Saturday, January 5, 2008


My brother Don was born on January 6th, the feast of the Epiphany. This day Christians celebrate the coming of the Three Wise Men to Bethlehem. Even though he was anything but religious, Don always got a kick out of being born on the Day of Kings. Once I asked him how a guy born in Chicago on the Day of the Three Wise Guys couldn’t do more for me with his other “family” connections. (If he really had them, I know he would have!)

All kidding aside, this feast has always held huge personal importance to me on its own, never mind my brother’s birthday and the double entendre of epiphany as the term for a sudden synthesizing insight. On that meaning, this is the bridge to two posts on how to develop your intuition and insights. (I swear, there’s a clue why we were given two I’s/eyes.) But before we go there, let’s mine the metaphors in this incredible Christian feast, the culmination of the Christmas Season.

First, who were the Magi? If you haven’t already heard this rumor, I’m proud to share as a stargazer myself that they were astrologers. Magi is the plural of the word magus. defines magus as a magician, sorcerer, astrologer—or a Zoroastrian priest. In English, the term may refer to a shaman, sorcerer, or wizard; it is the origin of the words magic and magician.

One obvious case for the Magi as astrologers: they were following a star.

From a metaphorical perspective, I see the Star simply as the ultimate cosmic hint to look Up for guidance—to find the overriding love that saves us, cherishes us, and teaches us our interconnection. Jesus was both human and divine; so are we. The Star is the same spark of the divine that guides us to our intuitions and insights. No wonder I love the Bethlehem Star. It is my personal symbol of following Spirit wherever It leads me. It has taken me to some odd places at times.

I can imagine the Magi also wondered where on Earth this quest for the child was taking them. Their names were Balthazar, Caspar, and Melchior. They were three sages from the east who came bearing gifts for the infant Jesus. We all know the gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

There are more metaphors in the gifts. One of the best summaries I have heard comes from a website that sells
three gifts ornaments: Gold represents a gift fit for a king; frankincense is a symbol of Christ's divinity and His priestly role; myrrh, which was common in medicine and embalming, symbolized Jesus as the Great Physician and also his ultimate Passion. Translated a bit less religiously, our divine half is regal; it contains spiritual leadership, and the gift of healing—even resurrection. While the details may vary individually, this treasure awaits us when we follow the star to the birth of love within ourselves.

Epiphany is the 13th Day of Christmas. Again, because of a lot of calendar confusion and cultural differences, there are various ways the
12 days are counted. Most consider them to start on Christmas and end on January 5th, the twelfth day. The evening of January 5th is also known as the Twelfth Night—Epiphany Eve. The date of this post is so special; Shakespeare even wrote a play with the title, Twelfth Night. Ironically, it’s a comedy about mistaken identity.

I can’t think of anything more sychronistic! It proves Shakespeare was “tuned in.” The birth of Christ is about our “mistaken identity,” our lack of realization that we, too, are part of the divine family. Life is a divine comedy; we just don’t always get the joke. I read a great post by a teacher, describing Shakespeare’s probable reasons for naming his play:

In naming …Twelfth Night, Shakespeare probably wanted to summon up images of the Epiphany as it was kept in his own time: a period of holiday abandon in which the normal rules and order of life were suspended or else deliberately inverted, in which serious issues and events mingled in a confusing way with revelry and apparent madness.

Sounds just like a slice of modern life to me!

In my family, we leave up decorations until the Wise Men come on January 6th. Different cultures have varying traditions, including presents on Epiphany rather than Christmas or making a
King’s Cake.

Whatever your beliefs or resonance to Epiphany the feast, the other kind of epiphany is the stuff Hot Flashbacks and Cool Insights are made of-- a sudden, intuitive perception of, or insight into, the reality or essential meaning of something. If there is a Hot Flashbacks Holiday or Holy Day, it is Epiphany.

So, Happy Last of the Transition-to-Winter Holidays, Flashback Family. Now you know why one of my favorite songs ever is
Shining Star by Earth, Wind, and Fire. Follow your own Inner Star of Bethlehem. It’ll bring you epiphanies on all the other days of the year, too.


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