This podcast is about Jane Dee, John Dee’s wife, and a bit of a research rabbit hole I went down as I was reading an article about the Dee household by Deborah Harkness called Managing an Experimental Household
- Managing an Experimental Household by Deborah Harkness on JSTOR
- John Dee’s chart on Astro Databank
- Jane Dee’s chart on Astro Databank
- The ephemeris for 1583 from astro.com
Ichrak: Hello, beautiful humans. This is Ichrak from Atlas Astrology. And today I want to talk to you about John Dee. Let me give you some backstory. So first of all, John Dee was a very interesting historical figure in the 16th century. And he was known as queen Elizabeth astrologer.
He was an Alchemist. He talked to angels. He ran a very interesting household, had, over 3000 books in his library. Just a very interesting dude. And so how I came to be curious about John Dee sometimes I know I get into these little research jags when something piques my interest and backstory is lately I’ve been pretty obsessed– I don’t think that is too intense of a word to use– with period dramas. So I have watched period dramas, queen Elizabeth The Golden Age, The White Princess, The White Queen, what else? Oh, the whole Victoria, I think it’s three seasons, unfortunately only three seasons, but I guess that’s what they did.
And lately I’ve been getting the Discovery of Witches ads for two years because the first season came out last year and I got the ads and I was like, no, I’m not interested like vampires, which is no, it’s just, it’s too. It’s too on trend for me.
But anyway so the second season rolled around and all of a sudden the ads were showing the main characters wearing costumes from other periods of time. And I was like, Oh! So it caught my interest. So the first season was modern. Second season was these, there was a costume change.
So that caught my interest. And so I dove in. And I just totally fell in love with it. And I, it just it affected me at a deeper level than I was anticipating. Just, I’ve always been a sucker for romance, the chemistry between the two main characters, the, and then in the second season, the history just, just swept me away and just really engaged me. And then I found that it was a, the series is actually based on a novel trilogy. So that opened an entirely new kind of room of the house for me to explore. And I wound up following the author of the trilogy, who was obviously very, she was very , involved in developing the television series.
It’s, I guess it’s not on television, it’s on, these channels that you can rent or watch online, like prime or. Netflix it’s on Sundance and AMC. And so I was watching a recent Instagram live that she did, and she’s taking questions from the fan base of this series. And in one of her, how should I say very expansive, like I want to use the word galloping explanations. She’s really just really smart. And very interesting. She’s the person like her brain produced this series and obviously the books are like way more detailed than the television series ever could be. So she mentioned in this Instagram live this essay that she wrote, it’s called Managing an Experimental Household and it’s about Jane Dee, who is John Dee’s wife. And side note I did Google that title after she gave it. Was not able to find it just publicly available on Google. It was available on JSTOR. And last time I tried to access JSTOR was probably several years ago when I was like, more than several years ago when I was out of college and trying to get ahold of some academic papers that you couldn’t access at that time, unless you were affiliated with a university or a research institution or like a museum or one of these institutions.
And I was just like, this is wrong, like people should be able to access knowledge. It shouldn’t just be limited to people who are at universities. It just felt like there, there are people who want to read, other people’s ideas well-researched thought and knowledge who aren’t associated with universities.
And it just felt like very artificially, like arcane to me that there was this barrier, but anyway, that barrier is no longer there because JSTOR, I think, I’m not sure when they instituted this. But now you can access JSTOR with just your regular email address, make an account as an independent researcher and you can you can access a hundred free articles a month.
If you want to download them, there’s a separate fee, but so it’s just brilliant. It’s amazing. I’m so happy about this. This is a massive massive positive. Very good. I’m really happy about this. I don’t know why JSTOR did it or when JSTOR did it. So I’m going to look into that, but just in case anybody else is interested you can now look at these articles, like journal articles via J store a hundred of them per month for free. And then if you want more than that, you can get an account. And maybe it’ll even open those restrictions up even further I would be for that in the future.
But anyway, so I read this article by Deborah Harkness, who is the author of the All Souls Trilogy, and it’s about Jane Dee, and it is about just from the woman’s perspective what it’s like to deal with this really eclectic man who is just like people call him a polymath and he had… so basically it was part of the expectation of women in that period that you had to be able to receive guests and, be able to put them up and feed them and have a beautiful home and, just be this image of loveliness and be totally subservient to your dude. And just be able to cater to whatever he had going on all while making it look easy, making it orderly. And making it beautiful and making it abundant.
And the article was about how this is a particular challenge for Jane Dee because John Dee constantly has all these different kinds of characters coming through the house. And, he’s got really interesting things going on in certain rooms of the house. Like he’s there talking to angels and channeling angels who are just carrying on conversations with him. And they’re telling him about the apocalypse and they’re telling him how to create this device that will facilitate their communications. And they’re telling him to do different things, move, even move the house to a different location, because it would facilitate their communication. And he’s trying to cordon off a room of the house where he can do this. So they have this understanding that if he has both doors closed, then she can’t come in because he’s talking with the angels, like he’s in the middle of a conversation. But if one door is open, then he can be interrupted. But he often forgot to close both doors. And so people would come in while he was in the middle of a conversation with the angels. And this was troubling because Jane didn’t want them to have the reputation of being conjurers or sorcerers which would have been dangerous in that age. Being a witch in that age was dangerous. And also like John would have, would just let people come. He would invite people to apprentice to him. And, but he only wanted people of a melancholic temperament because they were said or understood to be more just have more of a knack for study. I think it’s study or it’s like being able to just inclined to some of these esoteric sciences. I think that’s why he wanted the melancholic temperament person, but the melancholic temperament was unsteady and changing and not terribly stable or reliable, and they were moody. So Jane had to toler-, like had to deal with these people. And so it’s just, it’s this interesting, like character study of Jane and what’s expected of her and all the things that she has to do and support her husband. But at the same time, like she’s also, she’s got a mind of her own.
And at one point in the article Deborah Harkness is saying John is in the middle of a conversation with the angels and Jane comes in and she’s says yeah, we Are having a lot of guests and I’m sure that, God wouldn’t want me to pawn the ornaments of my house or the clothes on my back so that we can continue our conversations with you guys.
Yeah. Can you let us know. How we can secure continued funds or patronage so that we can continue to, live and house all these apprentices or assistance. And basically, and it’s interesting to me because the angels are responding. Like you need to be subservient in essence to your husband.
But something like really patriarchal like that. And I’m just like really w what the angels really say that would they say, cause you would expect like this timeless wisdom and now we have more regard for the rights of women. And their rights to speak, have opinions direct their lives.
So if it’s timeless, wouldn’t, they wouldn’t, they also have that same stance back in the 1550s? So that was interesting to me that the angels took that male dominance attitude when Jane would talk to them. But it’s also funny to me that Jane would go to the angels with this really super practical matter and be like, can you help us out?
Okay. Okay. Hold on. I have to read this. I just found it. This is where Jane is talking to the angels and she’s And it’s funny because Deborah Harkness is also painting Jane’s character as she can be angry and like especially having to manage all of these things and deal with John’s proclivities his activities and all the people that are coming to the house. And she gets, she she gets fed up sometimes. And but when, let me read this passage, this is really funny. So
“When Jane’s anger spilled over into meddling with Dee and Kelly’s shared intellectual projects, however, she was quickly reminded of her inherent female inferiority and her properly subservient role within the home. In March, 1585, Jane decided to approach the angelic advisers through the intermediaries of her husband and Kelly to remind them that her household was in dire financial straits because of natural philosophy. Jane argued that she and her husband required sufficient and needful provision for meat and drink for us and our family. She made it clear that while natural philosophy might be the family business, God surely did not want her to pawn what she described as the ornaments of our house and the coverings of our bodies in order to pursue it.
An angel reproached, Jane reminding her that as a woman, she was forbidden to come unto the synagogue, the room, or her husband communicated with angels. This passage makes it clear that Dee’s natural philosophy had not only entered the house, it had taken over. The house was no longer Jane’s it was a sacred space, a place where angels discussed natural philosophy with her husband. After vague promises, that God would look after her children and further reminders to be faithful and obedient as thou art yoked, the angel exhorted Jane, to stop murmuring and sweep your houses. Jane’s response to the angel suggestions is unfortunately not recorded.”
That’s a funny comment from Deb Harkness. Yeah. So Edward Kelly is his, Dee’s main kind of partner in, in his, natural philosophy adventures and just learning more about the world through this blend of esoteric arts and science and she really got fed up with him sometimes. And so there’s this one passage here that sent me into my astrological research jag. And it’s, I’m going to read it.
So “her husband needed Kelly for his natural philosophy. Yet Kelly damaged the order in virtue of her household. Jane had two options. She could maintain silence and be the supportive help me as most conduct books would have advised, or she could speak out which those same books would have condemned. Jane preferred speak out. John’s diaries are filled with anxious references to her anger and displeasure with Kelly.
John was always grateful when Jane’s anger could be soothed as on April 26, 1583, when Kelly returned to their house after a falling out. And John noted that Jane was very willing to welcome him back and was quieted in mind and very friendly to EK in word and countenance. Matrimonial, love and affection, his own anxiety about Kelly’s conduct and the chaos ensuing from the disruption of household routine helped explain John’s meticulous accounts of these volatile events.”
Oh, okay. Yeah. And so what was interesting to me was this date, April 26, 1583. I was like, Oh, okay. So Jane is typically not very she’s. John is referring frequently to her anger and displeasure with Kelly. And but on April 26, 1583, Kelly came back to the house after a falling out. And, but Jane was in a good mood this day. And so I was like, okay, so what was going on in the astrology that put Jane in a good mood? So I said, okay, I need to look up what was going on in April, 1583 in the astrology.
So I Googled for a 1583 ephemeris I know that astro.com has a ephemerides that go back a long time. So I looked up the I looked it up for the 16th century. They have it, and I’m looking at it right now. If you go to the 16th century almost all of these are labeled. All of the dates are labeled Julian from 1500 to 1581, but then you get the 1582, 1583. And I guess they just started putting the astrology and the Gregorian calendar, but the Gregorian calendar was not officially put into use until the 1770 or 1750 in, in, in great Britain. I was like, all right, 1583.
How do I convert the date that John Dee is referring to in his diaries to the Julian, to the Julian calendar? Because the ephemeris that I’m looking at is referencing the date with respect to the Gregorian calendar. I found a lot of like day converters. Like date converters between the Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar.
But I couldn’t trust that I was getting the right information. So I actually reached out to an astrological colleague and I asked him if he knew of an article that talks about this like in the context of astrology and he helped me to to figure out the right date.
So I, so he said that you have to move the day forward, the date forward 11 days. So you move the date forward from April 26th, to and it’s May 7th it winds up being 1583. And on that day It’s pretty interesting astrology. And I found out some other interesting things and, Venus had just passed a conjunction with Jane Dee’s moon, which would put anybody in a good mood. Venus was in Gemini, her moon– there’s a, B it’s like a B Rodden rating which is biographical. So it’s not like the highest accuracy of birth information, which would be an AA which means that it comes from a birth certificate. Is it possible that she was born several hours later and her moon is in Gemini? Possible. But the day, the time we have for her is it gives her a moon in Taurus at 28 degrees. So on that day, May 7th Venus is at zero degrees Gemini at some point during the day, I guess it makes the shift. And so it’s just past the conjunction with the moon in this chart, which would put anybody in a good mood, but it’s also actually over her mercury.
And her mercury is at zero degrees, Gemini. So maybe she was also like just more inclined to speak sweet words.
So that was that. And another thing that is really interesting. I mean that whole Julian Gregorian calendar thing, it was like something that I thought about for a day. And I’m still thinking about it because the shift around it is really interesting because as I was researching it, I learned that John Dee actually was involved in that shift back in the 1580s. But Britain didn’t did not adopt that until a couple of hundred years later because of the Protestant reformation. And just the details around the Gregorian calendar, like why it was being brought about. So I’m still learning about that, but yeah, so something that was really interesting to me in the process of this was when I was looking at this date for to see why Jane was in a good mood, that day was just so funny, was that there was a Saturn Jupiter conjunction just a few days before in Pisces. And we, if you’re listening to this in 2021 in December of 2020 had a. Very Epic Saturn Jupiter conjunction in Aquarius on the solstice.
And it was also a great mutation. It started a new 200 year cycle and it was just very timely to discover that because reading this article and seeing that. It was this, Deborah Harkness was making this point. There was a great shift in like where this work was taking place, like this work of natural philosophy and exploration and this alchemy and like discussions with angels and science was happening the home.
And it was it, she was making the point that it was this time. Of change. And Jane Dee was also grappling with that because this work was taking place in the home. And not in the laboratory, not like in another place outside of the home, another workplace outside of the home, but there, so she is, so Jane is straddling these two worlds just as John is. And so I was, so since I attended like several talks about the Saturn Jupiter conjunction I knew that these are typically times of transition and change. And I thought it was so fascinating that I made this accidental discovery and I’m still learning more about it.
And, wanting to research more into it, to just see what was the state of natural philosophy and the questions that were occupying the greatest minds of that time. And how does. How does the Saturn Jupiter conjunction in Pisces at that time in the 1580s reflect that? And there would have been several because typically there were several it happened within a span of a couple of years or a year.
So yeah, so that was an interesting accidental discovery that I still continue to research and learn more about, so I wanted to share that with you all and just before I, just one last thing I wanted to say about this, that was interesting was that in that passage where John Dee is saying, Edward Kelly came back and Jane wasn’t mad, that was notable.
I also saw that there was when I looked at the ephemeris. There was a recent mercury retrograde and mercury had just stationed at the end of April. Gregorian or Julian calendar. And just, so several days prior to Edward Kelly coming back, mercury had stationed direct after having gone retrograde and was retreading that place in the sky, in the Zodiac where it had traveled through before moving backwards, apparently.
So that was also really interesting symbolism to me. About Edward Kelly, and coming back after a little falling out. So I wonder if there’s a way that I can find more information about that.
And because I have watched all of season one and two of the discovery of witches, which now that I’m doing this inquiry, I don’t feel bad about because, I actually, for a lot, like most of my life, I had never watched much TV this isn’t TV, but I never really watched anything. So all my friends when they would reference movies and shows and things like, yeah, I wouldn’t know because I just never I never did that. So now I’m like now I watch TV and I feel Oh, I should be doing something else. I should be doing something productive.
So since this inquiry is the fruit of that, I don’t feel that I don’t I, my guilt is I don’t have guilt, but it’s just, I’m happy that this came out of that. And yeah, so I’m going to continue to, so I was saying before, because I watch discovery of witches, I know that a lot of these manuscripts like John Dee’s manuscripts are in the Bodleian in Oxford. And I’m now like trying to find out if Oxford has a digital collection that I can research or find a way to browse or if I actually have to be affiliated with an institution or if there’s a way that I can check out a book digitally or do I have to visit Oxford?
Like how can I read through Dee’s diaries find out more about this, the spat between him and Kelly and maybe it’s printed somewhere. Like maybe there’s a published book that I can download to my Kindle or something that would be easy. Yeah, that is what I have for you today.
Just this seed of research, this intriguing exploration and this intriguing guy, John Dee I did actually wind up watching a presentation about this woman who put on a what’s it called when you have a show in a gallery? That had a lot of John Dees materials and there was this massive painting of John Dee that was, and, Queen Elizabeth that was done. And it was x-rayed and it was shown that it, there used to be a ring of skulls around Dee. In the, it was originally painted that way, but the artists had actually painted over it later on. And I don’t know the backstory about that, like why that happened.
But I think obviously, like Jane is nervous about their reputation as a family. That he’s a conjurer, he’s a sorcerer. So I think that plays into that, like that painter was like aware of this, the word on the street and Portrayed him in that way. And then maybe thought better of it because he was held in such high regard by the queen.
And I don’t know how much leader that painter painted that painting if it was contemporary. But yeah, so yeah, just really interesting. And I, if you know anything about this, I’d love to hear from you. If you happen to be, if you just happen to be interested in that era, or if you knew anything about the history of that era, that would be really interesting for me to hear about.
So that is what I have for you. I hope this was enjoyable. And as always, I am wishing you very well until next time.