The East has once again become a source of fear and loathing in the West. War wracks most of the Middle East and religion as ever, is the raison d’etre for the murder of innocents. Muslims wherever they may live, have become our ‘enemy’, and the Holy Land has become hell on earth. The N.Z. political elite has made a pact with the American-led devils of 5 Eyes and is hell-bent on sending troops into Iraq to fight the mad Arabs.
Peace on earth and goodwill to all men has a hollow ring as we enter this 2014 Christmas.
A timely reminder then, to recall that the Christian story we Westerners celebrate at the Summer Solstice – the Nativity of Jesus Christ – comes from the East.
I present to you a voice from the past telling the tale of the three wise men/ kings who followed the star of hope and peace so long ago into the Holy Land.
She’s the wife of one of the Magi who travelled across the Oriental desert to find and herald the promised Messiah 2000 years or so ago.
Handsome isn’t he? He’s gone off to Bethlehem right now to give the official astrological stamp of approval for this latest Messiah. They’re paying quite well – for an astrologer that is. He didn’t want to go at first – he’s such a creature of habit and likes his home comforts, but really, I pushed him into it. He knows I am quite capable of taking care of business as usual. Anyway, it’s good for our relationship to have a bit of a break, working and living together as we do. Good for his male ego too – a bit of glory and eternal fame – while he kicks up his heels on the journey.
While he’s gone, I’m taking care of the astronomy business; looking after the observatory with a couple of girlfriends, as well as continuing my usual nightly work of watching and plotting the celestial bodies, then writing up all the observations.
But to get to the point, I had this idea. While I was packing up the camel for my husband, organising and ensuring he had all the necessary horoscopes and other documentation he needed for this Messiah’s confirmation, bingo the light!
I thought I should write a book to give his journey some historical background. And it won’t hurt the reputation of Astrology either, to make some order in all the conflicting cultural evidence that’s floating around at the moment.
I will have to write under a male pseudonym – the tiresome patriarchal yoke we suffer under as women at present – you’ve just got no idea. I thought I might write under the pseudonym of Ptolemy.
In honour of the occasion I shall treat you to some titbits from my forthcoming manuscript about the idea of the Messiah and how astrologers got tied up into predicting it.
You are no doubt aware, most learned audience, that there is a prophecy in the Old Testament of the Jewish bible - Numbers 24:17 There shall come a star out of Jacob.
The star we know by the name of Sirius, was named by the ancient Hebrews Ephriam, the Star of Jacob. In Syrian, Arabian and Persian astrology it was called Messaeil – the Messiah.
The Messiah in Middle-Eastern traditions is a saviour - or sacred king - who periodically died in an atonement ceremony as surrogate for the real King of the Jews. The Semitic religions practised human sacrifices longer than most other religions, sacrificing children and grown men in order to please blood-thirsty gods. The priesthood of the Jewish god insisted that one man should die for the people…. So that the whole nation perish not. That quote is from the New Testament John 11:50 and shows that the Gospel’s Jesus was certainly not the first in the long line of slain and cannibalised saviours - which actually extended back into prehistory. Although he may have been the last.
The Jews suffering under the Romans, were in the grip of a messianic fervour. They believed that this historical time was the scripturally predicted End of Days, when their suffering would be worse than anything which had gone before, and that the promised Messiah would come to end it and establish a Kingdom of God on earth. The title Christ is a Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah, which means The Anointed One – the anointing being reserved exclusively for the King of Israel.
After the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD the originally Jewish Movement became a gentile one and all kinds of mythic elements entered the story of Jesus.
It is important to remember there is no historical figure of Jesus. The real Jesus made no impression on his contemporaries. No literate person of his own time mentioned him in any writing. The Gospels were not written by anyone who saw him in the flesh or lived in his lifetime. The Nativity story is agreed by scholars to be a very late addition and the birth and childhood of Jesus are not even mentioned by Mark whose Gospel is the earliest.
The names of the apostles attached to the bible’s books were a fictional. The books were composed after the establishment of the Church. The Catholic encyclopaedia admits that there is no extant manuscript that can be dated earlier than the 4th century and most were written even later. The oldest manuscripts contradict one another. The Gnostic Marcion first collected Pauline epistles about the middle of the 2nd century.
The details were accumulated -not particularly from Jewish sources – and Jesus became a composite of many stories attached to every saviour-god throughout the Roman Empire.
He took his title Christ which means anointed from the Middle-Eastern saviour gods like Adonis and Tammuz born of the Virgin sea-goddess Aphrodite- Maria.
Like Adonis, Jesus was born of a consecrated temple-maiden Mary. Just as in the Jesus myth Adonis was born in the sacred cave of Bethlehem which means The House of Bread. He was eaten in the form of bread as were Adonis, Osiris, Dionysus and others. Like Attis, he was sacrificed at the Spring Equinox (we call it Easter) and rose from the dead on the 3rd day, when he became god and ascended to heaven. Like Mithra and all other solar gods, he celebrated a birthday nine months later at the Winter Solstice – Christmas (old English Cristes Maesse - Christ’s mass). The day of death was also the day of his cyclic re-conception.
Scholars’ efforts to make Jesus into a real historical figure and to eliminate his pagan roots and collective psychology have proved hopeless. Like a mirage, the Jesus figure looks clear at a distance but lacks approachable solidity. His sayings and parables came from elsewhere and even the Lords Prayer was a collection of sayings from the Talmud and many derived from the earlier Egyptian prayers to Osiris.
Of all the saviour and Sun gods worshipped at the beginning of the Christian era,
Osiris probably contributed more details in the evolving Christ figure than any other.
During the first century BCE the Osirian religion was very well established in all parts of the Roman Empire.
Already very old in Egypt, Osiris was identified with nearly every other Egyptian god and was on the way to absorbing them all. He had well over 200 divine names. He was called the Lord of Lords, King of Kings, God of Gods. He was the Resurrection and the Life, the Good Shepherd, Eternity and Everlastingness and the god who made men and women to be born again.
Osiris was to the Egyptians the god-man who suffered and died and rose again and reigned eternally in heaven. Egyptians believed they would inherit eternal life just as Osiris had done.
The same mixture of magic and religion in the worship of Christ and Osiris is very apparent. For example, the notion of resurrection through identification with a resurrected god by eating his flesh, which is the basis for the Christian salvation idea.
Mystery cults everywhere taught that ordinary men could be possessed by the spirits of such gods ad identified with them as “sons” or alter egos as Jesus was. It was the commonly accepted way to acquire supernatural powers as shown by the charms used by magicians.
The coming of Osiris was announced by three stars, in the belt of Orion which point to Osiris’ star Sothius – (Sirius). This is the brightest star in the sky and rises annually in the east.
The three stars herald the birth of Osiris, for the coming of the Saviour is the season of the Nile flood.
These three belt stars are named Mintak, Anilam and Alnitak, and were collectively called The Magi until well into the Middle Ages.
In Rome early in the Christian era, Magi were priests of Mithra - who was the original Persian Messiah. The word Magus (plural Magi) means magician, and the name for astrologers was synonymous with magicians and priests in many cultures of the Roman Empire. For example Magos was Persian, Chaldeos Babylonian, Prophetes used by Cabalists.
The Christians too took this word and their disciples Simon and Peter were both called Mage in the Acts of Peter and Paul and in Matthew 10:3. These men were examples of Essenes who worshipped the Sun-god (whose priests were Pater, Petra or Peter) and who were gradually assimilated into the Christian story. Christians were very reluctant to discredit any of the Magi and their astrological magic.
(The word Magus is found in our modern words magic, magician and imagination.)
So the three wise men who are inserted into the Christian story– and I speak from the Nile’s mouth being a wise wife of one of those three men – are there because they were Persian/Essenic astrologer-priests, who were skilled in dream interpretation, astronomy and astrology.
Roman Christians retained the Magi in the Gospel version of the birth of Christ because their presence emphasised the evidence of the child’s divinity. Their presence also assimilated Jesus from the original Jewish prophecy mentioned earlier from Numbers - There shall come a star out of Jacob - which is Sirius, meaning Star of Jacob.
Sirius is a fixed star, the brightest star in the Northern hemisphere and found at 13 degrees of the zodical sign Cancer. Cancer is the sign of the Mother and for Sirius rising to symbolise the birth of a divine child is very appropriate.
In the Egyptian zodiac of Denderah, Sirius is symbolised as the resting place of the soul of Isis, the mother of Osiris and is considered a very favourable luminary.
Traditionally the three Magi bore gifts for the Messiah -Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh.
Gold is a precious metal and has always been the symbol of the Sun – our life-giving star and of course represents the King spreading his light afar.
Frankincense is a gum resin obtained from certain trees in East Africa and Arabia. In pure form it is colourless but it also comes in shades of yellow.
It has a balsamic smell which intensifies when heated and it burns with a bright white light. It was important as a medicinal in the ancient Arabic trade, and it was valued by the Jews as one of the four constituents of the incense burned in their Sanctuary (Exodus30:34.)
Myrrh appears at two crucial points in the Christian mythology; at the birth of Jesus and at his death. Myrrh represented the mystic Virgin mother who was known as Miriam, Mari, Myrrha, Myrrh of the Sea.
The pagan’s version of Mary was temple-maiden Myrrha - who gave birth to Adonis (the Lord) in the same cave in Bethlehem. Myrrh was used as an aphrodisiac incense in Adonis’ rites. Its thorny twigs probably formed the mock crown of the sacred king at the time of his death when he gave his blood for the world.
In their story, Christians also called it the Crown of Thorns.
Myrrh was an emblem of Mara a common oriental name for the spirit of death. Myrrh symbolises death and rebirth of a god and was identified too with his holy mother.
It is a gum resin from a tree in Arabia used by Egyptians in the mummification process, which may account for its death symbology.
The Christians wrote myrrh into their story as a prefiguration of their god’s death. Myrrh was also offered to Christ on the cross (Mark15:23) The three Mary’s at the crucifixion bore the same title as the three pagan death goddesses – Myrrhophores – bearers of myrrh.
According to a Roman Almanac the Christian festival of Christmas was celebrated in Rome by 336 AD. As Christianity took hold over the West, Epiphany became the day on which the visit of the Magi to the infant Jesus was celebrated.
And so I bring these fragments and tatters of lost knowledge to remind you dear reader that stories come and go, but nothing is new under the golden sun. Each ruling regime builds its own myths of power upon the foundations of what has gone before. Superstitions are only remnants of older rituals that have lost their context and therefore their meaning, leaving behind something that still resonates deep within the collective memory.
The Christian story is rapidly being replaced by a corporate capitalist narrative. Hopefully this too will fade and die if the human race can survive our contemporary power elites and earth-destroying systems.
The three wise Magi (and their wives) remind us to gaze heavenward and honour our humanity in the wider context of our amazing universe. The star they plotted and followed urges us to look for meaning in our lives within the seasonal cycles of this living planet. Imagination is the true magic. Celebrate hope, birth and the wonder of children this Xmas.