Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Magi

The Magi (those mysterious figures from the East, about whom little is known) have long been the subject of stories and legends.
In early tradition, they came to be looked upon as kings, probably because of Psalm 72 (written for the coronation ceremony of one of David's successors): "The kings of Arabia and Sheba shall bring tribute; all kings shall pay him homage."
No one knows how many Magi there were. The three gifts have given rise to the number commonly used. Some medieval Eastern lista have as many as 12 Magi.
The Magi have been given various names. Those most commonly used go back to the sixth  century; Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. An unknown, writer a century or two later even provided a description:
            " Caspar, young and beardless and ruddy complexioned
.............Melchior, an old man with white hair and long beard,
.............Balthasar, black-skinned and heavily bearded,"
        This description has influenced artists ever since.

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