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The Mysterious Book of Soyga

Holy Conversations: The Impact of the Mysterious Book of Soyga

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The Book of Soyga, or the Aldaraia sive Soyga vocor, was written in the sixteenth century as a possible treatise on magic.  The illustrious occultist John Dee of the court of Elizabeth I owned one of only two known copies, perhaps one of the reasons why it serves pertinent to research on Renaissance magic and alchemy.  Not unlike his own work on the Enochian, or Angelical, alphabet, the Book of Soyga appears to contain another sort of alphabet—possibly a variation of Hebrew with alchemical symbols encoded within.  Recovered in 1994 after having been missing for the four hundred years between when Dee allegedly sold it for cash and his death in 1608, the book is considered one of the most perplexing volumes from the sixteenth century.

Written in Latin, the Book of Soyga is not as easily translatable as one would hope.  Although it does not appear that Dee ever successfully deciphered the coded book, current historians and decoders have translated the Latin, discovering an overall theme around which the book was written.  It appears to discuss beliefs of Renaissance magic and identifies various angels and demons, as well as depicting an unusual alphabet and multiple streams of backwards words.  Additionally, it is teeming with numerical symbols that leave many scholars to believe the book has something to do with the Christian Cabala, a text written from the Jewish Kabbalah with a Christian perspective. (While the purpose of the Cabala varies, it is essentially a set of teachings that illuminate the way in which infinity interacts with the mortal world, depending on one's particular traditions).   These factors individually make the purpose of the text very elusive—it is only because its author wrote partially in Latin that an emphasis on astronomy, alchemy, angels, and elements can be understood.  Further than this, however, the symbolic, numerical, and specific alchemical comments within the text still remain shrouded in mystery, as certain figures cannot properly be translated or deciphered. (See Jim Reeds' work.)

Portrait of John Dee, famous occultist who owned a copy of the Book of Soyga

Portrait of John Dee, famous occultist who owned a copy of the Book of Soyga (Wikimedia Commons)

The Book of Soyga is made up of 36 tables (or sections), within which there are numerous topics.  The fourth section, for instance, discusses the four primary elements—fire, air, earth, and water—and how they were spread throughout the universe.  The fifth discusses the medieval humors: blood, phlegm, red bile, and black bile.  The astrological signs and the planets are written about in lengthy detail, each sign pertaining to a specific planet (i.e., Venus and Taurus), and then Books 26 begins a long description of "The Book of Rays", intended "for the sake of understanding the universal evils."

‘The Four Temperaments’ by Charles Le Brun (Wikimedia Commons). The temperaments Choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic were believed to be caused by an excess or lack of any of the four humors.

‘The Four Temperaments’ by Charles Le Brun (Wikimedia Commons). The temperaments Choleric, sanguine, melancholic, and phlegmatic were believed to be caused by an excess or lack of any of the four humors.

John Dee and Edward Kelley came to understand the importance of the text during one of their long spiritual conferences when Dee himself requested of the angels whether the book sitting on a shelf in his large home library was of any particular value.  The pair allegedly came to communicate with the angel Uriel, his patronage that of the seven Catholic sacraments and poetry, and Uriel expanded Dee's knowledge on the Book of Soyga.  Uriel is noted to have claimed that the text relates to the time before time—it references the age when Adam lived, before the creation of Eve and the Fall of Man.  However, Uriel went on to state that only the archangel Michael, God's warrior against evil and sickness, could accurately interpret the work. 

According to John Dee, only Archangel Michael could decipher the true meaning of the Book of Soyga

According to John Dee, only Archangel Michael could decipher the true meaning of the Book of Soyga (Wikimedia Commons)

Scholars of Dee's work and the occult believe that the Book of Soyga heavily influenced Dee and Kelley's work on Enochian magic.  One can see many great similarities between Dee's work on the Monas Hieroglyphica and the Enochian language, and the elements within the Book of Soyga—not the least of which being the fashion in which both texts were recorded It would therefore be an immense mistake to believe that, although the Book of Soyga is a mystery, it was overlooked as it lay on a shelf in Dee's library.  It is entirely possible that the book influenced his work far more than currently realized and far more than can presently be understood without the aid of a proper translation of both the Enochian language and the Book of Soyga

Featured image: Rosewood Decorated Grimoire Book of Shadows. Representational image only. (Wikimedia Commons)

By Riley Winters


Dee, John. " Monas Hieroglyphica ('The Hieroglyphic Monad')." Esoteric Archives. Accessed June 10, 2015.

Feingold, Mordechai. "John Dee: English Mathematician." Encyclopedia Britannia. Accessed June 9, 2015.

French, Peter. J. John Dee: the World of an Elizabethan Magus (Routledge: London, 1987.)

Kupin, Jane. Aldraria sive Soyga vocor (British Library Sloane 8: London, 2014.) Accessed June 10, 2015.

Parry, Glyn. "John Dee and the Elizabethan British Empire in Its European Context." The Historical Journal. 49.3. Sept 2006.

Reeds, Jim. "John Dee and the Magic Tablets in the Book of Soyga." 1996. Accessed June 10, 2015.

Tratter, Walter I. "God and Expansion in Elizabethan England: John Dee, 15227-1583." Journal of the History of Ideas. 25.1. 1964. pp. 17-34.

"Aldaraia or, The Book of Soyga: Being a Treatise on Astrological Magic once belonging to Dr. John Dee." Clavis Journal: Cipher and Stone. 3.1. 2014. Accessed June 9, 2015.

"John Dee." Elizabethan Era. 2015. Accessed June 9, 2015

"John Dee." Encyclopedia of Occultism and Parapsychology. 2001. Accessed June 9, 2015.

"John Dee." St. Andrews' School of Mathematics and Statistics. August 2002. Accessed June 10, 2015.



SJDF's picture

I could be wrong but I'm almost certain Dee got this boo from his grandfather when he was a young boy, if there is a pitcher in it of a baby within a jar with eye's violet-tinged, if it does then I would be 100% sure of this.

IronicLyricist's picture

the “original 007”… hmph he got involved in things he didnt understand and doomed the world to bloodshed and pain...

infinitesimal waveparticles comprise what we call home the earth
manipulatable by thought ability supressed in humans since birth

"Voynich" is the book you're thinking of, I believe.

Perhaps something deciphered from this book could help in unraveling that other famous book (can't remember the name) that is indecipherable aside from a few recognizable drawings of plants.

Riley Winters's picture


Riley Winters is a Pre-PhD art historical, archaeological, and philological researcher who holds a degree in Classical Studies and Art History, and a Medieval and Renaissance Studies minor from Christopher Newport University. She is also a graduate of Celtic and Viking... Read More

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