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Since the 19th century the Ouija board has been a staple of paranormal investigations into the afterlife. The board, also known as a talking board, is used primarily for attempting to communicate with the dead. It is said that the energy of the participants can allow spirits of the dead to move a small wooden tool, called a planchette, across a series of letters, numbers and simple words to form phrases. As fascinating as the proposed abilities of the Ouija board may be, there is however a board which is much older, whose purpose is not to communicate with the dead but with angels.
John Dee and Edward Kelley
John Dee was one of England’s great Renaissance men. An important figure at the 16th century English royal court, Dee was a well-respected mathematician and astronomer, who trained many of England’s early great explorers. It was he who beseeched Queen Elizabeth I, who was quite averse to spending large sums of money on expensive projects like colonisation, to invest in founding colonies overseas and spread English across the ocean.1 Thus, without Dee’s knowledge of navigation and his advocation of English expansion, places like Virginia may not have been founded.
Yet, like many intellectuals of his time, his true passion – and quite possibly obsession – was studying the occult.
Dee’s friend and spiritual medium Edward Kelley helped him endeavour in such mystical pursuits.Together they claimed to have found a way to communicate with angels, having created a board in order to do so. However, there was a complication. Angels were divine creatures, and as such could only communicate in their own divine language. John Dee called it “Angelic”, but today we refer to it as Enochian. Dee claimed that this was the language that Adam used to speak with God, but was lost after his expulsion from the garden of Eden. It was however, allegedly recovered by the Biblical patriarch Enoch, but was then lost again during the great flood in Noah’s time. 2
Kelley claimed to have seen the alphabet for this language during his scrying. Accordingly, Enochian is said to comprise a twenty-one letter alphabet that is read from right to left. The sounds were described as being similar to English, and a mysterious unknown language.
Enochian and Glossolalia
This mysterious language found fragmented in Kelley’s Enochian alphabet has been described as glossolalia. Glossolalia is a term used for an undefined language that has been used in religious services. It equally refers to the sounds made during some alleged supernatural experiences, which is also described as speaking in “tongues”.
Perhaps surprisingly, speaking in “tongues” is an observable phenomenon which has attracted a great deal of discussion.
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Far from being unintelligible gibberish, some say that glossolalia is a form of inherent proto-language that everyone knows unconsciously, but cannot express easily. One example can be found in a story in the Bible, which describes a man speaking in tongues in Jerusalem, who could be understood by every man there in their own language. 3
Others have said that glossolalia is the language of God.
Kelley claims Enochian is the language of angels
Believed to be the language of angels, Kelley’s alphabet was used to design John Dee’s board, which in the years since has become known as his Holy Table.
According to Dee’s journals, which detail the ritual and its results, a crystal ball is placed in the centre of the table. Around it were Enochian symbols, arranged in such a way to serve as written invocations to summon angels. It was in the crystal ball that their messages would supposedly manifest.
In the course of their experiments, Dee and Kelley transcribed incomprehensible numbers of messages and visions that they had supposedly seen whilst scrying with the crystal ball. On one occasion, they claimed to have foreseen the execution of Mary Queen of Scots. Another time, they saw the coming of the Spanish Armada. 4 Yet, far from being solely concerned with the future of significant political events, Dee and Kelley also were concerned with their own fortunes. Rather humorously, during one session with the table they allegedly asked the archangel Uriel for money – only to be sternly rebuked. 5
Unfortunately, as many of their messages were scribbled down hastily and in poor handwriting, their complete meanings still allude scholars. Not only that, part of the transcriptions and later reproductions completed by other authors, seem to have been altered so as to make Dee appear as a devil worshipper. 6
Enochian and the Holy Table in present times
Since the days of Dee and Kelley’s original experiments with the Holy Table, many have commented on the ritual and its purpose.
Donald Tyson, a present day author on occult matters, has stated that he believes that angels were indeed communicating with Dee and Kelley. However, far from being mundane communications, Tyson stated that the angels had sinister intentions and were giving the pair all this information in order to bring about the apocalypse. It was for this reason that, in 1997, Tyson wrote that he had great fear and respect for the Holy Table, describing it as “the most remarkable artifact in the history of spirit communication.” 7
More sceptical observers have stated that the Enochian alphabet and language was a ruse, invented by Kelley and Dee as an elaborate code to disguise their spy operations in Europe under a veil of spiritualism and alchemy. Afterall, many of their supposed angelic communications occurred whilst they were at the court of the king of Poland, whose intentions Queen Elizabeth was highly interested in. 8
That said, numerous secret societies into the modern day do believe in the power of the Holy Table and the Enochian alphabet inscribed on it. Paul Foster Case, a twentieth century occult practitioner, both affirmed its performance and warned against its usage.
“I have personal knowledge of more than twenty-five instances where the performance of [Enochian] magical operations […] led to serious disintegrations of mind and body.” 9
- Enochian Magic for Beginners, by Donald Tyson (1997)
- John Dee’s Five Books of Mystery: Original Sourcebook of Enochian Magic, (ed.) by Joseph H. Peterson (2003)
- “John Dee and Edward Kelley’s Great Table (or, What’s This Grid For, Anyway?)”, by Teresa Burns and J. Alan Moore (2010)
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