In anticipation of Epiphany this year, I blogged some thoughts on that run-up to January 6th, and posted a couple of things folks might like to try on the Feast of the Magi itself.
Now, I want to offer a bibliographical post compiling online resources about the Three Kings that folks may find useful for continuing to follow the Magi beyond their main day of celebration. This post is not simply meant to be rounding out of two posts to a more magian three for sheer aesthetic purpose. Rather, each of these three posts have been positioned to face the three feast days of the Magi. Yes, three feasts. As Fr William Saunders of the CERC tells us:
Since the seventh century in the Western Church, the Magi have been identified as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. A work called the Excerpta et Collectanea attributed to St. Bede (d. 735) wrote, "The magi were the ones who gave gifts to the Lord. The first is said to have been Melchior, an old man with white hair and a long beard... who offered gold to the Lord as to a king. The second, Caspar by name, young and beardless and ruddy complexioned... honored Him as God by his gift of incense, an oblation worthy of divinity. The third, black-skinned and heavily bearded, named Balthasar ... by his gift of myrrh testified to the Son of Man who was to die." An excerpt from a Medieval saints calendar printed in Cologne read, "Having undergone many trials and fatigues for the Gospel, the three wise men met at Sewa (Sebaste in Armenia) in A.D. 54 to celebrate the feast of Christmas. Thereupon, after the celebration of Mass, they died: St. Melchior on Jan. 1, aged 116; St. Balthasar on Jan. 6, aged 112; and St. Caspar on Jan. 11, aged 109." The Roman Martyrology also lists these dates as the Magi's respective feast days.
This January 11th date is for me particularly significant in demonstrating that devotion to the Three Kings is not simply about Epiphany or the Adoration crèche scene, indeed not merely about the Journey There, but also the Journey Back: the Journey Home. Crucially, this is not the quotidian return commute. In coming home via that infamous 'another way' of Matt. 2:12 we may read, understand, and apply a sense of change in not only our road, but ourselves. The integration of the kneeling before something greater, the bringing back of the aptly-sized idea-fish in McKenna's analogy concerning psychonautics as fishing on the dark sea of awareness. The nourishment of the planted seed of initiation, the study of the received wisdom of one's epiphanies, the heeding of the angels' warnings to amend our path, the application of what we have learned in the ongoing journey of our lives.
The MF Golden Legend
First of all, and perhaps most significantly, the Magi appear in the Golden Legend - the single most influential European hagiographic collection perhaps ever produced. This book outsold the Bible and spread like wildfire from a sacred heart, quickly translated across Europe like the bones of the very saints it chronicles and mythologises.
I consider study of the Golden Legend indispensable for anyone looking to connect with the saints of their ancestors. To be clear, this ancestral lens of saint devotion is not about purity or dogma or godsforbid folkish ethno-fascism, but about knowing how to face in similar directions, pray familiar words, and meditate on the same iconographies as those of our foremothers and forefathers: not as a fossilisation of The One True Saint Work, but as a means to honour and draw courage from the buried bones and blood-poured-forth of our own roots, tangling and uprooting borders as they do. To reiterate, this is not the only way to pursue saint devotion or pious magics, but it is one of mine. Practice informed and nourished by the layers of meaning around a saint patina'd from the countless rosaries mumbled by our dead. Not simply cultivating a relationship with, oh I don't know, Gabriel, but a relationship with our ancestors who had a relationship with Gabriel: becoming closer to and through them as we pray together across time, considering the Annunciation and, indeed according to popular lore, His warning to the Wise-Men.
Along with considering this core primary source for medieval magian cultus, we should of course be aware of the Church's historical positions. I hope readers will forgive my obvious Catholic emphasis - this is not a bias against Orthodox or other various magian doctrine or lore, but simply speaking from the limits of my own research and practice thus far.
The Catholic Encyclopedia entry by Walter Drum on the Magi gathers and cites sources concerning the identities of the Magi from Biblical and non-Biblical sources alike along with patristic evidence, and even considers the timing and circumstances of the Three King's visitation.
The site Hymns and Carols of Christmas has a rich précis of the history of the translation of the Three Kings' bones to Cologne. It also assesses the various names of the Magi: not simply the familiar Latin names of Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar, but their Greek, Hebrew, Persian, Ethopian, Syrian and Armenian names.
The popular Catholic site Fisheaters includes a novena for the Magi, to be said from 28th December (the Feast of the Holy Innocents) to 5th January (the Vigil of the Epiphany). As I have said in a previous post, I personally do not necessarily think a novena - a nine-day battery of prayer based around a mysticism of mourning - to be apt for the mysteries of Joy that I celebrate in the name of the Three Holy Kings as attested in the Golden Legend and elsewhere. But your mileage may vary, and perhaps one can use such a practice to upturn Tristitia to a rectified Laetitia.
Reposts and new musings on the Wise-Men alike were circulated in the days and hours before and during Epiphany across forums and social media. Given the communion of magicians that the Magi represent to me - the coming together of Magi from different areas, cultures, and traditions to collectively agree to honour the Majesty of a Light in the Darkness through Journey and Adoration (not to mention Return!) - it seems both a duty and a delight for me to include the magian writings of my fellow magicians and devotees.
Sorcerer Jason Miller has two especially relevant posts: firstly, introducing Epiphany traditions and secondly musing on some odder outlying features of the Magi and the oft-overlooked Shepherds.
Fellow geomancer-in-arms Sam Block has an introduction to working with the Magi as spiritual allies, which should raise some significant thoughts and inspirations for those who share at least some of my sense of magian devotion and necromancy.
Rounding off our rogue's gallery of modern occult thought and praxis we have a couple of useful resources for Christian magicians. BJ Swayne's Glory of the Stars site offers the blessings and exorcisms of the Roman Ritual itself, while Mal Strangefellow's resurrected site offers further liturgical business.
Like any Feast day for an honoured patron, if you court the Three Holy Kings in a tutelary mode of any kind, Twelfth Night is far from the only day to honour, celebrate and strengthen that communion. It is my hope that these resources brought together here, my third gift of magian bloggery to you gentle reader, may inspire some of your year ahead's further rites, devotions, meditations, and rejoicings in the name of the Magi.
There will be many more reflections on the Three Holy Kings over this year, especially around the formal release of A Book of the Magi: Lore, Prayers, and Spellcraft of the Three Holy Kings from Revelore Press (which is now available for pre-orders) on March 3rd, the third day of the third month.
Let the Kings Drink!