Czech alchemy: In the Footsteps of John Dee and Edward Kelley


This journey through the heartlands of Bohemia will follow the extraordinary adventures of John Dee and Edward Kelley in the Czech Lands, re-creating the stages of their journey together, highlighting some of the outstanding incidents, such as the meeting between Dee and Rudolf II and the ‚book-burning‘ in Prague, the ‚wife-swapping‘ in Trebon and concurrently examining the ‚spirit actions‘ on which they were based. We will also explore the meteoric rise and fall of Edward Kelley after Dee’s return to England – his rapidly acquired wealth and ennoblement and subsequent two-fold imprisonment and mysterious death.

These explorations will take place in the precise locations that they occurred, including the recently-identified Hajek house ‚by Bethlem in old Prage‘, the tower at Krivoklat where Kelley was held by Rudolf and in the enchanting South Bohemian towns of Trebon and Cesky Krumlov.We will also visit a reproduction of an Alchemy Laboratory and a library in North Bohemia.

Edward Kelley
John Dee

To complete our picture of their experience we will investigate the purposes of their ‚mission‘ in Central Europe and their contacts with other luminaries of the age who had been drawn to Prague at this extraordinary period of Czech history, such as Tycho de Brahe, Johannes Keppler, Sendivogius as well as domestic figures of renown such as Thaddeas Hajek and Bavor Rodovsky and the two dominant figures of Rudolf II and Vilem Rozmberk, their patrons.

Many popular theories will be discussed, with some recent speculations and some perhaps surprising interpretations will emerge. Our resources will be as historic as Dee’s diaries, particularly as reprinted in ‚A True and Faithful Relation‚, and as recent as newly published scholarly papers and yet-to-be published books.

Not only will we explore the historic locations but we will meet along the way many enthusiasts who will both enlighten our journey and divert us with music and good company.

A detailed itinerary is immediately below.

Participation is limited to 12 to facilitate low-impact travel and high-level participation.

Especially recommended reading prior to the trip can include any of the following:

„Rudolf II and his World,“ R.J.W. Evans, Thames and Hudson, 1997, rev. ed., esp. Chapters 6 & 7;

„The Rosicrucian Enlightenment“, Frances Yates

„The Rosicrucian Prelude: John Dee’s Mission in Central Europe“ by Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke and „The Twelfth Adept: Michael Sendivogius in Rudolfine Prague“ by Rafal T. Prinke, both in „The Rosicrucian Enlightenment Revisited“, Lindisfarne Books, 1999

„Raising Spirits, Making Gold and Swapping Wives“, Michael Wilding, Shoestring Press, 1999;

Other possible reading:

„The Angel of the West Window“, Gustav Meyrink

„Theatre of Terrestrial Astronomy“
„The Stone of the Philosophers“, both Edward Kelley
[links to Adam McLean’s Alchemy Web Site]

The Diaries of John Dee, (ed.) Edward Fenton, 1998

A True and Faithful Relation: A transcription of the spiritual exercises of John Dee … Meric Casaubon
[this book will be with us on the journey]

Tadeas Hajek
Bavor Rodovsky

In the Footsteps of Dee and Kelley: Itinerary

Sun. 10th June

6.00 p.m. Meet at the Restaurant ‚U Betlemske Kaple‘ on Bethlehem Square [Betlemske namesti] in Prague Old Town

Dinner, followed by a walking tour including two locations where Dee/Kelley lived and other Old Town locations

Accommodation in Prague

Mon. 11th June

Faust House, probably where Dee and Kelley lived together and where the ‚book-burning‘ took place, later owned by Kelley

Emperor’s Mill – the hidden location of Rudolf II’s private laboratory

Star Palace [Hvezda], a remarkable, hermetic 5 – sided building near the field of the Battle of the White Mountain in 1620 which crushed the hopes of the Protestant Rosicrucians and forced the flight of Frederick and Elizabeth, the Winter king and Queen of Bohemia

Evening depart for accomodation in Roudnice nad Labem.

Hazmburk Castle - a view along the way

Tues. 12th June

Visit the Lobkowicz Library for a viewing of ‚Aurora Consurgens‘ and other manuscripts [to be confirmed]

Visit the nearby hill Rip, the legendary founding place of Bohemia

Visit the Alchemical Laboratory at the Castle of Budyne nad Ohri, associated with Bavor Rodovsky, the best-known Czech Alchemist, who worked for Rudolf II and Vilem Rozmberk, amongst other patrons

Travel to Krivoklat Castle, where Kelley was first imprisoned by Rudolf II

Accomodation in Krivoklat

Wed. 13th June

Visit the Castle, including the Huderka Tower, where Kelley was imprisoned and library

Afternoon dep. for Trebon

Visit Trebon sights

Accomodation in Trebon

Thurs. 14th June

Continue Trebon exploration, including the Castle and the renowned Archive with many documents relating to Alchemy and the Rozmberks, including some connected to Dee and Kelley

Travel to Cesky Krumlov

Evening musical entertainment with Alchemical Group „Kvinterna“ 
[to be finalised]

Accommodation in C. Krumlov

Fri. 15th June

Cesky Krumlov
Visit to the Castle, Alchemical walking tour of the town
Optional excursion to Rozmberk [original family home of the eponymous family] and Vyssi Brod Monastery and/or to Zlata Koruna Monastery

2nd night in C. Krumlov

Sat. 16th June

8.00 Dep. C. Krumlov for Prague

11.30 Arr. Prague Airport for those departing

12.00 Arr. Prague Center for those staying in Prague

1.30 p.m. Lunch in Kutna Hora for those attending the Hermeticism, Spirituality and Imagination Programme

Pavel Nejedlý