Enochian is an occult or angelic language recorded in the private journals of John Dee and his colleague Edward Kelley in late 16th-century England.
Kelley was a spirit medium who worked with Dee in his magical investigations. The men claimed that the language was revealed to them by the Enochian angels.
The language is integral to the practice of Enochian magic. The syntax and grammar of the Enochian language are highly similar to the English language.
The language found in Dee’s and Kelley’s journals encompasses a limited textual corpus, only some of it with English translations. Several linguists, notably Donald Laycock, have studied Enochian, and argue against any extraordinary features in the language.
Dee’s journals did not describe the language as “Enochian“, instead preferring descriptors like “Angelical“, the “Celestial Speech“, the “Language of Angels“, the “First Language of God-Christ“, the “Holy Language” or “Adamical” because, according to Dee’s Angels, it was used by Adam in Paradise to name all things.
The term “Enochian” comes from Dee’s assertion that the Biblical Patriarch Enoch had been the last human (before Dee and Kelley) to know the language.
Dee’s Angelic language
According to Tobias Churton in his text The Golden Builders, the concept of an Angelic or antediluvian language was common during Dee’s time. If one could speak the language of Angels, it was believed one could directly interact with them.
In 1581, Dee mentioned in his personal journals that God had sent “good angels” to communicate directly with prophets.
In 1582, Dee teamed up with the seer Edward Kelley, although Dee had used several other seers previously. With Kelley’s help as a scryer, Dee set out to establish lasting contact with the angels. Their work resulted, among other things, in the reception of the Enochian or Angelical language.
According to Dee’s journals, Angelical was supposed to have been the language God used to create the world, and which was later used by Adam to speak with God and the angels, and to name all things in existence. After his fall from Paradise, Adam lost the language and constructed a form of proto-Hebrew based upon his vague memory of Angelical.
This proto-Hebrew, then, was the universal human language until the time of the Confusion of Tongues at the Tower of Babel. After this, all the various human languages were developed, including an even more modified Hebrew (which we know as “Biblical Hebrew”).
From the time of Adam to the time of Dee and Kelley, Angelical was hidden from humans with the single exception of the patriarch Enoch who, according to the angels, recorded the “Book of Loagaeth” (Speech from God) for humanity. The book was then lost again in the Deluge of Noah.
The reception of Enochian started on March 26, 1583, when Kelley reported visions in the crystal of the twenty-one lettered alphabet characteristic of the language. A few days later, Kelley started receiving what became the first corpus of texts in the purported Angelic language.
This resulted in the book Liber Loagaeth. The book consists of 49 great letter tables or squares made of 49 by 49 letters. Dee and Kelley said the angels never translated the texts in this book.
The other set of Enochian texts was received through Kelley about a year later, in Kraków, where both alchemists stayed for some time at the court of King Stefan Batory. These come with English translations, thus providing the basis for the Enochian vocabulary.
The texts comprise 48 poetic verses, which in Dee’s manuscripts are called “Claves Angelicae“, or “Angelic Keys“. The Keys are assigned certain functions within the magical system. Dee was apparently intending to use these Keys to “open the 49 Gates of Wisdom/Understanding” represented by the 49 magic squares in Liber Loagaeth:
I am therefore to instruct and inform you, according to your Doctrine delivered, which is contained in 49 Tables. In 49 voices, or callings: which are the Natural Keys to open those, not 49 but 48 (for one is not to be opened) Gates of Understanding, whereby you shall have knowledge to move every Gate… —The angel Nalvage
But you shall understand that these 19 Calls are the Calls, or entrances into the knowledge of the mystical Tables. Every Table containing one whole leaf, whereunto you need no other circumstances. —The angel Illemese
While these texts contain most of the vocabulary, dozens of further words are found hidden throughout Dee’s journals, and thousands of undefined words are contained in the Liber Loagaeth.
The Enochian script is written from right to left and may include diacritical marks. Different documents have slightly different forms of the script. Some of the letter names are pronounced as they would be in English, but many are pronounced differently. The Enochian letters have an English letter equivalents.
A number of different fonts for the Enochian alphabet are available, which use the English letter equivalents to access the Enochian glyphs.
The Enochian letters are read from right to left, as written in John Dee’s diary.
The Australian linguist Donald Laycock has noted the discrepancy between the two revealed sets of Enochian texts as an indication that Enochian is not a consistent language.
According to Laycock, the texts in the Loagaeth material show phonetic features that do not generally appear in natural languages.
Rather, the features shown are commonly found in instances of glossolalia (“speaking in tongues”), suggesting that Kelley actually produced at least this set of writings this way.
According to Laycock’s linguistic analysis, the syntax of the Enochian calls is almost identical to that of English. Also, the very scant evidence of Enochian verb conjugation seems quite reminiscent of English, more so than with Semitic languages as Hebrew or Arabic, which Dee claimed were debased versions of the original Angelic language.
There are only two known verbs with conjugations, one of which, “to be,” is highly irregular. While some phonetic features of Enochian show a connection to glossolalia, others show similarities to the English language. Both languages have soft and hard consonants such as c and g and combine s and h to make the sh sound.
As for the semantics of Enochian, additional similarities to English have been found. For example, luciftias, a term meaning brightness, may very possibly have a connection to Lucifer, whose name means “light-bringer.” Londoh, a word meaning kingdom, may have come from Dee’s admiration for Elizabeth I.
These and other examples have led skeptics to believe that many of these terms are derived from notions that would have been contemporary in Dee’s and Kelley’s time.
The alphabet also shares many graphical similarities to a script- also attributed to the prophet Enoch- that appeared in the Voarchadumia Contra Alchimiam of Johannes Pantheus, a copy of which Dee is known to have owned.