No man is totally single-minded, least of all me. We went to Krakow because I’d been before and I remembered the moody streets and the atmosphere of mystery. But I persuaded Sheila to go, not just to research alchemists, but to see the sights and the Christmas lights.
Wherever you go in Krakow there are angels. There are shops selling angel ornaments, there’s even a shop in the Jewish Quarter Kazimierz that is wholly devoted to selling replicas of angels. Last time I was there I got a lino cut illustration of an angel standing astride the River Vistula. There was even a guy in the market dressed up as an angel painted in bronze complete with wings and sword. He was there one night at 10pm in the snow and there again at 9 am. Angels clearly work long hours.
If this was a true travelogue, I’d tell you of the ghost walk we went on when the snow was whipping down, or the strange almost mystical experiences I had in two of the churches, the main church St Mary’s and the Fransiscan Basilica
I’d also report how we went to The Alley of Lost Souls and got chased round a smoke filled room by a zombie and at the end how we couldn’t figure out how to open the last door and the monster whispered the combination from the other room. It was 7641, in case you ever go there.
But, returning to angels. Given that the foundation story of Krakow involves a dragon not an angel, you’d expect it would be the dragons featuring widely. Until that is, you learn about Edward Kelley and Dr Dee. I’ve written about them before in passing, but the essence is that they were in touch with angels who transferred to them secrets of the angelic language. This language was supposed to give great power in magical operations and has been used by later occultists such as The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and, of course, the notorious, but rather clever, Aleister Crowley.
Here’s a nice summary of Dee and Kelley’s time time in Krakow. Polish academics Rafal Prinke and Kamila Folprecht have identified the house that Kelley and Dee are likely to have had their communications with the angels. Prinke has written elsewhere on alchemy and magic.
But first here’s some Christmassy photos:
I should here mention the vampire burials. The centre of Krakow is many feet above what it was in medieval times, due to decades and centuries of deposits of mud by the River Vistula. Recent archaeological excavations have uncovered a graveyard around the church. Very interestingly some of those buried there have been interred with precautions against them rising again. When they were buried it was clearly thought that they were vampires. They were buried in a foetal position with their heads decapitated and displaced. In one case, a hand was placed in the mouth. It appears that they were tied with rope before being buried and one of the heads was placed on the coffin, while the other heads were elsewhere in the pit.
There have been other anti-vampire burials in Poland and elsewhere in Europe. In Italy, a vampire was buried with a brick in its mouth. When I say vampire, I mean of course, someone suspected of being a vampire.
But back to the angels.
Dee and Kelley arrived in Krakow in March 1584. They were due to lodge in the house of Pernus, but did not in the end stay there. Instead, it is likely they stayed on what is today Plac Szczepański. The square has been renovated and lots of the old houses torn down. Prinke thinks they were most likely in number 2, which is across the street from the Fransiscan monastery where there are mummified monks. Not sure they were there in Dee and Kelley’s time.
It was in this house on St Stephen’s Street that the angels delivered the “Calls” of their language, the so-called Enochian Language. Prinke says this operation was complete by July 1584.
I will complete this post another time.