Lilly, William (May 1, 1602—June 9, 1681) - Witchcraft Hall of Fame

The Element Encyclopedia of Witchcraft: The Complete A-Z for the Entire Magical World - Judika Illes 2005

Lilly, William (May 1, 1602—June 9, 1681)
Witchcraft Hall of Fame

William Lilly was an astrologer, prophet, publisher of almanacs, and treasure hunter. He was known as the “English Merlin.”

He came from a family of yeoman farmers but young William had no interest or aptitude for farming. Lilly learned astrology from a Mr Evans, a well-known necromancer of the time, who had allegedly been consulted by Lord Bothwell, Mary Queen of Scots’ third husband.

In 1636, Lilly bought a house at Hersham, near Walton-on-Thames, Surrey where he carried out his studies and consultations. In 1644, he published the Prophetical Almanack, which brought him prominence and renown. He continued to write and publish this almanac until his death as well as writing a number of books devoted to astrology.

Allegedly Lilly had over 2,000 occult consultations each year between 1645 and 1660. Lilly’s predictions had a high reputation for accuracy. Among those who frequently consulted with him was King Charles I. Lilly foretold the Great Fire of London in 1666 so accurately that he was arrested on charges of arson. He was later proven innocent.

Lilly managed to stay in the good graces of Charles and Charles’ opponents. He was consulted as to where Charles should retire when he escaped from Hampton Court. Lilly’s advice was allegedly not followed. Also, allegedly, Lilly provided the saw and acid with which Charles nearly removed the bars of a window during an attempt to escape from Carisbrooke Castle, the fortress on the Isle of Wight where he was imprisoned prior to his execution.

Lilly exerted great influence during the English Civil War. His prophesies in Merlinus Anglicanus were used by leaders on both sides. In 1649, Lilly received a pension amounting to £100 a year from the Council of State.