Happy Epiphany, 2018

Happy Epiphany, dear reader.

The sixth day of January has been associated with a variety of significant events in various Christian calendars – the original date of the Christ-child’s birth, the baptism of an adult Jesus by John the Baptist in the Jordan, the miracle of the water into wine during the marriage at Cana. But one event has won out into the modern calendars: the Adoration of the Magi. The coming of the Wise-Men, guided by a Star in the East, to honour the born and future King of the Jews, and present their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These figures, these foreign Magi who would eventually become known as the Three Kings, came to cohere and inspire a medieval cult that made the eventual resting place of their bones – the Cathedral of Saint Peter in Cologne – one of the major hubs of medieval pilgrimage. And so it is today that I am proud to announce, as both an author and as an editor of Revelore Press’ Folk Necromancy in Transmission series, that A Book of the Magi: Lore, Prayers, and Spellcraft of the Three Holy Kings is now available for pre-sale prior to its formal release on the third day of the third month of the year 2018.

This book explores the history of the Magi from their first literary appearance in the Gospel of Matthew to their earliest depictions in ritual art on sarcophaguses and the walls of catacombs, through to the translated bones of the Three Holy Kings making Cologne one of the most important pilgrimage sites in the medieval world. This popularity leads to the rise of early modern traditions of parades, ‘star-singing’, begging, and masking. A radical tension is explored between the Magi as both supporting and upending political power structures. On the one hand, they are foreign wise-men legitimising a central authority. Yet they are also powerful, often indigenous, Othered pre-Christian magicians destabilising that authority. This tension is especially apparent in the Three Kings’ influence and inspiration throughout colonisation of the so-called “New World”.

Having traced the history of their veneration and mythology, we have context to more fully explore and integrate their appearances in a variety of operations found throughout the grimoiric records of magical handbooks and folk ritual alike: works of travelling, of detection, of conjuration, of dominating supposed superiors, and many more. Along with these operations come a range of prayers and ritual historiolae (appeals to mythic actions or origins, often by imitation), fit for devotional meditation and operative sorcery alike.

These magical workings are further joined by new gifts from myself, which include recipes and operations from my own practice, as well as personal notes and instructions for blessing materia and constructing talismans. There is particular attention paid to ritual design as well as analysis, and on showing rather than merely telling how to pull useful components for developing personal relationships and magical practices from old texts and customs.

Overall, this book approaches the Magi not simply as a set of three more saints to venerate individually, but as a collective folk necromantic loci by which further relations with ancestral magicians of many creeds may cohere and manifest. It is by the light of a Star in the East, charting our way through darkness, that we may be supported in our travels and travails through life by those dead magicians who have come before us.

I write this on Epiphany’s Eve in the city of Cologne having journeyed here to pay homage to their relics tomorrow. I have been delighted not only to wander around the Cathedral housing the Three Kings’ precious crowned skulls prior to formal Epiphany celebrations, but also to find the house blessing associated with the Wise-Men – a chalked C + M + B formula – adorning many a neighourhood door. The Magi have formed a significant locus in my magical and spiritual practice for a good few years now, and continue to inspire me to explore new occult and theological terrain and perspectives. In recent weeks, as I have prepared for this pilgrimage, I have shared some thoughts on ceremonies leading up to Epiphany, and rites one might partake in to honour the Magi on their Feast. I have been delighted to see that other colleagues and friends have been sharing similarly.

And so today marks a celebration, but also an offering whose delivery has been the work of many hands. The research that has gone into my Book of the Magi has been informed by the work of many scholarly authors, but perhaps more immediately it has been the labour of my colleague and publisher Dr Jennifer Zahrt at Revelore Press, the incredibly talented hand and eye of my favourite living icon-painter, S. Aldarnay – who has contributed the inspiring portrait of the Magi that we have made a further gift available to early purchasers of this book – and the support and love of my family. Many, many other people deserve ample recognition and praise – which I have tried to provide in the Acknowledgements fronting A Book of the Magi. It is my hope that if you are one of those fellows reading this now, you already understand the assistance you have so kindly gifted me. Thank you.

It is my hope that this book prompts, arms, and (in at least some small fashion) inspires its readers to seek further engagement with the Three Holy Kings – to travel like pilgrims following a Star, to offer gifts to that which they celebrate as greater than them, and to continue to devote themselves to celebrating Light in Darkness, to rejoicing through their travails, and communing honestly, respectfully, and powerfully with their magician ancestors who came before them. It is far from a definitive work – rather, it hopefully speaks to the immediacy of magical and spiritual action, of setting foot upon the trail, and of continuing on the journey ahead. I hope it brings myself and others into closer communion with both our sorcerous forebears and our companions along the dusty way, and contributes to the treasury of magic that nourishes, fortifies, and illuminates.

And so, I wish you a blessed, happy and healthy Epiphany. If nothing else, I hope you find time to raise a glass to the Magi and to the Star! To the Infant! To the Mother, and to the Father!

Let The Kings Drink!

Alexander Cummins

Alexander Cummins

Dr Alexander Cummins is a consultant sorcerer, diviner, poet and trained historian of magic. His first book was The Starry Rubric: Seventeenth-century English Astrology and Magic (Hadean Press, 2012). He has written numerous articles for academic anthologies and occult publications alike: with topics ranging from grimoires, planetary magic, amulets, and, of course, folk necromancy. He co-hosts the podcast Radio Free Golgotha (www.radiofreegolgotha.com) and co-edits Revelore Press' Folk Necromancy in Transmission series. He and his essays, recordings, and consultancy booking arrangements can be found at www.alexandercummins.com. He also hosts a collection of free downloadable scans of early modern magical and medical treatises at grimoiresontape.tumblr.com
Alexander Cummins

Latest posts by Alexander Cummins (see all)