Rosicrucian Chess

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Rosicrucian Chess
Designed by S.L. MacGregor Mathers (et seq.), and made pyramidal by Carthoris Pyramidos
An "air of water" setting before play
occult chess variant a.k.a. Enochian Chess
:Players Players: 2 - 4
:Time Length: Long?
:Complexity Complexity: Medium-High
Trios per color: 4
Number of colors: 5
Pyramid trios:
Monochr. stashes: 5
Five-color sets: 4
- - - - - - Other equipment - - - - - -
Chessboard, conventional die (optional)
Setup time: 5 minutes
Playing time: 30 minutes - 3 hours
Strategy depth: High
Random chance: Low
Game mechanics: chess, divination
Theme: Mystical
BGG Link:
Status: Complete (v1.0), Year released: 2012

Origin[edit | edit source]

Rosicrucian Chess (also known as Enochian Chess) was invented by the late-19th-century adepts of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in England. Like the other magic of their order, it combined Greco-Egyptian Hermetic symbolism with the materials received by Elizabethan magicians John Dee and Edward Kelley from sources alleged to be angels.

The Golden Dawn magicians based their game on four-handed East Indian chess, or Chaturanga, and intended it for use in divination, as well as a meditative contest among initiates. They left several papers detailing the system, but mostly focusing on the symbolism of the pieces and boards rather than the mechanics of play. Modern players attempting to reconstruct the method of play have had to exercise a certain measure of creativity, and there are several divergent sets of working rules.

Rules Sets[edit | edit source]

This inventory is not exhaustive.

  • Rosicrucian Chess Reference is a recent set of rules reconstructed from original Golden Dawn papers. It is posted here with the permission of the author, who has playtested these rules extensively with a group in Chicago.
  • Enochian Chess of the Golden Dawn (1994) by Chris Zalewski is one of the most widely circulated versions of the rules for practical play.
  • Steve Nichols has written several books about Enochian Chess.
  • The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic (1984) by Israel Regardie includes original Golden Dawn instructions for Rosicrucian Chess, plus some commentary from more recent students.

Pyramid Pieces for Rosicrucian Chess[edit | edit source]

Original instructions for this game required players to make little images of Egyptian Gods to use as pieces. BUT Four Rainbow Treehouse sets can exactly create a full Enochian chess set. The traditional colors for the four sets or sides are as follows:

  • fire = red
  • water = blue
  • air = yellow
  • earth = black
A "fire of fire" setting before play
An "earth of air" setting before play

For esoteric reasons, some prefer green for earth. Either way will work, and Rainbow Treehouse sets support either alternative. The left-over color becomes the "fifth color" needed to complete the pieces of the four elements.

If you have a white or clear Icehouse stash, either would make a superior fifth color, rather than the leftover non-earth color. (Two Xeno sets will supply enough pyramids to make white and clear into a combined fifth color. Use white with fire and earth, clear with air and water.)

Pawns[edit | edit source]

Four (4) per side. Use Pyramid Pawns /.\ of the elemental color.

  • Pawns move forward only, and capture diagonally forward, much as in modern chess.

King[edit | edit source]

One (1) per side. Stack Pyramid Queen /...\ and Drone /..\ of the elemental color, with a fifth-color Pawn /.\ on top, in regular Tree formation.

  • The King moves as in modern chess -- a single space in any direction, orthogonal or diagonal.

Queen[edit | edit source]

One (1) per side. Stack Pyramid Queen /...\ of the elemental color, with a fifth-color Drone /..\ on top.

  • The Rosicrucian Chess Queen moves two spaces in a straight line, jumping over a piece in the first space, if needed. She travels in any direction, orthogonal or diagonal.

Knight[edit | edit source]

One (1) per side. Stack Pyramid Queen /...\ with a Drone /..\ on top, both of the elemental color.

  • The Knight moves as in modern chess -- two spaces orthogonally plus one more at a right angle to the original direction, jumping over any interposed pieces.

Bishop[edit | edit source]

One (1) per side. Stack two Pyramid Drones /..\, both of the elemental color.

  • The Bishop moves as in modern chess -- as far as desired in a straight line without jumping over any pieces, diagonally only.

Rook[edit | edit source]

One (1) per side. Use a Pyramid Queen /...\ of the elemental color.

  • The Rook moves as in modern chess -- as far as desired in a straight line without jumping over any pieces, orthogonally only.

Rosicrucian Chess Boards[edit | edit source]

The traditional materials call for four different boards: one for each element, elaborately colored and decorated with prescribed symbols. But only one board is used at a time. Furthermore, the boards are all 8 x 8 square grids. For game purposes, standard chess boards work as well as anything. The traditional board colors do have an impressive op-art effect, however, and the Rosicrucian Chess Reference (linked under Rules above) describes the simpler, yet "magically effective," coloring and inscription schemes that are shown in the photos accompanying this article.

To make matters a little confusing, the individual squares in Rosicrucian Chess are sometimes known as pyramids or pyramid squares, because in the Golden Dawn system each of them is to be visualized as a pyramid with sides colored based on its occult attributions.