But wait … there’s myrrh!

But wait ... there's myrrh

But wait … there’s myrrh

The Christian holy day known as Epiphany “[commemorates] (at least in western tradition) the visit of the Magi and Jesus being revealed to the Gentiles” (from Finding a New Way Home) is celebrated on 6 January. According to timeanddate.com, “It commemorates the first two occasions on which Jesus’ divinity, according to Christian belief, was manifested: when the three kings visited infant Jesus in Bethlehem, and when John the Baptist baptized him in the River Jordan. The Roman Catholic and Protestant churches emphasize the visit of the Magi when they celebrate the Epiphany. The Eastern Orthodox churches focus on Jesus’ baptism.”

All history is redaction – ie, it re-frames and retells our “old, old story” in such a way as to please the current audience. The past is perpetually being re-examined and reinterpreted.

Recent memes appearing on Facebook – but not including this one from catholicmemes.com – have commented on what three wise women would have done. One version asserts that they would have “asked directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, brought practical gifts, cleaned the stable, made a casserole … and there would be peace on earth.” (From mickiemuellerart.com)

I don’t think so! (Especially that last bit.)

Another version of the meme adds that “Three Wise Feminist Women would have … lobbied King Herod for gender equality.” In its lower right corner, the image carries the wording: Destroy the Joint. But, according to Helen Razer, “Destroy the Joint misses the point”.

My back is up, my hackles on end. If there is to be anything more than talk of gender equality, then it is blatantly obvious that the faults, shortcomings, and weaknesses of humankind will be owned (and owned up to) by all.

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3 thoughts on “But wait … there’s myrrh!

  1. Stefan, you are able to be polite and resist the meme which offers the message biology is destiny – to be female is to be both biologically different from male, and to be female is to be a person who will make better choices, because you are female. It is the Marxists who showed me how ideology is the frame of values informing the narrative.

    Let’s be clear here, no one forces things really, it is the reader who makes the choices about what to take onboard when working with a text. The stress can different, be it psychological – tends to stress what a reader does with a text; sociological – focuses on the context; or discourse focused – looks at the narrative itself. I find you read a text slightly differently from me, but that difference is valid.

    I look for things when I read. A telling indicator of the presence of ideology is the use of paired opposites – good/bad, right/wrong, and the way a hierarchy is set up. The meme points to in this Christmas narrative of visitors to the infant Jesus has this marker in spades. For some feminists, and I stress some, there is a female/male pairing, with good/bad sitting in the background. This is zoological determinism applied to the Christmas story.

    Let the reader decide, I am with you, Stefan, the human community is better read as one, not as pairs with one good and the other bad.

    • My appropriating the line, “But wait … there’s myrrh!” was not merely for its laugh value. On the “How Stuff Works” web-site there is A Brief History of Frankincense and Myrrh, which explains that “frankincense and myrrh were widely available when the Magi visited the baby Jesus around 5 BC, and would have been considered practical gifts with many uses. The expensive resins were symbolic as well. Frankincense … symbolized prayer rising to the heavens like smoke, while myrrh, which was often used for burials, symbolized death. Accordingly, a mixture of wine and myrrh would be offered to Jesus during his crucifixion.” In another part of the article, we learn that “Frankincense and myrrh also had medicinal uses. In the Papyrus Ebers of 1500 BC, priests recommended both resins for the treatment of wounds.”

      Be that as it may. There is no doubt in my mind that there were, at the time of the Nativity, wise women, crones, witches … but they seem not to have shown up. My point, however, is not simply that they didn’t show up, but they didn’t find themselves a place in the early Christian story.

  2. Pingback: Destroy the Point – a piece by Helen Razer | take a risk nz

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