Posted by Cormac O'Dwyer on 1/4/2015 to Occult Weekly
Though the equality amongst all genders is of the utmost importance to us, it is no mistake that the title of this newsletter contains the word ‘men.’ The first documentation of Priesthood, or any leader of an organized religion comes from the Persian Civilization, where egalitarianism was not necessarily a priority. Freedom of religious belief at this time, however temporary it may have lasted, was permitted when the first men of magick emerged on the scene.
Ancient Persia in fact had many groups of people with diverging belief systems. The most prominent of these was the cult of Mithras. Mithras is depicted as a man slaying a bull, and the convictions associated with this religion were extremely masculine in nature. As a religion excluding everybody but male warriors, the cult of Mithras stressed physical strength and courage. Many of Persia’s emperors were members of this cult, and kept many wives and other concubines in their secret harems.
To portray the extent of this domination, these Persian emperors and other officials held ceremonies to produce eunuchs, who were directed to guard these large harems. Legend holds that the largest of these Harems was held by Xerxes I, who reigned from 486 to 465 B.C. Over time, the cult of Mithras spread westward into the Roman Civilization, where many soldiers partook in the religious customs as the cult’s values paralleled the mindset of these soldiers.
A much smaller group of individuals, though still very influential in ancient Persia’s web of meaning, were known as the Magi. This was a priestly clan, very spiritual in nature, were religious advisors as well as the first scribes and bookkeepers. It was a rarity for a member of the clan of Mithras to seek spiritual advice from the Magi as they already had their ‘priorities’ set , however it was commonplace for another citizen or traveler in Ancient Persia to request a hearing. It might have been a specific question pertaining to one’s life, or a question to which we all seek answers. Nonetheless, it was the Magi’s duty to set these individuals in a direction they thought best.
The Magi are best known for their role during Jesus Christ’s birth in St. Matthew’s Gospel. Three of these religious leaders, the ‘three wise men,’ travelled west from Persia to Bethlehem to witness Jesus’ birth and deliver him sacred gifts.
During the later years of the Persian Civilization, a branch of the Magi left their homeland and moved to Babylonia, seeking better living conditions. In Babylonia, these Magi made their living by telling fortunes and performing religious ‘wonders.’ Over time, these particular Magi became best associated with what we know in the English language as magic tricks, hence the derivation of the word. Please know as well that because the Persian Magi were also specialized as scribes, we are able to have knowledge of them through written records. This means that these were the first religious leaders of which we have concrete evidence, though it does not mean however, that the Magi or members of the cult of Mithras were the first human spiritual advisors.
Librarian and Senior Witch
Librarian and Senior Witch