Enochian chess diagram

Enochian chess is a four-player chess variant, similar to chaturaji, associated with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The name comes from the Enochian system of magic of Dr. John Dee (magus and astrologer to Queen Elizabeth I), which was later adapted by Victorian members of the Golden Dawn into "a complete system of training and initiation".


Enochian chess was created by William Wynn Westcott, one of the three founders of the Golden Dawn, but the rules of the game were probably never completed by him. The game was finished by S. L. MacGregor Mathers, who put its rules into final form.[1]


The game was four-handed because each set of pieces corresponded to one of the four classical elements and their several watchtowers, and the game was used for divination as well as competition. The four sets of pieces were variously colored, and identified with Egyptian deities or "god-forms". The main identifications of the pieces were:

The chess board itself was also varicolored, and divided into four sub-boards in which each of one of the four elemental colors predominated.[3] The rules of the game were partially derived from shatranj and other historical forms of chess; the queen is played like an alfil, with a two square diagonal leaping move.[4] The four players would form pairs of two, with each player having a partner. MacGregor Mathers, who finalised the game's rules, was known to play with an invisible partner he claimed was a spirit. Joseph Hone, biographer of William Butler Yeats, claimed, "Mathers would shade his eyes with his hands and gaze at the empty chair at the opposite corner of the board before moving his partner's piece".[5]

The game, while complex, was in actual use; Georgie Yeats, wife of poet William Butler Yeats, relates actually playing the game as a part of her occult training in Golden Dawn circles.[6] Her husband took part in some of these games, as did MacGregor Mathers.[5]


  1. ^ Ellic Howe, The magicians of the Golden Dawn: a documentary history of a magical order (Taylor & Francis, 1972; ISBN 0-7100-7339-9)
  2. ^ The Golden Dawn: a complete course in practical ceremonial magic : the original account of the teachings, rites, and ceremonies of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, Israel Regardie, Cris Monnastre, Carl Llewellyn Weschcke, eds., p. 686 (Llewellyn, 1989; ISBN 0-87542-663-8)
  3. ^ Regardie et al., p. 684.
  4. ^ Regardie et al., p. 691
  5. ^ a b Joseph Hone, W.B. Yeats, 1865-1939, p. 106
  6. ^ Ann Saddlemyer, Becoming George: The Life of Mrs. W. B. Yeats, p. 71 (Oxford University Press, 2004; ISBN 0-19-926921-1).

Further reading