As Hermes explains to his pupil Tat (in the text of the Corpus Hermeticum):
"I have already hinted, my child, that there is a body that envelops the entire world: represent this body to yourself as a circular figure, for it is the form of the All … Picture now that, under the circle of this body, have been placed thirty-six decans, in the middle between the universal circle and the circle of the zodiac … moving along the zodiac with the planets, and then, being at the heart of the revolution of the All, they have, alternatively, the same power as the seven (governors)."
The Renaissance alchemists were very taken with this vision of astrology, particularly Trithemius in his Chronologica Mystica of 1508; his pupil Cornelius Agrippa in his De Occulta Philosophia (1533); the visionary Bruno who had Trithemius’ Steganographia summarized; and the downright Dee, whose Clavis Angelicae was published in Krakow in 1584.
Bruno’s diagrams of his decans for internalizing his magic memory system are particularly quaint. They were probably inspired by the Picatrix and the decans painted on the fresco in the Palazzo Schifanio at Ferrara.
John Dee writes in his Spiritual Diaries (Sloane MS 3188, 22 December 1581 to 30 May 1583) how Enochian letters first appeared to him through his scryer Kelley and were recorded on 29 March 1582. Over the months, a completed ‘Enochian Dictionary’ was revealed and Kelley transmitted it as Enochian language. They received another Enochian text between April and August 1585 during their stay in Bohemia (the Liber Logaeth in Sloane 3139).
Years before, on 18 January 1559, Dee had been given a copy of Voarchadumia by Joannes Augustinus Pantheus. The book was like many others on cabala, except that it showed an alphabet of Enoch. Was this the language of angels that the impressionable Dee memorized and Kelley telepathized twenty-five years later from Dee’s brain? Dee worked inseparably with Kelley and never actually asserted that he saw anything himself. Nevertheless, Kelley’s personality was so magnetic that susceptible scryers might repeat Dee’s ideas as visions.
In the design of the Great Seal of John Dee, found in his notebooks, the Spiritual Diaries, the word Dei hits the eye first, printed in the middle of the page at the top, then repeated immediately underneath, above the main diagram of the seven-pointed star. The Great Seal was all part of the paraphernalia of Dee’s seances. He was, according to his notes, commanded by the Archangel Uriel to prepare very carefully for the sittings at which he and his scryer Kelley would have communications with angels.
The preparations included a special table of many colors, but particularly the primary colors, with magic sigils and letters all over the legs in yellow. The whole table was put on wax seals - a fairground trolley with seals for wheels.
The Great Seal, the Sigil of Truth, Emeth, was placed on the tabletop and covered with red silk, on top of which the crystal was set. When the time was ripe and the “dignification” of Dee and Kelley complete, the sessions of crystal gazing could begin.