Tarot History Search started September 2004       

Kenneth Mackenzie (1833 - 1886)

Kenneth Mackenzie served as a living link between Eliphas Levi, whom he visited in the year 1861, and the foundation of the Golden Dawn in the year 1887 and somehow in this engagement is the riddle buried how the Tarot Fool wandered from a French position between card 20 and 21 to an English position at the begin of the row as "0", thus causing an English/French 100-years-debate about the correct analogy between Kabbala and Tarot.
If this happened, how this happened and what is lie and what is truth in this matter I cannot decide, but the below noted links offer rather much material, especially the long and careful researched biography of Kenneth Mackenzie by Brother Ellic Howe offers very much material for everybody who is interested.

"There were several precursors to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn that combined Alchemy and Kabbalah in their work. Two of these groups from the early 1800's were particularly significant. The first was the 'Loge sur aufgehenden Morgenrothe,' founded in Frankfurt in 1807, which surfaced in France as the 'Aurore naissante' (both titles mean 'Rising Dawn'). The Duke of Sussex brought this society to England in 1817. The second was the 'Chabrath Zerek Aour Bokher,' (Society of the Shining Light), brought to England in 1810 from Hamburg, Germany by Johannes Friedrich Falk. The most influential of these groups was the early Rosicrucian Order, the 'Order of the Gold and Rose Cross.' British occultist Kenneth MacKenzie (born October 31, 1833) was initiated into a branch of the Order in France and brought to England a manuscript outlining the Order's nine grades of attainment. MacKenzie was an accomplished occult scholar, author of the Masonic Encyclopedia, knowledgeable in several ancient languages and in contact with many contemporary occultists -- including the French occultist Eliphas Levi, who gave MacKenzie notes on the magical use of the Tarot" (source).

After a remarkable career as Freemason, bookwriter and occultist Mackenzie died relatively young in age of 55 in 1886. What really happened in this time is likely a greater mystery even to those persons, who tried with energy to discover his biography. For detailed study I recommend the links below. After his death in the year:

"Wescott, who had inherited Hockley's alchemical library and obtained MacKenzie's cypher manuscript from his widow, collaborated with Woodman and ardent occultist Samuel Mathers in 1887 to use the notes as a basis for a new group dedicated to practical magick, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Mathers used his knowledge of the Kaballah and access to magickal manuscripts in the British Museum to flesh out MacKenzie's notes into full rituals. McKenzie had liked Mathers, and had given him notes he received from Levi on the magickal use of the Tarot, which Mathers included in the Golden Dawn rituals. MacKenzie founded his own private alchemical organization, The Society of Eight, to which he only admitted master occultists. The stated purpose of the Golden Dawn was to aid its members to test, purify and exalt the individual's spiritual nature so as to unify it with his or her Holy Guardian Angel."

In my personal simpleminded meditation of the facts I found the following interesting: Till Eugenspiel is a loveable medieval German Fool figure; the biographical report below states Kenneth Mackenzie engaged 1859 in a translation of one of the many texts to this figure to English language in 1859.
It strikes me as really interesting game of life, that somebody, who (much later) is involved in a great Tarot mystery, which has as content nothing else but the movement of a fool inside a game of cards, had as one of his earlier steps just this fixation on this sympathic figure. It's really a great fool's work, that this mystery moved the friends of Tarot of the following century considerably.

"Kenneth Mackenzie was seven years old when his parents settled in London in 1840. Furthermore, he must have been bilingual in English and German. A passage from the Preface to his Tyll Eulenspiegel translation, published by Trubner & Co. in 1859 as The Marvellous Adventures and Rare Conceits of Master Tyll Owlglass, indicates that he read German at a very early age. 'I well remember how, as a very little boy, I made the friendship of the [book's] lithe though clumsy hero', he wrote. In the Preface to the second edition, dated Christmas Eve 1859, he mentioned that 'it was almost the first book I ever possessed, and I remember to this day the circumstances under which it was given to me.'" (source)

The full text of Mackenzie's Tyll Owlglass is given below in the link to


  • Kenneth Mackenzie: "The Royal Masonic Encyclopedia"

Foreign Links

The marvellous adventures and rare conceits of master Tyll Owlglass, newly ...
By Tyll Eulenspiegel (alias Kenneth Mackenzie)


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