Joseph Balsamo

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Joseph Balsamo by Le Gay.

Joseph Balsamo (2 June 1743—26 August 1795) also known under the pseudonym Count Alessandro di Cagliostro, was a charlatan and subversive who moved in Occultic circles during the 18th century. Born in Sicily, some have speculated that he was a Jew,[1] but this has not been conclusively proven. He became a Freemason in 1776 and with this came his most lasting act, the creation of the Rite of Misraïm—introducing, or at least highlighting, a quasi-Egyptomania meme into organised freemasonry.

As well as his involvement in occultism, esotericism and even necromancy, Balsamo is infamous for other events. In 1785 he was arrested as a suspect during the Affair of the Diamond Necklace, leading to time in the Bastille and then being expelled from France. He was also a contemporary and associate of both Giacomo Casanova and a similar charlatan the so-called Count of St. Germain. In Rome he was arrested as a freemason by the Inquisition and sentenced to death. The Pope commuted this to life in prison, first at Castel Sant'Angelo and then at Fortress of San Leo after he tried to escape.



  1. Webster 2000, p. 174.


  • Webster, Nesta H (2000). Secret Societies and Subversive Movements. Book Tree. ISBN 1585090921. 

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