More inspirational images

A busy week, a short post:

Lots of authors build collections of inspirational material. Music, pictures, objects, etc. help you “go there” and I am no different.

But I got so caught up in hammering out the first draft that I sort of…forgot. Or kidded myself. “Half this stuff doesn’t exist anymore anyway.” “I’ve got portraits, and that’s enough.” Well, no.

I was really just avoiding the astounding time-suck of Pinterest.

spiral staircase

Because it would be so easy to play here all day to the exclusion of all else. Rudolfine Prague, Elizabethan everything, alchemical miscellanea, and all so pretty!

I’m pulling my head out to continue teeth-grinding, hair-tearing rewrites but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy my book research board. Let me know what you think and recommendations are always welcome!

bright, clear, and glorious – John Dee’s “shew stones”

Tradition and folklore show Dee and Kelley viewing spirits in a crystal ball. But was this the case? As with everything Dee and Kelley-related legend and rumor obscure reality so what Dee’s “shew stones” looked like and whether they still exist is open to debate.

The most well-known scrying receptacles associated with Dee are the crystal ball and black mirror in the British Museum. Many authors attribute them without question but recent scholarship shows no provenance for either object. We only have Horace Walpole’s claim that the black mirror belonged to Dee and the crystal ball has no obvious origin.

I’m a little more convinced by the Wellcome Collection’s crystal. It claims a reliable chain of custody from Dee through the mid 17th century.

So much for tradition. What evidence did Dee leave us?

The spiritual diaries mention two roundish objects. The first is a “stone in a frame” he received from an unnamed friend. He sketched it in the margin:

Dee's first "shew stone"
The “stone in the frame”, taken from the diaries via Ackermann and Devoy

The other shew stone materialized in Dee’s study on November 21, 1582, several months into his partnership with Kelley. He described it as “big as an egg: most bright, clere, and glorious.” Author Aaron Leitch suggests it might have been a lens rather than a ball.

Of course I’d be tickled to death if the real deal still existed but this looks unlikely, or at least unprovable.

For inspirational purposes I keep this little thing on my desk while I’m writing:

my own shew stone
Found at the local renn faire

Not especially clear or glorious, but it’s egg-shaped and pretty to look at. It helps me get into my character’s heads, staring into something similar and waiting for the curtain to rise.

Selected Sources:

Ackermann, Silke, and Louise Devoy. 2012. “‘The Lord of the Smoking Mirror’: Objects Associated with John Dee in the British Museum.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 43 (3): 539–49.

Leitch, Aaron. 2014. The Essential Enochian Grimoire: An Introduction to Angel Magick from Dr. John Dee to the Golden Dawn. Llewellyn Publications.

Whitby, Christopher Lionel. 1982. “John Dee’s Actions with Spirits: 22 December 1581 to 23 May 1583.” Ph.D. Thesis, Birmingham: University of Birmingham.