The gospel of Matthew tells us of three Kings from beyond regions the faithful who travelled from far away to give gifts to the Son of God. Many writers have pondered the mythical natures of these strangers from distant lands including such musings as whether the timing of their visit fits neatly into our nativity scene, if they followed a star or just interpreted them or the historical voracity of the killing of the innocents. I will leave such explorations to better historians than I.
My goal here is to explore the cultural narrative in such a way as to link the roles of these wizards with such equivalents individuals today, outsiders who could easily be excluded from a traditional Judaeo-Christian religious narrative. These magical gentiles hear the call of a God they do not know and journey to a faraway land to offer their gifts to the Christ.
I love the roles expressed in these three as magi. The Greek word magoi, often redefined as “wise men” is far better understood as Wizards! Yes a positive story of Wizards in the bible. As a role-player imagine my excitement to discover that the sorcerer is invited to the party in the birth narrative of Christ.
It got me thinking about who such wizards in our modern-day context might be and how their symbolism might play out.
When we think about wizards today it hard not to go straight to Harry Potter as the bearer of gold. Harry provides us with the very human story of the one who seeks the truth about his family and origins, the great mysterious trope of the orphan with great destiny searching for a place in a greater story. The Gold bearing wizard is seeking answers about their place in as a powerful king in a political or worldly sense. There is comfort in this image as each of us struggles to work out what gifts we have to offer in the face of our own human experiences of orphans in this world.
The next wizard I came to is Doctor Steven Strange, (I would have loved to included Doctor Who here but that might have been a personal indulgence) the journey of this mystic is one of breaching the boundary between earthy existence as that of the divine heavens. Doctor Strange, a Marvel Superhero, is a successful surgeon with all of earths powers at his fingertips when in an accident of personal hubris he loses it all and finds himself on a new journey of seeking meaning in the spiritual realms.
Finally, we find ourselves in the company of Freddie who is so many ways could be disqualified from being part of the messianic narrative. Like so many of my generation and those that followed on I have found the music of Freddie Mercury and the band Queen to be deeply spiritual in nature and yet the paradox is that the while occupying such a central place in modern music Freddie is such a marginal individual, he is queer, skinny, pasty, large toothed, he has no form that we might admire him and yet stirs within us a longing to break free from the inuendo to join in his rhapsody that insists that no matter what happens the show must go on. This transcendent gift can only be representative of the myrrh, an embalming oil said to help people pass from life into death and the afterlife, which creates for us a place of grace in the story no matter who we are or how others might judge us our gift is received by the Christ.
So there you have it, perhaps I’m going slightly mad but quite happy inserting Harry, Steven and Freddie into the roles of the modern magi. What do you think?
Any chance in 2020 that the Magi would not be a white dude?
Oh yes which witches would you like to place in the nativity?