de Laat (2020 Congress)

Sanne de Laat
(English Department, Radboud University Nijmegen)

“Seeing the Whole Picture:
Scryers and Their Networks in Medieval and Early Modern England”

Abstract of Paper
Intended To be presented at the 55th International Congress on Medieval Studies [CANCELLED]
(Kalamazoo, 2020)

Rescheduled for the 56th International Congress on Medieval Studies
(Kalamazoo, 2021)

Session I of II on
“Revealing the Unknown”
Part I:  “Scryers and Scrying in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period”

Sponsored by the Research Group on Manuscript Evidence and the Societas Magica
Organized by Sanne de Laat and László Sándor Chardonnens

(Session Rescheduled from the cancelled 2020 Congress, and partly Rearranged for the 2021 Congress)
2020 Congress Program
2021 Congress Program Planning

[Published on 22 March 2020, with an Update on 19 November 2020 reporting the Rescheduling for the 2021 Congress]



While most people are familiar with the scryer Edward Kelley and will be able to tell anyone that he worked for John Dee, less is known about the relationships Kelley built for himself. Even less is known about his contact with other scryers, or if he even knew other scryers. Some court cases show that people in the Middle Ages and Early Modern period knew about other scryers, but it is so far unclear if there was a network of sorts connecting these different scryers, magic practitioners, and patrons. William Wycherly’s court case tells us that he at least knew about other contemporary scryers, by naming a certain Thomas Malfrey of Goldstone and mentioning a nameless woman “besides Stoke Clare” who are “scryers of the glasse”. These few people are known, but the network around and social circles of scryers have rarely been analysed before.

This paper attempts to give an overview of the connections scryers had to (possible) patrons, other scryers, and magicians by means of a few case studies so as to try and explain how scryers were a part of a larger network.