On the Three Biblical Magi as Spiritual Allies

So, Christmas has come and gone, but it’s still the Christmas season, more traditionally called Christmastide.  Surely, dear reader, if you’ve grown up in the Anglophone world, you’re familiar with that old carol The Twelve Days of Christmas, yes?  Many non-Catholics or non-traditional Christians think that these are referring to the twelve days leading up to Christmas Day, but it’s actually just the reverse; Christmastide begins at sunset on December 24 and ends at sunset on January 5, the evening before Epiphany, spanning twelve days in the process.  So, even though Christmas was this past Sunday, there’s still so much going on over the next few days:

  • December 25: Christmas
  • December 26: Feast of St. Stephen
  • December 28: Childermass, or Day of the Holy Innocents
  • January 1: Feast of the Circumcision of Christ, Solemnity of Mary Mother of God

All this culminates on January 6, the Feast of the Epiphany, also known as the Theophany.  Many modern Catholic churches celebrate this mass on the Sunday closest to January 6 (between January 2 and January 8), but I prefer to keep to the day itself instead of the archdiocese’s schedule.  This day celebrates the revelation of God through the mortal Jesus to the world, and most famously remembers the visitation of three special people to the babe in the manger.  When you think of a Nativity scene, with Mary and Joseph in the manger with Jesus in the crib of hay, what else comes to mind?  Gabriel above, perhaps, maybe alongside a bright star, and a number of shabby-looking nomads and herders around.  Among the crowd coming to see the newborn King, however, there are often three special people who stand tall amongst the rest.

Usually decked in flowing and elaborate robes and accompanied by at least one camel, the Three Kings are among the gatherers to witness and praise the newborn Son of God.  Also known as the Wise Men or Magi, this bit of Bible lore comes from Matthew 2:1–12:

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”  When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

In other words, at some point soon after the birth of Jesus (between 40 days and two years after the birth itself), several magi came from the East following a particularly interesting star that led them to Judaea so as to meet with the coming “king of the Jews”.  They met with Herod, the puppet king installed by the Romans who ruled Judea at the time, to ask him where the new ruler could be found; this promptly caused Herod and the other elite and aristocracy in Judea to freak out, due to the fragile balance of power and protection that Rome afforded Judea at the time (cf. later in Jesus’ life when he was being proclaimed to be king, which would have upset the power structure as a symbol of insurrection against Roman rule, and thus resulted in his crucifixion).  Herod, disguising his fear and plotting under a mask of reverence, tells the Magi what his advisers told him according to old Jewish prophecy: Bethlehem, the birthplace of the old King David.  Herod sent the Magi off to Bethlehem and told them to return and pass along where, specifically, the newborn ruler could be found so that Herod too could “go and worship him”, though he was going to have the God-child murdered instead.  The Magi left Herod’s, followed the Star of Bethlehem, and finally come to find Jesus with Mary (not necessarily in a manger at this point), and they presented their three gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to him.  A dream was sent to them that warned them not to return to Herod, so they left Bethlehem and Judea generally by a different route entirely, declining to tell Herod where Jesus could be found; around this same time, Mary’s husband Joseph was similarly warned in a dream to flee to Egypt with his family.  And so the Magi went back to the East and Jesus et al. went to the West, as Herod realized that he had been duped by the Magi and ordered all boys in Bethlehem and the surrounding area under the age of two years old to be murdered.  Only once Herod died did Joseph receive another dream telling him to return to Israel, but we never hear of the Magi again in the Bible.  Traditions have surfaced since then that say that, due to their recognizing God in Jesus, they either professed a kind of proto-Christianity on the spot, or later willingly became full Christians after having encountered an apostle of Jesus; they were then martyred, possibly in the southern part of the Arabian Peninsula, and their remains were discovered by Saint Helena in Palestine and transported to the Church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, and eventually (by way of Milan and the Holy Roman Empire) to the Shrine of the Three Kings in the High Cathedral of Saint Peter in Cologne, Germany.

Although technically the Bible doesn’t specify exactly how many of the magi came to see Jesus, the nativity scene in Matthew explicitly lists three gifts, so it has become tradition for there to be three of them, one king bearing one gift each.  These gifts are gold, myrrh, and frankincense, each of which were (and are!) precious goods of no small price themselves, but also have spiritual symbolism regarding the prophesied life of Jesus as Messiah:

  • Gold, as one of the most recognizable precious metals, has always stood as a symbol of wealth, status, and royalty to many people across the world.  It is rare, and it adorns the bodies and palaces of those who have money and power enough to obtain it; I don’t think much explanation here is necessary.  Hermetic magicians know gold as a metal representing the perfection of body and spirit, but also that of the Sun’s might as it rules the solar system.  In the Three Kings story, gold is a symbol of Jesus as King, come to bring rule and dominion to the world as he establishes the Kingdom of God on Earth.
  • Frankincense is a bright yellow to white resin most famously used as an incense and an ingredient in anointing oils, and has mild psychotropic uses as an antidepressant.  It has a bright and vaguely citrusy smell, and has been used in religious rituals for thousands of years across the world.  In Semitic languages, its name reflects its white or milky nature, and Judaism has frankincense as a symbol of the Divine Name and an emblem of prayer generally.  Frankincense, in other words, indicates the presence and worship of the Divine.  Hermetic magicians know this to be an especially good substance for Solar works, but many grimoires and traditions say that frankincense may be used as a general incense for any ritual or spirit.  In the Three Kings story, frankincense is a symbol of Jesus as God, worthy of our veneration and praise and prayer, with frankincense burnt as a sacrifice to adore and worship God as Man.
  • Myrrh is a dark brown or black resin used in incense, medicine, and embalming of dead bodies.  Its name comes from Semitic languages meaning “bitter”, given its metallic bitterwseet aroma and taste, and has been used in medicine both as an antiseptic and a painkiller.  In Egypt, myrrh was used for embalming of mummies, and has had long-standing associations with death and the tomb, though it was also used as an anointing oil generally.  Famously, at the crucifixion of Jesus, Mark 15:23 describes Jesus as being given a drink of wine mixed with myrrh.  Hermetic magicians recall the association of myrrh as one of the plants and incenses associated with Saturn and the sephirah Binah, the third emanation of God.  In the Three Kings story, myrrh is a symbol of Jesus as Mortal, born human and destined to die as human, with a life full of pain, bitterness, sorrow, and suffering, with myrrh there to help him numb the pain in life and to protect the body in death.

Most traditionally, the three high-and-powerful guys who come to visit Jesus are known as magi, a Greek word that should be familiar to all my readers: each one of them was a μαγος, a magician-priest or (euphemistically) a “wise man” who knew the workings of the cosmos and how things come to be and how things can be used in this world to affect everything else.  Note that each of the gifts they brought not only have monetary value but spiritual value, as well.  They are giving the tools and supplies of their own magical and priestly trade to Jesus, not just as a “gift”, but as tribute; after all, one does not give their ruler a “gift”, since the ruler could just take what they want from their subjects as their own regal right, but one gives tribute to their king, showing that they owe all they have and could produce to the blessing of their ruler.  The Three Magi recognized Jesus as their ruler, even bowing down, kneeling, and worshiping him; they thus recognized that Jesus is the source of their power and their protection and salvation in the future.

It is important to note that the word μαγος had slightly different connotations than it does now.  In ancient Persia, the μαγοι were a specific caste of astronomer-priests, the same one that the prophet Zoroaster belonged to; these priests paid specific attention to astrology, and since astrology was (and is) considered one of the foremost sciences of the world, the μαγοι were not only priests but scientists.  They kept track of the passage of the planets and stars, and had a role to play in determining the lives of people in Persia, though the term is not synonymous with “king”.  Rather, the idea of the Three Magi being kings is one adopted from Old Testament prophecy, where it is described that all the kings of the world shall fall down and worship the Messiah.  With these three roles coming together—scientist of the world, priest of the soul, king of the people—we have the three routes of understanding and working with the world, and three types of elders who rule the world and the affairs of its people.  Thus, according to the Three Kings story, no matter what path in life one turns to, all paths lead to the selfsame Divinity.

The most common names for the Three Kings are Melchior, Balthazar, and Caspar, sometimes with small variants in the spellings.  As for their origins, there are two major traditions about where each king comes from:

  • The most traditional set of origins for the Three Kings has Melchior coming from Persia, Balthazar from either Babylon or Arabia (the two, historically, were not considered too different as large areas), and Caspar from India.  These are all, generally, to the East of old Judea, and are each considered ancient places of wisdom and learning befitting their status as “wise men” or Magi, though technically only one of them could be a true μαγος, with Melchior being the only Persian among them.  Still, astrology and priestly religions filled these regions, so to Jewish eyes, they would all be equivalent as noble heathenry.
  • In the Americas, especially in Latin American spiritual communities where the Three Kings are one of the more popular religious icons, they represent the three religious, spiritual, and occult traditions that came together to form the modern spiritual life in the Western hemisphere: Melchior represents the European or “white” religions, Balthazar the African or “black” religions, and Caspar the religions indigenous to the native inhabitants of the Americas.

It’s generally agreed-upon that Melchior is the king bearing gold, Balthazar myrrh, and Caspar frankincense.  As traditional iconography is often wont to do, each king has a set of color associated with them to make them easier to pick out when one can’t necessarily see the gifts they bring.  Additionally, by correspondence with each gift, not only can they be seen as emblems of the life of Jesus, but also as spiritual strengths that humanity is to exercise.  Plus, befitting their status as magicians, each can be tied to one of the three Hermetic arts of alchemy, astrology, and theurgy as suggested by the Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus:

King Origin Color Gift
Traditional New World Matter Symbol Strength Art
Melchior Persia Europe White
Gold
Gold Kingship Virtue Alchemy
Caspar India Indigenous Brown
Green
Frankincense Divinity Prayer Theurgy
Balthazar Babylon
Arabia
Africa Black
Purple
Myrrh Sacrifice Suffering Astrology

So why bring all this up?  Well, I have a small on-again-off-again practice with the Three Kings, and I figure, what with Epiphany coming up so soon, that perhaps it’s a good time to get the word out about them.  After all, much of modern Western occulture seems to either ignore or be ignorant of the Three Kings, when we have—literally hidden in plain sight—biblically attested and venerated magicians known the world over as purveyors of wisdom, power, grace, charity, and gifts.  Plus, with many of my colleagues working in various ATR, hoodoo, or other eclectic spiritual paths, I think many of us could benefit from this trio of eclectic magicians with a running work of two-thousand-plus years.

What can the Three Magi do for us?  Well, they’re magicians, scientists, priests, and kings.  Do you want to become any of these things?  Do you want to learn any of these disciplines?  Ask and ye shall receive!  If you consider the traditional origins of the Three Magi, you have a spiritual link to the old astrologers of Persia, the conjurers of Babylon, and the monks of India to learn from them, the ancient civilizations that even ancient Egypt considered to be wise; you have a mentor in each of the three Hermetic Arts of alchemy, astrology, and theurgy to guide and teach you as you want to grow and learn; these are masters of seeking what we are meant to find, our guides on the many paths up the mountain of Divinity.  If you’re involved in a diasporic ATR like Santeria or Umbanda, you have links to the three influences that culminate in your practice: European religion with Solomonic rituals, African gods and magic, and native or indigenous practices that still survive and breathe through these practices.  If you consider the role of the Three Kings as Santa-like dispensers of gifts and prosperity, then they become powerful friends who can help you obtain your desires and wishes.  As the first adorers of Christ, they represent pilgrims putting faith and working in their own disparate religions, coming together to uncover the One, the Source, the Whole that underlies all religions and practices.

How can we set up a space or shrine for the Three Magi?  Unfortunately, I haven’t found many resources in English on specific offerings, workings, or rituals one can do with them, but it’s not hard to guess for those who have worked with other saints or entities how to entreat and build a relationship with the Magi.  For setting up a shrine, you could do for the Three Magi what one might do for any Christian saint: get an image, such as statues or an icon, of the Three Kings, a candle, and a glass for liquid offerings, and set them up respectfully on a platform, shelf, or table.  I prefer to have a camel figurine with them, representing their own faithful steed who bears their burdens, and set out a smaller glass of water just for the camel, sometimes atop a bed of fresh cut grass as well.  For libations for the Three Kings, when not offering water, I suggest something very sweet: dessert wines, juice or fruit nectar with a bit of rum, maybe a fruity soda with some vodka.  Alternatively, one could offer three drinks together for each of the magi: one of water, one of juice, and one of wine.  You can burn a single candle for all Three Magi, and many botanicas or spiritual stores sell premade/dressed candles for this reason, but you can also set out three smaller candles as well, one for each.  Besides the images of the Three Kings and, perhaps, an image of a camel, I also incorporate a Star of Bethlehem into my shrine, hanging from above as the Three Kings look up adoringly at it.

So, what about prayers?  Again, being minor figures in Bible lore, there’s no wealth or treasure of prayers to the Three Magi like how there might be for, say, the Archangel Gabriel or Saint Cyprian of Antioch, but there are a few things I like to call on when working with the Three Magi.  Probably the most well known of all such texts is a common Christmastide carol that commemorates the Three Kings called, perhaps shockingly, We Three Kings, written by the Episcopalian rector John Henry Hopkins, Jr. in 1857.  It’s a lovely bit of minor-key music that recalls the quest, gifts, and symbolism of what the Three Kings brought to Jesus:

We three kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star

(Refrain)
O Star of wonder, star of night

Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light

Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold I bring to crown Him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign

(Refrain)

Frankincense to offer have I
Incense owns a Deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship Him, God most high

(Refrain)

Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume
Breathes of life of gathering gloom
Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying
Sealed in the stone-cold tomb

(Refrain)

Glorious now behold Him arise
King and God and Sacrifice
Alleluia, Alleluia
Sounds through the Earth and Skies

(Refrain)

There are many renditions of this carol, some more beautiful or haunting than others, which you can find on YouTube or sung at your local church or whatever this time of year.  The song itself is one I use frequently as an introductory prayer when approaching the Three Magi, and a good way to get into the mindset of working with them.  Beyond that, many of the usual prayers used for Epiphany refer to the Three Kings, and while they have special potency when used on Epiphany itself, they can be used at any time of the year.

In addition to doing once-off things, since Epiphany is coming up, why not a novena?  As you’re probably already aware, dear reader, novenas are nine-day sets of prayers done leading up to and completing on the feast of some saint or holy figure, and the Three Kings have their own novena for Epiphany, as well.  This would mean, then, that for the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, novenas for Epiphany and the Three Kings should begin tomorrow, Thursday December 29.  The most common novena I can find is a fairly standard, easy Catholic one, with a short invocation to the Magi followed by a Gloria Patri, with the invocation for each day focusing on a different virtue of the Magi that the one performing the novena wishes to inculcate in themselves:

  1. Hope for the birth of the Messiah
  2. Speed and conviction to seek the Messiah
  3. Strength to persevere any difficulty for the sake of the Messiah
  4. Humility to seek help to find the Messiah
  5. Joy in the face of despair when lost finding the Messiah
  6. Faith in finding holiness amidst filth and poverty for the Messiah
  7. Charity, prayer, and penance as gifts for and tribute to the Messiah
  8. Protection from danger in staying true to the Messiah
  9. Attaining the beatific vision of the Divine as a result of one’s spiritual vows and believing in the Messiah

Instead of just that, however, since a novena takes place over nine days, since 9 = 3 × 3, and there are three gifts from Three Magi, I also figured that it might be good to explore the threefold symbolism of each gift of the Magi by means of a small meditation on each day, broken up into three groups of three:

  • Meditations of Melchior Bearing Gold
    • Day 1: Birth of Royalty in Squalor and Scorn.
    • Day 2: Crowning of Man in the World.
    • Day 3: Rulership over All.
  • Meditations of Caspar Bearing Frankincense
    • Day 4: Prayer of Man ascending to Heaven.
    • Day 5: Elevation of the Spirits of Mankind.
    • Day 6: Holiness of Divinity.
  • Meditations of Balthazar Bearing Myrrh
    • Day 7: Grief and Suffering in the Hearts of Mankind.
    • Day 8: Death and Entombing of Man in the World.
    • Day 9: Resurrection in the World into Heaven.

Also, it’s a tradition in some Catholic countries and communities to take a piece of chalk blessed on Epiphany and bless one’s house by it in a special formula.  Given the year XXYY (such that the year 2017 would have XX = 20 and YY = 17), one would write “XX + C + M + B + YY” (or, for this coming year, “20 + C + M + B + 17”) on the top threshold of the front door.  This calls on the three initials of the Magi and,  by it, asks them to bring gifts to the home for the new year just as they brought gifts to the new life of Jesus, but the letters also stand for the Latin phrase “Christus Mansionem Benedictat”, or “May Christ bless [this] home”.  Depending on the community, this is done sometimes by the local priest, sometimes by the head of the household, or sometimes by carolers specifically blessed and charged with playing out the role of the Three Kings for the community.  I do this for my own house, and leave up the chalk until the end of the year when I do my whole-house cleaning and cleansing, leaving the lintel bare until Epiphany.

While my own relationship with the Three Kings is still nascent, I plan on committing more time with them later on once my current spiritual projects and processes wind down, but I do like to give them focus this time of year regardless.  Perhaps later on, I’ll start compiling some of my ideas for workings, oils, and the like with the Three Kings for others to use, but right now, what I have is pretty bare.  What about you?  Do you work with the Three Kings?  If so, how do you work with them, and what are some of your experiences in working with them as spiritual saints?

Need a reading? I know a guy.

Happy solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Yule, New Year, and any other holiday you may be celebrating or using as an excuse to emboozen yourself or eat too much food!

I know I haven’t been very talkative as of late, but following my adventures in October, I’m taking it easy (both voluntarily and involuntarily) and not being very active right now.  Which is fine, since it’s giving me time to unwind, relax, and also work on my geomancy book (which, yes, is still in progress despite Life happening and other delays, and no, there is no ETA on it beyond “maybe next year sometime who knows hopefully sooner rather than later”).  Without divulging too much about it (if you couldn’t guess from liberal hints dropped on social media), then basically, I’m currently in a…recuperative stage, where I’m letting recent changes settle in and getting myself built back up.  It’s not the easiest or quickest process, but I’m in the process all the same.

However, as a result, I cannot do divination readings for people until next October.  I can certainly help with chart interpretations or schedule consultations on rituals and magic generally, yes, but I’m not able to perform divination as a service currently.  That said, if you need a good diviner on your side to help puzzle things out or sort out proper actions, I would suggest Qian I Ching, who is both my student and colleague, and whose services in divination encompassing multiple systems (including our all-time favorite, geomancy!) are very highly-rated, both by myself and many of his return clients.  You could do much worse than to look him up, and he’s currently doing a 50% sale until Christmastime on December 25:

  • I Ching with Coins: CAD$10 (normally $20)
  • I Ching with Yarrow Stalks: CAD$30 (normally $60)
  • Geomancy: CAD$15 (normally $30)
  • Greek Bone Oracle: CAD$10 (normally $20)
  • Tarot with Three Cards: CAD$7.50 (normally $15)

All prices are in Canadian dollars and are determined by the query and method of divination to be used.  If you need a reading done, go schedule one quick, because the sale won’t last for long!

An Online Introductory Course on Geomancy

Many of my readers come to my blog for geomancy and related information.  This post isn’t really going to give them much on that, but there’s something I can proffer to sate you all the same.  I would like to bring your attention to an online class, Geomancy for Astrologers by Dr. Alexander Cummins:

Considered a “daughter” to astrology, the system of divination known as geomancy was an incredibly popular and well-regarded form of divination in early modern Europe. It applied what occult philosopher Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa called the “use and rules of astrology” (which is to say, the symbolism but none of the astronomy of astrology) to create answers using a process both apparently simple and deceptively subtle.

Geomancy as a system consists of only sixteen figures, each attributed an astrological identity. These figures are combined in specific charts (known as shields) to render very particular answers, often using versions of the Houses of the Heavens. These shields are set by various means of generating random numbers and developing them using mathematical operations.

Dr. Alexander Cummins – a historian of magic and a practicing geomancer – will introduce the history, practice and magic of this art. Whether you are a professional astrologer, a seasoned card-reader, or a newcomer to divination tools and techniques, this class will offer you further useful skills and resources for your own practice and understanding.

I’ve personally met Dr. Cummins, and have deep respect for his research and work in the history of British and Western occultism, as well as his work in geomancy, which he’s finally getting around to sharing through online classes and informative videos.  I’m planning on sitting in on the class, myself, because no matter how much you might know, you always stand to gain from another person teaching.  Besides, if I were to trust anyone to put the obnoxiously sesquipedalian and floridly overwrought language of John Heydon into something intelligible and palatable, it’d be Al (who, for some reason, adores Heydon), so I’m excited for that alone.

The class is US$29 per seat, and is held this Saturday, June 18 from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. EDT.  You can register online through Kepler College through this link, which I highly suggest you do so.  If you’re on the Facebook, you could do worse than participate in the event page for the same thing, where there’s a bit of discussion and resource sharing already going on.  Hurry up and get your tickets today!

An Open Letter to my Representative on Orlando

An open letter to the Honorable Rob J. Wittman, Representative of the First District of Virginia in the United States House of Representatives, sent to him individually on June 13, 2016 in response to the Orlando attack on the queer community and shared for all to see.  Modified to remove my own personal details, but…this needs to be said and stated aloud on all forums I belong to.  This past weekend has not been kind, and I will not be silent.  If you’re a US resident, lease visit http://whoismyvoice.com/ and see who your congressional representatives are, and send them a message of your own.  What happened in Orlando cannot happen again, because each day we do nothing is one more that I could be killed for being gay, and you wouldn’t want your favorite occult blogger to be killed, would you?  I hope not.  Read and share, my friends, and please help me and help each other in this time of crisis for the LGBTQ and Latinx communities.  Normally I wouldn’t post such explicitly political stuff on this blog, but this is not a normal time for us.

I am a resident of Prince William County for three years, and a lifelong Virginian. I am privileged to be a member of your constituency, and to live in the beautiful forested foothills of the Appalachians alongside my family, my friends, and my colleagues. I would live in no other place on this green earth, and each day I wake up and breathe this air is one I cherish with joy and love for Virginia and for Virginians. As we say, Virginia is for lovers.

I am also gay, and this past weekend has left me reeling in sorrow and anguish. As you know, early in the morning this past Sunday, June 12, a mentally unstable, homophobic, radicalized madman rushed into the gay club Pulse in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people and injuring another 53 before he was killed in a gun fight. These people, though I have never met them, are part of my extended family in the LGBTQ community. Although me and mine are blessed that none of my direct contacts were there that night, many of my friends and colleagues did, and we are all in mourning. Not only is this a grievous attack on the queer community that I call family, but that night was also Latin Night at Pulse, and the vast majority were people of color, largely those of Hispanic and Latin descent; yes, this was a direct attack on the queer community merely for being who they are and loving whom they will, but this was also a painful loss for the Latino community of Florida and for the United States of America.

I know that, according to your website and your voting record in the House of Representatives, you stand for a pro-family stance. Yes, I know that you likely disagree with the 2014 Virginia Supreme Court decision on Bostic v. Schaefer, and the 2015 United States Supreme Court decision on Obergefell v. Hodges that both guarantee a right for two people of the same sex to marry in Virginia and the United States as a whole, respectively. Yes, I know you likely find my marriage to my husband “wrong” in some sense and that it goes against some of your religious commitments. But, if you have the time, please spare a minute not for prayers and thoughts and heartfelt outreach to the communities of those impacted by the attack in Orlando, but give some thought to the notion of “family” today. My husband and I have formed our own family; while we do not have children, many same-sex couples do, either through adoption, earnest conception, or in vitro fertilization. Regardless what types of families individuals of the queer community choose to raise, we all come from families, men and women such as you and your wife. The loss of any child is uniformly painful to an ineffable degree, much more so if they were innocently slain on a night of celebration of life and love.

Like any guy in his late 20s, I enjoy a good drink and a good night out on the town. However, I find that many places do not accept me because I love and have married another man, and so I turn to specifically gay clubs and bars for nights out. These places are sanctuaries for my community, where we can dance, talk, and meet others without the threat of being judged, insulted, attacked, or killed. Many queer youth have never felt that sort of safety before stepping into a gay club; it is hard to understand, if you’ve been straight all your life, that we cannot take a cute peck on the cheek or the simple pleasure of holding hands in the park for granted. Art, music, stories, and lifelong friendships form in these places of partying and drinking, and their power as social centers in the queer community cannot be understated. However, Sunday’s shooting in Orlando shattered the safety we feel, even given security guards and police protections, and no one escapes that sense of complete and utter faith-shattering despair when we realize that “…by God, it could have been me”. Any night I go out, whether to a gay club or to the Irish pub down the road, whether to the park or to a museum, is one that I could be killed and cut down merely for talking the “wrong” way, walking the “wrong” way, holding hands with the “wrong” person, or any other number of homophobic criteria that make me a scumbag target worthy of being killed, and not a human being with rights and dignity that I deserve as a citizen of the United States of America.

Representative Wittman, please understand that I am not writing to you for the sake of turning you liberal, undoing your pro-family work, or joining the next Pride parade (although you are more than welcome to participate to learn more about me and my community). In fact, I too am very pro-family; the family is sacrosanct and never to be belittled. However, my understanding of the word “family” is somewhat different than yours; I consider ties of love as strongly and as worthy as ties of blood. Understand, Representative Wittman, that any night I go out, or even any day I wake up, is one that I can be killed because I’m queer. Not because I stole from another, not because I insulted another, not because I violated any laws, but because my mere existence is considered detestable and an abomination by those who disregard the law for the sake of killing and murder.

I do not want to be murdered. I do not want my husband, my friends, my colleagues, my allies, or my family to be murdered. I do not want anyone on this planet to be murdered, especially not for the sake and endeavor of love and the pursuit of happiness, and I would hope you would agree and would work to prevent the slaying of your constituents. For us, prayers and thoughts after a shooting may help us through the process of mourning, but they do not prevent any single one of us from being killed.

We need action. Representative Wittman, I need your action. I plead to you as your constituent that you help stand for all families in Virginia, not just those with a man and a woman at the head; that you defend our rights and our dignity as you would for any individual seeking a modicum of joy and solace in this world of violence and terror; that you help prevent mass shootings, both against the queer community and for all communities of all races, religions, nationalities, ages, sexual orientations, gender identifications, and all other identities not by post facto moments of silence but preemptive laws and stances that keep weapons of mass destruction and weapons of assault out of the hands of anyone who would use them against their fellow man.

I know that you value input on legislation from the National Rifle Association, but please consider the possibility that they stand for a minority viewpoint that often leads to error and folly, such as those that lead to the saddest of outcomes. I fully admit and cherish the right for us to bear arms for our defense and the defense of liberty against tyranny; my own household makes use of this right and we take pride in our ability and preparedness to stand our own against those who would harm us. That said, this man who was clearly mentally unstable legally bought his weapons of death, and killed near fifty people, some as young as 18 years old. This is not a case of “things happen”; this does not happen in other parts of the world, and we can see that they have taken action that many here refuse to take. We can take that same action while still holding true to our constitutional American principles. Please, Representative, stand for these principles, and also stand for our right to live free from the threat of being murdered.

I know that you take your faith very seriously, but please consider all of what Christ taught, foremost of which was to support and love all of your fellow man, to act first and to judge never. Rhetoric that led to the shooter slaying my community is frequently heard across the world in places dominated by radicalized and extremist governments, but it is also heard in the hallowed halls of the Capitol from your own colleagues. When Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas shared Galatians 6:7 shortly after news of the attack spread, when Georgia Representative Rick Allen read Romans 1:18-32 and Revelations 22:18-19, when any of us use Christ’s Word as a battering tool to injure and constrain, we implicitly condone a religious excuse to harm, maim, and slay those whom we pass judgment on. Representative, I urge you to repudiate and condemn in no uncertain terms that bigotry of this kind, to heinously use a religion of peace for the purposes of murder, is thoroughly un-American and has no place in our culture, our nation, or our century.

Please, Representative, hear me and the anguished cries of those fallen and slain in my community. We do not want prayers and thoughts; they do not ease the pain of losing a brother, a teacher, a father, or a husband. We want to ensure that this never happens again for anyone in the United States ever again. Nobody should have to live through the pain of knowing our safe spaces are no longer safe; nobody should have to live through the pain of losing our family to a murderous, bloody rampage. I know you don’t for your family, but I want you to make me feel at home in Virginia so that I can feel as safe as you do.

I thank you for your time in reading this letter, and I hope you and yours are doing well.