Myrrh. Image public domain via Wikipedia.
Today is Epiphany; not Epithany, as the Daily Mail would insist (I’m not linking to their error as I don’t like to give them clicks!). It’s Twelfth Night, a Christian celebration of the wise men, magi or kings bringing their gifts to Jesus.
They didn’t gather around the manger as we often see in our children’s nativity plays, in fact Jesus was mostly likely two years old by the time these guys got here. There may have been three of them, but there could easily have been twelve, or more, or less. There is a general consensus that gifts were brought: the famous gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The symbolism of these gifts transcends specific religion. Gold is earthly goods, wealth and a sign of royalty; the perfect gift for the king of heaven on earth. Frankincense is used in many traditions as a purification incense, for cleansing and banishing negativity. It can be seen as a symbol of godliness and spiritual connection. Finally, the myrrh was both a medicine and a perfume; something rich and unusual, with numerous associations. The ancient Egyptians used the resin in embalming, so it could be argued that it is linked with the dead, completing a triad of symbols reflecting life’s journey: Earthly life, spiritual connection and death. However in the Middle East at the alleged time of Jesus’ birth, myrrh was used to anoint kings and high priests, so it is more likely that the myrrh was sent as an indication of the Magi’s knowledge of the youngster’s identity.
In the modern world, for Christians and more, Epiphany is the end of the festive season. Bam! It’s over people, back to work, take the decorations down and shove the tree back in the attic. It seems sad that even as Jesus was receiving precious metals, we are hiding our own shinies away. Still, there is the superstitious threat of bad luck should you fail to clear the Christmas clutter away, and that is more than enough for most people. Who wants to risk misfortune for the entirety of 2017? Much easier to take down the tinsel, even if we don’t really understand why we are doing it.
I’m not even going to rebel. I’m going to take my decorations down, but that’s because of my own little epiphany: I’m already getting ready for Imbolc. With presents still left to deliver to those friends and family I didn’t get to catch up with over the holidays, I am already planning ‘get-togethers’ around the start of February. I’m already delighting in the anticipation of snowdrops, and thinking of reviving the old Imbolc Chilli Cook Off, which was a standard at my old mentor’s house.
It’s great having a seasonal festival calendar, because putting the Christmas tree away just means your looking forward to the trees outside starting to bud. Boxing the baubles is making space for Brighid’s offerings. I’m taking down the beautifully written cards, but thinking of new words to share with my loved ones as spring takes its first, gasping breaths. It’s not here yet, nowhere near, but I can feel the tingle on the horizon of time. And I’m excited. That’s my epiphany. May you enjoy yours.