The Great Sage of Mortlake

Today’s instalment of the Royal Occultist Compendium takes a look at the first person to hold the office – Dr. John Dee.

Dr. John Dee. Cosmologist, cartographer, alchemist, philosopher, scientist, mathematician and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I – and the first holder of the offices of the Royal Occultist.

A polymath, Dee at one time might have possessed one of the largest occult libraries in the western world. He claimed to speak the language of angels, and may have been a spy.

Dee, alongside his first assistant, Edward Kelley, earned Elizabeth’s patronage after his investigation into a case of witchcraft involving a poppet made in the queen’s likeness. Dee and Kelley went on to confront various supernatural threats to the crown before an unspecified incident in Bohemia brought a sudden end to their partnership.

Returning to Mortlake after an absence of several years, Dee found his home vandalised and his library ransacked by persons unknown. Some whispered that the culprit was Edward Kelley, while others blamed various secret societies, including the nascent Order of the Cosmic Ram.

Dee himself ventured no opinions on the matter – at least not publicly – and resumed his duties with a new assistant, one William Sly – an aspiring thespian and agent of the Crown. Dee acted as Royal Occultist until his death in 1608 or 1609.

Dee was an interesting character, and one I’ve long had a fascination with. And like his fellow Elizabethan, Christopher Marlowe, he’s had his share of fictional adventures. In particular, I recommend Donald Tyson’s collection, The Ravener & Others, as well as Phil Rickman’s ‘John Dee Papers’ series.

Dee was the obvious choice when I was looking for the original Royal Occultist. He fits the bill better than most historical figures from the same time period, and he adds a bit of needed weight to the concept, in the same way that Carnacki does.

While there’s only one story directly dealing with Dee’s adventures during his tenure as the Royal Occultist (“A Tiger’s Heart, A Player’s Hide”) his influence is felt throughout the series, especially in regards to the mysterious artefact known as the Monas Glyph. That said, having written one story, I hope to write others.

Next time, we’ll take a look at some of the Royal Occultist’s deadliest foes, the Order of the Cosmic Ram. And if you’d like to check out some of the Royal Occultist stories for free, head over to my Curious Fictions page. For more general updates, be sure to check the Royal Occultist Facebook page.