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THE MAGI - A SHORT HISTORY

By Shelagh McKenna

In ancient times, throughout the Middle East, the term 'magi' was not necessarily associated with a particular worship, but rather with a priestly occupation. Originally the title was 'magoi', meaning 'bearers of the gift'. This ritual function was usually, but not always, performed by Chaldees.

The Chaldees are also called 'kasdiym' in the Bible -meaning 'arpakhsadiym' or descendants of Arpachsad, son of Shem, son of Noah. This association is maintained by the first century historian Josephus, in his Jewish Antiquities (1.6.4) Since 'Chaldee' means 'servant of God' it was probably the Arpachsadite priests who were Chaldees. David Skelly points out that Chaldees are mentioned in Job 1:17, which indicates that Job did not live in antediluvian times. Job lived in the land of Uz, who was a son of Aram, Arpachsad's brother. Ur of the Chaldees was probably not at the site of the Mesopotamian ruins known today as 'Ur', for the word merely means 'city'. But as Abraham was an Arpachsadite, it is not surprising that he set out on his travels from a Chaldee city, wherever it was.

The Catholic Encyclopedia states that the 'chaldaea' worshipped Bel while the (pre-Zoroastrian) magi worshipped Mithra, but this information is specific to the Jewish Captivity in Babylon. In general the title was not applied to priests of any one particular religion. Diodorus Siculus bears this out, for he says that magi controlled the temple of Bel in Babylon. (Bibliotheca Historica, II, 31; Ephraem Syrus II, 48) after the Medes had stormed the city. And priests of Inanna in northern Europe were called 'magi'. They had separated from the southern Chaldees in the time of Peleg, after the sixth millennium flood. Obviously the title of 'mage' has been bestowed upon priests of different religions.

Nowhere is Zoroaster Spitama, the founder of Zoroastrianism, ever described as a mage. After he experienced revelations from heaven, he was assassinated. It is believed that this crime was ordered by (Mithraic) magi, resistant to a change of religion and threatened by Spitama's doctrine of non-intervention which rendered them obsolete. After Zoroaster Spitama's death magi created the religion called Zoroastrianism, based upon his revelations but retaining their position as priests. Les Gosling writes of the Zoroastrian magi:

"They were astrologers of the first rank, and their influence was known over the ancient world. Providing occult information to the Medo-Persians and Babylonians at a kingly level (Strabo, XVI, 762; Cicero, De Divin., 1, 41) the magi even made inroads into areas of Kashmir where ancient Israelites had established a colony. By the sixth century B.C.E. they had acquired power to overturn governments (Herodotus, III, 61 sq.)." I recently wrote a letter to a man named Olaf Hage who has a website called 'The Chapel Perilous'. He was planning to open a page on the Zoroastrian magi, and I was struck by his announcement that they were Ephraimites. I received the following response from Mr. Hage:

"The ancient 'G'KIM' of Daniel's and Joseph's times (the Biblical 'Magi') are hardly Persian in origin. The Persians captured them when they took Babylon, as Daniel relates. Babylon had taken them from Assyria in 612 B.C.E. Assyria had captured them from Israel, as they report on their tablets. Israel traced them back to Ephraim, the heir of Joseph, who was made their chief in Egypt, as Genesis states."

When the Medes stormed Babylon, as related in the Book of Daniel, they incorporated the Bel worshipping Ephraimite Chaldees into their culture. These Chaldees became Zoroastrian magi, and thus the Israelites became associated with Zoroastrianism. Martin Haug writes in 'The Sacred Language, Writings, and Religions of the Parsis' (pp. 16): "The Magi are said to have called their religion Kesh-i-Ibrahim. They traced their religious books to Abraham, who was believed to have brought them from heaven" The Israelite association explains the existence of a Jewish sect called the Essenes, whose members learned Zoroastrian doctrines. Jesus was an Essene, and Zoroastrian magi were deeply involved in the establishment of Christianity. It is very likely that the magi who converted to Christianity were those of Ephraimite descent. Certainly the magian establishment in Persia remained Zoroastrian, and did not approve of them. The magian Christians were Manichaeans with ideas that contradi cted both Zoroastrians and Christians. 'Before the Burning Times', a history of medieval magian culture, relates:

"Many of the more stubborn adherents were persecuted and executed in Sassania. That was until they banded together and retaliated against the magian hierarchy, launched military attacks against them, then migrated westward, out of Persia and Iran. The only problem is that once they arrived in Christian Byzantium's outer provinces, they found themselves assailed by Christian forces....

"Wherever they went to escape the violence of their many persecutors (whether Zoroastrians or Christians), the magian Christians were progressively exterminated, as at Anatolia where 100,000 were crucified in reprisals by Byzantine Christian troops. On top of that a further 200,000 were repatriated into the Balkans, into a plague city, where it was hoped that the last of them would die. But the plague lifted and these 200,000 extremely anti-Catholic, anti-Orthodox 'heretics' had found a new home.

"To traditional Church authorities the Balkan Peninsula was akin to the mouth of Hades from which belched the pestilential teachings that gnawed away at the body of the Church. That was until Emperor Alexius decided to wipe them from the face of the earth in the 12th Century. But this 'religious cleansing' of the Balkans backfired. Not too far away, in Germany, dazed Catholic priests watched on helplessly as streams of these war refugees started walking into the Holy Roman Empire en-masse, escaping Alexius' dragnet. Their bewilderment was caused by the rapturous welcome these refugees received from the German people who clapped and cheered them on as they passed by."

A propaganda campaign was launched declaring that the refugees were 'black magi' (Satanists). Their association with the Kabbalah suggests that they were Israelites, descendants of the Ephraimite G'KIM.

'Before the Burning Times' speaks also of the magi who took refuge in Russia when Persia was invaded by Muslims:

"It took a mere 20 years for the Muslims to go on the war path after the death of their prophet Mohammed. Between 642 and the first decade of the 8th century A.D. Arab Islamic forces pierced the vulnerable underbelly of magian Iran, and across the Oxus river into the lands of the nomadic Turkic tribes." In 712 A.D. Khorezm, a bastion of Zoroastrianism, fell to Islamic forces.

The magi "had ruled large tracts of Asia, served in the court of the Chinese Emperor, and studied alongside the priests, priestesses and philosophers of Greece, Rome, India and Egypt. Could it be that a religion so famed throughout antiquity should perish?"

'Before the Burning Times' goes on to relate how before the attack on Khorezm, magi had fled into Russia, bringing their books with them. They were given the name 'Kolduny', the Russian word for 'Chaldees', and were associated with both white and black magic.

This brings us to the unpleasant subject of Satanism, for throughout the history of magianism a small minority has always taken that path. It seems apparent that if the term 'magi' applies to priests of different religions, it can apply to Satanists too. And Satanists certainly refer to themselves as magi. Sir Laurence Gardner even refers to them as Chaldees. He believes them to be descendants of Arpachsad through Shem, son of Noah, and descendants of Cain through Ham's wife.

It is due to their alleged descent from Cain that they are Satanists, believing Cain to have been descended from Samael --literally ‘venom on high’, though they say that Samael was not the leader of the fallen angels. Throughout magian history the Satanists have been an unwelcome footnote, but a history of magianism is not complete without a recognition of their existence.

Upon their conversion to Christianity, the magi in northern Europe destroyed all their books. This action, along with condemnation of astrology in the New Testament, suggests that magianism is not compatible with true Christianity. The magi who visited the infant Jesus had been astrologers, but His sacrifice had not yet occurred at that time. According to Christian doctrine, that sacrifice changed the world. And it seems the northern magi agreed.

There is no record in Zoroastrian literature of the magi who visited Christ. David Livingstone, in 'The Dying God', distinguishes between the magi of Persia and the Magusseans, Zurvanites who spoke Aramaic. I believe that Magusseans from the school of Antiochus I Epiphanes were the magi who visited Jesus. They were based in Asia Minor, and were a renegade sect of which the Zoroastrians disapproved.

Mr. Livingstone has said, "The dying god was a deity revered throughout the ancient Near East, and whose death and resurrection was celebrated annually. And, in Babylon, in the sixth century BC, the god was introduced into the cult of the Chaldean Magi.

"However, as scholars have recognized, these Magi were not priests of orthodox Zoroastrianism. Rather, judging from their various tenets, which included a divine triad, pantheism, magic, astrology, number mysticism, the belief in reincarnation and the four elements, their cult was closer in similarity to the Kabbalah, believed also to have originated in the same city in that century.

"In fact, nearly the entire population of the Jewish people, except for a contingent that followed Jeremiah to Egypt, was in Babylon in exile. Many had reached prominent posts, and even Daniel himself was appointed to head the Wise Men, that is, the magi.

"The creed of the Chaldean magi, and its various elements, was introduced to Greece during the Persian invasions, and led to the emergence of what we call philosophy in that region. Then, with the conquests of Alexander, these doctrines were then spread to the rest of the known world, flourishing particularly at Alexandria in Egypt, where they led to the formulation of Gnosticism, Neoplatonism, Hermeticism and the Ancient Mysteries.

"Then came the Arabs of Islam, who picked up on this tradition, where it led to the formulation of the heresy of the Ismailis, and the esoteric version of Islam, known as Sufism. When the love poetry of the Sufis, and perhaps the Ismaili doctrines of the Assassins, were introduced to Europe during the Crusades, they influenced the Age of Chivalry and ultimately the production of the Grail legends." The Templar Knights are a famous example of Crusaders influenced by Sufism.

But the Crusades were not wholly responsible for this introduction, of course. The Cathari was a Manichaean sect introduced earlier, as 'Before the Burning Times' relates. They were among those magian Christians (though some people do not define Manichaeans as Christians) who had fled from Persia to the Balkans, then to Germany. They settled eventually in the south of France, where most of them were burned alive. This also was the fate of the Templar Knights. The Celts offered refuge to the victims of persecution, if they could escape in time. Their own Druidic priests, now long converted to Christianity, had been magi themselves.

The northern magi who converted to Christianity en masse automatically ceased to be magi and destroyed their records. To the best of my knowledge Zoroastrian priests are no longer called magi, and I have never discovered why. Perhaps a clue lies in the title itself, 'bearers of the gift'. What gift did the magi bear? Whatever the meaning of their title, magi no longer have legitimacy, and outside Satanic circles their priestly function is a thing of the past.

 

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