Enochian Chess of the Golden Dawn: A Four-Handed Chess Game
By Chris Zalweski (1994 Llewellyn)
Enochian chess is an interesting variation on the classic game that has entertained and amused people for hundreds of years. This book shows how it can be played and used in conjunction with the Enochian system of mysticism as developed by John Dee and Edward Kelly. There is plenty of theory and philosophy in this book.
A little background on Enochian mysticism. In the 16th century the mathematician John Dee, who was a prominent member of Queen Elizabeth’s court, decided he wanted to investigate the realm of the angels. Nowadays, people would find it strange if Neil Tyson would have a particular interest in astrology, but this was the later renaissance and anything was possible. Heck, even Isaac Newton spent most of his time in the research of alchemy.
To help him in his extrasensory quests, Dee recruited a man named Kelly, who was a bit of rouge, but managed to get good results from starting into a crystal. I have more information on the Enochian system in this review.
Enochian chess, or Rosicrucian chess, was developed by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at the turn of the last century. They wanted to use the elemental tables Dee created for divination and education. By playing a modified game of chess on a board made up from one of Dee’s elemental tables, an adept could better understand the forces of the universe. I don’t know how much remained of Dee’s original system because I’m no Golden Dawn expert. I will say that, betting good Victorians, the Golden Dawn tended to merge everything into one syncretic synthesis.
This book goes into the rules of the game in great detail. This is important, as there are significant changes in the way the game is played. It will confuse any player who has some knowledge of the standard chess game. I know it messed with my strategies, but I’m not that good of a chess player. One reviewer called the game “chess in four dimensions”. I wouldn’t go so far to make that claim, but if you’ve ever played Star Trek 3D chess, you will understand the frustration.
One of the first things you learn about Enochian Chess is that it is played with four players. Each player assumes on the elemental forces (earth, air, fire, water) and has one side of the board to play. It is normally played using the “Earth” tablet, but you can play it using any of the other tablets. Squares are colored to represent the HOGD system of understanding. Each side has half the normal set of pieces, with the rook staring on the same square as the king. There are differences in the movements of the pieces, for instance, the queen jumps over pieces in her way, but she can only move three spaces in any direction. As in real chess, the object of the game it to capture a king. Players are allied in groups of two so that two people can play the game if you use the two allied sides at once. I could go into the rules further, but buy the book and find out ton your own.
As for divination, it involves selecting a square with the right mystical signs for what you want to know. Then you mark it with a special game piece called a “Ptah” and try to hold onto that square for several rounds. If you can defend it, this indicates a favorable result. My argument here is that a player can influence the outcome of the divination; however, he or she wants, by their level of skill. I suppose a retort would be, “Yes, but that’s like saying a person can influence the planchette on a Ouija board by pushing in desired direction”. Didn’t work so well in Thirteen Ghosts.
The book has plenty of strategy in it. The author was one of the people who figured out how the game was supposed to be played from the existent Golden Dawn texts. The original game was played by using cardboard cutouts, but there are several people who sell complete game sets. I’m still working through the strategy section as she uses a way of chess notation, which is a little hard to understand. I need to re-read this section.
Actually, you don’t have to buy an expensive set; all you need to do is buy two cheapo chess sets and color the different pantheons accordingly. Now you have your own Enochian chess set! My first attempts used two boards from a discount store and colored electrical tape. I’ve since upgraded. I did this with trips to the photoprint shop and craft store. Then I used some spray paint I had around the house. Therefore, you don’t have to invest a ton of money if you want to try the game.
I can’t say whether or not it works well for divination, because I haven’t attempted that part. On the other hand, I am only interested in divination systems that give me a winning lottery number (heh). I do recommend this book as an excellent way to learn about this mystical chess game.
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