Greetings, faithful seekers!
It is January 6th, and the Feast of Epiphany (or Three Kings’ Day) is upon us. It is the official end of the 12-day period (Dec 25th – Jan 5th) that is properly called “Christmas.” (Remember the song? “On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me…”) It is also a commemoration of the visit of the Three Magi (otherwise known as the Three Wise Men or Three Kings) to the birthplace of Jesus. There was a time when Three Kings Day itself was as culturally important as Christmas – and even today children in some countries are taken to the mall to visit the Three Kings rather than Santa. (After all, these bringers of gifts to children are quite a bit older than ol’ Saint Nick.)
The story of these three wizards includes much to interest anyone studying occult subjects. To get us started, let me share a riddle about the Three Magi that I posted on my Facebook page a few days ago:
The Three Magi of the Bible were from Chaldea, far to the east of Bethlehem. Tradition has these men traveling across the desert, following a star visible “in the east” toward the birthplace of Jesus. How could that have led them *westward* toward Israel?
The answers I got were varied and fascinating, though for the sake of brevity I won’t include all of them here. I will, however, give the answer I provided a day later:
The Three Magi were Zoroastrian Priests, and as such were expert astrologers. They cast a horoscope for Israel and found a star ascending on the eastern side of the chart- it could have been a star or planet- that indicated a new king was to be born there. Thus, the “Star in the East” the Magi were following was on an astrological chart. (The image of the Magi following a light that hovered directly over the manger- as described in Matthew- is cute but inaccurate.)
Given that Jesus was more likely born sometime in March, we can assume the Magi had been casting horoscopes for the coming Spring Equinox. (In Chaldea, Spring Equinox was the start of the new year.) Exactly what they found ascending in the East when they cast a chart for Israel is debatable – it could have been Jupiter, or even a new star appearing/discovered in the sky. Whatever it was, the Magi felt it indicated that Israel was about to get a new king. They made on official diplomatic visit to Israel to congratulate King Herod on his newborn heir, only to find out that he *had* no heir. Only then did the Magi realize their grave mistake and sought out the birthplace of Jesus to warn his family to evacuate before Herod’s men arrived. The rest, as they say, is history.
This is interesting, but it leaves one questioning the point of it all: Why do these men play such an important role in the birth of Jesus? And what do they have to do with occultism?
The answer is that they were Zoroastrian Priests, and that happened to be the world’s dominant religion at the time. If the people were going to accept Jesus as the Messiah and the rightful heir to the Throne of Israel, then he needed an endorsement from the Priests of the world’s largest religion. If these guys accepted Jesus as the Son of God, then who else could say otherwise? (It would be much like the Pope today declaring- officially- that a newly born Buddhist child is the second coming of Christ. It would shake the political world of Catholicism to its foundations.)
Of course, Jesus never did take the Throne of Israel away from the Romans, but the legends about his birth, life and death persist to this day. And the legend of the visit of the “Three Kings” has grown in its own way. For one example, there exists a folk tradition of using chalk to inscribe the initials of the Magis’ names (Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar) over the front door of one’s home on Jan. 6th, along with the year and crosses to separate the letters:
C + M + B
I have also seen this format at least once:
20 + C + M + B + 11
This not only invokes the protection of the Three Magi specifically, but the letters are also interpreted to stand for “Christus Mansionem Benedicat” (Christ Bless this House).
We also find the Three Kings playing a vital role in the 6th and 7th Books of Moses. Therein, the Laws of Entrance (that is, the preparations for performing the primary Rite outlined in the book) require one to ritually purify oneself over a thirteen day period – including Christmas day itself and ending on Epiphany. On Jan. 6th, one must complete the process by attending a Mass of the Three Kings. Later, the book also calls for the use of “Three Kings Holy Water” – which is likely holy water consecrated during the Mass of the Three Kings itself. Finally, when the magick is performed, the names of Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar are invoked directly.
The above information is thanks to Joseph Peterson who, in his edition of the 6th and 7th Books…, clears up a rather obscurely-worded passage. The book says that one must prepare oneself for 13 days, ending with the “holy sacrament of the Three Kings.” For generations, Hoodoo practitioners have supposed this “holy sacrament” indicated that one should bring a gift to the ritual, just as the Three Kings had brought symbolic gifts to the infant Jesus. This interpretation has actually become “traditional” among those who use the grimoire. However, Peterson rightly assigns the “holy sacrament of the Three Kings” to the Mass of the Epiphany itself. Then, counting back 13 days lands us directly on December 25th. Kudos to Joseph for clearing up that small, yet obviously important, technical detail for us.
BTW – if any of you out there are currently undertaking these 13 days of purification in order to work with the Books of Moses, I’d love to hear about your experiences with the magick.
It is no surprise to me that the Three Magi should hold such an important place in magickal Bible lore. The Zoroastrian Magi are where we derive our modern words “magic”, “mage” and “magician.” In the time and place of the New Testament, these Priests were the embodiment of the concept of “the wizard” – much as the Egyptians had been before them, and as the Jewish people would become in the Middle Ages. Thus, the role of the Three Magi is akin to those of Moses, Solomon, Simon Magus and others who employed the arts of magick in the Biblical context – and whose names would therefore be invoked by the mages who followed them for millenia to come.