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Magi (Latin plural of magus, ancient Greek magos, Persian "مغ", English singular 'magian', 'mage', 'magus', 'magusian', 'magusaean') is a term, used since at least the 4th century BCE, to denote a follower of Zoroaster, or rather, a follower of what the Hellenistic world associated Zoroaster with, which was – in the main – the ability to read the stars, and manipulate the fate that the stars foretold. The meaning prior to Hellenistic period is uncertain.

Pervasive throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia until late antiquity and beyond, Greek mágos "magian"/Magician was influenced by (and eventually displaced) Greek goēs, the older word for a practitioner of magic, to include astrology, alchemy and other forms of esoteric knowledge. This association was in turn the product of the Hellenistic fascination for (Pseudo-)Zoroaster, who was perceived by the Greeks to be the "Chaldean" "founder" of the Magi and "inventor" of both astrology and magic. Among the skeptical thinkers of the period, the term 'magian' acquired a negative connotation and was associated with tricksters and conjurers. This pejorative meaning survives in the words "magic" and "magician".

In English, the term "magi" is most commonly used in reference to the Gospel of Matthew's "wise men from the East", or "three wise men" (though that number does not actually appear in Matthew's account, and various sources placed the number anywhere between two and twelve). The plural "magi" entered the English language around 1200, in reference to the Biblical magi of Matthew 2:1. The singular appears considerably later, in the late 14th century, when it was borrowed from Old French in the meaning magician together with magic.

Contents

Pre-4th century BC usage

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In Greek sources

The perhaps oldest surviving reference to the magi – from Greek μάγος (mágos, plural: magoi) – is from 6th century BC Heraclitus (apud Clemens Protrepticus 12), who curses the magi for their "impious" rites and rituals. A description of the rituals that Heraclitus refers to have not survived, and there is nothing to suggest that Heraclitus was referring to foreigners.

Better preserved are the descriptions of the mid-5th century BC Herodotus, who in his portrayal of the Iranian expatriates living in Asia minor uses the term "magi" in two different senses. In the first sense (Histories 1.101), Herodotus speaks of the magi as one of the tribes/peoples (ethnous) of the Medes. In another sense (1.132), Herodotus uses the term "magi" to generically refer to a "sacerdotal caste", but "whose ethnic origin is never again so much as mentioned."[1] According to R.C. Zaehner, in other accounts, "we hear of Magi not only in Persia, Parthia, Bactria, Chorasmia, Aria, Media, and among the Sakas, but also in non-Iranian lands like Samaria, Ethiopia, and Egypt. Their influence was also widespread throughout Asia Minor. It is, therefore, quite likely that the sacerdotal caste of the Magi was distinct from the Median tribe of the same name."[1]

Other Greek sources from before the Hellenistic period include the gentleman-soldier Xenophon, who had first-hand experience at the Achaemenid court. In his early 4th century BC Cyropaedia, the Athenian depicts the magians as authorities for all religious matters (8.3.11), and imagines the magians to be responsible for the education of the emperor-to-be.

In Iranian sources

Avestan 'magâunô', i.e. the religious caste in which Zoroaster was born into, (see Yasna 33.7:' ýâ sruyê parê magâunô ' = ' so I can be heard beyond Magi '), seems to be the origin of the term.

The term only appears twice in Iranian texts from before the 4th century BC, and only one of these can be dated with precision. This one instance occurs in the trilingual Behistun inscription of Darius I, and which can be dated to about 520 BC. In this trilingual text, certain rebels have 'magian' as an attribute; in the Old Persian portion as maγu- (generally assumed to be a loan word from Median). The meaning of the term in this context is uncertain.

The other instance appears in the texts of the Avesta, i.e. in the sacred literature of Zoroastrianism. In this instance, which is in the Younger Avestan portion, the term appears in the hapax moghu.tbiš, meaning "hostile to the moghu", where moghu does not (as was previously thought) mean "magus", but rather "a member of the tribe"[2] or referred to a particular social class in the proto-Iranian language and then continued to do so in Avestan.[3]

An unrelated term, but previously assumed to be related, appears in the older Gathic Avestan language texts. This word, adjectival magavan meaning "possessing maga-", was once the premise that Avestan maga- and Median (i.e. Old Persian) magu- were co-eval (and also that both these were cognates of Vedic Sanskrit magha-). While "in the Gathas the word seems to mean both the teaching of Zoroaster and the community that accepted that teaching," and it seems that Avestan maga- is related to Sanskrit magha-, "there is no reason to suppose that the western Iranian form magu (Magus) has exactly the same meaning"[1] as well.

But it "may be, however," that Avestan moghu (which is not the same as Avestan maga-) "and Medean magu were the same word in origin, a common Iranian term for 'member of the tribe' having developed among the Medes the special sense of 'member of the (priestly) tribe', hence a priest."[2] cf [3]

4th century BC onwards

In Graeco-Roman sources

Byzantine depiction of the Three Magi in a 7th-century mosaic at Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo

As early as the 5th century BC, Greek magos had spawned mageia and magike to describe the activity of a magus, that is, it was his or her art and practice. But almost from the outset the noun for the action and the noun for the actor parted company. Thereafter, mageia was used not for what actual magi did, but for something related to the word 'magic' in the modern sense, i.e. using supernatural means to achieve an effect in the natural world, or the appearance of achieving these effects through trickery or sleight of hand. The early Greek texts typically have the pejorative meaning, which in turn influenced the meaning of magos to denote a conjurer and a charlatan. Already in the mid-5th century BC, Herodotus identifies the magi as interpreters of omens and dreams (Histories 7.19, 7.37, 1.107, 1.108, 1.120, 1.128).

Once the magi had been associated with "magic"—Greek magikos—it was but a natural progression that the Greek's image of Zoroaster would metamorphose into a magician too.[4] The first century Pliny the elder names "Zoroaster" as the inventor of magic (Natural History xxxx.2.3), but a "principle of the division of labor appears to have spared Zoroaster most of the responsibility for introducing the dark arts to the Greek and Roman worlds. That dubious honor went to another fabulous magus, Ostanes, to whom most of the pseudepigraphic magical literature was attributed."[4] For Pliny, this magic was a "monstrous craft" that gave the Greeks not only a "lust" (aviditatem) for magic, but a downright "madness" (rabiem) for it, and Pliny supposed that Greek philosophers—among them Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, and Plato—traveled abroad to study it, and then returned to teach it (xxx.2.8-10).

"Zoroaster" – or rather what the Greeks supposed him to be – was for the Hellenists the figurehead of the 'magi', and the founder of that order (or what the Greeks considered to be an order). He was further projected as the author of a vast compendium of "Zoroastrian" pseudepigrapha, composed in the main to discredit the texts of rivals. "The Greeks considered the best wisdom to be exotic wisdom" and "what better and more convenient authority than the distant — temporally and geographically — Zoroaster?"[4] The subject of these texts, the authenticity of which was rarely challenged, ranged from treatises on nature to ones on necromancy. But the bulk of these texts dealt with astronomical speculations and magical lore.

One factor for the association with astrology was Zoroaster's name, or rather, what the Greeks made of it. Within the scheme of Greek thinking (which was always on the lookout for hidden significances and "real" meanings of words) his name was identified at first with star-worshiping (astrothytes "star sacrificer") and, with the Zo-, even as the living star. Later, an even more elaborate mytho-etymology evolved: Zoroaster died by the living (zo-) flux (-ro-) of fire from the star (-astr-) which he himself had invoked, and even, that the stars killed him in revenge for having been restrained by him.

The second, and "more serious"[5] factor for the association with astrology was the notion that Zoroaster was a Chaldean. The alternate Greek name for Zoroaster was Zaratas/Zaradas/Zaratos (cf. Agathias 2.23-5, Clement Stromata I.15), which—so Bidez and Cumont—derived from a Semitic form of his name. The Pythagorean tradition considered the "founder" of their order to have studied with Zoroaster in Chaldea (Porphyry Life of Pythagoras 12, Alexander Polyhistor apud Clement's Stromata I.15, Diodorus of Eritrea, Aristoxenus apud Hippolitus VI32.2). Lydus (On the Months II.4) attributes the creation of the seven-day week to "the Chaldeans in the circle of Zoroaster and Hystaspes," and who did so because there were seven planets. The Suda's chapter on astronomia notes that the Babylonians learned their astrology from Zoroaster. Lucian of Samosata (Mennipus 6) decides to journey to Babylon "to ask one of the magi, Zoroaster's disciples and successors," for their opinion.

In Chinese sources

Chinese Bronzeware script for wu 巫 "shaman"

Victor H. Mair provides archaeological and linguistic evidence suggesting that Chinese (巫 "shaman; witch, wizard; magician", Old Chinese *myag) was a loanword from Old Persian *maguš "magician; magi".[6] He describes:

The recent discovery at an early Chou site of two figurines with unmistakably Caucasoid or Europoid feature is startling prima facie evidence of East-West interaction during the first half of the first millennium Before the Current Era. It is especially interesting that one of the figurines bears on the top of his head the clearly incised graph which identifies him as a wu (< *myag).[6]

These figurines, which are dated circa 8th century BC, were discovered during a 1980 excavation of a Zhou Dynasty palace in Fufeng County (Shaanxi Province).

Mair connects the ancient Bronzeware script for wu 巫 "shaman" (a cross with potents) with a Western heraldic symbol of magicians, the cross potent , which "can hardly be attributable to sheer coincidence or chance independent origination."

Compared with the linguistic reconstructions of many Indo-European languages, the current reconstruction of Old (or "Archaic") Chinese is more provisional. This velar final -g in Mair's *myag (巫) is evident in several Old Chinese reconstructions (Dong Tonghe's *mywag, Zhou Fagao's *mjwaɣ, and Li Fanggui's *mjag), but not all (Bernhard Karlgren's *mywo and Axel Schuessler's *ma).

In Semitic sources

In Arabic texts of the Islamic period, Zoroaster is – as in Greco-Roman tradition also – "founder" of the magians, Arabic majusya.

In the 1980s, majus was part of Iraqi propaganda vocabulary of the Iran–Iraq War to refer to Iranians in general. "By referring to the Iranians in these documents as majus, the security apparatus [implied] that the Iranians [were] not sincere Muslims, but rather covertly practice their pre-Islamic beliefs. Thus, in their eyes, Iraq's war took on the dimensions of not only a struggle for Arab nationalism, but also a campaign in the name of Islam."[7]

In Christian tradition

Conventional post-12th century depiction of the Biblical magi (Adoração dos Magos by Vicente Gil). Balthasar, the youngest magian, bears frankincense and represents Africa. To the left stands Caspar, middle-aged, bearing gold and representing Asia. On his knees is Melchior, oldest, bearing myrrh and representing Europe.

Christian tradition states that magians visited the infant Jesus shortly after his birth. This tradition originates from the Gospel of Matthew (2:1-2:12). The twelve verses describe how certain magians from the east were notified of the birth of a king in Judaea by the appearance of a star. Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, they visited King Herod to determine the location of where the king of the Jews had been born. Herod, disturbed, told them that he had not heard of the child, but informed them of a prophecy that the baby Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. He then asked the magians to inform him when they find the infant so that Herod may also worship him. Guided by the Star of Bethlehem, the wise men found the baby Jesus in a house in Bethlehem, worshiped him, and presented him with "gifts of gold and of frankincense and of myrrh." (2.11) In a dream they are warned not to return to Herod, and therefore return to their homes by taking another route. Since its composition in the late 1st century, numerous apocryphal stories have embellished the gospel's account.

The gospel's mágoi (Greek) or magūšāyā (Aramaic) is typically translated as "wizard", a meaning that is also found in the commentaries of St. Justin, Origen, St. Augustine and St. Jerome. The term appears in both Old- and New Testament with the meaning of "Magicians" (Acts of the Apostles 8:9; 13:6, 8, and the Septuagint of Daniel 1:20; 2:2, 2:10, 2:27; 4:4; 5:7, 5:11, 5:15). This is, however, "not the common interpretation".[8]

In Esoteric Christianity, one who is skilled, profound, or a master of the esoteric or a magical art is titled a 'magus' or 'mage' (as opposed to an adept, who is skilled but not a master).[9] The title is rare and is really only used in a historical context.

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn used the title of "Magus" to refer to the second-highest level of attainment in their degree system. This system, with associated titles, would later be adopted by Aleister Crowley for his occult order A∴A∴, wherein the title "Magus" designated the highest attainable grade of magic (Moses, Buddha, and Lao Tzu being some examples of those who attained this grade). To be a Magi means to journey to give gifts.

References

  1. ^ a b c Zaehner, Robert Charles (1961), The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism, New York: MacMillan, p. 163  .
  2. ^ a b Boyce, Mary (1975), A History of Zoroastrianism, Vol. I, Leiden: Brill, pp. 10–11  
  3. ^ a b Gershevitch, Ilya (1964), "Zoroaster's Own Contribution", Journal of Near Eastern Studies 23 (1), doi:10.1086/371754  , p. 36.
  4. ^ a b c Beck, Roger (2003), "Zoroaster, as perceived by the Greeks", Encyclopaedia Iranica, New York: iranica.com, http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/sup/Zoroaster_Greeks.html  .
  5. ^ Beck, Roger (1991), "Thus Spake Not Zarathushtra: Zoroastrian Pseudepigrapha of the Graeco-Roman World", in Boyce, Mary; Grenet, Frantz, A History of Zoroastrianism, Handbuch der Orientalistik, Abteilung I, Band VIII, Abschnitt 1, 3, Leiden: Brill, pp. 491–565  , p. 516.
  6. ^ a b Mair, Victor H. (1990), "Old Sinitic *Myag, Old Persian Maguš and English Magician", Early China 15: 27–47  .
  7. ^ Al-Marashi, Ibrahim (2000). The Mindset of Iraq's Security Apparatus. Cambridge University: Centre of International Studies. p. 5. http://www.cambridgesecurity.net/pdf/iraqi-mindset.pdf.  
  8. ^ Drum, W. (1910), "Magi", The Catholic Encyclopedia, New York: Robert Appleton Company, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09527a.htm  .
  9. ^ Leitch, Aaron (2005), Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires, Llewellyn, p. 241–278  .

Further reading


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Magi (Latin plural of magus; Ancient Greek μάγος (magos); Old Persian 𐎶𐎦𐎢𐏁 (maguš) (Modern Persian مغ (magh)); Arabic مجوس; English singular magian, mage, magus, magusian, magusaean) is a term, used since at least the 4th century BCE, to denote a follower of Zoroaster, or rather, a follower of what the Hellenistic world associated Zoroaster with, which was – in the main – the ability to read the stars, and manipulate the fate that the stars foretold. The meaning prior to Hellenistic period is uncertain.

Pervasive throughout the Eastern Mediterranean and Western Asia until late antiquity and beyond, Greek mágos "magian"/Magician was influenced by (and eventually displaced) Greek goēs(γόης), the older word for a practitioner of magic, to include astrology, alchemy and other forms of esoteric knowledge. This association was in turn the product of the Hellenistic fascination for (Pseudo-)Zoroaster, who was perceived by the Greeks to be the "Chaldean" "founder" of the Magi and "inventor" of both astrology and magic. Among the skeptical thinkers of the period, the term 'magian' acquired a negative connotation and was associated with tricksters and conjurers. This pejorative meaning survives in the words "magic" and "magician".

In English, the term "magi" is most commonly used in reference to the Gospel of Matthew's "wise men from the East", or "three wise men", though that number does not actually appear in Matthew's account. The plural "magi" entered the English language around 1200, in reference to the Biblical magi of Matthew 2:1. The singular appears considerably later, in the late 14th century, when it was borrowed from Old French in the meaning magician together with magic.

Contents

Pre-4th century BC usage

In Greek sources

The perhaps oldest surviving reference to the magi – from Greek μάγος (mágos, plural: magoi) – is from 6th century BC Heraclitus (apud Clemens Protrepticus 12), who curses the magi for their "impious" rites and rituals. A description of the rituals that Heraclitus refers to has not survived, and there is nothing to suggest that Heraclitus was referring to foreigners.

Better preserved are the descriptions of the mid-5th century BC Herodotus, who in his portrayal of the Iranian expatriates living in Asia minor uses the term "magi" in two different senses. In the first sense (Histories 1.101), Herodotus speaks of the magi as one of the tribes/peoples (ethnous) of the Medes. In another sense (1.132), Herodotus uses the term "magi" to generically refer to a "sacerdotal caste", but "whose ethnic origin is never again so much as mentioned."[1] According to Robert Charles Zaehner, in other accounts, "we hear of Magi not only in Persia, Parthia, Bactria, Chorasmia, Aria, Media, and among the Sakas, but also in non-Iranian lands like Samaria, Ethiopia, and Egypt. Their influence was also widespread throughout Asia Minor. It is, therefore, quite likely that the sacerdotal caste of the Magi was distinct from the Median tribe of the same name."[1]

Other Greek sources from before the Hellenistic period include the gentleman-soldier Xenophon, who had first-hand experience at the Achaemenid court. In his early 4th century BC Cyropaedia, the Athenian depicts the magians as authorities for all religious matters (8.3.11), and imagines the magians to be responsible for the education of the emperor-to-be.

In Iranian sources

Avestan 'magâunô', i.e. the religious caste in which Zoroaster was born into, (see Yasna 33.7:' ýâ sruyê parê magâunô ' = ' so I can be heard beyond Magi '), seems to be the origin of the term.

The term only appears twice in Iranian texts from before the 4th century BC, and only one of these can be dated with precision. This one instance occurs in the trilingual Behistun inscription of Darius I, and which can be dated to about 520 BC. In this trilingual text, certain rebels have 'magian' as an attribute; in the Old Persian portion as maγu- (generally assumed to be a loan word from Median). The meaning of the term in this context is uncertain.

The other instance appears in the texts of the Avesta, i.e. in the sacred literature of Zoroastrianism. In this instance, which is in the Younger Avestan portion, the term appears in the hapax moghu.tbiš, meaning "hostile to the moghu", where moghu does not (as was previously thought) mean "magus", but rather "a member of the tribe"[2] or referred to a particular social class in the proto-Iranian language and then continued to do so in Avestan.[3]

An unrelated term, but previously assumed to be related, appears in the older Gathic Avestan language texts. This word, adjectival magavan meaning "possessing maga-", was once the premise that Avestan maga- and Median (i.e. Old Persian) magu- were co-eval (and also that both these were cognates of Vedic Sanskrit magha-). While "in the Gathas the word seems to mean both the teaching of Zoroaster and the community that accepted that teaching," and it seems that Avestan maga- is related to Sanskrit magha-, "there is no reason to suppose that the western Iranian form magu (Magus) has exactly the same meaning"[1] as well.

But it "may be, however," that Avestan moghu (which is not the same as Avestan maga-) "and Medean magu were the same word in origin, a common Iranian term for 'member of the tribe' having developed among the Medes the special sense of 'member of the (priestly) tribe', hence a priest."[2]cf[3]

4th century BC onwards

In Graeco-Roman sources

File:Magi (1).jpg
Byzantine depiction of the Three Magi in a 7th-century mosaic at Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo.

As early as the 5th century BC, Greek magos had spawned mageia and magike to describe the activity of a magus, that is, it was his or her art and practice. But almost from the outset the noun for the action and the noun for the actor parted company. Thereafter, mageia was used not for what actual magi did, but for something related to the word 'magic' in the modern sense, i.e. using supernatural means to achieve an effect in the natural world, or the appearance of achieving these effects through trickery or sleight of hand. The early Greek texts typically have the pejorative meaning, which in turn influenced the meaning of magos to denote a conjurer and a charlatan. Already in the mid-5th century BC, Herodotus identifies the magi as interpreters of omens and dreams (Histories 7.19, 7.37, 1.107, 1.108, 1.120, 1.128).

Once the magi had been associated with "magic"—Greek magikos—it was but a natural progression that the Greek's image of Zoroaster would metamorphose into a magician too.[4] The first century Pliny the elder names "Zoroaster" as the inventor of magic (Natural History xxxx.2.3), but a "principle of the division of labor appears to have spared Zoroaster most of the responsibility for introducing the dark arts to the Greek and Roman worlds. That dubious honor went to another fabulous magus, Ostanes, to whom most of the pseudepigraphic magical literature was attributed."[4] For Pliny, this magic was a "monstrous craft" that gave the Greeks not only a "lust" (aviditatem) for magic, but a downright "madness" (rabiem) for it, and Pliny supposed that Greek philosophers—among them Pythagoras, Empedocles, Democritus, and Plato—traveled abroad to study it, and then returned to teach it (xxx.2.8-10).

"Zoroaster" – or rather what the Greeks supposed him to be – was for the Hellenists the figurehead of the 'magi', and the founder of that order (or what the Greeks considered to be an order). He was further projected as the author of a vast compendium of "Zoroastrian" pseudepigrapha, composed in the main to discredit the texts of rivals. "The Greeks considered the best wisdom to be exotic wisdom" and "what better and more convenient authority than the distant — temporally and geographically — Zoroaster?"[4] The subject of these texts, the authenticity of which was rarely challenged, ranged from treatises on nature to ones on necromancy. But the bulk of these texts dealt with astronomical speculations and magical lore.

One factor for the association with astrology was Zoroaster's name, or rather, what the Greeks made of it. Within the scheme of Greek thinking (which was always on the lookout for hidden significances and "real" meanings of words) his name was identified at first with star-worshiping (astrothytes "star sacrificer") and, with the Zo-, even as the living star. Later, an even more elaborate mytho-etymology evolved: Zoroaster died by the living (zo-) flux (-ro-) of fire from the star (-astr-) which he himself had invoked, and even, that the stars killed him in revenge for having been restrained by him.

The second, and "more serious"[5] factor for the association with astrology was the notion that Zoroaster was a Chaldean. The alternate Greek name for Zoroaster was Zaratas/Zaradas/Zaratos (cf. Agathias 2.23-5, Clement Stromata I.15), which—so Bidez and Cumont—derived from a Semitic form of his name. The Pythagorean tradition considered the "founder" of their order to have studied with Zoroaster in Chaldea (Porphyry Life of Pythagoras 12, Alexander Polyhistor apud Clement's Stromata I.15, Diodorus of Eritrea, Aristoxenus apud Hippolitus VI32.2). Lydus (On the Months II.4) attributes the creation of the seven-day week to "the Chaldeans in the circle of Zoroaster and Hystaspes," and who did so because there were seven planets. The Suda's chapter on astronomia notes that the Babylonians learned their astrology from Zoroaster. Lucian of Samosata (Mennipus 6) decides to journey to Babylon "to ask one of the magi, Zoroaster's disciples and successors," for their opinion.

In Chinese sources

File:巫
Chinese Bronzeware script for wu 巫 "shaman".

[[File:|thumb|200px|Cross potent.]]

Victor H. Mair provides archaeological and linguistic evidence suggesting that Chinese (巫 "shaman; witch, wizard; magician", Old Chinese *myag) was a loanword from Old Persian *maguš "magician; magi".[6] He describes:

The recent discovery at an early Chou site of two figurines with unmistakably Caucasoid or Europoid feature is startling prima facie evidence of East-West interaction during the first half of the first millennium Before the Current Era. It is especially interesting that one of the figurines bears on the top of his head the clearly incised graph which identifies him as a wu (< *myag).[6]

These figurines, which are dated circa 8th century BC, were discovered during a 1980 excavation of a Zhou Dynasty palace in Fufeng County (Shaanxi Province).

Mair connects the ancient Bronzeware script for wu 巫 "shaman" (a cross with potents) with a Western heraldic symbol of magicians, the cross potent , which "can hardly be attributable to sheer coincidence or chance independent origination."

Compared with the linguistic reconstructions of many Indo-European languages, the current reconstruction of Old (or "Archaic") Chinese is more provisional. This velar final -g in Mair's *myag (巫) is evident in several Old Chinese reconstructions (Dong Tonghe's *mywag, Zhou Fagao's *mjwaγ, and Li Fanggui's *mjag), but not all (Bernhard Karlgren's *mywo and Axel Schuessler's *ma).

In Semitic sources

In Arabic texts of the Islamic period, Zoroaster is – as in Greco-Roman tradition also – "founder" of the magians, Arabic majusya.

The Koranic word المجوس (Koran 22:17) refers to the Zoroastrians.

In the 1980s, majus was part of Iraqi propaganda vocabulary of the Iran–Iraq War to refer to Iranians in general. "By referring to the Iranians in these documents as majus, the security apparatus [implied] that the Iranians [were] not sincere Muslims, but rather covertly practice their pre-Islamic beliefs. Thus, in their eyes, Iraq's war took on the dimensions of not only a struggle for Arab nationalism, but also a campaign in the name of Islam."[7]

In Christian tradition

File:Adoracao dos magos de Vicente
Conventional post-12th century depiction of the Biblical magi (Adoração dos Magos by Vicente Gil). Balthasar, the youngest magian, bears frankincense and represents Africa. To the left stands Caspar, middle-aged, bearing gold and representing Asia. On his knees is Melchior, oldest, bearing myrrh and representing Europe.

Christian tradition states that magians visited the infant Jesus shortly after his birth. This tradition originates from the Gospel of Matthew (2:1-2:12). The twelve verses describe how certain magians from the east were notified of the birth of a king in Judaea by the appearance of his star. Upon their arrival in Jerusalem, they visited King Herod to determine the location of where the king of the Jews had been born. Herod, disturbed, told them that he had not heard of the child, but informed them of a prophecy that the baby Jesus would be born in Bethlehem. He then asked the magians to inform him when they find the infant so that Herod may also worship him. Guided by the Star of Bethlehem, the wise men found the baby Jesus in a house in Bethlehem, worshiped him, and presented him with "gifts of gold and of frankincense and of myrrh." (2.11) In a dream they are warned not to return to Herod, and therefore return to their homes by taking another route. Since its composition in the late 1st century, numerous apocryphal stories have embellished the gospel's account.

The Book of Acts (13:6-11) describes Elymas, a magus at Paphos on the island of Cyprus who was involved with the conversion of Roman proconsul Sergius Paulus. Josephus references another Cypriot magus named Atomos who was at the court of Felix at Caesarea.

The gospel's mágoi (Greek) or magūšāyā (Aramaic) is typically translated as "wizard", a meaning that is also found in the commentaries of St. Justin, Origen, St. Augustine and St. Jerome. The term appears in both Old- and New Testament with the meaning of "Magicians" (Acts of the Apostles 8:9; 13:6, 8, and the Septuagint of Daniel 1:20; 2:2, 2:10, 2:27; 4:4; 5:7, 5:11, 5:15). This is, however, "not the common interpretation".[8]

In Esoteric Christianity, one who is skilled, profound, or a master of the esoteric or a magical art is titled a 'magus' or 'mage' (as opposed to an adept, who is skilled but not a master).[9] The title is rare and is really only used in a historical context.

Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn used the title of "Magus" to refer to the second-highest level of attainment in their degree system. This system, with associated titles, would later be adopted by Aleister Crowley for his occult order A∴A∴, wherein the title "Magus" designated the highest attainable grade of magic (Moses, Buddha, and Lao Tzu being some examples of those who attained this grade). To be a Magi means to journey to give gifts.

References

  1. ^ a b c Zaehner, Robert Charles (1961), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism], New York: MacMillan, p. 163 .
  2. ^ a b Boyce, Mary (1975), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator A History of Zoroastrianism, Vol. I], Leiden: Brill, pp. 10–11 
  3. ^ a b Gershevitch, Ilya (1964), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Zoroaster's Own Contribution"], Journal of Near Eastern Studies 23 (1): 12, doi:10.1086/371754 , p. 36.
  4. ^ a b c Beck, Roger (2003), "Zoroaster, as perceived by the Greeks", [Expression error: Unexpected < operator Encyclopaedia Iranica], New York: iranica.com, http://www.iranica.com/newsite/articles/sup/Zoroaster_Greeks.html .
  5. ^ Beck, Roger (1991), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Thus Spake Not Zarathushtra: Zoroastrian Pseudepigrapha of the Graeco-Roman World"], in Boyce, Mary; Grenet, Frantz, A History of Zoroastrianism, Handbuch der Orientalistik, Abteilung I, Band VIII, Abschnitt 1, 3, Leiden: Brill, pp. 491–565 , p. 516.
  6. ^ a b Mair, Victor H. (1990), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator "Old Sinitic *Myag, Old Persian Maguš and English Magician"], Early China 15: 27–47 .
  7. ^ Al-Marashi, Ibrahim (2000). The Mindset of Iraq's Security Apparatus. Cambridge University: Centre of International Studies. p. 5. http://www.cambridgesecurity.net/pdf/iraqi-mindset.pdf. 
  8. ^ Drum, W. (1910), "Magi", [Expression error: Unexpected < operator The Catholic Encyclopedia], New York: Robert Appleton Company, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09527a.htm 
  9. ^ Leitch, Aaron (2005), [Expression error: Unexpected < operator Secrets of the Magickal Grimoires], Llewellyn, pp. 241–278 

Further reading


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also magi, and mägi

Contents

English

Pronunciation

  • IPA: /meɪ'ʤaɪ/

Proper noun

Singular
Magi

Plural
-

Magi (plurale tantum)

  1. (Christian Bible) The three wise men that met the baby Jesus at the Epiphany.
  2. (astronomy) The three bright stars that form Orion's Belt.

Translations


Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

(Plural of Latin magus; Greek magoi).

The "wise men from the East" who came to adore Jesus in Bethlehem (Matthew 2).

Rationalists regard the Gospel account as fiction; Catholics insist that it is a narrative of fact, supporting their interpretation with the evidence of all manuscripts and versions, and patristic citations. All this evidence rationalists pronounce irrelevant; they class the story of the Magi with the so-called "legends of the childhood of Jesus", later apocryphal additions to the Gospels. Admitting only internal evidence, they say, this evidence does not stand the test of criticism.

  • John and Mark are silent. This is because they begin their Gospels with the public life of Jesus. That John knew the story of the Magi may be gathered from the fact that Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., III, ix, 2) is witness to it; for Irenaeus gives us the Johannine tradition.
  • Luke is silent. Naturally, as the fact is told well enough by the other synoptics. Luke tells the Annunciation, details of the Nativity, the Circumcision, and the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, facts of the childhood of Jesus which the silence of the other three Evangelists does not render legendary.
  • Luke contradicts Matthew and returns the Child Jesus to Nazereth immediately after the Presentation (Luke 2:39). This return to Nazareth may have been either before the Magi came to Bethlehem or after the exile in Egypt. No contradiction is involved.

Contents

I. WHO THE MAGI WERE

Non-Biblical Evidence

We may form a conjecture by non-Biblical evidence of a probable meaning to the word magoi. Herodotus (I, ci) is our authority for supposing that the Magi were the sacred caste of the Medes. They provided priests for Persia, and, regardless of dynastic vicissitudes, ever kept up their dominating religious influence. To the head of this caste, Nergal Sharezar, Jeremias gives the title Rab-Mag, "Chief Magus" (Jeremias 39:3, 39:13, in Hebrew original — Septuagint and Vulgate translations are erroneous here). After the downfall of Assyrian and Babylonian power, the religion of the Magi held sway in Persia. Cyrus completely conquered the sacred caste; his son Cambyses severely repressed it. The Magians revolted and set up Gaumata, their chief, as King of Persia under the name of Smerdis. He was, however, murdered (521 B.C.), and Darius became king. This downfall of the Magi was celebrated by a national Persian holiday called magophonia (Her., III, lxiii, lxxiii, lxxix). Still the religious influence of this priestly caste continued throughout the rule of the Achaemenian dynasty in Persia (Ctesias, "Persica", X-XV); and is not unlikely that at the time of the birth of Christ it was still flourishing under the Parthian dominion. Strabo (XI, ix, 3) says that the Magian priests formed one of the two councils of the Parthian Empire.

Biblical Evidence

The word magoi often has the meaning of "magician", in both Old and New Testaments (see Acts 8:9; 13:6, 8; also the Septuagint of Daniel 1:20; 2:2, 2:10, 2:27; 4:4; 5:7, 5:11, 5:15). St. Justin (Tryph., lxxviii), Origen (Cels., I, lx), St. Augustine (Serm. xx, De epiphania) and St. Jerome (In Isa., xix, 1) find the same meaning in the second chapter of Matthew, though this is not the common interpretation.

C. Patristic Evidence

No Father of the Church holds the Magi to have been kings. Tertullian ("Adv. Marcion.", III, xiii) says that they were wellnigh kings (fere reges), and so agrees with what we have concluded from non-Biblical evidence. The Church, indeed, in her liturgy, applies to the Magi the words: "The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents; the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring him gifts: and all the kings of the earth shall adore him" (Psalm 71:10). But this use of the text in reference to them no more proves that they were kings than it traces their journey from Tharsis, Arabia, and Saba. As sometimes happens, a liturgical accommodation of a text has in time come to be looked upon by some as an authentic interpretation thereof. Neither were they magicians: the good meaning of magoi, though found nowhere else in the Bible, is demanded by the context of the second chapter of St. Matthew. These Magians can have been none other than members of the priestly caste already referred to. The religion of the Magi was fundamentally that of Zoroaster and forbade sorcery; their astrology and skill in interpreting dreams were occasions of their finding Christ. (See THEOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF THE AVESTA.)

The Gospel narrative omits to mention the number of the Magi, and there is no certain tradition in this matter. Some Fathers speak of three Magi; they are very likely influenced by the number of gifts. In the Orient, tradition favours twelve. Early Christian art is no consistent witness:

  • a painting in the cemetery of Sts. Peter and Marcellinus shows two;
  • one in the Lateran Museum, three;
  • one in the cemetery of Domitilla, four;
  • a vase in the Kircher Museum, eight (Marucchi, "Eléments d'archéologie chrétienne", Paris, 1899, I 197). The names of the Magi are as uncertain as is their number. Among the Latins, from the seventh century, we find slight variants of the names, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar; the Martyrology mentions St. Gaspar, on the first, St. Melchior, on the sixth, and St. Balthasar, on the eleventh of January (Acta SS., I, 8, 323, 664). The Syrians have Larvandad, Hormisdas, Gushnasaph, etc.; the Armenians, Kagba, Badadilma, etc. (Cf. Acta Sanctorum, May, I, 1780). Passing over the purely legendary notion that they represented the three families which are decended from Noah, it appears they all came from "the east" (Matt., ii, 1, 2, 9). East of Palestine, only ancient Media, Persia, Assyria, and Babylonia had a Magian priesthood at the time of the birth of Christ. From some such part of the Parthian Empire the Magi came. They probably crossed the Syrian Desert, lying between the Euphrates and Syria, reached either Haleb (Aleppo) or Tudmor (Palmyra), and journeyed on to Damascus and southward, by what is now the great Mecca route (darb elhaj, "the pilgrim's way"), keeping the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan to their west till they crossed the ford near Jericho. We have no tradition of the precise land meant by "the east". It is Babylon, according to St. Maximus (Homil. xviii in Epiphan.); and Theodotus of Ancyra (Homil. de Nativitate, I, x); Persia, according to Clement of Alexandria (Strom., I xv) and St. Cyril of Alexandria (In Is., xlix, 12); Aribia, according to St. Justin (Cont. Tryphon., lxxvii), Tertullian (Adv. Jud., ix), and St. Epiphanius (Expos. fidei, viii).

II. TIME AND CIRCUMSTANCES OF THEIR VISIT

The visit of the Magi took place after the Presentation of the Child in the Temple (Luke 2:38). No sooner were the Magi departed than the angel bade Joseph take the Child and its Mother into Egypt (Matthew 2:13). Once Herod was wroth at the failure of the Magi to return, it was out of all question that the presentation should take place. Now a new difficulty occurs: after the presentation, the Holy Family returned into Galilee (Luke 2:39). Some think that this return was not immediate. Luke omits the incidents of the Magi, flight into Egypt, massacare of the Innocents, and return from Egypt, and takes up the story with the return of the Holy Family into Galilee. We prefer to interpret Luke's words as indicating a return to Galilee immediately after the presentation. The stay at Nazareth was very brief. Thereafter the Holy Family probably returned to abide in Bethlehem. Then the Magi came. It was "in the days of King Herod" (Matthew 2:1), i.e. before the year 4 B.C. (A.U.C. 750), the probable date of Herod's death at Jericho. For we know that Archelaus, Herod's son, succeeded as ethnarch to a part of his father's realm, and was deposed either in his ninth (Josephus, Bel. Jud., II, vii, 3) or tenth (Josephus, Antiq., XVII, xviii, 2) year of office during the consulship of Lepidus and Arruntius (Dion Cassis, lv, 27), i.e., A.D. 6. Moreover, the Magi came while King Herod was in Jerusalem (vv. 3, 7), not in Jericho, i.e., either the beginning of 4 B.C. or the end of 5 B.C. Lastly, it was probably a year, or a little more than a year, after the birth of Christ. Herod had found out from the Magi the time of the star's appearance. Taking this for the time of the Child's birth, he slew the male children of two years old and under in Bethlehem and its borders (v. 16). Some of the Fathers conclude from this ruthless slaughter that the Magi reached Jerusalem two years after the Nativity (St. Epiphanius, "Haer.", LI, 9; Juvencus, "Hist. Evang.", I, 259). Their conclusion has some degree of probability; yet the slaying of children two years old may possibly have been due to some other reason — for instance, a fear on Herod's part that the Magi had deceived him in the matter of the star's appearance or that the Magi had been deceived as to the conjunction of that appearance with the birth of the Child. Art and archeaology favour our view. Only one early monument represents the Child in the crib while the Magi adore; in others Jesus rests upon Mary's knees and is at times fairly well grown (see Cornely, "Introd. Special. in N.T.", p.203).

From Persia, whence the Magi are supposed to have come, to Jerusalem was a journey of between 1000 and 1200 miles. Such a distance may have taken any time between three and twelve months by camel. Besides the time of travel, there were probably many weeks of preparation. The Magi could scarcely have reached Jerusalem till a year or more had elapsed from the time of the apperance of the star. St. Augustine (De Consensu Evang., II, v, 17) thought the date of the Epiphany, the sixth of January, proved that the Magi reached Bethlehem thriteen days ofter the Nativity, i.e., after the twenty-fifth of December. His argument from liturgical dates was incorrect. Neither liturgical date is certainly the historical date. (For an explanation of the chronological difficulties, see Chronology, Biblical, Date of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.) In the fourth century the Churches of the Orient celebrated the sixth of January as the feast of Christ's Birth, the Adoration by the Magi, and Christ's Baptism, whereas, in the Occident, the Birth of Chirst was celebrated on the twenty-fifth of December. This latter date of the Nativity was introduced into the Church of Antioch during St. Chrysostom's time (P.G., XLIX, 351), and still later into the Churches of Jerusalem and Alexandria.

That the Magi thought a star led them on, is clear from the words (eidomen gar autou ton astera) which Matthew uses in 2:2. Was it really a star? Rationalists and rationalistic Protestants, in their efforts to escape the supernatural, have elaborated a number of hypotheses:

  • The word aster may mean a comet; the star of the Magi was a comet. But we have no record of any such comet.
  • The star may have been a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn (7 B.C.), or of Jupiter and Venus (6 B.C.).
  • The Magi may have seen a stella nova, a star which suddenly increases in magnitude and brilliancy and then fades away.

These theories all fail to explain how "the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was" (Matthew 2:9). The position of a fixed star in the heavens varies at most one degree each day. No fixed star could have so moved before the Magi as to lead them to Bethlehem; neither fixed star nor comet could have disappeared, and reappeared, and stood still. Only a miraculous phenomenon could have been the Star of Bethlehem. it was like the miraculous pillar of fire which stood in the camp by night during Israel's Exodus (Exodus 13:21), or to the "brightness of God" which shone round about the shepherds (Luke 2:9), or to "the light from heaven" which shone around about the stricken Saul (Acts 9:3).

The philosophy of the Magi, erroneous though it was, led them to the journey by which they were to find Christ. Magian astrology postulated a heavenly counterpart to complement man's earthly self and make up the complete human personality. His "double" (the fravashi of the Parsi) developed together with every good man until death united the two. The sudden appearance of a new and brilliant star suggested to the Magi the birth of an important person. They came to adore him — i.e., to acknowledge the Divinity of this newborn King (vv. 2, 8, 11). Some of the Fathers (St. Irenaeus, "Adv. Haer.", III, ix, 2; Progem. "in Num.", homil. xiii, 7) think the Magi saw in "his star" a fulfilment of the prophesy of Balaam: "A star shall rise out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel" (Numbers 24:17). But from the parallelism of the prophesy, the "Star" of Balaam is a great prince, not a heavenly body; it is not likely that, in virtue of this Messianic prophesy, the Magi would look forward to a very special star of the firmament as a sign of the Messias. It is likely, however, that the Magi were familiar with the great Messianic prophesies. Many Jews did not return from exile with Nehemias. When Christ was born, there was undoubtedly a Hebrew population in Babylon, and probably one in Persia. At any rate, the Hebrew tradition survived in Persia. Moreover, Virgil, Horace, Tacitus (Hist., V, xiii), and Suetonius (Vespas., iv) bear witness that, at the time of the birth of Christ, there was throughout the Roman Empire a general unrest and expectation of a Golden Age and a great deliverer. We may readily admit that the Magi were led by such hebraistic and gentile influences to look forward to a Messias who should soon come. But there must have been some special Divine revelation whereby they knew that "his star" meant the birth of a king, that this new-born king was very God, and that they should be led by "his star" to the place of the God-King's birth (St. Leo, Serm. xxxiv, "In Epiphan." IV, 3).

The advent of the Magi caused a great stir in Jerusalem; everybody, even King Herod, heard their quest (v. 3). Herod and his priests should have been gladdened at the news; they were saddened. It is a striking fact that the priests showed the Magi the way, but would not go that way themselves. The Magi now followed the star some six miles southward to Bethlehem, "and entering into the house [eis ten oikian], they found the child" (v. 11). There is no reason to suppose, with some of the Fathers (St. Aug., Serm. cc, "In Epiphan.", I, 2), that the Child was still in the stable. The Magi adored (prosekynesan) the Child as God, and offered Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The giving of gifts was in keeping with Oriental custom. The purpose of the gold is clear; the Child was poor. We do not know the purpose of the other gifts. The Magi probably meant no symbolism. The Fathers have found manifold and multiform symbolic meanings in the three gifts; it is not clear that any of these meanings are inspired (cf. Knabenbauer, "in Matth.", 1892).

We are certain that the Magi were told in sleep not to return to Herod and that "they went back another way into their country" (v. 12). This other way may have been a way to the Jordan such as to avoid Jerusalem and Jericho; or a roundabout way south through Beersheba, then east to the great highway (now the Mecca route) in the land of Moab and beyond the Dead Sea. It is said that after their return home, the Magi were baptized by St. Thomas and wrought much for the spread of the Faith in Christ. The story is traceable to an Arian writer of not earlier than the sixth century, whose work is printed, as "Opus imperfectum in Matthæum" among the writings of St. Chrysostom (P.G., LVI, 644). This author admits that he is drawing upon the apocryphal Book of Seth, and writes much about the Magi that is clearly legendary. The cathedral of Cologne contains what are claimed to be the remains of the Magi; these, it is said, were discovered in Persia, brought to Constantinople by St. Helena, transferred to Milan in the fifth century and to Cologne in 1163 (Acta SS., I, 323).

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.

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