Frankincense, Gold, and Myrrh - The Three Gifts of the Magi

frankincense gold light magi myrrh myth ritual sacred solstice symbolism

The Three Gifts of the Magi

It’s here.  This season of light.  It slowly reveals itself with the smell of fresh-cut pine and the reflective glow of holiday lights on slick pavement.  There is a vivifying energy of joy moving through the air, a sense of something magical, an anticipation that something filled with wonder is about to happen.

All over the world and in every culture, this is a time that acknowledges Light, a consciousness of love, generosity, and joy everlasting.  It is the recognition of the Supreme Light that is the source of all life; the creator, the sustainer, and the transformer.  It is the celebration of Light according to your beliefs.

In Christianity, the birth of Jesus, a supreme teacher, an exalted Bodhisattva is celebrated. On his birth, the story of the Magi bringing gifts of Frankincense, Myrrh, and Gold inspires our altars and awakens our generosity. 

The Celtic traditions celebrate the Winter Solstice, the return of Light. The Celts once believed that the Sun stood still for twelve days before the Solstice as the days became darker and shorter.  They burned Yule logs to bring back the Sun and decorated their pine trees with stars, moons, and suns, creating altars in nature in reverence to the cosmic light. We create rituals of our own now with pine, and celestial ornaments; calling back the Light.

In many Indian households, the birth of Jesus is celebrated with recognition of him being one of the many honored avatars of love and light, together with Maha Ganapati, the five faces of Ganesha, from the 21st to the 25th of December.  During Maha Ganapati gifts are shared, and pujas (prayer rituals) with flowers, food, incense, and candles are performed on each of the days for harmony in all aspects of life.

Through each of these traditions, there is a theme of vegetation and the cosmos, earth and light, Spirit and Matter.  The three Wisemen, the Magi of the Far East shared the three gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh.

What is the meaning of these gifts that are mined from the earth and harvested from the landscape?  What meaning can we take with us into this season?  When we think of the gifts of the Magi how can we see them in a deeper and more personal way?

Gold.  Mined from the earth, an inkling of amazing alchemy, forged through millenniums and ever-present.  Gold is shining and bright, as is the Light of creation, it is the divine spiritual essence where everything has its beginning.  As the season unfolds we consciously call this Light in. We celebrate its return on the Solstice.  Take time to reflect on the radiance of Divine Light as you…

 Light candles
 Hang Christmas Lights
 Burn the Yule Log 


Frankincense.  This aromatic resin is obtained from the Boswellia tree. Boswellia grows in the most hostile, rugged, and unforgiving environments. They have the ability to grow where there is no soil, in the most barren land, and have even been known to grow out of solid rock. This tree is symbolic of fortitude, resilience, strength, and endurance. It represents the Divine Masculine; Shiva, light, energy, action and movement, the consciousness of the the macrocosm, and the individualized microcosm.

The resin is obtained by cutting and slashing the tree so that its sap can bleed out. As the sap bleeds out it forms into golden tears, as if the tree is weeping. Some believe this may be the same "tears" referred to in religious lore as the "tears of the Madonna”. Tears wept by the Mother, the Earth. Tears and sap are a prolific ancient theme, so it is no coincidence that in the pantheon of goddesses in the Greek tradition, Myrrha in her tragedy is turned into a tree. Myrrha gives birth to Adonis, her beautiful son as a tree. Unable to hold her son she weeps tears of golden sap, weeping in sorrow, her tears flowing over her rough bark, they become a healing sap, a potent medicinal salve, Myrrh, the third gift of the Magi.

Myrrh symbolizes the Divine Feminine, the nurturing essence and creative medium that gives birth to the material world. Myrrh is that salve that heals all wounds, the medicine for sorrow and loss.

These gifts of Frankincense and Myrrh bring to our awareness the consciousness of love and law permeating the physical realm.  They remind us of our ability to be resilient, to heal, and to transform.  They remind us that we can grow in any environment and a loving heart is our best medicine.

As the season unfolds look for resilience, find a golden Light in tears of both joy and sorrow.  Be both the Light and potent healing salve for yourself and others.  Take time…

Invoke the presence of Light 
Look for the tears of sap in your pine and fir trees
Use aromatics to remind yourself who you are


May this season of Light illuminate your heart and mind and bring sweet gifts of Peace and Joy!

Om & Blessings,

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