Kelley, Edward

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Edward Kelley raising a corpse. Courtesy Fortean Picture Library.

Kelley, Edward (1555-1593)

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

Assistant to Queen Elizabeth I's astrologer, Dr. John Dee. A native of Lancashire, England, Kelley—who sometimes used the name Talbott—was born in

1555. Little is known of his early years other that the fact that he lost his ears at Lancaster after being convicted of the offense of "coining." Thereafter he wore a black cap to cover his loss. He subsequently moved to Worcester and established himself as a druggist.

Kelley was a lover of luxury and turned to alchemy and searching for the Philosopher's Stone in hopes of striking it rich. It was said that as a necromancer he could get the dead to speak and tell the secrets of what the future held. He gained a reputation for scrying. This reputation reached the ears of Dr. John Dee, whose own scryer, Barnabas Saul, had recently left his employ. Kelley took over the position, allowing his powerful imagination to describe the incredible sights he said he received from the "great crystalline globe" that Dee possessed. By his enthusiasm and fertile imagination he quickly won Dee's confidence and established himself as a needed associate to Dee.

Dee carefully recorded all the conferences he held with the spirits, courtesy of Kelley's crystal ball gazing. In 1659 Méric Casaubon published A True and Faithful Relation of what passed between Dr. John Dee and some Spirits. Soon the reputation of the duo extended across the continent of Europe, and Kelley found himself traveling with Dee and both their families.

First came a visit to Poland in the company of Albert Laski, Count Palatine of Siradz. They lived sumptuously for a while with the count, ostensibly trying to create gold using the count's own gold as part of the experiment. When they had drained him of his fortune, they continued on to Prague and the Emperor Rudolph II. The emperor was aware of Dee and his reputation but wary of Kelley. After a short stay they had to rapidly move on due to a Papal Nuncio complaining of them being heretical magicians.

Stephen, king of Poland, was next to greet them but soon tired of their demands for gold. Count Rosenberg was the next in line and they stayed two years living off his hospitality at Trebona, in Bohemia. Kelley, on a number of occasions, proclaimed to Dee that he did not like what the "spirits" were telling him to do and that he would quit. Each time, Dee would increase his salary, and Kelley stayed. Eventually Kelley claimed that the spirits were demanding that the two men exchange their wives. Dee and his wife, Jane Fromond, were violently opposed to this, but, when Kelley left and later returned, Dee was so glad to have him back that he acquiesced, and the four signed an agreement to share everything in common.

Dee eventually grew restless to go back to England and, obtaining permission from Queen Elizabeth to return, finally did so, leaving Kelley in Bohemia. Kelley tried to go back to Prague, but on his arrival there he was arrested by order of the emperor and thrown into prison. He managed to gain release and wandered about Germany telling fortunes and scraping a living. Arrested a second time as a heretic and sorcerer, he tried to escape and fell from the dungeon wall, breaking both his legs and two ribs. He finally died of his injuries in February 1593.

The Witch Book: The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft, Wicca, and Neo-paganism © 2002 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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She was also predeceased by two brothers and one sister, Gerald Kelley, Edward Kelley and Mary DeCosta.