Mercurii, Society of the
The Society of the Mecurii was an occult magical organization
that operated in London, England, in the 1830s and was
one of the primary groups that launched the occult and astrological
revival that has led to the spectacular growth of the occult
world in the twentieth century. The first public mention of
the society seems to have been an announcement in the August
14, 1824, issue of The Struggling Astrologer, a magazine that had
been launched by astrologer Robert Cross Smith (1795–1832),
later to become famous under his pen name Raphael. According
to the brief statement, the society consisted of some ‘‘scientific
gentlemen’’ interested in promoting occult science. In a
later issue it was noted that the number of the society were few
and select and that their meeting place was secret. It was noted,
however, that they wished to publish occult books, and could
be contacted through Smith.
Beyond Smith, the exact membership of the society is unknown,
but some speculation can be made from knowledge of
those who were associated with him. One possible early member
was artist Richard Cosway (d. 1821). Above and beyond his
art, he gathered a large occult library, lectured on occult topics,
and practiced spirit contact via clairvoyance. When he died,
Smith came into possession of his library.
The Struggling Astrologer was succeeded by a new periodical
in 1825, Urania; or, The Astrologer’s Chronicle, and Mystic Magazine,
which listed Smith as the editor under the pseudonym
‘‘Mecurius Angelicus, Jur.’’ assisted by members of the Mercurii.
Like The Struggling Astrologer, Urania lasted only a few issues.
However, after it folded Smith published a collection of
articles from the two periodicals as a book, The Astrologer of the
Nineteenth Century, described as a compendium of occult materials
by members of the Society of the Mercurii.
From the Smith publications, membership of the Mercurii
appears to have included George W. Graham, an alchemist
who assisted Smith in setting up his business; John Varley
(1778–1842), a noted artist and friend of the artistpoet William
Blake and student of astrology; and John Palmer (1807–1837),
a young alchemist who wrote for Smith.
During this period of time, the only other significant occult
group in England was the circle that had formed around magician
Francis Barrett, author of The Magus, a seminal text of
magical wisdom that stands at the fountainhead of modern
magical practice. The Mercurii apparently dissolved following
the death of so many of its members in the 1830s, though given
its secretive nature it could easily have survived much longer.
Godwin, Joscelyn. The Theosophical Enlightenment. Albany
State University of New York Press, 1995.

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