July 18, 2011
John Dee’s Birthday : July 18, 1527
Today marks the birthday of that great Elizabethan magus, John Dee. (Actually, recent research indicates that he was born July 13 (old calendar) or perhaps July 24 (today’s reckoning.) So let’s celebrate him all month. He deserves it–as you’ll soon see! As official philosopher, astrologer and alchemist to England’s Queen Elizabeth I, Dee was the first to conduct a documented survey of Stonehenge; his stellar readings of weather and naval expertise helped Elizabeth’s navy defeat the Armada and conquer half the world; he possessed one of the great esoteric libraries on record (until it was torched by his ignorant, superstitious neighbors, the ‘illiterati’ as I like to think of them); and he also claimed to have devised a way to communicate with other levels of universal consciousness: namely, he thought he could talk to angels. The mysterious ‘scrying stone’ he used for this purpose still exists, and indeed drew headlines, just a few years ago, when it was stolen from the British Museum.
My longtime friend and colleague, bestselling Spanish author Javier Sierra (the first Spanish writer ever to hit the NY Times list) has just published a thriller – which landed at number one on Spanish charts – in which Dee plays a significant role: The Lost Angel. I’ll be giving away some copies of the English language version on the American pub date, October 4, 2011 (coincidentally, October 4 is the birth date of both of the daughters of my two main characters in The Eight and The Fire!)
Caravaggio’s Death: July 18, 1610
This is a day of my favorite angels. Four hundred (and one) years ago, the famous painter, Michelangelo Merisi of Caravaggio, died while returning to Rome to receive pardon from the Pope for a murder he’d committed on a tennis court. Caravaggio was christened (like Michelangelo Buonarotti of Sistine Chapel fame) for the warrior Archangel Michael. But this painter archangel-namesake was was a difficult guy – no angel by our standards – always in and out of sword fights, court trials, you name it.
I’ve loved Caravaggio and his paintings ever since I saw my first one, nearly 50 years ago, at the Seattle World’s Fair. I’ve been reading and writing about him for three decades. So don’t be surprised if he makes a guest appearance in the book I’m working on right now: painters in the 1600s!
Dee and Caravaggio died within 18 months of each other. It marked the end of an era.