(This is Part Two of ‘The Way of Three Mothers at Christmas’)
The word Magi is a Latinization of the plural of the Greek word magos (μαγος pl. μαγοι), itself from Old Persian maguŝ from the Avestan moγu. The term is a specific occupational title referring to the priestly caste of Zoroastrianism. As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars, and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time a highly regarded science. Their religious practices and use of astrological sciences caused derivatives of the term Magi to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic.*
Magic does exist. It exists at the edges of things, in curved angles and tiny corners.
You can see it in a fleeting spark and remember it for years.
I have to give my three mothers new names. Three mothers, three Magi.
In the Eastern church a variety of different names are given for the three, but in the West the names have been settled since the 8th century as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. These derive from an early 6th century Greek manuscript in Alexandria. The Latin text Collectanea et Flores continues the tradition of three kings and their names and gives additional details. This text is said to be from the 8th century, of Irish origin.
In the Eastern churches, Ethiopian Christianity, for instance, has Hor, Karsudan, and Basanater, while the Armenians have Kagpha, Badadakharida and Badadilma. One of these names is obviously Persian, although Caspar is also sometimes given as Gaspar or Jasper. One candidate for the origin of the name Caspar appears in the Acts of Thomas as Gondophares (AD 21 – c.AD 47), i.e., Gudapharasa (from which ‘Caspar’ might derive as corruption of ‘Gaspar’). This Gondophares declared independence from the Arsacids to become the first Indo-Parthian king and who was allegedly visited by Thomas the Apostle. Christian legend may have chosen Gondofarr simply because he was an eastern king living in the right time period.
In contrast, the Syrian Christians name the Magi Larvandad, Gushnasaph, and Hormisdas. These names have a far greater likelihood of being originally Persian, though that does not, of course, guarantee their authenticity.*
Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar. Hor (no), Karsudan (no – reminds me of the Kardashians), Basanter. Kagpha (dramatic!), Badadakharida (musical), Badadilma. Larvandad, Gusnasaph, Hormisdas.
That’s a lot to work with.
Which would you choose, for three new names for three mothers at Christmas, if you had to choose?
Names are important. This needs to be thought out.
(To read further click on Part Three here)