The identifier ‘mage’ is not commonly used these days, but I think it suits me. It is worth explaining why.

One problem I have is that I hold a variety of initiations, so what am I? I have one general Wiccan initiation, from some kind witches who got tired of me being on the outside. Later, I was received into the Children of the Dawn, and the Tuatha de Dannan branch of the New England Covens of Traditionalist Wicca. I have also received the grades of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn up to and including the 5=6 Adeptus Minor (Ciceros’ line). During my Buddhist studies I took refuge and received a number of empowerment and teachings. I also was given a Hindu Nath initiation, but I’m not sure of its qualifications. When I founded the Open Source Order of the Golden Dawn, I knew I needed a beginners place to balance my leadership role, so I joined the Masons, taking the three Blue Lodge degrees (Master Mason), then the 32 Scottish Rite degree and 18 of the York Rite. Later while in England working on my PhD in history, was welcomed as Ovate in the OBOD tradition of Druidry. This is all in addition to my seminary degree, Master of Divinity and my baccalaureate in English. So, what am I?

The term mage originates from the name of a cast or tribe of Persian priests, but we get it from the Greeks who used to name the foreign, usually itinerant, workers of spiritual power who came out of the East. Magia is what they called these people’s craft, and magic comes from this word. The ancient Greeks (and Romans) had priest-folk, but not a hereditary class of priests-for-life, with very few exceptions like the Vestal Virgins, and even those did not tend to serve for life. These were the keepers of the Hieratica Tekhne, the Priestcraft specific to their culture, and to which magia was an import. They also had native fortune tellers, spell crafters, channelers, and spirit summoners for hire. As a class, these were called Goetea, from which we get the term Goetic, but the British would later call them Cunningfolk. (Or at least this is what my studies now tell me. I am ever still learning.)

But after Christianity eliminated the Priest-folk and Cunningfolk, and no doubt drove out the foreign Magi as well, the technical application of spiritual force for spiritual or material ends outside the confines of the Church only survived in remnants and scattered bits. Until the Renaissance. In the 1400s knowledge, mostly texts in Greek, came into the West, Florence Italy specifically, and ignited profound cultural change. The key players in the drama studied these ancient texts, many of which were of ancient philosophy like Plato and the later Neoplatonists, many were mystical like the Hermetic Corpus, and some were liturgical like the Hymns of Orpheus. But they did not just study, they experimented and practiced the arts in the texts which they learned were called theurgy. At the time they thought that this was something other than ancient Greek religion, but today I am of the opinion that theurgy is simply high grade, high intensity Greek (Hellenic) spiritual engagement. And as Goetea was considered vulgar, and Priestcraft was held by the clergy, they called their practice magic and themselves magi, or mage in the singular, and magus in the Latin.

Coming as I do off the Golden Dawn where magus is a grade title, and a very high (2nd to last) one at that, it does not seem right to use that term. But, as a simple committed practitioner of the spiritual technology and path called theurgy, and heir to the Renaissance magi, it seems to me right to call myself a mage.