The Tale of Mazadân

(from “Seer: A Wizard’s Journal by Jef Murray)

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After the meal, the revelers gathered around the blazing hearth to enjoy the pleasure of new friendships and the renewal of old ones. They were basking in the light of the Yule log and in the warmth of brandy after the Christmas Eve feast when some called for a Christmas tale. Brother Aran, who was by far the most versed among them in ancient songs and lore, was closely pressed, and after some coaxing, he agreed to entertain them.

“Let me think,” he said. “I’ve heard so many wondrous tales over the years, as have others among us.” Here he paused and glanced up at Father Hildebrandt. “But here’s one I’ve rarely shared, and I daresay very few of you are likely to have heard it before, at least the full tale.”

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“You’ve all encountered the story of the Fourth Wise Man, have you not?” he asked. Many of them nodded in assent. “Well, in that tale, there was a fourth king who sought to attend the nativity of Christ, but who lost his way and instead spent his fortune on those in need whom he encountered on his journey. And in that way, he came to know Christ in the poor, even though he never saw the child Jesus with his own eyes. But, here’s a more ancient tale, one that has been told in various forms from the earliest days of Christianity.

“It seems that there were four wise men: Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia, and Gaspar of India are the three best known to us. But the fourth was named Mazadân, and he came from the British Isles. He was a Druid and, like the others, he had watched the stars and had seen that some great movement of God’s grace was in play. Mazadân was of an ancient race, and some say he had Faërie blood flowing in his veins. He had lived for many lives of men without aging at all; and in his lengthening years, he learned much about the nature of man and about his foibles and weaknesses.

“It was in the autumn of the year that he first observed the star in the east. And the leaves were blazing gold and crimson in the highlands when Mazadân began his long trek through the forests of northern Europe seeking passage to the land of Judea.

“Because Mazadân was a hermit and a prophet, he ruled no lands and had no treasure to bring the Christ child. But he rendezvoused with the other Magi before they sought audience with King Herod. And, being subtle and wise in the ways of men, Mazadân tarried at the court of Herod after the other Magi had departed: long enough to see clearly the king’s duplicity. That is, despite Herod’s outward show of wishing to pay homage to the child himself, he in fact sought him so that this new threat to his sovereignty might be removed speedily and ruthlessly.

“Armed with this knowledge, Mazadân removed from Herod’s court and followed in the footsteps of the other Magi, arriving at Bethlehem several nights after the three kings had departed. And when he arrived, he prostrated himself before Mary and Joseph and told them that God had sent him to guard and protect the child. And he warned them about Herod.

“So it came to pass that Mazadân helped the Holy Family to escape from Judea into Egypt and to avoid the slaughter of the Innocents that Herod brought down upon all of the young children of his realm. And Mazadân became as a cherished uncle to Jesus, and later, a cousin.

“For Mazadân, despite his many years, had always the appearance of a man in his late youth or early middle age. And, as Jesus grew to manhood, Mazadân remained just as he had been, so that when Christ took up His ministry, Mazadân even appeared to be the younger of the two. By that time, he had taken unto himself all the habits and rituals of the Jews, and so was accepted among Jesus’ kin as one of their own. And even as Jesus gathered His apostles, Mazadân became one of them, appearing the youngest but being, in fact, the eldest of them all. And he took the name of John and because he had been known and loved by Christ for all of the Savior’s days, he was called by Jesus “the beloved.”

“Much of what we know about the apostle John comes from his own gospel. It was always the most prophetic and the richest of the four gospels, even as Mazadân was far wiser and could see farther into the future than the other followers of Christ; except perhaps for Paul, whom Mazadân also came to love. But Paul came later, after the Crucifixion and the Resurrection. And it was not in vain that Christ placed the care of His own mother into the hands of Mazadân at the foot of the cross. He knew that Mazadân would protect and honour Mary, even as he had been His own guardian ever since His infancy.

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“We know of Mazadân’s writing of the Gospel of St. John, but he would not call himself by that name, nor by his true name, even in his own book. Rather, he refers to himself simply as “the beloved disciple.” Historians also tell us that it was a different John who wrote the book of the Apocalypse, but it was not so. Mazadân was John of Patmos just as he was John the Apostle. And he wrote that second book as a result of his own revelations from God after the Assumption of Mary; because by then, and as a result of his long years in the company of our Lord and of the Blessed Virgin, he had grown in spiritual stature and in favor with God, and his prophetic vision was keen.

“But what became of Mazadân after writing his Revelation? Here the thread of his tale gets tangled, because this was the time of the weakening and collapse of the Roman Empire and of the long darkness of the ages that followed it. Medieval myth puts Mazadân back in the British Isles during the time of the historic King Arthur, and in some cases he is said to have been a member of Arthur’s Round Table. Other tales make him out to have been the knight Parcival, or Ambrosius Aurelianus, or even the great hero of the north, Sigurd, who slew the dragon Fafnir. Still others claim that Mazadân became an itinerant priest and wanderer through the bitter lands and ages that led up to the plague years … the “Wandering Jew” named Cartophilus who is to bear witness to Christ unto the final days of this earth.

“But nowhere is Mazadân’s death ever recorded, nor is there any suggestion that Christ’s words to St. Peter in Chapter 21 of St. John’s Gospel referenced anyone other than Mazadân. The passage reads thus:

“So Peter, seeing him, said to Jesus, ‘Lord, and what is to become of this man?’

“Jesus said to him, ‘If I wish for him to remain until I return, what is that to you? Follow Me!’”

Brother Aran ceased speaking. There was a long silence in the room as the listeners pondered his tale.

“So, does this mean,” asked Charles, “that Mazadân could still be alive, living among us even today?”

“So it would seem,” said Brother Aran, leaning back in his chair.

“But if he never ages, he could be anyone, could he not?”

“Certainly,” said Brother Aran. “He could even be someone in this very room.”

There was a moment of embarrassed silence as the revelers glanced nervously about at one another.

“But, Brother Aran,” said Father Hildebrandt, “if that were truly so, there would be nothing to fear, would there? Surely, as you say, this Mazadân was sent as a guardian and protector of the Holy Child, correct?”

“Yes, Father Abbott.”

“Anyone sent by God in such a capacity could not be evil, and his presence would be more than welcome to us, especially in dark days such as these.”

“Indeed, Father Abbott, that is so,” said Brother Aran.

“But what do you make of this tale, Brother Azarias?” asked Charles, turning to their mysterious companion. “Do you think any of it could possibly be true?”

Azarias glanced at the faces of those around the fire and smiled. “I make of it an intriguing legend. But, I fear we would only know the truth of the tale by asking Mazadân himself.”

“And how would you go about doing that?” asked Charles. “Where would you go looking for Mazadân, if you wished to find him?”

Azarias looked at Charles thoughtfully. Then he said, gently, “I don’t believe you would ever be able to find Mazadân—unless he wished to be found. And I believe he would only wish to be found if some grave peril was at hand: one that called for him to show himself forth as the one living and irrefutable witness to the events of the Resurrection; or that called for knowledge, or wisdom, such as only he had attained over the centuries. He would never reveal himself lightly, for it would be a terrible shock to the people of these times to come to know that such a one as he existed in their midst.”

The revelers became silent and thoughtful. Gazing into the fire, each of them could hear the wind roaring outside the windows of the hall; and in the rustling of skeletal leaves against glass panes, the enormity of the time encompassed by Brother Aran’s tale seemed a palpable and mysterious presence in the fire-lit room. Thus deep in contemplation, none noticed the glance that passed between Azarias and Father Hildebrandt, nor the flicker of a smile on the latter’s face.

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