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Academic Areas => Articles => Magick Articles => Topic started by: Shant on June 23, 2005, 05:36:38 AM

Title: The Magi
Post by: Shant on June 23, 2005, 05:36:38 AM
As a student in the path of magic and after hearing different opinions about magicians and their acts, I found it important to understand the origin of this word and the history lay behind it. And thus I did some research in different articles on Internet and helpful books to bring forward this article. I am not a historian, but what I tried to do is to put together what I could find from my research, although there are many books which I couldn’t have because of the lack of such books in libraries here.

Note: The (*) sign next to some words refers to the Appendix section where I did refer to some websites for more information about some names.

The Magi

In ancient times, throughout the Middle East, the term ‘magi’ was not necessarily associated with a particular worship, but rather with a priestly occupation.

Magus is the singular for magi. Among the earliest writings concerning the magi are those of Herodotus (Greek historian, 485-425 BC). He cites them as one of the five social classes of the Medes.

The Old Persian form of the word rendered into Greek as magos is magu(s). In Greek mageia (mag-i'-ah: magic) is derived from mageuo (mag-yoo'-o: to practice magic) which is derived from magos (mag'-os: of foreign origin {Rab-Mag: Chief Magian} a Magian, i.e. Oriental scientist; by implication, a magician: sorcerer, wise man.) (These according to Strong's Greek dictionary). In Latin magia. It is quite possible that the Old Persian magu is an adjectival derivative from the word maga with a different suffix. In the Greek sources Zoroaster Spitama himself appears as a Magus and that he was claimed as such by the Magi who had emigrated outside Iran. But the western magi in the Persian Empire differ from the 'magavan' an adjective formed from the noun 'maga' which means 'riches' or ‘gift’ that we meet in the Gathas in the Zoroaster’s community. The difference is that the Magi claimed priestly functions throughout the Empire and in association with all cults, while Zoroaster's magavans derived their authority solely from what they considered to be a direct irruption of the divine in the person of Zoroaster. So 'maga' must have been a semi-technical term meaning God's 'gift' of the Good Religion to Zoroaster.

According to Porphyry* the word 'Magus' means 'one who is wise in the things of God and serves the divine', and there is plenty of evidence to support this view. The Magi were considered to be philosophers, they were the teachers of the Achaemenian kings, and they were the best of the Persians and strove to lead a holy life, and so on. The 'Magus', then, would be the man possessed of maga -the man who enjoys God's 'gift' or 'grace'; and he is in receipt of this 'gift' simply by virtue of belonging to the priestly caste.

Some relate the origin of the word Magic to the Sumerian or Turanian languages, saying that the English word magic is derived through the Latin, Greek, Assyrian from the Sumerian or Turanian word "imga" or "emga" ("deep", "profound").

The Hebrew term for magus was "Chartumin," while in Greek it was "Magos." The term "Magus" or "Magi" seems to have several meanings including wise men, magicians, and magians. Their antiquity is distinguished in both Egypt and Chaldea*. In Egypt they were said to possess secret learning and wisdom. Also in Egypt and Chaldea they were the sole seers and interrupters of sacred things in the past and future, but in Palestine they were never ranked with the prophets, unless among the idolatrous people. This would not mean that all were idolaters themselves, but some failed to express the orthodox views of the time. Some enhanced their eminent positions by displaying occult knowledge. They were considered sort of sacred scribes among the Jews, skilled in divination and the interpretation of certain scripture passages for hidden meanings.

Originally, the Latin noun magus (from the Greek magos) designated the members of the spiritualist-priest class, and later came to designate ‘clairvoyant, sorcerer’ and in a pejorative sense also ‘magician, trickster’. Thus the first meaning of the word ‘magic’ was the teachings of the Magi, i.e. the arts of acquiring supernatural powers and force, while later it was also applied disparagingly to fraudulent witchcraft.

Originally the title was ‘magoi’. This ritual function was usually, but not always, performed by Chaldeas.

In his treatise Aurora philosophorum, Paracelsus (c1493–c1541) wrote: “Many could not only understand the secret wisdom of the Magi, Chaldeans, Persians and Egyptians, but also exercise it for public and secret purposes, and it has been pursued till the present day”. Therefore proving that the Occident (Antiquated term for the Western World) was aware of both the theoretical approaches as well as the practice of magic skills.

And about differing between Magic and Sorcery Paracelsus wrote: "There are those who say that magic is sorcery: But magic is wisdom, and there is no wisdom in sorcery."

The Chaldeas are also called 'Kasdiym' in the Bible, meaning 'arpaxadiym' or descendants of Arpaxad, son of Shem, son of Noah. This is mentioned in the "Jewish Antiquities" by the first century historian Josephus in the chapter (1.6.4). And Abraham being an Arpaxadist it means that he began his traveling from a Chaldea 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 Chaldeas in the time of Peleg, after the sixth millennium flood. Obviously the title of 'mage' has been bestowed upon priests of different religions.

From the inscriptions which been left from Darius and his son Xerxes, both  Achaemenian kings in the West of the Persian Empire, we can have a clear idea of  what their religion was and its connection with the Zoroastrianism and we can  conclude the part played by the Magi in the development of Zoroastrianism.

Zoroastrians used four terms to define their religion:
1)Ahura-tkaesha, 'holding to the doctrine of Ahura or the ahuras'
2)Vidaeva, 'opposed to the daevas'
3)Zarathushtri, 'follower of Zoroaster'
4)Mazdayasni, 'worshipper of Mazdah'.

The last term became standardized as the official designation of the religion. The Achaemenian kings, from the time of Darius at least, were certainly ahura-tkaesha and mazdayasni, for they were worshippers of Ahura Mazdah "wise lord", and neither Darius nor Xerxes mentions any other god by name. Xerxes was certainly vidaeva, for he seems to have proscribed the cult of the daevas throughout the Empire. All that is in doubt, then, is whether they were also zarathushtri, confessed disciples of the Prophet Zoroaster.

Primitive Zoroastrianism differs very widely from the later 'catholic' variety, and the  change is so marked that we cannot help feeling that the Prophet's original teaching  was radically altered in order to fall more in line with the popular religion of the Iranian  masses by the pressure of the Achaemenian kings themselves. A proof that the official religion of the Persian Empire during the reign of Artaxerxes I (465-425 BC) was 'catholic' Zoroastrianism of the later Avesta* is that round about 441 BC, the calendar of the Persian Empire was reformed and that in this reformed calendar the months were named after the leading deities of 'catholic' Zoroastrianism.

During the reign of Xerxes, as Herodotus reports, Xerxes and the Magi performed acts which do not seem compatible with the practice of the Zoroastrian religion as commonly understood, who seem to have been fully in control of religious affairs, sacrificed white horses on the river Strymon and also offered sacrifice to the Winds, 'Thetis', and the 'Nereids'. Xerxes, like it is said, had lashed the Hellespont in a fit of pique, and scholars have thought that this was scarcely compatible with the reverence of the waters that is so typical of the Zoroastrians. Yet none of this is very surprising if our own account of the development of Zoroastrianism is at all correct. Zoroaster may have condemned animal sacrifice out of hand; on the other hand he may have condemned only a specific form of it. The Zoroastrian liturgy as preserved in the Yasna* included the sacrifice of a bull or cow and the ritual consumption of the Haoma juice, possibly replaced by wine in Western Iran. The performance of animal sacrifice, then, both by Xerxes and by the Magi, so far from being surprising, is precisely what one would expect. Similarly Xerxes' chastisement of the Hellespont, for Xerxes upbraids it as bitter water, we can learn from one of the later Zoroastrian texts that when the Destructive Spirit defiled the waters, he made them brackish. There is, then, no reason at all why Xerxes should not chastise a form of water that had been contaminated by the Devil. There is, then, nothing in Xerxes' behavior as reported by Herodotus that conflicts with the 'catholic' Zoroastrianism. In spirit Xerxes is further removed from Zoroaster than was his father Darius, but he seems to have consciously adhered to the later and admittedly distorted form of the Prophet's religion as interpreted to him by the Magi.

The acceptance of Zoroastrianism in the western half of the Persian Empire, its propagation, and its transformation into something quite unlike the Prophet's original message, seems to have been the work of the Magi who enjoyed a monopoly of religious affairs not only in their native Media but also in Persis and the whole western half of the Achaemenian Empire. But throughout antiquity the Magi were notorious for two things: they did not bury their dead, but exposed them to be devoured by vultures and wild animals, and they considered incestuous marriages to be exceptionally meritorious.

The spread of Zoroastrianism can largely be contributed to the conversion of King Vishtaspa ( arguably in 588 BC), most likely a king of Chorasmia (an area south of the Aral Sea in Central Asia), who enforced its beliefs throughout his land.  He was the first king to widely endorse the religion. Zoroaster’s preaching to King Vishtaspa was enhanced by miracles, especially the healing of a paralyzed horse that convinced the king to accept the new religion.

'The Magi,' says Herodotus, 'are a very peculiar race, different entirely from the Egyptian priests, and indeed from all other men whatsoever. The Egyptian priests make it a point of religion not to kill any live animals except those which they offer in sacrifice. The Magi, on the contrary, kill animals of all kinds with their own hands, excepting dogs and men. They even seem to take a delight in the employment, and kill, readily as they do other animals, ants and snakes, and such-like flying and creeping things. However, since this has always been their custom, let them keep to it.'

This custom of the Magi which Herodotus found so peculiar is, in fact, typical of later Zoroastrianism, particularly the Videvdat, and they are also typical of the latest stratum of the Avesta. It is, then, fair to conclude that it was the Magi who were responsible for the drawing up of the Videvdat, the 'law against the daevas'.

The Magi are alleged to have killed 'with their own hands' flying and creeping things, this extraordinary zest can be related to the supposition that they thought such creatures to be the handiwork of an evil power. It is they, then, who would be responsible for the division of creation into two mutually antagonistic halves -the creatures of the Holy Spirit on the one hand and the creatures of the Destructive Spirit on the other. Thus they can be regarded as the true authors of that rigid dualism that was to characterize the Zoroastrianism of a later period, but which is only implicit in the Gathas* of Zoroaster.

Diogenes Laertius (3rd c. AD) has drawn comparisons between the Indian gymnosophists and the  Celtic druids, thereby extending the scope of meaning of the word. According to Laertius magic was  created by Zoroaster (Zarathustra); later, Saint Isidor of Seville (c560–633) introduced the same  assumption among medieval thinkers. ). Isidor used the word combination 'magical art' in his  conclusions on prophecies, oracle methods and the invocation of the dead. Hugo of St. Victor (late  11th c. – 1411) has used the term as a general label for all prophetic and magical arts, and from then  on the scope of the term 'magic' came to coincide with the Latin term superstitio, or 'superstition'. At the same time the medieval (and later) magic-terminology originated in antiquity, when terms such as  necromancy, geomancy, hydromancy, necromancy, pyromancy, astrology, divination, incantation  (spell), auspices, augur (a priest prophesying God’s will from the behavior of birds), haruspex  (priests who based their predictions on the interpretation of animal entrails, etc.), mathematics,  horoscope, etc. were adopted into Christian literature through Augustine and Isidor of Seville. In case  some fields had to be isolated from others, the inspection of omens came to be referred to as  'observation', and the scientific-technical art of prediction – 'divination'. Only in the late Middle Ages*  were the ancient terms used by the scholars substituted by the popular names 'witch', 'soothsayer',  'fortune-teller', 'predictor from wax', 'seer', etc. The humanistic preoccupation with everything antique led to the borrowing of other antique terms or the derivation of analogous word forms.

In the beginning of this text I mentioned that Zoroaster was claimed as a Magus by the Magi who had emigrated outside Iran. This might be because at some stage the  Zoroastrian priesthood must have made contact with the Magi known to the West, and  the latter then adopted the name of 'Zoroastrian' and transformed Zoroaster himself  into a Magus, though they may have meant no more by that term than a 'holy man'.  That some of the Magi became profoundly influenced by Chaldean astrology in the course of their migration to the West, and that they were commonly accused of 'magic' (i.e. the art peculiar to a Magus) and sorcery, has little or nothing to do with the religious situation in Iran. It can be assumed that even the 'worshippers of the daevas' and the 'followers of the Lie' had Magi of their own, but their authority would not have been accepted by any Zoroastrian.

There are some Chaldean Oracles attributed to Zoroaster ("The Chaldean Oracles Attributed to Zoroaster" By William Wynn Wescott), these Oracles are considered to embody many of the principal features of Chaldean philosophy. They have come down to us through Greek translations and were held in the greatest esteem throughout antiquity, a sentiment which was shared alike by the early Christian Fathers and the later Platonists. The doctrines contained therein are attributed to Zoroaster through to which particular Zoroaster is not known; historians give notices of as many as six different individuals all bearing that name, which was probably the title of the Prince of the Magi, and a generic term.

William Wynn Wescott suggests that these Oracles should be studied in the light of the Kabalah and of Egyptian Theology. The Kabalah is susceptible of extraordinary interpretation with the aid of the Tarot, resuming as the latter does, the very roots of Egyptian Theology. In his work he shows diagrams that indicates the harmony and identity of the Chaldæan philosophy with the Hebrew Kabalah.

About the Chaldean Magi Wescott wrote: "It might be truly said that they "among dreams did first discriminate the truthful vision!" for they were certainly endowed with a far reaching perception both mental and spiritual; attentive to images, and fired with mystic fervors, they mere something more than mere theorists, but were also practical exemplars of the philosophy they taught. Life on the plains of Chaldea, with its mild nights and jeweled skies, tended to foster the interior unfoldment; in early life the disciples of the Magi learnt to resolve the Bonds of proscription and enter the immeasurable region. One Oracle assures us that, "The girders of the Soul, which give her; breathing, are easy to be unloosed," and elsewhere we read of the "Melody of the Ether" and of the "Lunar clashings," experiences which testify to the reality of their occult methods."

The Magi made themselves indispensable at any form of religious ceremony, whether Zoroastrian or otherwise. Their presence was necessary even to the rite described by Plutarch* in which an offering was made to Ahriman and which must therefore be regarded as a sacrifice performed by the worshippers of the daevas. It would be quite wrong to suppose that the Magi represented any kind of orthodoxy, for we sometimes find them officiating at sacrifices, and sometimes we are told that they execrate sacrifice as such or that they merely stand by while others offer sacrifice. They were a hereditary caste entrusted with the supervision of the national religion, whatever form it might take and in whatever part of the Empire it might be practiced. How they attained to this privileged position remains quite obscure, but there seems to be no doubt that their functions passed from father to son right up to the Muslim conquest and after.

About the Chaldean magi’s preserving the occult learning among their race Diodorus says: "They learn these things, not after the same fashion as the Greeks: for amongst the Chaldeans, philosophy is delivered by tradition in the family, the Son receiving it from his Father, being exempted from all other employment; and thus having their parents for their teachers, they learn all things fully and abundantly, believing more firmly what is communicated to them." (Diodorus, lib. I.)

Herodotus writes:

"To these gods the Persians offer sacrifice in the following manner: they raise no altar, light no fire, pour no libations..." then continues by writing:

"It is usual to have the turban encircled with a wreath, most commonly of myrtle. The sacrificer is not allowed to pray for blessings on him alone, but he prays for the welfare of the king, and of the whole Persian people, among whom he is of necessity included. He cuts the victim in pieces, and having boiled the flesh, he lays it out upon tenderest herbage that he can find, trefoil especially. When all is ready, one of the Magi comes forward and chants a theogony, for such the Persians allege the chant to be. It is not lawful to offer sacrifice unless there is a Magus present. After waiting a short time the sacrificer carries the flesh of the victim away with him, and makes whatever use of it he may please...."

"Thus much I can declare of the Persians with entire certainly, from my own actual knowledge. There is another custom which is spoken of with reserve, and not openly, concerning their dead. It is said that the body of a male Persian is never buried, until it has been torn either by a dog or a bird of prey. That the Magi have this custom is beyond a doubt, for they practice it without any concealment"

The sacrifice Herodotus describes above differs from any known Zoroastrian rite, for he explicitly states that they light no fire and pour no libations, whereas the Zoroastrian rite must, from the beginning, have been associated with the sacred fire, and libations have a vital part to play in the Avestan ritual. So that a Magus had to be present when offering a sacrifice shows either that all the Magi were not Zoroastrians or that, though Zoroastrians, they were quite happy to officiate at non-Zoroastrian ceremonies.

According to Herodotus the Magi were one of six Median tribes, though many other scholars prefer to see in them a caste. But we hear of Magi not only in Persia, Parthia, Bactria, Chorasmia, Aria, Media, and among the Sakas, but also in non- Iranian lands like Arabia, 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.

It does, however, seem fairly certain that it was the Magi who were responsible for introducing three new elements into Zoroastrianism -the exposure of the dead to be devoured by vultures and dogs, the practice of incestuous marriages, and the extension of the dualist view of the world to material things and particularly the animal kingdom.

According to one of the Pahlavi* books the fall of the Achaemenids resulted in a dearth of properly qualified religious teachers, and heresy of every kind was rife. This would account for the great variety of views attributed to the Magi by the Greek and Latin sources.

About the death of Zoroaster I found two concepts, one says that he died a normal death, and the other says that he has been assassinated, and 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.

About Zoroaster Dio Chrysostom wrote: "Of him the Persians relate that moved by love of wisdom and righteousness he separated himself from men and lived apart on a certain mountain, that fire subsequently fell form heaven and the whole mountain was kindled into flame. The king then with the most illustrious of the Persians approached wishing to offer prayer to the god. And Zoroaster came forth from the fire unharmed, and gently bade them be of good courage and offer certain sacrifices, since it was the divine sanctuary to which the king had come." (Oration XXXVI 39-60).

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.)"

Several Greek philosophers (Goldammer 1980: 632) such as Empedocles (5th c. BC), Democritus of Abdera (5th–4th c. BC), Pythagoras of Samos (6th c. BC) and Protagoras of Abdera (5th c. BC) were probably familiar with the teachings of the Persian Magi, and according to Aristotle (4th c. BC) the approach was merely an attempt to explain existence through a higher principle. The Magi were acknowledged as true authorities by the Neo-Platonist* of late antiquity. Iamblichus (c275–c330 AD) attempted to "explicitly and accurately pass on the established dogmas of the Assyrians" i.e. their teachings, while Philo Judaeus (c25 BC–50 AD) has characterized it as "the science of observing", "which attempts to explain the creation of nature through comprehensible explanations."

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 son of Joseph, who was made their chief in Egypt, as Genesis states. So the Magi were Ephraimites.

When the Medes stormed Babylon, as related in the Book of Daniel, they incorporated the Bel worshipping Ephraimite Chaldeas into their culture. These Chaldeas became Zoroastrian magi, and thus the Israelites became associated with Zoroastrianism. Martin Haug writes in 'The Sacred Language, Writings, and Religions of the Parsis' (p. 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 contradicted 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 Kabalah suggests that they were Israelites, descendants of the Ephraimite G'KIM.

The religion of the Ancient Egyptians was inseparably intermingled with magic. The Egyptian religion, alike the early Mesopotamian religion, was streaming directly from Shamanism, and therefore had more close contact with its gods. One of the strongest characteristics of the Egyptian magic and religion was the use of the "words of power." The old Egyptians believed that every thing, men and gods included, had its "true name," and if a magician knew that name he could control the entity that bears it. These names were usually in a foreign jargon, meaningless to the operator, and hard to pronounce. The failure of such operations was usually ascribed to the mispronunciation of those names. Egyptians had particular love for amulets and talismans, and alike the surrounding nations, extensively used wax figures for spell casting, and enchanting objects at distance. Usually they would ascribe the actions taken during the casting of the spell to some deity, depending on the task, so that the punishment, in case of failure, does not fail on the operator.

The social strata (or "cast") of the priests, who were the only magicians, was kept much closed from outsiders. Only in the latter days could foreigners receive initiation, and even then very rarely and under terrible oaths of secrecy. The priests considered themselves to be the "guardians of the relics of the former wisdom of nature" (Shepard, 287), in which definition we can recognize echoes of the primeval Shamanism.

With Judaism the polytheistic eon is starting its downfall and the monotheistic eon is arising. There were attempts at creating monotheistic religion already in the Ancient Egypt with the pharaoh Akhenaton who proclaimed the sun-god of Lower Egypt, Aton, as the supreme and only God.

Hebrew Magic was probably a derivative of the Egyptian Magic, as Hebrew Alphabet is simplification of the Egyptian hieroglyphs. We find a lot of information about Moses, and his Egyptian connection in the Bible. Moses was arguably the greatest Hebrew magician, but he was very different from the usual conception of a magician. He did not acquire his power by studying, training or instruction, but directly by revelation from God.

The Magic of the classical world was formed under the influence of many factors including the preceding cultures and their own traditions. Greek magic was formed under the influence of the Hebrew magic, Egyptian magic, Greece's own Pantheon, and the teachings of the Pythagorean and Platonist philosophy schools. By spreading of magic in Greece the Magi were responsible of establishing the original secret societies of the west, and the teachings inspired Orpheus* to form the first of the organized "hermetic" societies. Roman magic, alike Roman religion, is mainly a copy of the Greek one, but it was also influenced by their surrounding cultures. Romans inherited the great Greek pantheon, with all the legends and myths, but they also inherited the myths and the customs of the neighboring Etrurian culture, which is still a great deal unknown. When Romans grew into a powerful civilization they assimilated the Etrurians and they stopped to exist as a separate entity. The Romans accepted many customs from the Etrurians, one of the most important one being the telling the future from the liver of a sacrificial animal or by the flight of birds. Rome was also a place where believes from north like those of the Celts and the Germans, and from south like those of the Hebrews and the Persians, met and mixed. All this, even before the coming of Christianity, produced one very mixed and diverse environment which was very fertile for the development of magic and magicians.

'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 'Chaldeas', and were associated with both white and black magic.

This brings us to the 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 Chaldeas. He believes them to be descendants of Arpaxad through Shem, son of Noah, and descendants of Cain through Ham's wife, explaining that "...Ham, then, was not a son of Noah, but was of the royal succession of Cain."

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. Sir Laurence Gardner wrote in his book "Genesis of the Grail Kings":

"Not long after the reign of Anedjib (in about 2890 BC) a new dynasty emerged in Egypt and with this family the heritage of Nimrod was cemented very firmly into place. We are left in no doubt of this, because it was King Raneb, the second pharaoh of the dynasty, who first introduced the veneration of the 'Goat of Mendes' into Egypt. This is especially relevant because in both the Grail and Dragon traditions (which are fundamentally one and the same), the Goat of Mendes has always been directly associated with Nimrod's grandfather Ham... In accordance with the Dragon Court tradition, Ham was the designated Archon of the Tenth Age of Capricorn and in this regard his symbol was an inverted pentagram..."

"…The alchemical secrets were held securely within that family, and marriage to the descendants of Seth was forbidden in order to keep the blood line of Lilithian Malkhut (kingship) as pure as possible..."

Throughout magian history the Satanists have been an unwelcome footnote, but a history of magianism is not complete without a recognition of their existence.

Since the establishing of Christianity until the revival of magic in the XIX century magic and magicians were fiercely prosecuted, so in this period we can notice the development of the magical thought mainly through the magical workbooks called "Grimoires." The word "Grimoir" has the same root as the word "grammar," and it refers to a set of rules for doing something. This kind of magical compendious became very popular especially in the later Middle Ages, but they were known since Egyptian and Babylonian times. The difference between the ancient Grimoires and the Medieval ones is that the ancient ones are written by learned people devoted to the study of magic for purposes of spiritual enlightenment and wisdom. The medieval ones were mostly random collage of bits collected from various manuscripts, often not on the same topic, with the sole purpose of achieving material wealth or getting the love of women.

The development of the western notion 'magic' led to far-reaching conclusions in the demonological and cosmological discussion of the Neo-Platonist. Their approach was based on the theory of a  hierarchically organized cosmos, where according to Plotinus (c205–c270 AD) a substance (mind,  intellect) was formed as the result of timeless and infinite radiation (emanation) based on the supreme  principle; this in its turn gave rise to a psychic substance, which formed the foundation of the  material world. Later on, these different stages of emanation came to be considered as certain forces, which under the influence of angelic and demoniac beliefs during late antiquity were personified as humans. The hierarchical cosmos of Iamblichus merely proves the validity of this process. In his work the Neo-Platonism cosmology has found an outlet through the syncretism characteristic of the late antiquity and in the spirit of Greco-Oriental polytheism, which is supported by the elements of the Pythagorean mathematical ratios and completed with a dimension of magic. "Superior" emanations are brought closer to “inferior” ones by certain intermediary creatures. The higher the position of the intermediaries, the more they resemble gods and demons; the lower they are, the closer they stand to the psychic-spiritual aspect. The aforementioned group of intermediaries has been arranged in order of succession (serai) on the basis of cosmic gravity.  Proclus (c410–485 AD) has described the system discussed above in greater detail: in the hierarchical "chains" of cosmic elements the power and nature of a certain star god affects everything inferior, and with increasing distance the influence gradually becomes weaker. During its historical development, the Neoplatonic cosmological theology and related criticism affected the formation of modern natural history. Lastly, we owe the preparation of today’s concepts of nature to this legacy and the following discussions. At the same time this doctrine, with its fantastical demonological constructions, brought about a misinterpretation which threw the whole of Europe into the chaos of a witch-hunt.

Many approaches and processes associate the following events, which took place in early modern times, with the theological - cosmological tendencies of late antiquity: the formation of Christian demonology and theory of superstition, medieval debates about the acceptance of natural magic (magia naturalis), the Arabian sources on the natural philosophy of the antiquity with elaboration, and the reception of Neo-platonic natural theology during the Renaissance*.

The discussion and critique of magic-astrological causality was revived in Renaissance philosophy, particularly in Florentine Platonism. The Humanists approached the Platonic ideas from the perspective of the legacy of late antiquity, and were therefore first introduced to the Neoplatonic form of the doctrine. In becoming aware of the Neoplatonic philosophical dogmas, the Humanists also had to deal with magic-astrological cosmology. The idea of astrological causality played an important role  even in the Middle Ages, but the concept of absolute astrological predestination had lost its earlier  consequence, at least until the belief in the divine supremacy superior of the stars prevailed (astra  regunt homines, sed regit astra deus, ‘the stars rule over man, but God rules over the stars’). The idea of the irresistible magical- astrological causality exerted an influence on the Renaissance treatment of nature practically until the 17th century.

The Christian magic critique regarded magic as one of the sins violating against the First Commandment, and backed its criticism with rules against witches in the Old Testament, the early Christian apologetic* literature and the previous rulings of the church council. In addition to the aforementioned explanations the Christians also employed natural scientific and rationalist arguments, whereas these were often used side by side with the aim of attributing the subordination of nature to the omnipotent will of God; these arguments were supported by Maximus of Turin (born c420), Abogardus of Lyon (799–849) or Hrabanus Maurus (780–856).

The Church sees magic as a "corruption of religion" as it appears in these lines from The Catholic Encyclopedia: "In a restricted sense magic is understood to be an interference with the usual course of physical nature by apparently inadequate means (recitation of formularies, gestures, mixing of incongruous elements, and other mysterious actions), the knowledge of which is obtained through secret communication with the force underlying the universe (God, the Devil, the soul of the world, etc.); it is the attempt to work miracles not by the power of God, gratuitously communicated to man, but by the use of hidden forces beyond man's control. Its advocates, despairing to move the Deity by supplication, seek the desired result by evoking powers ordinarily reserved to the Deity. It is a corruption of religion, not a preliminary stage of it as Rationalists maintain, and it appears as an accompaniment of decadent rather than of rising civilization. There is nothing to show that in Babylon, Greece, and Rome the use of magic decreased as these nations progressed; on the contrary, it increased as they declined. It is not true that "religion is the despair of magic"; in reality, magic is but a disease of religion.

Catholic theology defines magic as the art of performing actions beyond the power of man with the aid of powers other than the Divine, and condemns it and any attempt at it as a grievous sin against the virtue of religion, because all magical performances, if undertaken seriously, are based on the expectation of interference by demons or lost souls. Even if undertaken out of curiosity the performance of a magical ceremony is sinful as it either proves a lack of faith or is a vain superstition. The Catholic Church admits in principle the possibility of interference in the course of nature by spirits other than God, whether good or evil, but never without God's permission. As to the frequency of such interference especially by malignant agencies at the request of man, she observes the utmost reserve."

In the Middle Ages it was important to distinguish between philosophical-natural scientific magic and demonic witchcraft. During the period following the Middle Ages this was repeatedly emphasized. Albertus Magnus (c1200–c1280) drew a distinction between magicians, diviners (auspices, divinatores) and conjurers (necromantic, incantatores), and saw magic as a science about the natural cause of things. William of Auvergne (c1180–c1249) compared magia naturalis with medicine, as this type of magic was often used for healing purposes. Roger Bacon (c1120– after 1292) claimed magic to be deceitful and illusory, but was forced to accept that it possessed a certain veracity. Yet the tradition of speculative magic remained. Complemented with various cabalistic elements in the post- medieval period, it was an attempt to search for God’s manifestations in nature and connect these exclusively with the learned elite. Among the authors of speculative magic we might mention Valentin Wiegel (1533–1588), Robert Fludd (1574–1637), Johann Valentin Andreas (1586–1654) and a number of Rosicrucians. With its demonological treatment of magic, the magic connected to the devil pact (magia demoniaca) gained more and more public attention due to the discussion of the witch trials. Jean Bodin (1529 or 1530–1596), Antonio Martínez Delrío (1551–1608) and Benedictus Carpzov (1595–1666) considered the idea of signing the pact with the Devil to be realistic, while Johannes Weier (1515–1588), Balthasar Bekker (1634–1694) and Christian Thomasius (1655 -1728) took a stand against the idea. The 18th century finally put an end to the academic theological-philosophical and legal debates over witchcraft and the nature of witches, thereby terminating the persecution of witches. Nevertheless, speculative magic played a certain role in the development of contemporary natural science. The substitution of the concept of astrologically predestined nature with the concept of mathematical-physical causality led to the disposal of the (both astrological and demonological) teaching that speculated with magic powers.

As the termination of the witch-hunt put an end to the fear of the practice of magic, the 18th century saw the publication of series of occult literature; numerous first prints and reprints of the ancient occult texts were issued.

The revival of magic is usually taken to begin in 1855-1856 with the printing of the Eliphas Levi's books "The Dogma of the High Magic" and "The Ritual of the High Magic." This is the time when the glory of the period of rationalism is passing and people are starting to be disappointed by the rigidness of the rationalistic view of the world.

The end of XIX century is also marked by the creation and destruction of the "Golden Dawn," the most influential magical order in Europe. The original order lasted for less than twenty years, but its successor orders are active even today. But with the new wave of magical thought, the magic itself is understood (by the majority, at least) to have different goals than before. The trends in the modern magic are to shape magic as a form of spiritual path, as a method for accelerated evolution. Discovering treasures, and winning love and favor, are now left to the dilettantes.

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 only Matthew’s Gospel in the Bible that mentions the Magi and the star in its account of Jesus' birth.

Matthew 2:1 - "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem."

Matthew 2:7 – "Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared."

Matthew 2:16 – "Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men."

We can notice some points in these lines. Nowhere it is mentioned the word 'kings', and there are no names mentioned of these wise men and nor their nationality or their mode of transportation. We can notice also that there is no mentioning of any stable or any indication that Jesus was a new born baby when the wise men arrived. In Matthew 2:11 we can read the word "house" not a stable, and a young child, not simply a child:

Matthew 2:11 -"And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh."

The Catholic Encyclopedia explains that the Magi that visited Jesus were neither kings nor magicians. "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. These Magians can have been none other than members of the priestly caste. 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."

There is also no certain thing about the number of the Magi, Some say they were three Magi; they are very likely influenced by the number of gifts. Some say 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.

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 Syrians have Larvandad, Hormisdas, Gushnasaph, etc.; the Armenians, Kagba, Badadilma, etc.

Gaspar, Melchior, and Baltasar are from the western tradition, these names were first used by Origen (d. 254) and become popular from the 6th Century. In a mosaic in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, dating from AD 550, Balthasar is middle aged with a black beard, Gaspar is old and has a white beard and Melchoir is young and beardless. By the 9th Century the tradition was firmly established that they represent 3 races. Balthasar was Asian, Gaspar a white European and Melchoir was African and therefore black.

They did not popularly become 'Kings' until the 10th Century when painters started to depict them as such. However the 'Kings' idea flourished in various parts of the world as early as AD 250 – Tertullian* in Africa certainly called them such.

According to the translation of Marco Polo’s classic “The Travels” by Ronald Latham the three Magi that visited Christ set out from a city called Saveh in Persia, and were buried there in three sepulchers of great size and beauty. These Magi were three kings, "and took with them three offerings -gold, frankincense, and myrrh - so as to discover whether this prophet was a god, or an earthly king or a healer. For they said: 'If he takes gold, he is an earthly king; if frankincense, a god; if myrrh, a healer.' "

Then the story goes about what happened in their meeting with Christ, and in the end he tells that "one of the three Magi came from Saveh, one from Hawah, and the third from Kashan."

Through what we have seen in the first part of this article, the magi were responsible of priestly activities so they were close to the ruler family, and they were employed by them in things concerning the king’s future plans, so they were interested in astrology, calendars, medicine, religion, alchemy and many other subjects. It was thought at that time, that what was observed in the sky was reflected in the events upon the earth (like above so below) so the Magi had interest in observing the night sky believing that it will give insight about what is happening or going to happen on earth. And this fits better as a description to the kind of Magi mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel.

Some Bible translators such as the New English Bible or its new version, the Revised English Bible, translate 'Magi' as 'astrologer'. But this can’t be a correct translation because the Magi were not only interested in astrology, and next to that astrology uses observation to find meanings to fixed ideas, but the Magi observed the sky, the planets and stars before having these fixed ideas, actually they were working on it. The Magi were not astrologers or astronomers but they were men seeking wisdom or "wise men".

There is also the idea that the Magi were not necessarily to be men, there might be woman in them too. That is why in a new short prayer book, the Church of England has decided to refer to them as "magi", because it says the Bible is "silent" on whether they were men or women.

Also I found that the Biblical Research Institute says that the Magi were Buddhists came from "afar" seeking for new Dalai Lama (the name means "oceans of [divine] wisdom").

There is no record in Zoroastrian literature of the magi who visited Christ.
David Livingstone, in 'The Dying God' has said, "The dying god was a deity revered throughout the ancient Near East, and whose death and resurrection were 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, Neo-Platonism, 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.

Here I will finish this article. I would like to thank Prophecy for reviewing the article and for his comments. Hope this article could give some light on the Magi, and I am sure there is still much more to be said.

Thank you.

-Apologetics: (
-Avesta: A collection of holy texts of Zoroastrianism which gradually been written, and before that it had remarkable success in being accurately transmitted orally.
-Chaldea: (
-Ephraim: (
-Essene: An ancient term of the sect of Judaism which birthed, raised and then followed the Master - Yeshua (Essene Jesus). Noted for their vegetarianism, communal living and healing art practices. (
-Gathas: Are largely considered part of Avesta said to be written by Zoroaster (Zarathustra) himself. Gathas describe mainly the unceasing conflict of good and evil in the world in the 17 hymns. Till today the Gathas are being used as mantras for meditation and magic.
-Manichaeans: (
-Middle Ages (476 fall of Rome – 1455 fall of Constantinople): (
-Mithra: (
-Neo-Platonism: (
-Orpheus: (
-Pahlavi: (
-Plutarch: (
-Porphyry: (
-Renaissance (14th c – 16th c): (
-Tertullian: (
-Yasna: Avesta has been generally divided into 4 parts; Yasna, Khorda Avesta, Visperad, Vendidad.

-Magi: Religion of Achaemenians (
-The Magi – A short History (
-Magi in Catholic Encyclopedia (
-Biblical Research Institute: (
-The Nativity Pages: (
-Parts from the “Genesis of the Grail Kings” by Sir Laurence Gardner: (
-Antiquities of the Jews by Flavius Josephus
-The Bible (King James Version)
-Strong’s Greek dictionary: (
-The History of Western magic: Some Considerations (
-The Chaldean Oracles Attributed to Zoroaster (William Wynn Wescott): (
-History of Western Magick by Borce Gjorgjievski: (
-Occult Art – Occultism (The Catholic Encyclopedia): (
-The Chaldean Magi according to ancient sources: (
-Zarathustra, The Persian Prophet: (
Title: The Magi
Post by: ChezNips on June 23, 2005, 01:49:59 PM
Im quite impressed by the sheer amount of research you put forth and the volumn of the article.  I learned quite a bit.  Thankyou for your time and research to help enlighten the rest of us.
Title: The Magi
Post by: Trillis on June 23, 2005, 03:45:14 PM
We need more articles like this. This is what I love to see at veritas. Not advanced nor beginner, but on the boundry of perfection  :P
Title: The Magi
Post by: beehe on June 23, 2005, 04:29:51 PM
This is a great artical. You have taken a great amount of time to make this. I say he deserves a cow when Crowly finishs reading this.

See most people never exspect the magi to be anything more then astrologers but they are very wrong and I wish that the church would exsept it..... :P

And for your effort scince i get to keep the elephants

paraide for thee......
Title: The Magi
Post by: Adept on June 23, 2005, 07:22:23 PM
Nice job shant. Iv always liked the way you post, but this, this is phenominal! And Im not even DONE Yet!  :heart:

*does the cha cha* :elephant:
Title: The Magi
Post by: Fireblade on June 24, 2005, 05:05:27 PM
Great work
I don`t understand how I could have missed so much when I studied this
you filled most of my blank spotts
keep at it
Title: The Magi
Post by: Shant on June 25, 2005, 03:55:41 PM
I am glad this article was informative. I enjoyed much my research, it cleared for me many things, like the approach of the Church toward magicians and the changes in that approach through time, the approach of other religions like Islamic, and was surprised to see all these well known philosophers studied magic and its philosophy, the passing of magicians through the world and through history, Zoroastrianism, and I was surprised from Les Gosling’s writings, and many other things.

Hope anyone that thinks that magic is evil or superstitious will find in this article some answers and proves that magic with such historical background and still being practiced today, with such deep philosophy where all those studied men came to read and use that philosophy for some needs,  can’t be nonsense, but it really can be said that it is “the first and last religion”, it is not serving any particular God or religion but through history magicians are trying to explain and transfer the messages of goddess, God, devils, angels and nature, or whatever the progress of understanding and knowledge allowed them, in a search for the truth.
Title: Re: The Magi
Post by: sargon on September 26, 2005, 02:16:10 PM
It was a very informative article, thanks for posting.