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‘Seal of God’ from Dr John Dee’s magic set
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THE BRITISH MUSEUM has a number of objects associated with the Elizabethan mathematician, astrologer and magician John Dee (1527-1608/9). Dee was one of the most learned men of his time, but later in life he became interested in psychic phenomena. He worked with a medium, who would see visions in ‘shew-stones’, polished translucent or reflective objects which Dee used as tools for his occult research.

Dee’s ‘magic set’ included a mirror, made of highly polished obsidian (volcanic glass), that was used by Dee as a ‘shew-stone’. Four wax discs are recorded as having supported the legs of Dee’s ‘table of practice’. A larger disc, shown here, the ‘Seal of God’ (Sigillum Dei) was used to support one of Dee’s ‘shew-stones’. All the wax discs are engraved with magical names, symbols and signs.

Another disc, made of gold, is engraved with the Vision of Four Castles, experienced during one of Dee’s ‘experiments’ at Krakow in 1584.

‘Seal of God’ from Dr John Dee’s magic set

England, 15th-16th century AD
Mirror: Aztec, 15th-16th century AD
D. 23 cm (large wax disc)
Gold disc: Gift of the Art Fund

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