Astrologers speak of the works of Raphael as if they were all penned by one person. However, there were seven astrologers carrying the name of Raphael during the nineteenth century. Why did they choose the name 'Raphael', and who were these astrologers? This article seeks to disentangle the knotted threads.
"I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord." (Tobit, 12.15)
Raphael is one of seven Archangels. According to the biblical tale presented in the Book of Tobit, he was sent by God to help Tobit, Tobiah and Sarah. At the time, Tobit was blind and Tobiah's betrothed, Sarah, had already suffered seven bridegrooms perishing on the night of the wedding. Raphael, disguised as a man named Azariah (by which name the angel is often referred), accompanied Tobiah into Media, helped him through his difficulties and taught him how to safely enter marriage with Sarah. Besides Raphael, Michael and Gabriel are the only other Archangels mentioned by name in the bible.
Raphael's name means 'God heals'. This identity came about because of the biblical story which claims that he 'healed' the earth when it was defiled by the sins of the fallen angels in the apocryphal Book of Enoch. Raphael is also identified as the angel who moved the waters of the healing sheep pool. He is the patron of the blind, healers, happy meetings, and travellers.
Of the seven archangels Raphael is the one usually associated with Mercury, the planet traditionally taken as the planetary ruler of astrology; thus making the name of this angel particularly attractive as an astrological pseudonym. As many nineteenth century astrologers held day jobs and didn't want their true identities to be known, choosing angelic, or angelic sounding names was a popular means to protect personal information whilst making a grand impact upon the astrological scene. At this time many leading astrologers in England were members of occult societies whose activities required an element of secrecy, so naturally the use of a pseudonym also helped to ensure privacy for those activities. Unfortunately, this has led to scant information being available aboutsome of the names behind the mask, and so far no one has been able to discover a photographic image of any of the 19th century 'Raphaels'.
We do know that the first Raphael, Robert Cross Smith, was influenced by the magical works of Francis Barrett who had stressed the association between Raphael with Mercury, (and thus astrology). Cross Smith also had the Sun in a partile conjunction with Mercury in his horoscope and no doubt viewed this alignment as a token of his astrological talent. The angel Raphael was already an easily recognisable figure because of its popular portrayal in literature and art. Through the identity that Robert Cross Smith was to lend to the name, it was now to assume a widespread and lasting association with astrology.
Robert Cross Smith
Robert Smith, the first Raphael, was born in the village of Abbots Leigh on the outskirts of Bristol on 19 March 1795 and died on 26 February 1832 at 4:15 PM. Nine days after Smith's birth, his rival Dixon was born. On the 15 June the same year, Richard Morrison, who was to come to fame as Zadkiel was born. This was a good year for astrology.
At the time there was limited interest in the subject. Very few books had been printed since the 1790s, indeed there were few published in the eighteenth century. Smith, a sickly child, maintained that he began to study astrology at an early age and took some lessons in Bristol.
Originally a carpenter, he moved to London in about 1820 with his new wife to work as a clerk with a builder in Upper Thames Street, London. One of his acquaintances was the balloonist G W Graham, who numbered astrology and alchemy amongst his interests. As well as introducing Smith to his friends Graham gave him financial assistance and worked on building up his connections. It was unlikely that Smith had the intention of becoming a professional astrologer at this time. Such a thing didn't really exist.
At a later date it was recognised that his work had established a minor astrological boom. Dixon wrote:
"Raphael has, with indefatigable industry and perseverance, mainly contributed to the revival of elementary philosophy; indeed, the rapid progress it has made within the last six or seven years, is of itself a convincing proof".
After meeting Graham's friends, Smith decided to leave his job and begin a career in astrology. He was supported by Graham and moved to a house off Oxford Street in central London.
In 1822 Smith and Graham collaborated on writing The Philosophical Merlin "the translation of a script formerly in the possession of Napoleon Bonaparte". It was dedicated to the "Famous and Renowned Mademoiselle Le Normand". Mlle Le Normand was a famous Parisian Tarot reader, but there is no record of her having any connection with Smith.
Smith's interests went beyond astrology alone; as did Graham's as he also practised alchemy. In about 1825, he joined an occult group run by Francis Barrett, founded to follow the traditions of the Abbé Trithemius and Cornelius Agrippa. Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton was a member of this group, and later Eliphas Lévi joined. As Barrett died in 1825, Lytton continuted running the group in London. In 1824 Smith was appointed editor of a new periodical, The Straggling Astrologer, (later renamed The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century), in the twelfth issue of which appeared for the first time his pseudonym 'Raphael'. He also introduced a weekly feature predicting the planetary effects on love and marriage, finance, business, travel - the first such weekly predictions to be made in a journal. The Straggling Astrologer did not last long; Smith had better luck with The Prophetic Messenger, first published in 1826, which on his death in 1832 was taken over and continued until 1858.
One of the curiosities of The Straggling Astrologer was that it featured the writings of Princess Olive of Cumberland. Olivia Serres claimed to be the legitimate daughter of the Duke of Cumberland and so have a claim to Royal lineage. Smith appears to have been completely taken in by her "...Her Royal Highness who has, we are persuaded, been most unjustly persecuted..."
Illusions of grandeur appear to have been rife. Although he first used the pseudonym 'Raphael' on 21 August 1824, Smith also frequently signed himself 'the Royal Merlin' and hoped to hit a popular note. The third issue carried advice on how to judge if your future wife was a virgin - though the publishers' consternation resulted in a number of changes to the magazine. The next added a weekly astrological calendar with headings for love and marriage, the first such weekly feature in the history of astrological journalism. Other writers weren't always impressed with Smith and the name 'Straggling Astrologer' provided mileage for humourous references to his publication as 'the Stumbling Astrologer', 'the Struggling Astrologer', and so forth.
A year later Olivia Serres' name was to appear on the title page of The Oracle of Human Destiny; or the unerring foreteller of Future Events and accurate interpreter of Mystical Signs and Influences through the medium of Common Cards, by Mme Le Normand. It was believed by Ellic Howe that Smith himself was the author of this book. The name given in the book was Victorine Le Normand but the famous fortune teller of Paris went under the name of Marie-Anne Adelaide Le Normand.
Smith's preoccupation with magic was viewed badly by his contemporaries and many digs were made against him by Dixon in The Spirit of Partridge, 1824. In 1824/5 Smith published Urania or the Astrologers Chronicle and Mystical Magazine showing the existence of another group called the Philosophic Lyceum.
Information was also given about the 'Mercurii' - an astrological Society of which Smith and Zadkiel are the only known members. Smith began to present himself as an expert in magical rituals and wrote more widely than his astrological heritage would indicate. It is also clear that he wrote under the names of 'Medusa', 'Alfred the Inspired Penman', 'Extraordinary Genius', 'Royal Merlin', 'Mercurius', and 'Merlinus Angelicus Junior' (after Lilly).
Smith favoured the Placidean system so wrote tables of house division on that basis. In fact he is largely responsible for their spread, since he issued Almanacs and Ephemerides of the time. For lack of any other, they became commonly used in the British Isles and the U.S.A., and remain so today.
According to Zadkiel, Smith was hardly a typical astrologer of his day:
"In this character as a man of some education, he was quite a rara avis, for, since the days of William Lilly, who flourished during the commonwealth, most professors of the science have been extremely illiterate, the necessary effort of the study having been placed under the ban of public opinion."
Thomas Oxley (1830) also gives an insight into Smith's increasing repute -
"Raphael is a gentleman of great talents and scientific acquirements and is well known, not only in the British Empire but also in the United States of America and everywhere in Europe..."
Although the Straggling Astrologer ceased publication in October 1824, it was republished in bound form in 1825 as The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century; or Compendium of Astrology Geomancy and Occult Philosophy. With additional material it was again published under the grand title of The Astrologer of the Nineteenth Century; or the Master Key of Futurity and Guide to Ancient Mysteries. In reality, much of Smith's occult writing was simply reproduced from Barrett's work, but by now his fame was rising, to the extent that he was attracting criticism on the basis of his popularity. Towards the end of 1824, J. English, a teacher of astrology, wrote sniffily:
"I do not write as he has done for the purpose of exciting the credulous to come to me to have their fortunes told.."
Smith was so angry that he moved to a more secluded address off City Road, although he was to return to his old home nine months later. He took his revenge on English by publishing his horoscope with a baneful prediction for the future. It was around this time that Dixon published The Spirit of Partridge, which he used as a platform for attacks on Smith, "Editor of the Straggling Astrologer (stumbling Astrologer would have been more appropriate...)"
Always short of clients, Smith didn't make a lot of money from his astrology. As the Straggling Astrologer declined he decided to give up astrology to open a coffee-house but failed due to lack of funds. From his writings it is clear that he used astrology in financial speculation. It was at this point that he began to edit The Prophetic Messenger, the almanac of which was destined to outlive him. A number of publishers availed themselves of the advertising opportunities and commissioned Smith to write books for them. In quick succession appeared The Manual of Astrology (1828), Royal Book of Fate, (1829), Royal Book of Dreams (1830), and Raphael's Witch (1831).
His last major work was The Familiar Astrologer, an allusion to Lilly. It gives an account of how on 21 June 1826 Smith met his friend Captain B at the Royal Exchange:
"...having sold a few thousands of consols by the following July account, which, although I am naturally averse to 'high play' of any description, I had been induced to do at the persuasion of a friend, chiefly to convince an unbeliever in celestial lore of the ample means possessed by an Astrologer for increasing the store of this world's wealth."
There is also the story of a visit from a well-dressed and imperious gentleman wearing a valuable ring. Unwilling to give birth data he asked for a horary and was told that he would die within two years. King George IV obliged by dying on 26 June 1830.
In 1829 Smith was subpoenaed as a witness in a bankruptcy case, as described below in a newspaper report.
Globe and Traveller Butcher and Others v. Wroughton
...Smart had committed an act of bankruptcy ...he should call a witness of a novel description in a court of law, a "conjurer" - he begged the gentleman's pardon, he believed he called himself an astrologer, to whom the bankrupt went to enquire if there was a writ likely to be issued against him. He (the learned Counsel) would produce the horoscope drawn by the astrologer (laughter) with all the unfortunate bankrupt's misfortunes clearly shown (great laughter) he - (the astrologer) found the stars in conjunction, therefore he believed it would be unfortunate to go to law, so he advised him to threaten chancery (laughter), but to avoid as he would a whirlpool that vortex of trouble (laughter), so that the advice given by this astrologer was sound sense, thou the premises from which he adduced it were wrong.
...the shopkeeper of the bankrupt Smart...said he left home in consequence of his communications with Raphael, the astrologer, in Tabernacle Walk, City Road, who told him "he smelt a writ so strong that he ought to leave home by the first opportunity..."
Mr Sergeant Tandy for the defendant...could not conceive that a man would visit an astrologer to know his fate. He would rather visit an attorney, who could tell his fate much better than any conjurer, therefore he thought it was impossible they could think that he left his residence to avoid his discreditors.
The persons in court appeared very much disappointed that the astrologer had not been called...
Smith wrote of this occasion in The Familiar Astrologer and spoke of a number of elegant females eager to see him.
Smith died just as he was planning to move to another publisher for The Prophetic Messenger as he was paid a fixed sum, whatever the sales were, which were steadily increasing.
In 1831 he moved to 75 Castle Street and fell ill "caused by much study". He spent a bad winter suffering from a violent cough and frequent fits. He died at 16:15 on 26th February 1832 of consumption. He left behind his widow, six children, an astrological legacy, and £1000.
When Smith died there was an immediate interest in the future of The Prophetic Messenger as the copyright had some value. The astrologer Dixon approached Smith's widow and was informed that "two pupils of her late husband had offered their services to write the Prophetic Messenger for 1833". The first of this pair was John Palmer who was employed in a chemists shop in Duke Street, Piccadilly. He was born in Bristol on 28 May 1807 and had recently returned from Paris where he claimed to have studied under Nicolas Vauquelin, professor of chemistry at the Ecole de Medicine in the Sorbonne. Palmer described himself as a professor of chemistry and mathematics. His companion was P. Moody, Extra Door Keeper at the House of Lords; (he later became Head Messenger and died c. 1876).
Bizarrely, Moody had sent Mrs Smith a note objecting to a cast being taken which would have preserved Smith's features for posterity:
"I object to a mask been taken of Smith's face - because it will give his death too great a publicity at present - the full grounds I stated last night. Mrs Smith will use her own discretion after this; at any rate I should not agree to a cast being taken of his whole head."
Dixon had hoped to become Raphael the second but had been pipped at the post. But whatever, he decided to write a Prophetic Messenger for 1833 anyway, not claiming to be Raphael
"in order to prevent the public from being so grossly imposed upon, as I understand it is the intention of the two aforesaid young men to write the Prophetic in 1833, for WC Wright, which publication will be said to be written by Raphael! I thought it proper to premise this much, and put the public in possession of the facts, in order to prevent the dissemination of such trash as cannot fail to emanate from the hands of those who have yet to learn their ABC in astrology."
The 1833 the Palmer-Moody version of The Prophetic Messenger contained a brief notice of Raphael I's death and the statement that the present edition had been published for the benefit of his wife and children. By the time of Palmer's death W.C. Wright appears to have bought the copyright and he continued to publish the almanac until his death in 1858.
Palmer was a member of the Astrological Society of London and the 'Mercurii', the organisation started by Robert Cross Smith. He taught astrology and gave the address of 75 Castle Street for correspondence; he also held classes there. We don't know what happened to Mrs Smith and the six children but Palmer's adoption of Smith's address suggests that he adopted more from him than simply the name of Raphael. Palmer's period as Raphael was not to last long as he died in 1837.
Little is known of the astrologer Dixon - first name unknown - other than he was born on 28 March 1795, nine days after Robert Cross Smith, became one of his main rivals, and published an issue of The True Prophetic Messenger in 1833. This so closely copied Smith's publication it even used the same type and cover.
Medhurst, who edited The Prophetic Messenger from 1828 to 1847, was also known as a dealer in occult manuscripts. He charged 5s for "a horary figure for any event" and from 20s to £5 for a "horoscope of the whole life". He also taught astrology and sold "correct copies of curious ancient MSS on Alchemy, Magic &c. and all branches of the Occult Sciences". No horoscope seems to have survived for him as Robert Thomas Cross wrote in 1892 that he was unable to find it.
According to Howe, Wakely edited The Prophetic Messenger from 1846. A former naval schoolmaster on HMS Victory he died in 1853. He was the first to use the pseudonym Edwin Raphael. Little is known about him but Cross states that he lost his mother at 16, his father at 19 and he married about 20. He was a "pleasant and amiable person; of excellent manners but his constitution was weak and he was often ailing." Robert Thomas Cross states in the Astrologer's Magazine (September 1892) that his editorship began in 1849 and that he died in 1852.
His birth data is given as 10 May 1814, 7:26 am, with 23 cancer rising; this time actually gives 10 cancer rising with 23 Cancer rising an hour later.
Born 17 July 1820, London (Asc: 29 scorpio; MC: 24 Virgo). Died April 1875.
Sparkes began to edit the Prophetic Messenger in 1852, following Wakeley's death, and continued to do so for 20 years. He was described as "a very good astrologer but negligent with his customers".
He lived at the Elephant and Castle and advertised the usual astrological services as well as his own remedy of special dyspeptic pills. Curiously, Raphael's Ephemeris of 1861 states:
"There are several persons in London and in various parts of the country who assume Raphael's name - such are impostors. Raphael resides at Walworth..."
Yet the same issue carries advertisements for "Raphael's" Dyspeptic pills.
Sparkes had the dubious honour of also being a Zadkiel. He was a friend of R.J. Morrison for many years and on the latter's death in 1874 the editorship of Zadkiel's almanac was passed onto him. When the 1875 issue was published in the autumn of 1874 no reference was made to the death of its founder. A simple notice was placed discouraging correspondence. Unfortunately Sparkes was to die in 1875 making his reign as Zadkiel a very short one.
Robert Thomas Cross
Born at Brockley Farm, Worstead in 1850, Cross was originally named Frederick Robert TuckCross but later dropped the name Frederick. He began studying astrology while quite young and by the age of twenty five, married with two sons, he was living at Westwick, where he owned land. He had already begun teaching astrology when he started to edit The Prophetic Messenger. He obtained the copyright to Raphael's Ephemeris in the 1870s and it is still owned by the Cross family today. Owing to the similarity in names, he is frequently confused with Robert Cross Smith. Born in East Anglia, (15 May 1850 2:35 am), he published his own horoscope in Raphael's Ephemeris for 1913 where he wrote:
"Nothing has prospered with me except astrology. I have tried many things but have ended in failure or loss. In Astrology, however, I have succeeded beyond my expectations, and my life as a whole leaves me much to be thankful for."
His Guide to Astrology, published in two volumes in 1877-9 was widely used for many years. Cross was renowned among his peers for "Placing astrology in a cheap form, void of all abstruse technicalities, before the masses, and thus endeavouring to prove it is not specially for the well-to-do, who alone are able to pay the high price charged for certain abstruse mathematical emanations, but that it is a science for all, poor and rich".
Cross never claimed to be a mathematician or scientist, unlike many of his contemporaries. As with all Raphaels, Cross' interests were wider than astrology alone and he was convinced that he was able to mesmerise both animals and vegetables. He advertised the Society of the Most Ancient Magi - "Institute for the especial purpose of advocating Astrology in its purity and for the spreading of occult knowledge", although it is unknown whether anyone actually joined. It is clear that he also worked as a consultant astrologer and teacher, the following advert appearing in an astrological periodical of the 1870s:
Astrology taught and Nativities calculated Prospectus Sec. Mr Robert Cross, 15 Malvern Road, Dalston London NE
In 1885 he returned to Worstead when he bought Lyngate Cottage for £440. As well as his astrology, Cross grew and sold exotic plants, especially orchids which were sent to London. He built eight greenhouses in the field to the east of the cottage and grew and sold different fruit and vegetables which were sent to markets in the midlands and further north.
In 1893 Cross's almanac sold 200,000 copies. A prolific writer, he could not resist involving himself in every astrological argument going. His name pops up incessantly in the correspondence pages of periodicals. He particularly enjoyed locking horns with Sepharial and it appears from his writings that he was opposed to the Theosophical astrology that was emerging. However, a letter in the Astrologers Magazine of January 1894 makes it evident that he was a member at that time. Although he stated that he would discuss Theosophy "whether in Theosophical journals or out of them, provided I can get on the right side of the editor" we can only assume that he didn't since none of his writings appear in the Theosophical press.
Modesty was never a problem for Cross. In April 1895 he wrote in The Astrologers Magazine about the death of his granddaughter, the previous November:
"it is unfortunate that the parents did not send for me instead of their medical attendant... the chances are ten to one that I could have saved its life by recommending suitable medical treatment".
Cross also had a busy life in his local community. He was elected by the largest number of votes to the first Parish Council in December 1894 and served as Church Warden for a number of years. He also served on the Coal Board, which gave coal to deserving people during the winter. Much of his time was spend on his weather station, where he recorded wind directions and speeds, sun shine and temperature at different levels as well as rainfall.
From 1889 in Raphael's Almanac, Cross suggested that an astrological society be formed. This was a popular plea of all astrologers at the time. In 1895 the Astrologer's Magazine cited Cross in support of forming a society and he wrote several letters confirming this. Finally, on 14 January 1896 Alan Leo founded a society with himself as president and Cross as vice-president. Modern Astrology was intended to be the society's official organ and Cross' writings in it are notable only by their absence.
There’s no doubt that Cross had a busy life. As well as his astrological work, he filled his time with a variety of different activities. He owned some of the first motor vehicles in the county starting with a Trike, then steam driven cars and eventually he bought petrol driven cars. He was instrumental in obtaining a War Memorial for his local Church and in l922 he bought the land for the Cemetry which he then gave to the Parish.
On his death in 1923 an obituary appeared in the British Journal of Astrology, where E.H. Bailey said
"His genial personality will be missed by all who knew him, and none the less than by the little band of assiduous workers who assisted him in the heavy and onerous work of compiling the Raphael's ephemeris. Probably no one can write with better knowledge of this than myself, as for nearly twenty years Mr Cross availed himself of my assistance in connection with his astrological work".
However, E.H. Bailey shows a marked propensity for exaggerating his own importance in the astrological world so the level of his "assistance" can only be guessed at.
Cross didn't make great efforts to increase his own popularity. Which may go some way to explaining why Modern Astrology completely ignored his death. He was a noted enough figure in his time for his death to be reported in the press. Arthur Mee felt moved to mention it in the August 10th issue of the Cardiff Evening Express.
"I did not know Raphael personally, but shall always feel grateful to him because my first introduction to astrology was made through the medium of his 'Key'."
Raphael's Ephemeris had no hiccough in its sales with the death of Cross. It continues to be sold today
Cross died shortly after A.J. Pearce, who was currently writing as Zadkiel. The reigns of Raphael and Zadkiel began and ended together.
As a closing note, I am indebted to Caroline Gerard who sent me a cutting from Scotland dated 5 August 2001 where a horoscope column appears under the name of Raphael. She described the heading photograph as being of someone who "...looks like he's been told to stop playing with his Play Station and go and tidy his room". Raphael in all his incarnations has been petulant. I am delighted to see the tradition continue. But I have yet to hear of the new Zadkiel....
Illustration from Raphael's Prophetic Messenger Almanack 1852,
showing "Hieroglyphic of the Eventful year 1852"
Courtesy Kim Farnell
||Francis Barrett was a little-known author of The Magus published in 1801, a concise handbook on the occult and magic. An Englishman, he claimed himself to be a student of chemistry, metaphysics, and natural occult philosophy. He was also an extreme eccentric who gave lessons in the magical arts in his apartment and fastidiously translated the Kabbalah and other ancient texts into English. He passionately wanted to revive interest in the occult arts. The Magus gained little notice until it influenced Eliphas Lévi, author of Rider's History of Magic. In fact the writings in The Magus are lifted almost completely from the works of Cornelius Agrippa.
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References for this article are available upon request.
has been a professional astrologer since 1990. She has taught astrology and lectured extensively in the UK and overseas. She was previously the Vice Chair of the Astrological Association of Great Britain and has been editor of its Newsletter, Transit
, both as a print magazine and online. Kim has also been on the Executive Committee of the British Astrological and Psychic Society and was editor of its newsletter, Mercury
for two years. She has written sun sign columns for a number of magazines and websites and has articles published in numerous astrological periodicals all over the world. Kim is the author of The Astral Tramp: A Biography of Sepharial
(Ascella 1998) and several books including Reading the Runes
, The New Illustrated Guide to Astrology
and One Mystic Vampire: A Biography of Mabel Collins
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