Long before the modern scientist took charge of our pursuit of the unknown, we had an entirely different figure at the helm—the mystic. Alchemists, fortune-tellers, and sorcerers of all kinds claimed to have answers to the questions on our minds. Though many were simple charlatans, knowingly spreading lies in the pursuit of wealth and fame, others truly believed in the magic they professed to wield.
Throughout history, world leaders have sought out those that practice the occult, hoping to gain from their esoteric knowledge and in some cases, their alleged mystic power. Here are ten mystics, occultists, and so on who served the rich and powerful.
During the late 16th century, John Dee straddled the fence between science and magic, devoting his intellect to the fields of mathematics and astronomy as much as alchemy and divination. Born in London in 1527 to a member of Henry VIII’s court, Dee found himself in the company of royalty from a young age.
Catching the interest of Queen Mary and the young Elizabeth I, Dee began his career as a reader of horoscopes. However, not everyone was as fond of his work as the queen. In 1555, Dee was arrested and tried for treason, accused of “calculating” the horoscopes of the queen and her daughter. Fortunately, Dee managed to convince both the court and the church of his innocence.
After Elizabeth took the throne, Dee continued to serve as her advisor and mystic guide. With his new position, he was able to develop relationships with royalty all across Europe, including Emperor Rudolph II, a renowned patron of alchemists and sorcerers.
Later in life, as Dee’s influence began to wane, he traveled to Europe in search of the Philosopher’s Stone, an alleged source of immortality. He returned empty-handed, but he believed that what alchemy he had learned could at least resolve the economic crisis facing his homeland. Unfortunately, England’s tolerance for the occult had faded during his absence, and he resigned himself to a teaching the mundane at the University of Cambridge. Dee passed away in 1609.
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