A few years ago, while discussing seer stones with Steve Sorensen, he mentioned that there was an obscure reference in someone’s papers that gave a formula for how to make a seer stone and that wasn’t in Quinn’s Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. Later that day he forwarded me his notes from the John Steele collection (MS 1847) at the Church Archives (now Church History Library) and it was like nothing I’d ever seen before.
I was reminded of these notes by Matt, Steve, and Mark’s recent discussion of Brooke’s Refiner’s Fire and thought now would be as good a time as any to share them here with the reminder that the reader should consult the original record before undertaking any serious examination of the material as I have not verified their accuracy, but I present them here having a healthy measure of trust in Steve as a faithful transmitter of the information. That I could tell from a quick perusal, this is indeed not in Quinn. Quinn does, however, talk at length about other aspects of John Steele’s career as an adherent to astrology and charm-making. For a brief biography see here.
Interestingly, Quinn’s information on Steele seems to come from collections held at the Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections at BYU while this material comes from a collection at the CHL. Likely this material was not available at the time Quinn was researching.
Here are the notes (which I reproduce here just as Steve sent them to me):
“For the preparation of the glass (of vasion) Dip the glass in watter 3 times after washing your self in watter all over then: you place it in your wright hand in the first hower of the moon in the hower Gabriel with your face to the East & thus pray In the name of the Ever blessed Holy trinnity Father Son & Holy gost by the power of all that is good Both in heven & on Earth as far as it can assist me to prepare & purify this christal that when Ever it shall be lawfully used that it may be purified and be a consecrated placed fit to receive thy minastring angle of Light O God that the may have power to show a clear true & perfect vision of any innocent nature that may be Called of them to show in the name of Jeusu Christ and the Glory shall be thine o God & Consecrate me thy Servant that I may live a pure & holy life before thee that I may have power with thee that my pettetions may be answered by thee through the ministering angles of light thata any lost property that I pettetion thee about that I may be prepared to receive an answer there from in the nme of Jesus Christ Amen”
“Concretation of a Charge for a glass”
“In the name of the Ever blessed holy trinity Father Son & Holy gost & in the name of Jesus Christ I ask thee to assist me with thy Heavenly hosts and let one of thy ministering Angles of light come to this glass & show in it a clear true & a perfect vission of what me or my Friend . . . desire to know And Let know Evil power may have powere to obstruct the light & the glory shal be unto thee O Father & to the Son & to the Holy gost Amen”
“A Dis charge for a glass”
“I thank the o Father in Heaven for the privalige though thou has bestowed upon me in calling upon one of thy ministering angles of light & that thou has answered my pettetion through him I now dismiss this Angle that it may go to its place & to its office & to the holy orders & callings untill I have a privilige or occation of to call uponthee again I dismiss thee in pease in the name of the Father & of the Son & of the holy gost and in the name of Jesus Christ Amen”
For good measure, here is one of Steele’s explanations for how to recover lost property, again from the notes. Quinn mentions in passing Steele’s “charm ‘ To find the thief and make them bring back the things stolen” but does not elaborate (292).
“To find Stolen property, and make the thief bring back the Stolen property you must Set down the day hour and minute, as near as possible, when the goods ware Stolen, name the plannets ruling the day and hour, this being done Set down the following charactures”
“Then turn round three times, and if you haear no news of the Thief in 44 hours, as ten to one you will then prick the paper full of holes and hang it up in a Chimney whare it will keep warm and the heat of the fire scorch it a little and the Thief will be Tormented in mind and body and bring back the goods”
Now, if you were thinking of making a “Now I know what our next FHE activity will be” joke, consider yourself beaten to the punch.
Seriously, though, I think this is a fascinating description of the making and even the unmaking of a seer stone (or, glass of vision–admittedly, “seer stone” is not mentioned in the record and is my imposition on the description) and fairly unique. Steele, from what I can gather from Quinn, seems to have been an especially public example of this type of activity, and Quinn seems to want to argue that his increasing status in the Mormon community (bishop, community leader, patriarch) implies, if not approval, at least ambivalence to his practices by Church leaders. Whatever the case there, what are your thoughts on these excerpts? Also, thinking in terms of Mormon folk beliefs (and practices), have you heard anything in recent memory concerning the contemporary use, existence, or even making of seer stones or other visionary or divinatory objects?
Note: If you decide to check this source out further (there is no indication in the notes where in the collection these excerpts are) and use it, if you first saw it here, please do give credit to Steve Sorensen for assistance in locating the source.