than we would, for all we have are the suggestive traces left behind, and their re-emergence in twentieth century magick and neo-paganism.
For the late sixteenth century Magi, secrecy was a matter of life and death, and knowing whom to trust likely involved seeing who could work their way through a series of occult blinds. From the opening non-sequitur on, we must ask ourselves what sort of Rite, if any, is actually suggested, and what is a test of Dee’s readers. Only by going through the Rite in this way will be able to discern where it likely came from and what it tells us about the transmission of a particularly heretical underground magickal current. At every line of instruction, we need to be asking ourselves whether “Dee” really means for lovers of his Art to do this, or if something different is intended.
For instance, when “John Dee” tells his reader, “If you are familiar with this Call, that is, the names and special words with which the Spirits are called and ordered by the planetary angels themselves,” he can’t be referring only to the barbarous calls associated with the six Seals governed by Anael, because any Renaissance magician should know better than to perform these calls without first doing the call to Anael, who governs them. Where, then, is the call to Anael? We have instructions on how to make the Seal and the Horn, but no call, until the consecration of the book at the end.
Is this the invocation the reader should use? It seems to be, and if so the Book could be taken as an especially sloppy example of talismanic magic. If understood this way, then when the Master greets “the Spirit” in the “powerful name of Adonai” and with the Seal of the Angel Anael, the Seal itself invokes Anael. As noted last issue, much of this section comes right out of Solomonic magic and could be seen as a Solomonic evocation. Certainly the next section, where we’re told how to deal with uncooperative spirits by holding the Seal of Venus over the flame then placing it upon the uncooperative spirit, reminds us of medieval exorcisms or of the curses used in Solomon the King to constrain disobedient spirits.
But the fact that we can find a precedent doesn’t necessarily mean something makes sense. As Leitch points out, in discussing how the medieval Goetia descend from The Testament of Solomon, “Of all the elements of the Testament and earlier mysticisms that were adopted into the Goetia, it is extremely unfortunate that one of the most important was missed: the angelic powers necessary to control the spirits.” The fact that we’re seeing goetic techniques in the Horn of Venus then get an angelic governor at the very end is puzzling but maybe just confused organization; holding the Seal of that “Great Olympic Prince” over a flame should raise major questions in the mind of the reader. Finally and perhaps most obviously, if the Master has ordered elemental spirits in the name of Adonai and with the seal of Anael, and if they’ve actually appeared but won’t do what they are told, it would seem the magician has a rather large problem.
A basic magickal axiom is that like attracts like: the magician attracts that which corresponds to the resonance he or she is putting out. If one succeeds in attracting these sorts of “demons” rather than evoking their daemon, after already having called upon governing god names and angelic intelligences, that person must be himself so unconsecrated, unclean, or unbalanced that the governing evoked energies didn’t work, or else there are no governing energies, which is magickally equivalent. If this sort of thing actually occurred, it might make more sense to immediately stop the working and banish everything than to threaten an unruly spirit with a heated Seal of Anael.
Let’s go on to one of the other important magical controls, the circle. In Solomonic traditions circles afford protection from evil spirits as well as serving as a talisman. But this circle also makes little sense, even though we may find precedents for it. For one thing, a lone circle for protection suggests an invocation rather than an evocation. If this were a Solomonic evocation, then one would expect a circle inscribed in a triangle in one of the quarters, but Dee says nothing about this. Yet the discussion many modern writers on Goetia have had about this type of triangle, and what it was supposed to be for, may afford us a way out of this blind.
Leitch, after his explanation of the goetic circle and triangle presented in Crowley’s edition of Goetia, notes: “a common theory today is that the circle in the heart of the triangle was in fact a magic mirror. That is, a piece of glass painted black on the backside, providing a deep black surface for scrying.” In this context, one thinks immediately of Dee’s shewstone and the years of angelic “shows” recorded from what Dee and Kelley evoked therein. The last years of those workings match exactly with the most probably time and place of composition for the earliest known manuscript of the Book of Black Venus: that is, the mid-1580s on the European continent, likely in a German speaking country.
If the readers know Dee’s magic, they will know something is wrong with this circle just by it not having a triangle, and if they explore further, may question the logic in the number of crosses or arrangement of god names, or why its six feet instead of the usual nine. All of this should say: stop. Ask “John Dee” for more information. Copying a manuscript like this might even have been a test for Dee’s would-be students. Would the student go ahead, or ask why things are being done in this way?
And yet, the clever student might be able to discern that there were several points of real value, hidden under confused Solomonic and Aggripan trapping. The mistakes are there, perhaps, to force the careful student to look at the heart of the working, the sigils or seals and the geometry of their arrangement. This insight might push the bright student toward an ancient pagan tradition.
It is easier to find the inheritors of this tradition than its progenitors. The glyphs for Anael on the Seal and Horn of Venus are the easiest to locate within a particular magickal stream connected to early Rosicrucianism: they are similar to those in the Seals of Anael in Großchedel’s Magickal Calendar, published in England about the same time as the Horn of Venus, and they also appear in the Seals of Anael from Peter de Abano’s Heptameron, the same work reproduced by Dr. Rudd in his “Nine Great Celestial Keys of Angelic Invocation.” Unless we count the Little Book of the Black Venus, their origin is obscure. While the glyphs on the obverse of the Anael seal suggest a literal or metaphoric hieros gamos, its not one for which we’re likely to get stage directions. But these sigils are our first nod backward to a more ancient tradition.
Figure 1 –
Seal of Anael
Note how the central image on the right seal resembles very strongly a ritual cup and blade, or chalice and spear, connected by the ancient symbol for conjunction or union. This points directly toward a goddess based and pagan influenced tradition for the sigils, and the ritual Venusian direction. Note also the use of the ancient astrological sign for Venus, which is also the Egyptian anhk, a symbol for life itself.
Figure 2 –
Black Venus Planetary Seals with Symbol highlighted
In the other planetary seals, as we might rightfully infer them to be, we also see the same use of the anhk or Venus symbol in four of the six. But we have very few obvious clues with which to make any sort of planetary attribution. The first seal, Mogrip, does suggest, with a wave like motion, the sea or the tides, and therefore the Moon. The next one, Amabosar, has something that resembles the horns of Aries, so we might suppose this one to be Mars. But there the overt clues fall apart, and the student is once again left to his devices.
However, there are clues. The clever student need have looked no further than the Arbatel of Magick’s Olympic spirits. Here we find three obvious and direct connections, in the seal of the Sun, Mercury and the Moon. The rest are close, and with the use of the basic structure, we can arrive at an attribution.
Figure 3 –
Comparison of Sun, Mercury and Moon Seals between Olympic Spirits and
Black Venus Sigils
Figure 4 –
Olympic Spirits and Black Venus Sigils
From this, we can discern a very close connection between the Olympic spirits of the Arbatel and the Anael/Venusian spirits of the Black Venus. We might even wonder which came first, if we considered the date on the manuscript as much of a blind as the flawed Solomonic magick. This might have been enough of the right question for a student to be taken into the inner circle and offered a lesson or two. These Olympic Spirits and their Black Venus versions are directly related to the planetary sigils of the seal of Truth, indicating how important Dee felt them to be. So just how did these planetary spirits became such an important part of Dee’s magickal background? By looking closely at Dee’s activities during the period before the Monad, we can come to some reasonable conclusions about why Dee was so interested in the Olympic spirits and some earlier version of the Horn of Venus of which we have no record. And perhaps, how it gave him the insight required to conceive the Monad, and to discover the concept of higher mathematical dimensions.
The first of these manuscripts was the Stenographia of Abbot Trithemius, a bizarre text written on many levels. When Dee learned of the manuscript's existence in Antwerp, he apparently spent almost all of his money and exhausted the use of different middlemen to obtain a draft. The incantations that fill the first two books of Stenographia are merely arduous encryption schemes, but in the latter portion, Trithemius lays out a complex, but coherent, method in which the magickal images of cosmic forces are etched into wax to capture and manipulate their energies. Thus the cryptography and the magick cover for each other, and to this day scholars argue about which was a blind for which. And in Books I and II, Trithemius directed his magick encryption codes toward the goal of long-distance communication via spirit messengers, a magickal version of telepathic communication. All this, of course, had immediate practical value for espionage. Dee, like a good operative, reported his acquisition – he called it "the most precious juell that I have yet of other mens travailes recovered" -- directly to Elizabeth I’s Secretary of State, William Cecil, later Lord Burghley. The angelic magick portion of the Abbot’s masterwork would take a few decades to mature for Dee, but the seed was planted in the fertile soil of his mathematical and Kabbalistic studies.
In 1564, Dee published his own masterwork, Monas Hieroglyphica or the Hieroglyphic Monad, which he said had been developing in his thoughts for seven years before he sat down in January of 1564 and wrote the text in just twelve days. Dee chose Antwerp, where he’d copied the Stenographia, and the city that later became home to the Family of Love printer Plantin and his Golden Compass, to publish his Hieroglyphic Monad, most likely while staying at the home of printer Willem Silvius at the sign of the “Golden Angel.”
Inspired by Trithemius’ belief that there was a type of wisdom that could be communicated only through the medium of obscure riddles undecipherable to the uninitiated, the Monas was simply the basic text which could be expounded privately. Dee might have agreed with Plato that "this knowledge is not a matter that can be transmitted in writing like other sciences. It requires long-continued intercourse between pupil and teacher in joint pursuit of the object they are seeking to apprehend; and then suddenly just as light flashes forth when a fire is kindled, this knowledge is born in the soul and henceforth nourishes itself." The foreword to the Steganographia explained how this tradition of secret knowledge conveyed by hints, or parable, symbol and code, had been a recognized feature of ancient thought, among the Greeks, and among the Jews.
The Monad was also influenced by Dee’s earlier work, Propaedeumata Aphoristica (Preliminary Aphoristic Teachings), a series of 120 maxims written to none other than Gerard Mercator, attempting to explain astrological forces by rational means. Dee revised and republished this work after writing the Monas, and his revisions and additions often add in the word “magic". This became the basis of Dee's natural philosophy, and in several ways anticipates Isaac Newton's Principia Mathematica; including a statement that unequal masses fall at the same speed, and that every object in the universe exerted a force on all objects. Like Newton, Dee believed that the universe worked according to mathematical laws. Indeed, much of the seven years of the Monas’ gestation period was spent working on mathematical theorems, forerunners of trigonometry and calculus, as well as augmenting Robert Recorde's Grounde of Artes, a popular book of practical mathematics, which appeared in 1561, and went through at least 26 editions before 1662 But his book-buying patterns seems to have expanded from books on astrology, alchemy, and mathematics to include Hebrew and “oriental” books, and 1561 in particular is “marked by the acquisition of Hebrew grammars.” As Dee stocked up on Hebrew grammars and parts of the Bible, he was working on his Cabalae Hebraicae Compendiosa Tabella, a vast compendium of kabbalistic correspondences published in 1562. Dee’s table, his only known explicitly kabalistic work, is now lost, as is most of his mathematical work from the period.
Something changed in Dee’s thinking between his copying Trithemius and the composition of the Monas. The groundwork in mathematics and the Kabbalah had been laid and something like a proto-scientific awareness had evolved. Dee had many agendas for his trip to the continent, from espionage to book buying and publishing his own works, but after his discovery of Trithemius, his focus seems to have shifted. Dr. John Dee, secret agent and scholar, embarked on his search for the secret knowledge hinted at in Trithemius’ foreword. The Monas is proof enough that he found it, but we are left wondering just what was the spark that kindled Dee’s flash of intuitive knowledge?
Dee apparently felt right at home; on being introduced to one of the court mathematicians, Federico Commandino, he presented him with a copy of a lost mathematical treatise, later published as De superficierum divisionibus, and they likely shared ideas on Apollonius of Perga’s Conica. The wheels properly greased, Dr. Dee began to buy manuscripts. From Urbino, he made buying forays to Padua, Milan and most importantly Venice, whose library of San Marcos he had wanted to visit at least since his 1556 “Supplication to Queen Mary.” While there, he found and copied the Hermetic portions of a medieval collection of Greek manuscripts called, in general, the Codex Marcianus.
Within this collection of fragments, Dee found much that fascinated him. This may be the source for several of the philosophers—Anaxagoras and Ostanes—that he refers to in the Monad. He would have also been drawn to a particularly interesting fragment that refers to an angel “Amnael.” Along with the other alchemical texts, this one, called “Isis the Prophetess to her son Horus,” echoes much of the Hermeticism of Trithemius but with a curious directness that Dee must have found quite compelling. In The Mysteries of the Great Cross at Hendaye, one of us described this fragment thus:
One of the earliest of all alchemical manuscripts, “Isis the Prophetess to Her Son Horus” seems to be a unique blend of Hebrew mysticism and Egyptian mythology that could only have come from Alexandria early in the first century C.E. In this text, the Egyptian goddess Isis tells her son, Horus, that while he was away fighting and defeating the evil one, Seth, she was in Hermopolis studying angelic magic and alchemy. She relates that: “after a certain passing of the kairoi and the necessary movement of the heavenly sphere, it happened that one of the angels who dwelt in the first firmament saw me from above.” The angel is enflamed by sexual passion for Isis, but he can’t answer her questions about alchemy. He bargains on another encounter by offering to bring a higher angel who will tell her everything she wants to know. The first angel shows Isis the magical sign of the higher angel. This sign consists of a bowl of shining water and a moon symbol that resembles the emblem of the moon god Khonsu of Thebes.
This fragment must have tremendously impressed Dr. Dee. Phrases from Isis’ revelation can be found scattered through the text of the Monas and the alchemical concepts found in this work continued to inspire Dr. Dee to the end of his life. Just as Trithemius had suggested was possible, Isis learned the secrets of alchemy from a complex angelic being. The Hebrew spelling of Amnael’s name gave Dee a clue to the nature of its composite being. Using Hebrew gematria, the letters in the name add up to 123, the number of the three-part name of God, AHH YHVH ELOHIM. These three names are attributed to the top three sephiroth on the Tree of Life—Kether, Chokmah, and Binah. If we break the name into Amn and ael, we get the numbers 91 and 32. These are both references to the Tree of Life as a whole, 32 is the total number of paths and sephiroth on the Tree, and 91 is the number of the Hebrew word amen, AMN, and the word for “tree,” AYLN. The angel Amnael, a composite being, can be seen as the sum of all the knowledge in the revealed tradition.
Or, rather, the source for which Dee had seeking. The good Abbot Trithemius had pointed out a method and perhaps hinted at the name, and the Isis fragment and the rest of the Codex Marcianus texts suggested the goal to be achieved. As the summer turned into fall, Dee returned to his diplomatic espionage activities and headed for Hungary and the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian of Hapsburg. Along the way, Dee may have found the key to the last of his three critically important manuscripts, one that brought him directly into contact with the “Olympic Spirits.”
The Little Book of Black Venus, as we know, instructs the reader how to perform the “Horn of Venus,” which could be used for “lifting hidden treasures, for Navigating, Trade, war, and other ways likewise where the Spirit can be of service to you.” It uses a technique already familiar from Trithemius, that of engraving sigils or magickal images in wax, and it focuses on an angelic spirit with a name very similar to that found in the Isis the Prophetess fragment. Dee would have found these components comforting and understandable in terms of his developing spiritual conceptions.
The key however lies in the sigils. Each of the six planetary sigils, and the central Anael sigils can be attributed to the magickal images of what would be called the Olympic spirits. They first emerged into print in Basel, Switzerland, in 1575, a decade and more after Dr. Dee traveled through the region looking for esoteric manuscripts. A Latin grimoire, called in its English appearance The Arbatel of Magick, described as part of its "Institutions of Magick" the nature, operations, sigils and attributes of the seven Olympic spirits. They were somehow considered more local in their nature than the Hebrew Archangels, with whom they were grouped and attributed.
By 1712, the Olympic spirits had become popular enough to be included in a copy of Dr. Rudd's manuscript on Angelic Conjuration, an underground classic all through the age of Enlightenment. The manuscript, Harley 6482 in the British Library, is one of six volumes of Dr. Rudd's work copied by a student named Peter Smart in the period of 1710 to 1714. This manuscript suggests that an Enochian secret tradition among the English Hermetics, perhaps the inner teachings of Dee's students, survived as late as the eighteenth century, and demonstrates the importance given to the Olympic spirits in Dee's work. We are not told directly in the manuscript that Dee's “Enochian” Angels on the Seal of Truth are in any way related to the Olympic spirits. But the secret tradition, as it emerged later in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, would clearly link the two.
For instance, let's take the Olympic spirit for the Sun. The Arbatel gives the name as "Och" and the sigil looks like a trident with a circle at the end of an extension of the central tine. On the Seal of Truth, the solar being is called "Aaoth," which is linguistically the same as "Och." (Aaoth is pronounced "Ah-ott" and Och is "Ah-ch." The glottal stop of a "ch" sound can easily wander into another glottal, such as a "t" or "th" sound over time.) The sigil however clinches it. The trident shape of the Olympic spirit fits perfectly over the sigil for the Sun on the Seal. The Olympic sigil forms the basic pattern, to which Dee's figure adds a sense of pillars on each side and a cross at the top of the central tine.
Figure 5 –
Ameth Seal and Och
The sigil on the Seal could have been influenced by the Latin version of the Arbatel, but the name was derived in a manner that was far too complex to allow for any creative interpretation. The codes and puzzles over-lap, but the meanings stay the same. For instance, the numbers that spelled out Aaoth contain the meaning of solar balance and harmony, (6, Tiphareth, and 26, YHVH) and together the whole word has the same numerical value as the name of the Goddess in Arabic, "AI-lat." The word "aoth" in both Hebrew and Arabic seems to be an archaic term for gravity or its effects.
Dee must have found the idea of the Olympic spirits, the same spirits whose magickal sigils were used in the “Horn of Venus” ritual, so compelling that he included them in the very groundwork of the Enochian system. The Seal of Truth was considered by Dee and Kelley as the insulating filter that kept chaos and confusion away from the crystal that was the focus of the angelic sessions. In many ways, the Seal of Truth is just an enlarged and amplified version of the collective great seal of the “Horn of Venus" workings.
Where did these Olympic spirits come from? Basel, Switzerland, where the anonymous Arbatel was published, is in the middle of an ancient trade route that skirted the Alps and connected northern Europe with the peninsula of Italy. Looking back through time along this route we find something very interesting.
The Camonica valley is a deep fault rift almost fifty miles long running from Lake Iseo to the Swiss border at the Tonale Pass. The ancient trading path emerged from the Alps at Tonale and wandered along the Oglio River as it carved its swampy way through the valley floor. The Roman engineers, with their very modern sense of improvement, gave up on the valley and raised the road up into the foothills where today it clings to the mountain side and looks out over the marshy lakes and winding streams. The villages tend to stay in the same spot, millennium after millennium.
And in that seemingly changeless landscape, the original sacred precincts of the Olympic spirits can be found. In 1563, as Dr. Dee passed through on his way to Switzerland and Hungary, the ancient beliefs bubbled close to the surface in traces an authentic witch cult . Given that, it’s hard to imagine where else he could have found the key to such a fly in amber piece of the Old Religion, as the core of the Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus seems to be.
The 1954 discovery of the Borno menhir, a carved stone of a type that we will examine in detail later, allowed the Camonica Valley carvings to enjoy a ten year long vogue among European archaeologists, mostly Italians, of course. By the late sixties, the subject faded again, the enthusiasts thwarted by the mute unintelligibility of the pictoglyphs. This is unfortunate because the pictoglyphs have important things to tell us about the dawn of civilization. The earliest images date from the late Neolithic, about 3,000 BC. These early images are mostly sun discs, with labyrinths and geometric designs. Some of these are shown with worshipping figures, but most are in isolated splendor. The archaeologist knows the culture that carved these images as the Unetice, after a field in Prague where the original discovery of the culture was made. This culture congealed from the economic pressures of the amber trade, and the Camonica valley in the foothills of the Alps appears to have been their "holy place."
In recent years, archaeologists searching for a cultural context for the petroglyphs have generated a wide, wide range of interpretations, from looking at the prevalence of hunt scenes, to connecting the “Blacksmith” drawings with the development of metallurgy, to commenting on sexual and shamanistic imagery and speculating on its connection to a “solar” cult, to looking at the “house” images and connecting them to a ecstatic women’s cult, perhaps even one linked back to the story of Theseus and the labyrinth.
Figure 6 –
The Olympic Spirits
It seems likley that the anonymous Paracelsian author of the Arbatel derived at least some of the names and sigils of the Olympic spirits from this ancient background. The Unetice culture had elements of the old European mother goddess cult embedded in it like a fly in the precious amber they traded, but it also had elements of an Indo-Aryan, almost proto-Celtic patriarchy. Perhaps this unique balance produced its long-term stability. Traces of the ancient beliefs can still be found all along the route of the amber trade, from Lithuania to the Aegean Sea. The earliest images in the valley show the radiating Sun disc with three branching rays or horns, similar to the Och sigil. This similarity grew more apparent as the Sun disc symbolism gathered to it a stag cult, and images of a Sun disc from which the horns of the stag emerged became common by the early Bronze Age across Europe.
Figure 7 - Sun
Figure 8 –
Phul and Camonica image
Figure 9 –
Phaleg and Camonica image
Phul, the Moon, and Phaleg, Mars, have sigils that can be traced for centuries on the rock walls of the valley. Phul's parallel lines connected by an arcing tangent are perhaps the most common motif of the entire valley, called the temple, or sacred house design by the archaeologists. This is an intriguing clue that we will return to later. Phaleg's telescoping length design is also extremely common in the valley, where it appears with the images of sacred animals, particularly the stag. This is fascinating indeed, since the Arbatel tells us that Phaleg has the antlers of stag on his head. The identification of the Olympic spirits with the gods and goddesses of the Unetice culture and its relics, the Camonica carvings, becomes even clearer when we consider the strange case of Ophiel, or Mercury.
The name Ophiel surprises us. It is Hebrew, meaning "being or messenger of light," and the sigil given for it is an artificial sigil derived from the Christian kabbalah. This is interesting enough, since the use of this sort of "rose and cross" sigil is thought to have originated with the Rosicrucians, who did not appear for forty years after the Arbatel was published. The anonymous author can then be seen as a proto-Rosicrucian Paracelsian who had good reason to hide the real Olympic name and sigil of the spirit of Mercury.
What could that reason have been?
Consider this roundabout way of answering the question: if we think it is possible that some of these oral traditions survived into the 1890s, then we might look at Charles G. Leland’s 1899 Aradia, the Gospel of the Witches. Gathered from sources in the same northern Italian valleys that saw the benandanti, Leland's Diana has all sorts of pagan secrets in her care. But the most interesting of Aradia's revelations is that Diana was in love with her brother, who was the God of Splendor and Light. Diana is the Moon Goddess, the Olympic Phul, and so her brother, that is the planet in the same position to the Sun as the Moon is to the earth, could only be Mercury.
If the Aradia information can be trusted, then it becomes obvious why the anonymous author of the Arbatel went to so much trouble to give a pseudonym to the Olympic Spirit of Mercury. "This is the Gospel of the Witches," declares the opening sentence of Leland's text. "Diana greatly loved her brother Lucifer … the god of light and splendor … who for his pride was driven from paradise." The anonymous author of the Arbatel" could have been burnt as a Devil worshiper if the name of the Olympic spirit of Mercury suggested Lucifer, even in its Celtic form of Lugh. So the wise author chose a clever Hebrew gloss, which would allow an initiate to figure out the true meaning, but would confuse the un-learned.
In a study of the etymology of names in the Faust myth, Goebel makes the same argument about both Ophiel and Mephistopheles: that both refer to Lucifer, or a serpent-god, because of their association with Hermes Trimegestis, “the guardian-god of the magicians, alchemists, and astrologers.”
Perhaps some anonymous initiate was leaking the Olympic spirits into western Europe’s written magickal corpus, by way of the Arbatel. It's no surprise that some of the most direct evidence we have of a witch cult separate from the inquisitors' imagination appears in the civic records of northern Italy, including the Camonica valley.
In March of 1575, Father Bartolomeo, the village priest of Brazzano, in the heart of pictoglyph country, was worried about witchcraft. A strange story had come to his attention, and being deeply disturbed by it, he sought out the advice of the father inquisitor at the Monastery of Saint Francis in Cividale, which lies at the lower end of the Camonica valley. Along the way he chanced upon the subject of the story, Paolo Gasparutto, and conducted him to the monastery as a witness.
The story that had the good Father so excited concerned a group of "vagabonds" who Gasparutto claimed wandered out of body at night saving children from the witches and ensuring a good harvest. In front of the father inquisitor, Gasparutto readily confirmed the story and added many new details to his account. Trying to make sense of this information, Father Bartolomeo concluded that a group of witches existed, called "in their own words benandanti," which means "good walkers", and who prevent the evil that other witches commit. After another session of questions a week later, the father inquisitor decided that Gasparutto was given to tall tales.
Who were these "benandanti?"
More to the point though is the allusion to Dame Abonde and her followers in the medieval romance, Roman de la Rose. The Poet suggests that there are those who believe, although he considers it an horrible folly, that third-borns were obliged to go three times a week to the homes of their neighbors in the company of Dame Abonde. Nothing could stop them, since only their souls traveled; but if their bodies were turned over, their souls would never return. In many respects, both of these stories echo Gasparutto's tale of the "Benandanti."
It is easy to understand the father inquisitor's skepticism and Father Bartelomeo's confusion. Faced with a confession like this, made freely and without torture, that confirms the existence of itchcraft but asserts that the accused is a "good witch," seems the product of a deranged mind, as the father inquisitor suggested. This shows us clearly, with our advantage of historical perspective, how desperately far apart the common people and the intelligentsia actually were in the late Middle Ages. But Gasparutto and his neighbors are well aware of the existence of the benandanti; it is, at their level, an accepted part of life. In the benandanti, we glimpse the survival of the original Neolithic cult whose pictographic remains have been found in the Camonica valley.
The Dame Abonde, called Abuntia or Satia, may well be the Good Lady of our Olympic Spirit Och, whose sigil, the three-rayed solar disc, is the oldest of all images in the Camonica valley. The confusion of names came from the educated inquisitors and priests trying to make sense of the local peasant superstitions. To make any sense of this at all, we must go back to that carved menhir found in 1954, the Borno stone.
Figure 10 - Borno
This thumb-shaped stone, about four feet high, may perhaps be one of the oldest carvings in the valley. It marked the thermal spring near the tiny village of Borno, whose name echoes the Celtic god of springs and healing, Bormo. The stone itself shows the radiating headdress of the Sun Goddess above a field of eight pairs of spirals. Each pair of spirals has an interesting doubled effect, produced by an almost phallic extension of the line that allows the flow to reverse. This is a complex symbol for the balance of masculine and feminine forces, the very issues that the Unetice culture seems to have resolved. The Borno, or Healing God, menhir demonstrates how this was accomplished, by balancing the masculine energy with an equal flow of feminine energy.
Across the valley near Caven, another menhir was found with an almost overpoweringly eerie image on it. A sun disc surrounded by five concentric circles, radiates two similar rays and a different middle ray that looks like a stairway. On either side of the sun disc is two smaller and lower discs, and off to one side is two pairs of spirals, in the same design as that on the Borno stone. Below the radiating rays and the stairway is a torque-like necklace.
Figure 11 - Caven
The necklace and the radiating headdress can be considered as the same
symbol, simply reversed in direction. The headdress is the celestial power;
the necklace is terrestrial. The Caven stone shows us an archetypal glimpse
of how the power descends, and notice, there is a pyramidal shape to the
expression. These menhir marked important places in the landscape to the
Neolithic and Chalcolithic people who carved them. They marked the flow
of power, whether down from the sky or up from the earth. At both places,
they chose to note the balancing formula, the Old European equivalent
of a yin-yang symbol, the double spiral, as part of the aspect of the
The placement of the Borno menhir, and its Caven cousin, point to an advanced awareness of earth energies and geomancy on the part of the original Unetice culture. No one, to our knowledge, has ever tried on the Camonica valley the sort of straight-line exercise that has crisscrossed Britain with "leys," but the results would be fascinating and instructive, as there seems to be several obvious alignments. One of these is the line between Caven and Borno, which crosses the great rock of Naquane. On the other side of Alps, these straight paths between ancient sights were thought to be the tracks of the Wild Hunt, an army or procession of the restless Dead that wandered during the Ember Weeks. This Wild Hunt resembles in many ways the benandanti of the Camonica valley and the Fruili plain.
The Wild Hunt is usually led by figures that echo the Olympic Spirits
Phaleg and Haggith, or Mars and Venus. It is easy to recognize a form
of the Mother Goddess, the Sun's daughter, in Haggith and Madame Holda
or Perchta of the Bavarian Wild Hunt. Phaleg, shown with stag horns in
the Arbatel, is the ancient Celtic Cerrunos or Cernunnos, or The
Lord of the Animals. In Britain he was Herne the Hunter, and there is
a legend connecting him with a straight track in Windsor Forest. The Wild
Hunt ranged as a myth from Yugoslavia to Ireland, and the presence of
Phaleg and Haggith in the Wild Hunt legends can be traced from country
to country. Its ancient meaning survived along with the benandanti
at least until the seventeenth century, and perhaps even longer.
Figures 12 and
13 - Labyrinth, I and II
It is worth looking briefly at this design, one of man's oldest and most common. We begin with nine points arranged in a flattened x, with the ninth point in the center. From this, the endless knot of Celtic folk art can be derived, as can five yin-yang symbols and the fly-flot, or floppy cross. The basic labyrinth is derived from these same nine points by first adding two perpendicular lines through the center point and four right angles enclosing the outer four points. If we draw a circle around this, we have the straight lines marking equinoxes and solstices and the enclosed point marking the quarter sabbaths, giving us the wheel of the year. The four angles are the four elements, and the center of course is spirit. This gives us the basic Old European "medicine wheel."
The labyrinth can be developed by connecting the top center line to the next line, and then continuing on to the right in the same manner, using both points and lines to make the connections. Utter simplicity, but what a depth of symbolism!
Within a few hundred years, the great Naquane rock would see the evolution of the labyrinth into the original of the sigil of Phul, the Moon Goddess, and Mistress of the Dead. Today, this image is still startling, even hidden as it is by centuries of carving over and around it. We see a skull like structure with a radiating headdress in the carving on the rock, and looking at the Olympic sigil in the Arbatel, we are struck by the resemblance, on a schematic level. Simplified and refined, they are the same image.
Even stranger, if we read the list of images associated with Phul by Dr. Rudd, "A King Like an Arthur riding on a Doe; a little boy; a women hunter with a bow and arrows; a cow, a doe, a goose ...an arrow; a creature having many feet," it seems almost as if we are reading a list of the images carved on the Naquane rock that are closely associated and grouped with the original Phul image. Did actual knowledge of the cultic significance of the rock survive long enough for the images to be translated into the pages of Dr. Rudd's grimoire? It would appear that it did.
Dr. Dee seems to have contacted the same Olympic spirits mentioned and categorized in the Arbatel of Magick; his 1563-1564 journeys may be a direct influence on the Arbatel rather than, as most assume, the Arbatel an influence on Dee. The same year that the Arbatel appeared in Basel, 1575, the benandanti appear in the court records of the Camonica valley, where the pre-historic rock carvings are the likeliest source for the sigils of the Olympic spirits. Dr. Dee had traveled through the region more than a decade earlier. It is entirely possible, even likely, that Dee found the origin of what would become the Consecrated Book of the Black Venus along his route. The benandanti and the Olympic spirits of the Black Venus then can be seen as a twin link in a tradition that stretches directly back to the Unetice culture of the late Neolithic, and forward to the Rosicrucian use of the Olympic spirits, and finally to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn.
To understand this, we must look closely at the Black Venus without its classical trappings. Basically, we are instructed to prepare a series of sacred objects, seals, a book and a horn trumpet, and then to gather them in a sacred locality, a crossroads, circle or maze, and with them evoke seven ancient pagan godforms, ones that seem amazingly close to the deities of the Bronze Age Camonica valley. These godforms are then instructed to aid the prosperity of the operator and/or his group. Simply put, this is the core of an ancient pagan ritual petitioning the Good Lady, Dame Abuntia, as the Black Venus of Our Lady Underground.
But this version has more. In addition to the “book” where the spells are written down, there are also seals or sigils, magickal images of the seven planetary forces to be evoked. The presiding spirit, the “Great Olympic Prince” Anael, has a double-sided seal, shaped as a hexagon, while the others are all given as circles enclosing single sided sigils. These sigils repeat on one side of the sacred horn used in the ritual. The other side is shown as having two sigils from the central seal, along with a stylized phallus.
Some of these sigils are recognizable from earlier, and even classical, sources, but most of them, particularly that of the central figure, Anael, seem to be the origin point for a tradition that grows from it, as do some of the other six planetary spirits. They can be identified among the Olympic spirits, and their earlier Camonica valley versions. And, almost twenty years later, they can be recognized as the angelic and Olympic spirits of the Seal of Truth.
Figure 14 –
Table of Sigils
However, there is even more to this deceptively simple ritual. As a geometer, Dee would have noted that the central seal, given its hexagonal shape, could be seen as a cube, four faces, and a top and bottom. The images on both sides of the seal support this concept, with the four “elemental” sigils taking the sides with the longer and more complex sigils as top and bottom. If we think of the six planetary spirits as attributed to the points of the hexagram, then it is easy to see the hexagram, and from that another cube, or series of cubes, enclosing the central cube/seal.
Figure 15 –
Hexagrams and Cubes
And with this realization, we have the spark that caused the light to flash forth, as “when a fire is kindled, this knowledge is born in the soul and henceforth nourishes itself,” Plato's own words. Within a few months, this growing awareness would result in the Hieroglyphic Monad, and, a few decades after, in the corpus of the Enochian material. All of these works hinge upon an understanding of sacred geometry, taken to an extraordinary level of insight. Dee gained that insight through an understanding of, and perhaps an interaction with, the structure of the Black Venus ritual. By visualizing the complex concept of a cube within a cube, that also unfolds into six cubes attached to the faces of a seventh cube, Dee had stumbled onto the key concept of the mathematical 4th dimension, that of the hypercube. The Anael Seal forms the inner cube; the Seals that it governs form the outer cube.
Figure 16 –
Cubes and Hypercubes
This was indeed sacred geometry taken to an entirely new level of understanding. Dee and other sixteenth century mathematicians had no vocabulary beyond metaphor to describe these concepts, and scholars have avoided applying later conceptual developments in academic mathematics to the sacred geometry inherent in magick. Yet a mathematical way to describe and apprehend the concept of higher dimensions was very nearly the holy grail of Dee’s mathematical spirituality. That he should find this clue in an archaic piece of pagan magick, one with echoes of both Trithemius and his newly copied Hermetic fragments (“I conjure you in the name of Fire, of Water, of Air, and of the Earth; I conjure you in the name of the Heights of Heaven and the Depths of Earth’s Underworld”) would simply confirm and expand upon the beliefs he already had. His mathematical studies and his deep research in the kabbalistic correspondences allowed him to place the concept in a much broader context. The idea of the Cube of Space, for example, was greatly enriched by the addition of higher dimensional geometries, and Dee would also have seen its implications for the timing of the Great Year and what he saw as a coming Apocalypsis and Golden Age.
Figure 17 –
Belzazael and Gethog
Earlier in this article we pointed out the similarities and possible connections between Dee’s Seal of Ameth planetary sigils and that of the Olympic spirits. Given the relationship between the Olympic spirits and the Black Venus’ planetary sigils, we might reasonably suppose that there is a connection between the Seal of Ameth sigils, found around the outside of the Seal, and the Black Venus’ glyphs. And indeed there is.
The Black Venus sigil for Saturn, Belzazael, has an uncanny resemblance to the sigil for Gethog found on the Seal of Ameth. Both of these are somewhat unique, Saturn being one of the Olympic spirits whose sigil is hardest to find among the Camonica valley carvings. It is as if Dee found the basic pattern of the Black Venus’ sigil more potent than his other influences, and so it passed almost directly into the Seal of Ameth.
Figure 18 –
However the most important connection between the Black Venus and the seal of Ameth is found in the structure of their arrangement of the planets. In the Black Venus, as we have teased them out above, we find the order given as Moon, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Mercury, Sun. This odd arrangement seems arbitrary until we consider the traditional arrangements of planets on a hexagram, and how that might change if Venus, instead of the sun were in the center. Breaking the hexagram down to two triangles helps us see it. The Moon and Venus have switched, with the displaced from the center Sun taking the Moon position. This still gives us a triangle with two outer planets, Mars and Jupiter, with one inner, the Sun, and another triangle with two inner, The Moon and Mercury, and one outer, Saturn, to maintain the balance.
On the Seal of Ameth, this order is clearly given: Moon, Saturn, Mercury on one triangle, and Jupiter, Mars and the Sun on the other. The Black Venus arrangement is the same, in terms of place on the triangles, but as given in the text they loop, the first one, the Moon, then four and five, Saturn and Mercury, then number, six, the Sun, and two and three, Mars and Jupiter. Both arrangements, although listed differently in the text, follow the same order.
And this is the key awareness that a student, working with the Black Venus text, would need to have in order to approach his initiation. Beneath all the mistakes and magickal trappings, there could be found both an ancient tradition and a new way of looking at the world and its relationship to higher dimensions. This alone would keep almost any student at work copying the manuscript.
Some version of the “Horn of Venus” may have circulated among the Family of Love. But the English familists, like the peasant benandanti, were for the most part not terribly educated. Those in Elizabeth’s court, especially among her Yeoman of the Guard, and the seeming Familist connections surrounding two of her suitors (Eric of Sweden and the Duke of Anjou) and of other aristocrats like Count Laski, present a different sort of enigma. Dee alone seems a bridge to the more intellectual Antwerp familists like publisher Plantin or thebookseller Birkmans, the Old Religion folk “Familists,” and the Yeoman Familists in Elizabeth’s court.
The preceding article noted that the Little Book of Black Venus’s purported date, 1580, references the year that whatever hopes the Familists had came to an end. We also saw how the specific date, June 4, 1580, refers not to the “Day of Venus,” Friday, but to Saturday. But there is a way out of this conundrum: June 4th (Old Style) was a Mercury/Venus conjunction, and a week later, there was a new moon or a Sun/Moon conjunction. It is just possible that the June 4th date, with its excellent Venus aspect, was chosen to copy the ritual, which would then be buried for a week until the next Friday, June 11th, when there was a new moon.
These dates match the requirements of the ritual, and they strongly suggest that someone, possibly John Dee, actually did the ritual in 1580. It seems unlikely that he created the ritual for the occasion; what exactly would be his motivation for that? It is much more likely that, having found a fragment of an older ritual as early as 1563 and having spent a decade and more pondering it, Dee decided to make use of what seemed to him a piece of a much more ancient tradition. If, as seems probable, Dee actually performed the ritual in 1580, then this marks his first practical excursion into ceremonial magick. Thus the date may refer to both an actual ritual as well the year Familists hopes in England started dimming, and the Family of Love’s most likely English mastermind starts searching for a bigger lever.
Whatever the cause, after 1581, Dee’s searching for cosmic insights became as frenetic as it had been in the early 1560s. And no surprise, at the start of Dee’s angelic conversations, on a Friday on the winter solstice 1581, the great angel “Annael” appeared.
Dee noted this being as the answering Angel, who made God's secrets known to men, and also as “the chief Governor General of this Great Period.” In other words, this is not just the “Olympic Spirit” Venus or even the Governor of the Age of Venus, but the angelic spirit in charge of the new age, which Dee thought was the last cycle before the Apocalypse and the herald of a Golden Age. Given that identification, there can little doubt that Dee was reminded of the composite being Amnael, whose gematria revealed it to be the sum of all the knowledge in the revealed tradition, as well the Olympic Prince Anael of the Black Venus. Dee’s “misspelling” of both names as “ANNAEL” in his written record provides another tip, particularly to anyone understanding Theorems XIII and XV of the Hieroglyphic Monad.
At that first appearance, Annael also announced that Dee would learn many things in the future "by him that is assigned to the stone." Within a few months of that pronouncement, Edward Kelley arrived at Dee’s doorstep and the great work of changing the world through angelic magick had begun.
It is within this context that we must start to place the Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus we have, inasmuch as the most likely date for the earliest copy have survivd, and the only copy found in England, was in the mid-1580s, at the height of Dee and Kelley’s angelic workings and after an infusion of new ideas concerning mystical ecstatic kaballah. Since this earliest copy was likely written in a German-speaking country, chances are it returned to England with someone who knew Dee and Kelley in Trebona.
First we must notice something very significant about Dee’s book collecting. While Dee’s collecting of Hebrew grammars seemed to end in the 1560s, the events of the 1580s prove that his interest in mystical kaballah could not have ended. What was he reading? Who was he talking to?
Though we now have many excellent analyses of Dee’s library collection, we obviously don’t know the manuscripts he had that were too heretical to list. We know for certain there were some: as stated earlier, Dee’s handwritten copy of the Codex Marcianus shows up in Kassel, but it is never listed in any of his library catalogs. We suspect the same silence regarding earlier alchemical manuscripts he may have copied in Paris, and whatever teachings of the mystical kaballah Dee possessed.
The word Mecubales in the Hieroglyphic Monad nods to the possession of some such texts as early as 1564, as Mecubales seems derived from Hebrew Mekubalim, a word which appears at least as early as the 13th century in the writing of Rabbi Jacob ben Jacob ha-Cohen, whose “Explanation of the Letters” and “Treatise on the Left Emanation” would certainly have been works that attracted Dee’s attention. One further suspects Dee may have had a copy of some of the teachings of the so-called ‘Iyyun Circle, since the ideas expressed by some of their works also can almost seamlessly match the ideas encoded within the Hieroglyphic Monad. This same Latin word appears Agrippa, though we don't know his source. We can be sure, however, that as Dee poured through different texts he would have noticed different Latinized Hebrew words used to refer to Kabbalists.
Translation of these early kabbalistic texts into English is just beginning, the manuscripts coming from libraries not only in Israel but as far away as Florence, Paris, Munich, and Warsaw. We know Dee visited almost all of these European libraries and could read the Hebrew; that he would have not been extremely interested in these works is inconceivable. But whatever copies Dee may have made of these early kaballistic manuscripts, and which ones they were, go as unrecorded as what sections of Parisian alchemical manuscripts he copied. If any of these most heretical works were left behind when the Dees and Kelleys left to the continent, they were destroyed, but it is much more plausible that they were simply packed along with the 600 plus other books that departed England with the Dees, Kelleys, and Count Laski when they left for Poland in 1583.
They made their way to Cracow, where from April 1584 on commenced the angelic workings where the angel Nalvage, through Kelley, would begin teaching Dee the angelic or Adamic language. Dee’s recording of these angelic keys or calls makes up the heart of the so-called Enochian corpus. While they evoked Nalvage though the shew stone, they were also living near one of the largest collections of Hermetica in eastern Europe, but more importantly, they were near the home town of Rabbi Judah Loew.
Just as modern Dee scholars can’t prove Dee ever met Giordano Bruno but assume he must have, because they were in the same place at the same time and had similar interests, they assume the same thing about Rabbi Loew, later called the “Maharal of Prague.” The legends of Rabbi Loew making a Golem to defend the Jews of Prague suggest, to those understanding the symbolism, the creation of an Adam. Karen de Leon-Jones, in “John Dee and the Kaballah,” connects the concept of the golem explicitly to the philosopher’s stone of Dee’s Monad:
Ultimately, the purpose of much Kabbalistic speculation is to imitate the act of the Creation of Adam and produce an artificial anthropoid, shaped from clay: the golem. At the very heart of certain Kabbalah is the explication, interpretation and commentary on Creation for a practical purpose. Already early texts like the Sefer Yetzirah and the Bahir reveal the secrets of not only God’s Act, but on how the worthy may create or animate a golem. In the early Jewish texts the consonants of the Hebrew alphabet serve as not only the vehicle for the primordial Creation, but for the creation of the golem. After fashioning a figure from clay, the Kabbalist inscribes on the forehead three letters, (aleph, mem, tav) forming the word emet (truth). Afterwards, the Hebrew alphabet, in all its permutations including the vowel-consonant combinations, is recited, to animate the being. The golem contains all the permutations of the alphabet, like the Monad. The difference is that the creature itself cannot create, for it is sterile. In essence, this is an imitation of the biblical account of the creation of Adam. Thus the Theorems are Kabbalistic because they too replicate the act of Creation by creating the symbol of the Monas. That is to say, the symbol of the Monas is a sort of golem, within the Kabbalistic tradition, and also tied into the alchemical tradition of the creation of the homunculus. The adept or initiate who assembles, through Dee’s Theorems, the hieroglyph of the Monas may animate it in the fashion of the Kabbalists animating the golem: by inscribing the Truth (emet in Hebrew), on the figure. Emet appears repeatedly in other works by Dee, such as De heptarchia mystica as a Seal and a divine Name, which reconnects the Monas Hieroglyphica with Dee’s angel magic and other speculations.Emet, truth, appears in Dee’s work in another form in the 1580s: Emet angliziced is Ameth. The ‘Iyyun circle’s story of the golem may be one of the inspirations for the LVX transformation in Dee’s Monad. Dee and Kelley passing through the same Prague which becomes the site of the Maharal’s Golem-making begs the question of how each man must be influencing the other two rather than whether or not they met
So while we have no record of Dee’s studying the work of Rabbi Jacob ben Jacob ha-Cohen, nor that of the ‘Iyyun circle, nor any record of his nor Edward Kelley’s interaction with Rabbi Loew, the preponderance of evidence suggests that likely all of the preceding occurred. Dee, Kelley, and Loew all were searching for the philosopher’s stone. Starting in February 1584, we start to see some very odd entries in Dee’s diary about tarrying with “the Jews,” references to one “Dr. Salomon of Prague, a Jew,” and Kelly telling Dee about communications being relayed via “the Jews.” The Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph’s father Maximillian had allowed Jews to return to Bohemia, and by the end of the century several thousand had.
Either Dee or Kelley or both were traveling about through eastern European Jewish enclaves, and receiving messages through the same enclaves. Judah Loew was certainly another magickal “intelligencer” who wanted to transform the world into a place safe for his people. Within this soup of ideas we can now add the final element that shapes the Horn of Venus ritual, the reunion of the Shekinah as expressed through the mystical kaballah of Isaac Luria, most likely learned through Dee and Kelley’s interaction with the fellowship surrounding Judah Loew.
To take this final step, we have to understand some key ideas in Luria’s cosmology. Within Lurianic cosmology, the golem is inextricably linked to the “Shattering of the Vessels.” As the Ein-Sof withdraws and leaves an empty space, that powers of Judgement left behind in that space an inchoate mass of matter, the golem. As Luria’s disciple Vital describes:
At the beginning of creation, when the Blessed One withdrew its presence all around in every direction, it left an empty space in the middle, surrounded on all sides by the light of Ein Sof, empty precisely at the centermost point. . . The light withdrew like water in a pond displaced by a stone. When a stone is dropped in a pond, the water at that spot does not disappear, but it merges with the rest [of the water]. So the withdrawn light converged beyond. . . and in the middle remained a vacuum. Then all the foulness and density of Judgement within the light of the Ein-Sof—which had [originally] been like a [mere] drop in the ocean—became measured and separated [from Ein-Sof]. Descending and gathering [itself] into the empty space, it became transformed into an amorphous mass [golem] out of the foulness and density of the powers of Judgement, as mentioned, surrounded in all directions, above and below, and all all four sides, by the light of Ein-Sof. Out of this mass emanated the Four Worlds: Emanation, Creation, Formation, and Actualization. For in its simplest desire to realize its intention, the Emanator returned, sending into the mass a small ray of the light withdrawn at the beginning.
As Lawrence Fine notes, Lurianic literature gives precise and voluminous descriptions of the ways in which this light returns. The most important of these “is the anthropomorphic image of a male deity who assumes the shape and features of a human being, a Gnostic-like macroanthropos called Adam Qadmon.” Ten “vessels” form out of the mixture of golem and light, and proceed to penetrate the Four Worlds, but they become increasingly less stable as they descend, and eventually all of those below Binah shatter.
Since Luria (or at least, his main disciple, Hayim Vital) describes this in “unabashedly sexual” terms, it is not surprise that the restoration or healing of the vessels, tiqqun, is described in similar language, in detail far beyond what we have space to explicate here. At the heart of Luria’s mending of the cosmos are five different types of supernal coupling ranked from most to least perfect and the time of night appropriate to each.
Fine continues: “Given that Luria conceived of tiqqun in significantly sexualized terms, it follows logically that he regarded human sexual relations as among the most immediate and powerful ways in which to accomplish cosmic mending.” While a regular man can have sex with his wife on any night of the week, a wise man cannot. Lurianic kaballah includes prohibiting sexual relations on all nights except on Friday, Sabbath eve, which even then a non-Jew might translate as “Friday night or early Saturday morning,” or an esotericist might say, “on the day of Venus or Saturn.”
Luria’s rules for married sexual relations sound to us now like nothing so much as specific instructions for a ritual because, of course, they are: a ritual whose intent is the hieros gamos union of Tiphareth (the husband) with the wife (Malkuth) by both of them focusing intent on the Shekhinah while united with each other. The couple’s head should face east, corresponding to Da’at; feet west, corresponding to Yesod; right hand south, Chesed; and left hand north, Geburah; all thus corresponding to the position of Adam Qadmon when he was created. Thus the mystic goal of the Zohar, the union of Tiphareth and Malkuth symbolized by the process of preparing the Shekinah as one prepares a bride for her bridegroom, becomes an explicit, practical teaching.
Without going into detail about the regime Luria suggested for his disciples—for indeed we have no way of knowing if anything that specific might have been transmitted to the community around Judah Loew—we can see how Luria’s experiential, practical kaballah would have fired Dee’s thinking. Luria’s belief in tiqqun is not after all so different from Dee’s commitment to the transformation of an age: that a few dedicated individuals, through purification, love, and the right intent, could change the world. While Dee seems to have mapped it into sophisticated geometries, Luria gives explicit instructions for the Rite in the center.
Both men believed they were living at the end of an age, and both men wanted to direct the turbulent energies of their time towards metempychosis, or redemption, rather than the destruction they saw increasing all around them. In Dee’s case, by the time of the most likely draft of this version of the “Horn of Venus,” his diary entries show less and less of the angelic conversations and more and more of a year long working we have no record of beyond many curious diary entries about marriage, Dee and Kelley’s infamous wife-swapping pact and more than a year of sexual notations before whatever the working is, is completed.
The days and dates of different entries seem very significant. On April 30 1586, while still in Prague, Dee via Kelley partakes of a very unusual angelic conversation where he is told “in the year 88, I will send out my visitation and the end of the world may be known.” The possible reference to 1588, now best known as the date of the defeat of the Spanish Armada, would have then caught Dee’s attention then as the most-predicted date of the end of the world. The angelic being says “Six Actions you shall have: the seventh is the Sabbath of the Lord.”
What were these actions? We don’t know, but the third of them takes place on April 4, 1587, the same date as that on the top of the handwritten copy of the Codex Marcianus that Dee at some point gave to the Landrave of Hessen. Up to this point, Dee has rarely told us the day of the week along with the date; now, for several significant entries, he does.
For example, on "April 17 1587 Friday morning," Dee write that Kelley reads these words in the Stone , written upon “a white marble table or book”:
Whether or not the “Book” Kelley saw was the “real” Book of Venus or anything like it, it isn’t hard to imagine, given what happens next, that Dee must have taken it as such.
The next day, Saturday, April 18, is the angelic conversation where they are told to “share in common” their wives. When Kelley protests, Dee insists. Many have point to this incident as the prime example of Dee’s gullibility, and it may well have been, but consider: if John Dee found, revised, performed (perhaps in 1580), and revised again the “Horn of Venus” as an apocalyptic tantric Rite, what would he have thought except that now he was being told the real thing? If the real John Dee was the author of the “Horn of Venus” ritual, and if he believed in his own magic, he would have little choice but to trust the words written in the “Book” scryed by Edward Kelley on the Day of Venus.
The following Friday, April 24, Kelley sees a great flame in the stone and later tells Dee his body had it like a “fiery heat.” If an advanced student wanted to take the “Horn of Venus” Rite’s poor advice about holding the Seal of Anael over the flame as a metaphor for powerfully bringing Anael into one’s body to intensify the evocation, or to burn out impurities, or both, you might here have a description of it. The Day of Venus, or if you prefer, Sabbath eve, seems to end conjugally, for we see the symbol Dee used to record sexual intercourse.
Not quite a month later, on Friday May 22, the Dees and Kelleys start their working. Friday night, Dee reports finding his missing Stone under his wife’s pillow. The next day, Saturday, a great man on a horse appears in the shew stone and questions both men about the night before. The questions seem rather out of keeping with both the Rite described and the pact all four people have signed on to, but remember, we’re not arguing whether or not the “Book” Kelley saw in the Stone was the Book of Venus, only that Dee would have thought it was. Dee’s diary entries show interpersonal events becoming more and more complicated through 1588. One suspects that, whether he later thought the book seen by Kelley was the real thing or thought he’d been duped, he would have not had a student copy a flawed manuscript full of blinds after May 1587. Too much seems to be happening too fast.
So where does our earliest copy come from? Sometime between April 1586 and May 1587 one of Dee’s students likely copied The Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus and asked enough of the right questions to learn what the intent behind such a ritual would be and when one might really “perform” it.
We might notice this diary entry on December 19, 1586. Dee writes: “On the 19th day (by the new calendar), to please Master Edward Garland (who has been sent as a messenger from the Emperor of Muscovia to ask me to come to him, etc.,) , and his brother Francis, E.K. made a public demonstration of the philosopher’s stone . . .".
By now we aren’t surprised to learn that December 19 was a Friday. One wonders who these “Garland” brothers were, and if one of them was who brought the manuscript back to England. They appear in the diary through the next year, in the company of Sir Edward Dyer. Francis Garland visits Dee later in England, and his name has been found on manuscripts in Denmark associated with Edward Kelley.
One of Dee’s students students brought the manuscript back to England, and that student seems to have been part of the same circle Frances Yates describes in the Rosicrucian Enlightenment, which we now know likely included the author of the Magical Calendar. What might that student have been taught?
Perhaps a lesson in the sacred geometry of the Monad, or perhaps a lesson on ecstatic kaballah and ecstatic alchemy rolled into one. If the student copied the manuscript after the mysterious “Six Actions” started in 1586 but before the interpersonal fall-out that seems to accelerate after the Dees and Kelleys pact to share all in unity with each other, then Francis and Edward Garland appear in Trebona at about the right time. It’s tempting to imagine one or both asking the right questions, showing the right knowledge of the Hieroglyphic Monad, and learning about how to create a magickal space Dee believed could literally change the world. Its even more tempting to speculate on the intent of unnamed the Rite in the center.
The underlying purpose of the ritual was to encode information: to give a deep understanding of how, through proper gnosis and experience of hieros gamos, one can evoke energies powerful enough to transform the Age. By studying and asking enough questions about the ritual, and the role of Venus/”Anael” as ensign of the Age, the intent comes into focus: to direct the energies of what Dee and others saw as a coming Apocalypse towards those things associated with Venus; that is, Love, compassion, creativity, sexuality, and union with the divine.
It is that ecstatic union that brings the “Treasure” Dee speaks of in the Rite’s opening. The union and integration of masculine and feminine is what makes possible gnosis, which in ancient times were not simply intellectual ideas but a very physical experience, an epiphany that formed a bridge to the divine. If such individual gnosis could turn lead to gold, the collective gnosis of a few might transform humanity and the world.
Most of those who have tried at all to understand what the Dees and Kelleys were trying to accomplish in Trebona spend much time measuring the obvious interpersonal fallout, and little time noticing the transpersonal intent. Yet by the time the Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus made it back to England with one of Dee’s students—most likely, Francis or Edward Garland or Thomas Kelley—it would not be lost on that student that 1588, the date most predicted by apocalyptic thinkers as the “end of the world,” was the date of the defeat of the Spanish Armada. It would probably also not be lost on them that such a huge “victory” still came with plenty of suffering.
Today, the Consecrated Book of Black Venus is of less value as a Rite of its own, but extremely valuable in what it tells us about Dee’s developing ideas, what texts he must have encountered but not listed in his library catalog, and most importantly, what it suggests to us about the structure and intent behind the most misunderstood episode in his life. As a guide, the Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus remains abstract until one can understand how the geometries he wrote down twenty years before connect with those in the Seal of Ameth. The encoded information tells less about a ceremony than about what the “Lovers” need do to accomplish their own working. Inasmuch as that ritual’s intent, most simply put, was to evoke as much love and compassion as possible into a world ripped apart by bloodshed, perhaps it is something we should still study today.
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Part of the difficulty modern scholars and esotericists have had with understanding the Consecrated Little Book of Black Venus is that very few who have looked at it have studied the sacred geometry of the Hieroglyphic Monad, whose first eighteen theorems are axiomatic for an understanding of how the Seals in the Horn of Venus might work. For some suggestions on how to approach these theorems, see Burns and Moore, this issue.
 See Taylor 1930. In his survey of Greek alchemical texts, he notes that the three earliest known manuscripts (as opposed to papyri) are the one from Venice (Marcianus 299) from the tenth or eleventh century, and from Paris (Paris 2325) from the thirteenth century, and another from Paris (Paris 2327) of the fifteenth century. As we will see, Dee may have had access to all three of these. The authors of these alchemical texts (whose names are often pseudonyms) wrote at dates no later “than the second half of the third century of the Christian era nor earlier than the first century” and include Democritus, Iamblichus, Ostanes, Cleopatra, Isis, Maria, and Hermes (p. 113). One may observe that Taylor’s dating of authors of the earliest manuscripts matches the date of the Leiden and Stockholm papyri, acquired by the Chevalier Jean d’Anastasi, a Swedish vice-consul in Egypt in the early 1800s. These third century Greek magical papyri likely originated in a tomb or temple library in Thebes (for a fuller analysis, see Betz 1996 xli-lviii) and may represent the same current whose teachings were partially preserved in the manuscripts in Venice and Paris.
 Leitch (2005, p. 380): “If the grimoires truly deserve any part of their reputation for harsh treatment of spirits, it is due to the constraints and curses used by both the Goetia and Solomon the King to rein in disobedient spirits. These practices are adopted directly from medieval exorcisms, wherein a priest would use torment to drive an obstinate spirit from the body of a victim. The grimoire techniques are reminiscent of some of the voodoo-like processes employed in the darker arts of image magick . . . The spirit or sigil’s name might be threatened with flame, or sealed in a box of noxious fumes.” Use of images in Goetic evocations, incidentally, is very different from how Euclideans or Pythagoreans looked at geometric images as a way to evoke the daemon in the mind of the student. The language of part of Black Venus’s introduction, especially the note that spirits can be forced to come “by means of powerful conjurings or strong chains, but not without great effort and plentiful, long-winded, and difficult circumstances,” seems to dissuade the reader from this sort of magic even while the form seems to encourage it. Finally, note that even in goetic magic, the Seal held over the flame should be that of the disobedient spirit, not Anael!
 Crowley (1997, p. 147): “To "invoke" is to "call in", just as to "evoke" is to "call forth". This is the essential difference between the two branches of Magick. In invocation, the macrocosm floods the consciousness. In evocation, the magician, having become the macrocosm, creates a microcosm.”
 To add to this fascinating mix, Trithemius, in De Septem Secundeis, a work on Planetary Intelligences, lists “seven second causes” which seem similar to the Olympic Spirits, and assigns Anael to Venus. So far we have no way of knowing whether Dee ever read De Septem Secundeis, but if he happened to have copied it when he copied Stenographia (see note 13 below), it would add yet another fascinating layer to the story. De Septem Secundeis was published in Frankfort in 1545 and by the Familist Birkmans in 1567.
 In Stenographia, Trithemius describes how to send messages by reciting long and seemingly unintelligible incantations that summon a spirit, who will take the message to the recipient, who must recite another incantation, then the message is revealed. Since these incantations are not unlike the Call of Spirits in Black Venus, some have tried, with no success, to look at the “barbarous names” in the Horn of Venus as an example of Trithemian cryptography. Yet approaching this as “simple” cryptography disconnects it from the kind of “intelligencing” Dee would have been interested in. As French (1972) notes, “Trithemius’s goal in this work is a form of telepathic communication that would be achieved by conveying the human spirit, with the imprint of the sender’s thought, though the air to a recipient whose portrait the sender contemplates. The magic is implicitly a means of knowing all that is going on in the world, and the angel-magic underlying the Stenographia would have been far more significant to Dee than the treatise’s outward concern with cryptography” (p. 37).
 For an excellent history of Plantin’s publishing, see Voet 1983. On the connection of Antwerp presses to early Rosicrucians, see Yates (1972, 2002) especially chapter six, “The Palatinate Publisher: Johann Theodore De Bry and the Publication of the Works of Robert Fludd and Michael Maier.” On Plantin as a Familist printer, see Moss 1981.
 In his 1978 translation of the Propaedeumata Aphoristica, Shumacher notes differences between the 1558 and 1568 texts. A few of many possible examples of words or sections added in by 1568: XXIIII, “Philosopher’s Stone;” XLV (note the connection to LVX) changes “in optics and astrology” to “in optics, astrology, and magic;” LXXIII adds in two long inferences, the second of which concludes, “For example, I suggest to you the sun, gold, and man’s hearts as objects to be considered by means of the laws of Anatomical Magic;” LXXVII adds in “seven times” in Hebrew as part of the saying “What is seven times properly separated is also seven times properly joined for the making of that most famous philosopher’s stone.”
 Dee revised and expanded Recorde’s text after Recorde’s death, and, with Southwark schoolmaster John Mellis published yet another edition in 1582; French (op. cit. pp. 164-164) says Recorde’s text was “the standard arithmetic text of the period.”
 Roberts & Watson (1990), in their invaluable “Biographical Background to Dee’s Collecting up to 1582.” They note he also is buying parts of the Bible which “no doubt could be used for reading practice (p. 9).
 Roberts & Watson op. cit. note that “The reconstruction of Dee’s movements these next few years continues to depend very much on notes in books” (p. 9). They follow his trail from the meeting with Gessner, to Padua, Venice, then Urbino.
 Dee’s fifth and final article in the Supplication for “the recovery and preservation of ancient Writers and Monuments’ (1556) was to send the “suppliant” [Dee] to procure books and monuments “that are in the notablest Librarys beyond the sea (as in Vaticana at Rome, S. Marci at Venice, and the like at Bononia, Florence, Vienna, etc.”(in Roberts & Watson, ibid. pp. 194-195.)
 A copy of the Codex in the State of Hessen’s library in Kassel is a gift from Dee to the Landgrave of Hessen, and Klein (1982) suggests that the explanatory marginalia, written by Dee in German and including notes like “Ostanes” or “Maria,” (pp. 18-19) imply he read the work very carefully or perhaps was teaching it to someone else. She adds that it seems clear Goethe was familiar with Dee’s marginalia in this codex (p. 38). While the manuscript has Dee’s name and a reference to his library in Mortlake on the first page, he doesn’t list such a manuscript in his 1583 library catalog, and its inconceivable he would have given away his only copy. Roberts & Watson (ibid. p. 161) list this work as Corpus Hermeticum and note that it appears in the Kassel library with a first edition of the Hieroglyphic Monad. The date listed is April 4, 1567, and Dee’s April 4, 1587 diary entry is rather significant (see part seven of this article), but since Dee and Kelley pass through this area in 1587, one wonders if this is a transcription error.
 The two most plausible places for Dee to have encountered this fragment were Paris or Venice, the locales of the oldest three alchemical manuscripts (see note 2.) Berthelot, who translates two different Parisian recensions of this fragment in his massive Collection des Anciens Alchimistes Grecs (1887), notes that outside of the Greek manuscripts themselves, references to Amnael seem to come in Hermetic work mainly in France and Germany. Indeed, the “Isis to her Son Horus” dialog in the most well known English Hermetica, edited by Walter Scott (1924, 1985), makes no mention of Amnael. We suggest that the German references to Amnael likely came from the copy of the Codex Marcianus Dee gave to the Landgrave of Hessen.
 Weidner and Bridges op. cit. pp. 44 - 45. The only other English-language analysis we’re aware of is a translation, of von Franz’s 1959 lectures on alchemy and Jungian psychology, 1980 pp. 39-52. In contrast, a multitude of German analyses exist.
 See note 10 above. Dee would likely expect names used by Trithemius connected to planetary ages would have hidden meanings; Dee may even allude to “Amnael” hidden behind “Anael” in Theorem XIII of the Hieroglyphic Monad (see Burns and Moore, this issue).
 Available: <http://www.esotericarchives.com/solomon/arbatel.htm>.
 The Golden Dawn cipher manuscript contains references to both the Enochian Tablets and, in folio 28, the Olympic Spirits; Mathers, as he adapted the Trithemian cipher, decided to change the reference to Olympic Spirits to “Anael.” See discussion in Burns, cit. ofp, and Kuntz, 1996.
 The two most thorough discussions are Anati’s 1976 Evolution and Style in Camunian rock art: an inquiry into the formation of European civilization, and Bevan’s 2006 dissertation, Worshippers and warriors: reconstructing gender and gender relations in the prehistoric rock art of Naquane National Park, Valcomonica, Brecia, northern Italy, which revises Anati and surveys the different research since then.
 For a detailed account, see Ginzburg’s 1985 Night Battles. Ginsberg provides not only detailed records from the Inquisitors, but shows how the calculated questioning of the peasant benendanti, a group of “antiwitches” who told their questioners about fighting ritual battles against witches and wizards to keep their families and harvests from harm, slowly mold and shift the benendanti stories about themselves into its opposite. To the villagers and each other, the benandanti are “good Christians” and later, “good witches” who fight “bad witches;” to the leveling mind of the Inquisitor, all are simply “witches.” In addition to his discussion of the trial, see especially chapter two, “The Procession of the Dead.”
 This is turn ties us once again to a third of fourth century Greek alchemical current that, on the one hand, may have found a thriving pagan culture to hide within, and on the other, may have itself been a product of an earlier version of that same culture. Our lady of the Underground merges perfectly with the many other dark goddesses of this current: as Betz, op.cit., says of the third century Egyptian-Greek-Hebrew-Babylonian syncretism (xlvi-xlvii): “We should make it clear, however, that this syncretism is more than a hodge-podge of heterogenous items. It is, in effect, a new [actually very old!] religion altogether, displaying unified religious attitudes and beliefs. As an example, one may mention the enormous role of the gods and goddesses of the underworld. The role of these deities was not new to Egyptian religion or, to some extent, the ancient Greek religion, but it is characteristic of the Hellenistic syncretism of the Greek magical papyri that the netherworld and its deities had become one of its most important concerns. The goddess Hekate, identical with Persephone, Selene, Artemis, and the old [Sumerian] goddess Ereshigal, is one of the deities most invoked in the papyri. Through the Egyptianizing influence of Osiris, Isis, and their company, other gods like Hermes, Aphrodite, and even the Jewish god Iao, have, in many respects become underworld deities."
 This is not the only, nor the most common, way to refer to a scholar of kaballah, and elsewhere, such as in the title of Dee’s only known work on kaballah or in his letter to King Maximilian accompanying the Monad, Dee uses the Latin word we’d translate more directly as “kaballah” or “kaballist.” Thus his use of “Mecubalist” is certainly pointing toward a particular “school.”
 For commentary on the ‘Iyyun Circle and translation of some of their most central teachings, see Dan 26-31, 43-56. He notes that the early works of the ‘Iyyun circle “can be regarded as the first corpus of medieval Jewish mystical literature. The authors were deeply influenced by Neoplatonic ideas and terminology, which may ultimately derive from Latin sources. The Neoplatonism was fused together with the symbols of the merkevah, just as the ‘Iyyun works were pseudoepigraphically attributed to the rabbinic masters of the merkavah (p. 27). Also, the first known use of ARARITA comes from the mysticism of this Circle.
 For instance, consider the discussion in the “Book of Speculation” of the five means of aquiring the knowledge of God and how these five means increase in the thirteen sorts of transformations. If Dee knew this work, the ideas there would also point us, 5 + 13=17, to one of the most significant theorems in the Monad.
 In this way, we might look at the entirety of the famous 1583 catalog as what he felt safe to write down, and/or what could be left behind. A more important question, for looking at Dee and Kelley’s continental magick, is what they took along with them.
 For an excellent discussion of the symbolism of the Golem, see Scholem (1965), especially pp. 158-204, “The Idea of the Golem.” Of note is that the ‘Iyyun Circle’s “Explanation of the Four-Lettered Name” YHVH involves the creation of a golem (see Dan pp. 54-56).
 Just as no record exists of Dee and Kelley interacting with Loew, no record exists of the teachings of Luria getting from Safed, Jerusalem, where Luria loved and taught from 1570-1572, to Cracow by the 1580s. Lawrence Fine (2003) notes that the first Lurianic manuscripts appear in the late 1500s in northern Italy (p. 3). Luria’s influence on kabalistic thought is profound, and certainly many in the next generation of scholars, such as Shabbetai Sheftel Horowitz of Prague (1561-1619), base their writings on Luria’s teachings (Fine p. 3). Especially given that Luria’s father, Solomon Luria Ashkanazi, was likely from Poland or Germany (Fine p. 28), one would expect that Rabbi Luria’s teachings would return quickly to Ashkenaz, where the preeminent Kaballist of the day was Judah Loew. Even more interesting, if one considers that Luria’s mother was likely from a Sephardic French family, is a possible connection back to Provence.
 This is greatly oversimplified in the interest of space. The light actually descends to Tiphereth, which contains six aspects (the sephiroth from Yesod to Chesed), and when Tiphareth shatters, so do all of the six vessels.
 As one might deduce from the preceding ntoes, the best introduction to these complex ideas, and Lurianic kaballah generally, is Fine’s 2003 masterpiece Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos: Isaac Luria and his Kaballistic Fellowship.
 See note 26 above. In his diary on June 18, 1586, Dee mentions that he is at “Hesse-Kassel, at at Erfurt was Master Edward Kelley.” This seems the most likely date of Dee giving this manuscript to the Langrave.