Misrule, Chinese Wise men, Magic Chalk, and the why the Shepherds were Sore Afraid
Last night was Twelfth Night, the last night of Christmas and the time of the Lord of Misrule one of the key nights for invoking the Horned God of Midwinter. After I finished up my writing, I went out into the cold, lit a solitary lantern and prayed Nigel Jackson’s “Rite of the Horns of Misrule” while stamping my feet to the meter of the poem. If you want a nice earthy jolt to counterbalance some of the astral work that many of you seem to be involved in, as well as a powerful shock to the thought system – its a fun time.
Today of course is the feast of the Epiphany, and important day for people interested in the magic and mystery traditions of Christianity. This year Epiphany takes on a whole new dimension with the publication of the first English Translation of “Revelation of the Magi”.
This 8th century vellum manuscript was tucked away in the Vatican Library for who knows how long until Brent Landau found it and translated it. Though the Syriac text he works from was dated to the 8th century, it is believed that it is a copy of a text from the 2nd century, making it contemporary with many Gnostic texts.
This book tells a very different tale of the Magi than the one you are used to. For one thing there were 12 of them. not just three. Its also says that they were not Persian Magi, but from the land of Shir which is identified with either far eastern India or China. They were called Magi because they prayed in Silence (like as in meditation). The star that they follow transforms into a child and tells each of them important messages relating to the universality of Christs work for all people, not just the Jews.
This brings does keep it in line with what Epiphany is all about, because apart from being the feast of the adoration of the Magi, it is the day that some celebrate the extension of Grace to the Gentiles.
One pretty cool Eiphany tradition is to bless your house by consecrating chalk and writing the year and the initials C+M+B above the door. Of course the CMB stand for Caspar Melchior and Balthazar but also has the meaning of “Christus Mansionem Benedictat” (Christ bless this home). It is normally done in a pattern that looks like this : 20 C+M+B 12
Some traditional Catholic Churches will bless chalk for this purpose during Mass, and some people suggest that it is this Epiphany Chalk that is called for in the 6th and 7th Books of Moses when drawing the Circle.
Its also a good day to enjoy a Three Wise Men cocktail:
1 part Scotch Whisky (recommend a blended Scotch for Coctails. Johnnie Walker Red or Black. Green, Gold and Blue should never be mixed with anything else.
1 part Tennessee Whiskey (e.g., Jack Daniels).
1 part Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey (e.g., Jim Beam White or Black Label).
Serve either neat or on the rocks, according to taste.
Three Wise Men go Hunting, which is the recipe above with the addition of Wild Turkey Bourbon.
Three Men and a Baby: recipe above, add milk. (YUCK!)
Ok, last thing. Today is the last day of Christmas Season and I wanted to share an insight that Tau Nemesius shared with me over dinner last week. Do you remember that speech from Luke about Christmas? You know, the one that Linus gives to Charlie Brown. It starts off:
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”…”
Ok, I have in the past spoken of the symbolism of God taking form in the meekest possible vessel, demonstrating that the kingdom of heaven is not something that is only available to a priestly elect or to great people who are able to earn it by deed. Most people focus on the imagery of Christ, and skip the bit about the shepards, but that bit is actually REALLY important and recvolutionary if you understand the importance of the Temple Theology at the time Christ was born.
It is not just that an angel of the lord appeared to them. That is not what made them sore afraid. It is that THE GLORY OF THE LORD shone about them.
This is not just a metaphor. The Glory of the Lord is the Shekhinah, describes as a cloud of light that fills the Tabernacle or Temple indicating Gods literal presence. Traditionally this would only manifest in the temple or to Kings and Prophets. The importance of the actual physical temple, and the lines of Priesthood in the Judaism of the time cannot be understated. To suggest that Shekhinah descended upon lowly shepherds in a field is an absolutely revolutionary statement. Talk about the Misrule tradition!
That the angel follows thus up with a statement that the tidings of joy are for “all people” is even more radical and strikes at the heart of what Christianity was for. It was not supposed to be about “being a Christian” as opposed to being anything else. Christ never quizzed people on their beliefs and more often then not, chose to spend time with people who had no strong religious conviction. It was about access to divinity for all people everywhere, a message that is echoed in the newly translated Revelation of the Magi.
No matter what religion you are, or what you celebrate, please take a moment today and contemplate how the authentic experience of reality as such is far beyond the ownership of any tradition. The truth is that you are not very far from it right now. In fact, you already possess it. It is not something you need to go out and attain. It is something you need to reveal by cutting through that which obscures it.