An Elizabethan esoteric school founded by Walter Raleigh (a follower of John Dee) and Thomas Harriot, the renowned astronomer and astrologer. Its membership included the Earls of Northumberland and Derby (both alchemists); Sir George Carey; William Warner and Robert Hues (with Harriot known as the 3 Magi); and the poets Marlowe, Chapman, and Roydon. Henry Percy, the 9th Earl of Northumberland, was a driving force and financial backer within the group. Known as the ‘Wizard Earl’ he was jailed by James I, at the same time as Raleigh, for alleged involvement in the Gunpowder plot and treason.
The school was influenced by the ideas of John Dee and Chapman’s poem ‘the Shadow of Night’ which celebrated the Saturnine, Hermetic melancholia, symbolic of the unconscious, the inspiration of the night and the first stage of alchemy, the Nigredo. Shakespeare knew of the group but never joined and parodied it in his Love’s Labour’s Lost as a great paradox ‘Black is the badge of hell, the hue of dungeons and the school of night’ (IV, iii, 251-2).
The exact activities of the group were unknown but its ethos was similar to later Rosicrucians and Raleigh is believed to have acted as its main agent in the attempted colonization of America. The group was broken up with the rise of the Stuarts. See also T.A.Z.: "Gone to Croatan"