John Dee’s (Enochian) Holy table

1999 Joseph H. Peterson; updated Jun 26, 2022.

John Dee's "holy table" is the center of his heptarchic ritual practice. He also refers to it as his "practising table" or "table of practise". The overall design may have been inspired by the Almadel, or Sememphoras tables, both of which were used for spirit communications.

The table is said to be made of "sweet wood" (laurel?), 2 cubits on each side ("your usual yard" = 36 in), and two cubits high. The border is to be one inch wide, and the center square should be 6 inches square. NOTE: Neither Dee's drawing in Sloane ms. 3188, nor the engraving in Casaubon1 exhibit these proportions. Compare also the marble copy of the table at the University of Oxford, dated mid-1600's.

1. Casaubon, Meric, A true & faithful relation of what passed for many yeers between..., London, 1659, image 94.

The lettering around this border is taken from an arrangement of the names of the Kings and princes of spirits, whose names all begin with "B", such as Baligon, Bornogo, and Bobogel.2 Thus the top border, labelled "in fronte tabulae" starts with "osonssl", taken from the right-most column of the table (see below). The 12 letters in the center (bordered by a square of six inches) are from the center (or "heart") of the same table:

2. See Dee, John, and Joseph H. Peterson. John Dee's Five Books of Mystery: Original Sourcebook of Enochian Magic: from the Collected Works Known As Mysteriorum Libri Quinque. Boston, MA: Weiser Books, 2003, p. 397.

   a l i g o n,o r n o g o   
   o b o g e l,e f a f e s   
   a b a l e l,u t m o n o   
   y n e p o r,l i s d o n   
   n a s p o l,r o r g e s   
   n a p s e n,r a l g e s   
   l u m a z a,a g e n o l   

Not all letters of the alphabet are represented in this scheme; specifically, veh, na, ger, pal (c, h, q, x) are not included, so it would not function as a spirit (or ouija) board, as sometimes suggested.

The spirits (or angels) were quite clear that the letters were to be rendered in the Enochian script, which is written from right to left (like Hebrew). Also, the tops of the letters should face the center of the table.3

3. "The heads [=top] of the letters must be next or towards the center of the square table or figure." (Dee, op. cit. p. 400).

According to Ashmole's description, Dee's actual table had Enochian script in red painted on a gold background, between two blue lines. The seven sigils, or "ensigns of Creation" were also painted with red letters and blue lines. The lines of the hexagon were gold, and the central square had gold letters and blue lines (op. cit. p. 23).

Dee's summary of the instructions, in Heptarchia Mystica states that the "Sigillum Aemeth is to be set in the myddle of the Table." On top of this sigillum, "with the frame," should rest the scrying stone. The 4 legs each rest on smaller wax Aemeth sigils, but with "hollow things of sweet wood" to protect them from damage.

Furthermore,

Under the Table did seame to be layde red sylk two yards square. And over the Seale, did seame likewise red Silk to lye fowr-square: broader then the Table, hanging down with 4 knopps or Tassels, at the 4 Corners therof.
Uppon this uppermost red Sylk, did seme the Stone with the frame,4 to be set: right over and uppon the Principall Seale: Saving that the red Sylk, was betwene the one, & the other.

Δ - There appeared the first Table covered, with a cloath of Sylk changeable cullour, Red & greene, with a white Cloth under it: all hanging very low.

4. Dee's drawing of the stone and its elaborate frame can be found in Sl. 3188, Dec 22, 1581.

John Dee's scrying stone

It is probably the same one described by William Lilly as the size of a large orange, "set in silver, with a cross on the top, and another on the handle; and round about engraved the names of these angels, Raphael, Gabriel, Uriel." (See Dee, op. cit. pp. 19-20.)

Elsewhere it is said the silk "must be of diverse colors — the most changeable that can be gotten."

The 7 lamins, or "ensigns of Creation", are to be engraved on tin, and "laid before thee upon the table, or thou maist place them (if thou wilt) continually at the 7 angles of the holy seal." They can also be painted on the table, 7 inches from the outer edge of the holy seal. (op. cit. p. 400.) They are symbols of the biblical 7 days of Creation.

From Sloane ms. 3188:

Iuxta pectus ("next to the chest") marks the place to stand; A sinistris ("to the left"); a dextris ("to the right"); etc.

Rendered in Enochian font, with correct proportions
(Circle represents Sigillum Dei Aemeth)
Enochian holy table: Dee version Enochian holy table proportions


Dee's drawing from Sl. 3188, rendered in Enochian font:

This assumes the "A dextris" letters and "A sinistris" letters swap sides as in Casaubon's drawing, which Ashmole stated was accurate. Moreover, Dee's table of the letters has lines from the end of row 1 to the beginning of row 2 (etc.), and this swap of sides is necessary in order for the letters to be continuous around the circumference.

From Casaubon's True and Faithful Relation

Rendered in Enochian font Enochian holy table: Casaubon version

Thus it can be seen, aside from the proportions, the engraving in Casaubon conforms to Dee's instructions in Sloane ms. 3188, and his synopsis in Sl. 3191 (Heptarchia Mystica), with one exception: In the upper left, 5 letters down, the letter should be "gon - with a prik" (="y") , not gon (="i"), taken from the name of the spirit Bynepor. The dot, although important, would be an easy thing to miss.