During this Christmas season, I have had a request from a member of my church to make a tray landscape, using the Magi (Three Wise Men) figures in the composition of it.
In Christian tradition, the Magi or Kings from the East are a group of Kings who have visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of Gold, Myrrh and Frankincense to worship the Christ. They found Jesus by following "his star" known as the "Star of Bethlehem".
"Who is this coming up from the wilderness
Like palm-trees of smoke,
Perfumed with myrrh and frankincense,
From every powder of the merchant?" Old Testament
Although traditions identify several names for the Magi, for Western Christian Church their commonly known names are Melchior (Melchyor), Caspar (Gaspar) and Balthasar (Balthassar) (mentioned in an old Greek manuscript from Alexandria around 500 A.D).
The origins of myrrh and frankincense bear as gifts by The Three Kings are traced to the Arabian Peninsula, being mentioned in Herodotus scripts:
"Arabia is the only country which produces frankincense, myrrh, cassia and cinnamon" Herodotus 5th century BC
The Myrrh tree, Commiphora Myrrha, native to Arabian Peninsula is belonging to the Burseraceae family and is very used in incense, religious rituals (was considered "a magical herb"), embalming (it was mentioned in an Egyptian papyrus dated 2000 B.C.) , cosmetics and medicine .
Myrrh tree grows about 2-3 meters tall on arid, rocky soils being adapted to grow under desert conditions. Myrrh is low spreading with a canopy, with ashes- colored trunk and tri-foliate - oval in shape leaves, grown for the valuable oleo gum resin, with redish-brown color, bleeding from the stem (used for the holy oil) and to be burned in fumigators, purifying or religious rituals.
Frankincense is obtained from Boswellia Sacra, other tree native to Arabian region belonging to the Burseraceae family as the myrrh tree. The resin from the yellow aromatic sap was used long time ago as a incense in religious and funeral rituals, being mentioned in Christian writings.
Boswellia Sacra, known also as Boswellia Carterii, has stiff, low branches and clusters of small flowers.
Its bark has the texture of paper and can be removed easily, the frankincense being obtained from the aromatic gum resin extracted by making incisions on the bark (from the trunk and branches)
when the trees are about 8 to 10 years old.
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