And welcome to my newsletter for October, 2010! Please feel free to forward this to anyone you think would be interested in keeping up with me! To receive these newsletters regularly, please drop me an email or subscribe online from my website (http://www.JefMurray.com ) or at: http://groups.google.com/group/Mystical_Realms . Notices of events and items of interest are at the bottom of this email.
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 Day 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."
"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, and one that was 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 were 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 motion. Mazadân was of an ancient race, and some said he had fairy blood flowing in his veins. So, he had lived for many ages 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 the autumn of the year when he had 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 and sought passage to the land of Judea.
"Because Mazadân was a hermit and a prophet, he ruled no lands and had no treasure to bring to 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 own 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 the appearance of a man in his late youth or early middle years. 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, Mazadân 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, and of course it was always the most prophetic and the richest of the four gospels, even as Mazadân was 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 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.
"We know of Mazadân's writing of the gospel of St. John, but he would not call himself by that name or 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 had grown 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!' "
o o o
Brother Aran ceased speaking. There was a long silence in the room as the listeners pondered his tale.
"So, does this mean", said 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 each other.
"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.
It is apparently going to be a big media autumn for me, as I will have a lot of my work appearing in two upcoming magazine issues:
First, the November/December 2010 issue of the St. Austin Review (StAR) features one of my paintings ("Melkor") on its cover, plus a two-page spread of some of my latest paintings and a short article of mine within. The issue in general focuses on apocalyptic visions, particularly as seen in science fiction. Please check out the latest issue by going to the StAR website at http://www.staustinreview.com/ .
Second, the next issue of Gilbert Magazine (see http://www.gilbertmagazine.com/ ) is the art issue, and in addition to including a couple of my dragonish paintings ("The Repentant Dragon" and "Pensive Dragon"), there will be an interview with me and fellow artist Tim Jones, plus (possibly!) a short humorous tale of mine.
The folks who brought you the Festival in the Shire in Wales this last August (see www.FestivalintheShire.com) will be holding a new exhibit of Middle-earth themed paintings and prints in Leiden, Holland in November. This event will be held from Thursday, November 11 at 10:00am - November 14 at 4:00pm at Utrechtse Jaagpad 2, Leiden, Holland, this exhibition will features works by Rodney Matthews, Paul Raymond Gregory, Roger Garland, Ruth Lacon, Steve Walsh, Sue Wookey, Ivan Cavini and myself. You can find more information on Facebook by searching on "Festival in the Shire- Free Preview Exhibition".
There are two new Tolkien-themed calendars that are either now available or soon will be. Both feature some of my work, as well as that of many other notable artists:
The 30th Anniversary 2011 Beyond Bree calendar is available at http://www.cep.unt.edu/bree/Flyer02.pdf . This special calendar features work by Sylvia Hunnewell, Ted Nasmith, and many others; it focuses on the Istari the wizards of Middle-earth.
The 10th Anniversary 2011 Northeaster Tolkien Society calendar is available from http://herenistarionnets.blogspot.com/p/nets-calendar.html . This calendar features the art of Anke Eissman, Sue Wookey, and myself.
The online SF Fanzine "Starship Sofa", Volume 1 of which was a winner of a 2010 Hugo Award, is preparing to release Volume 2 on October 10, 2010. I was privileged to illustrate a tale that will be included, written by Jason Sanford, entitled " Into the Depths of Illuminated Seas". It is a surpassingly strange tale about pirates (!) and a lass who can foretell the deaths of all of the sailors in her port town. You can learn more about this Fanzine at http://www.starshipsofa.com/ .
Illustrator-signed editions of The Magic Ring: Deluxe Illustrated Edition, by the Baron de la Motte Fouqué, is now available to folks in the U.S., Canada, and the UK. You can purchase directly from my website at www.JefMurray.com (click on the "Books" button on the left of the page). I was privileged to have been asked to develop the cover and interior illustrations for this new edition, and it is one that finally presents this tale in a format in keeping with its magical and epic themes. Described as a cross between "The Lord of the Rings" and "Ivanhoe", this is a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat, and one that will appeal to all ages of folk who love chivalry, enchantment, and romance. You can keep up to date on the book's reception on the Facebook page entitled "The Magic Ring", or at Valancourt's website.
A new EWTN TV special is being prepared on J.R.R. Tolkien. Featuring Joseph Pearce, this production will also include dozens of my illustrations of Tolkien's world. Stay tuned for details on when this will air .
For folks interested in my original paintings and sketches, please take a look at the ADC Art and Books online catalog at www.adcbooks.co.uk. It features Tolkien-themed works by Ted Nasmith, Peter Pracownik, and myself. In addition, you'll find collectible items (e.g. Black & White Ogre Country: The Lost Tales of Hilary Tolkien) and rare books featured in the catalog and on the website.
Tuesday, October 5, 2010