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“The Wise Men Travel to Bethlehem”

A DragonRaid Christmas Adventure

by Adventures for Christ, December 2014

 

All Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, copyright 1984.

 

Isaiah 9:6

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

 

INTRODUCTION

The following is a fanciful vision of the adventures the wise men could have experienced as they traveled from the Far East to Bethlehem.  A few liberties have been taken with the text to make the adventure playable and exciting.  Each member of a small group of players can represent a wise man since no definitive number is given in scripture, though there were probably at least three (one for each gift).  The Once Born Non-Player Character rules are used for the wise man characters since the wise men are essentially Old Testament personalities (see the Appendix for rules).

 

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 in the east 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 Christ 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 be the shepherd of 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 make a careful search 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 in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 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 and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

 

CHARACTER GENERATION

Use the Non Player Character Generation rules in the Appendix to make a Once Born wise man character for each player.  Print out a sheet for each player (along with a few extras).

The Adventure Master may want to add or subtract from the randomly rolled NPC's stats to make them all usable and provide some variety between the characters.  For example: A wise man should probably have high Intelligence and Reason scores but a low Battle Ability.

 

 

The Adventure         

 

IN BABYLON

The story begins over 2000 years ago in the country of Persia, in the ancient city of Babylon.  There live the influential wise men, also called magi, who wield enough political power to crown kings.  The magi are astrologers and are likely priests of Zoroastrianism (see Appendix for details).

One night while making their celestial observations, the Magi see a wonderful sight, a bright new star that they soon understand as heralding a new king's birth.

 

            (check Wise Man skill at DL 2, otherwise, they see it as just a nice lightshow)

 

Once back in their library, the magi search for the meaning of the new star and ultimately consult the prophet Daniel's writings, and weeks later find that the prophecies proclaim the birth of the King of Kings.

 

            (check Wise Man skill at DL 4, otherwise they do not realize the importance of the sight)

 

To add complications to this adventure, the Adventure Master can add rival wise men who will attempt to discourage, slow down, even falsely accusing the player characters before they can leave Babylon.  The rival wise men can be used at any point to miss-direct, double guess, or lie to the king about the player character magi’s intentions.   The DL of all skill checks will increase by 2.

 

Before they begin to gather the necessary supplies and personnel, the Magi excitedly inform the king about their pending journey.  They need his permission to make the trip and of course nees some of his riches to pay for the expedition.

(check Reason skill at DL 6, otherwise the jealous king denies their request or even locks them away)

The wise men must gather a caravan for the journey.  There is much planning to do since they will be travelling a long distance through some dangerous lands.  They will need supplies of food, water, protective clothing, tents, riding and pack animals (camels, horses) and body guards.

            (check Reason skill at DL 4, otherwise it takes twice as long to gather materials)

Each magi will ride a horse.  Each camel will carry food supplies, water and camping gear for two people.

There is one bodyguard and one handler for each wise man.

The wise men will want to travel at a reasonable speed, yet they are eager to find the new king, so each guard and handler will also get to ride a camel: if they would walk it would slow the caravan.

So, for a group of three wise men, there will be three guards, three handlers, three horses and eleven camels in the caravan

To honor the new king, the wise men want to gather kingly gifts – generous amounts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh (see Appendix for details).

(check Will Power at DL 2, otherwise, they see their presence as honoring enough)

 

The caravan is ready to leave several weeks after the prophet Daniel’s writings are consulted.

 

THE JOURNEY TO BETHLEHEM

The caravan will eventually travel almost 900 miles between Babylon and Jerusalem.  Having to detour around natural barriers and following the winding caravan routes and being close to sources of water adds much more distance and time to the a direct trip overland.  The first part of the trip will follow the Euphrates River to the north, toward the main caravan routes to the west.

Camels walk about three miles an hour so the caravan can travel about 25 miles a day.  The caravan will take 30 to 40 days to follow the regular caravan routes from Babylon to the Holy Land.  Keep track of the passage of days.

Each night of the journey, the wise men can see the new star burning brightly, even when it is hidden behind thin cloud cover.  They may be able to see it in the morning and before midday when the sun is not near the western horizon.  The direction they must travel is evident; they need only follow the star towards the west and wonder what kind of king deserves this kind of birth announcement.

Every third or fourth day of travel, choose an encounter from the following list.  Any unused encounters can be used during the return trip, if desired.  A few of the encounters may be reused if the details are changed a bit.

 

 

Possible Encounters

1.      Unfavorable weather - heat, sun, high winds – There can be almost constant weather problems that will make the trip uncomfortable and slow the caravan.  Check Will Power at DL 4 or lose patience and want to turn around and go home.  If all the wise men fail this test, they are delayed a couple of days while waiting for better weather.

 

2.      Clouds of biting flies bother man and animal constantly during the day.  Check Will Power at DL 5 or lose patience and want to turn around and go home.  If all the wise men fail this test, they flee the area and are delayed a day or two while taking a long detour around the area.

 

 

 

3.      Desert Bandits - The guards and handlers help fight off a group of a dozen desperate men.  See NPC stats in the Appendix.  If all the members of the caravan die, the adventure is over.  Start the adventure over.

 

4.      Camp of Bedouin tribesmen - Some of these simple folk will be in awe of the magi, others will take the opportunity to kill and rob them.  See NPC stats in the Appendix. 

 

5.      The caravan is lost.  Clouds have obscured the stars at night, or the maps have been read incorrectly.  Spend 1d8 hours getting back on track.  Check Will Power at DL 4 or lose patience and want to turn around and go home.  If all want to return home, the adventure is over.  Begin again.  Otherwise, the group is delayed several days until they can regain their bearings.

 

 

 

6.      Meet another caravan that is going the opposite way.  Check Will Power at DL 6 or lose sight of goal and want to turn around and go home.  If all wise men want to return home, the adventure is over.  Begin the adventure again.

 

7.      Roaming lions threaten the caravan animals, all must fight them off.  After a few rounds of combat, the lions will leave the group alone.  Lion - Size: 8ft, Number: d4, Move: 4, CA DL: 10, BA: 9, PV: 17, Damage: 2d6

8.      Roman Soldiers – A small contingent of soldiers numbering around 50.  They would be extremely tough opponents in a fight.  They will act superior to the members of the caravan, and may rough up the caravan handlers and threaten the wise men.  See NPC stats in the Appendix.

 

 

9.      Sick or hurt animal – One of the camels becomes sick or breaks a leg when stepping into a hole.  Its load has to be transferred and the animal has to be left behind.  Roaming lions will not be far behind.

 

10.  Sand Storm:  This will come across the desert like a howling apocalypse and will force the wise men into solid shelter like a ruined caravansary or a cave.  A shamal is a northwesterly wind often strong during the day, but decreasing at night.  The resulting wind typically creates large sandstorms.  Even under cover, dust will get everywhere, making it hard to breath.  Sand gets into water wells.  Horses and camels will need to be blindfolded, or they will panic, and even after all of the efforts, some may die.  Also, such sheltered places will also attract humans and animals (lions, evil men, etc.).  Check Will Power at DC 7 or lose hope and want to turn around and go home.  If all the wise men fail this test, they are delayed several days until they recover from the ordeal and clean out their belongings.

 

 

IN THE HOLY LAND

Once in the land of Israel, it will take only a few more days of travel to reach Jerusalem.  Choose two or three encounters from the following list, one for each day the wise men travel through the Holy Land.

Possible Encounters

1.      Unfavorable weather - heat, sun, high winds – There can be almost constant weather problems that will make the trip uncomfortable and slow the caravan.  Check Will Power at DL 4 or lose patience and want to turn around and go home.  If all the wise men fail this test, they are delayed a couple of days while waiting for better weather.

 

2.      Desert Bandits - The guards and handlers help fight off a group of a dozen desperate men.  See NPC stats in the Appendix.  If all the members of the caravan die, the adventure is over.  Start again.

 

 

 

3.      Camp of Bedouin tribesmen - Some of these simple folk will be in awe of the magi, others will take the opportunity to kill and rob them.  See NPC stats in the Appendix.

 

4.      Meet another caravan that is going the opposite way.  Check Will Power at DL 6 or lose sight of goal and want to turn around and go home.  If all wise men want to return home, the adventure is over.  Begin again.

 

 

 

5.      Sick or hurt animal – One of the camels becomes sick or breaks a leg when stepping into a hole.  Its load has to be transferred and the animal has to be left behind.  Roaming lions will not be far behind.

 

 

 

6.      Oasis – A few palm trees standing near a small pool of brackish water.  While the shade is a welcome relief from the unrelenting sun, the water will not sooth a burning throat.  Check Will Power at DL 2 or lose patience and begin bickering with others in the caravan.  If all wise men fail this test, the caravan is divided and each group begins to wander in the desert.  The adventure could be over.  Begin again.  - Or - One or more of the divided groups happen upon each other and decide to continue the quest.  They are delayed several days, if not a week.

 

7.      Roman Civilians – Likely to be arrogant toward “foreigners”, Romans will try to ignore the caravan while discussing the “heathen” ways of strangers in the Empire.  While they may not pick a fight, most Roman citizens will not be impressed with the magi and what they represent. 

 

8.      Roman Soldiers – A small contingent of soldiers numbering around 50.  They would be extremely tough opponents in a fight.  They will act superior to the members of the caravan, and may rough up the caravan handlers and threaten the wise men.  See NPC stats in the Appendix.

 

9.      Local Jews – Most of the locals the caravan will meet on the route will be peasants, possibly pilgrims on their way to or from Jerusalem or merchants, travelling between towns with a cart or wagon full of wares.  Neither will be a threat to the caravan, though a merchant will attempt to sell a trinket or good that no one in the caravan needs.                                 

 

10.  Wandering Shepherds – Small groups of two or three shepherds are seen watching over their sheep in the fields on either side of the road.  It must be boring to sit on a rock for hours at a time.  A couple shepherds see the caravan and move to meet it.   They call out from a respectable distance away.  The wise men must decide if the shepherds are allowed to approach closer.  If they do, the shepherds will bow and then excitedly ask where the caravan is from and where it is going.  The shepherds will give a few bits advice about the road ahead and will pull back slowly to go back to their work.  If the wise men say anything about their mission, one of the shepherds will become wide eyed and will ask the caravan to wait, he has to go and get another shepherd for them to talk to.  The other shepherd, Kalev, will approach joyously.  “I was there, two years ago when the angels announced his birth!  It was amazing to see him in the hay of the stable.  So tiny, so wonderful!  No one here believes me when I tell them of that night.  I wish you good fortune on your search for the Great King.”  Kalev does not know where the king is today, he has not been near Jerusalem or Bethlehem since that night.

 

MEETING THE KING OF THE LAND

The star has been leading the magi towards the western sea, from their maps they believe there isn’t much there other than Jerusalem.  So that is where the new king must be!

For days now, the caravan has been travelling uphill, higher into the Judean mountains.  The group rounds a rock outcropping and finally, Jerusalem is in sight.  There are more people on the road here, and more pastures and cultivated green fields in the area.

Like many other small dusty towns they have seen, the caravan passes by the small, quiet town of Bethlehem, but they hardly notice it as the glory of Jerusalem looms in the distance.

Late in the day, the caravan arrives at the gates of Jerusalem.  People trying to get in and out of the city give way and pull their beasts of burden and small hand carts to the sides of the dusty road to allow the impressive caravan to pass.  Guards at the gate excitedly discuss the situation for a moment and one runs ahead of the caravan towards the palace to announce their presence to the palace guard.

As the caravan winds its way to the place, all can see the glory of Herod’s Temple, tribute to the one and only God of the Jews.  The building complex is truly impressive; perhaps the new king will be crowned there?

The caravan arrives at the palace gate and are guided by guards posted there to a courtyard where the wise men can dismount and then follow some courtiers into the palace.  The caravan bodyguards and handlers are not allowed to enter the palace.  The palace is even more impressive than the temple, but soon the wise men are ushered before the throne.

Seated on the throne is Herod the Great, king of the Jews.  The magi should bow and greet the king and explain their business in this land.  They should describe the star’s leading them to this place.  They should ask where they can find this new king so that they can honor him with their gifts.

Herod is already interested, as these magi are rarely seen, and their normal business is of great importance to rulers of various lands.  But, when Herod hears of this birth of the new king of kings, his interest grows more intense. 

When the wise men ask where they could find the new Herod says aloud, “Call the prophets.  I wish to inquire of them.”  Moments later a small group of finely dressed men enter the throne room and bow before the king.  He tells them that the wise men are in Jerusalem to honor the new son of David who will be King of Kings and asks them where they could find such a one.

The prophets quickly answer that the new king should be found in Bethlehem, the “city of David” only a few miles away.

Herod tells the magi to go and find the new king, then come back to him so that he may know where to go to worship him also.

The wise men should thank the king and hurry about their business; to be this close and yet have farther to go is exciting.  They leave the palace and again the caravan winds its way through the streets of Jerusalem.  They probably do not notice a lone palace guard following them at a great distance.

 

 

MEETING THE KING OF THE UNIVERSE

It is almost sunset as the caravan leaves Jerusalem.  As the wise men pass the outer walls they are greeted by a welcome sight, the star is now in the darkening eastern sky, leading them towards the town of Bethlehem.

It is only a few miles to travel, but there is a sense of urgency.  The caravan moves quickly.  The star seems to move towards and stop over the little town.  The light from the star seems to light up a certain average looking home and the wise men head for this house.

People living in the town move out of way of the caravan and discuss amongst themselves the reason why their town is being visited while children treat it more like a parade and enjoy the wise men in their fine clothes and their well-bred horses.

Horses and camels fill the street when the caravan stops in front of the illuminated home.  The wise men dismount and move towards the front door.  Locals watch and nod to each other as if they know that the people inside have done some kind of evil to deserve this kind of nighttime visit from high officials.

Someone must knock on the door and it is a moment before a young man inside opens it.

The magi should introduce themselves and tell the man of their mission.  If they mention the star, the man comes outside to see it hanging above his home.

“Miriam!” the man calls to his wife as he turns to hurriedly go back inside.  An even younger woman comes to the door with her husband and greets the wise men.  “I am Joseph, and this is my wife, Miriam.  Our child, Jesuha, is inside sleeping.

Again, the magi should tell them of their mission and ask to see the new king.  Seeing the star and its light bathing their home, the two invite the wise men into their home.  The bodyguards and handlers stay in the street, exchanging inquisitive looks with the townspeople gathering at a respectable distance around them.

A small cooking fire lights the room.  There is a small figure on a sleeping mat in a corner.  The child is sleeping but stirs from the sound of all the people coming into the one room home.  With wonder in their voices, the wise men greet the new king and pronounce the glory of his future deeds.  The child stands up and looks at the crown with a smiling face.  The boy looks to be about two years old.  After a few moments the magi remember their gifts, and call for them to be brought.  Each gift is carried by a bodyguard who hands it to a wise men.  The wise man unwraps the richly decorated protective cloth and places the gift at the side of the sleeping mat while pronouncing what the gift represents (See Appendix).

Joseph and Mary wonder at the gifts and are very appreciative of the gifts and their meaning.  They tell the wise men the miraculous story of Jeshua’s birth.

They talk well into the night, until the rest of the bodyguards and handlers worm their way inside the little home to get a look at the new king, until a few of them go back outside to ready the animals for a short walk to a camping area outside the small town.  They set up their camp and feed the animals.

The wise men finish their visit and make their way to their tents to get some sleep.

 

THE JOURNEY HOME

That night, each of the wise men can have the same dream, or, each may have only a part of the entire dream message from the Lord.  In either case, they all need to share their dreams with each other and piece together the entire message.

In the dream, the wise men are told to leave for Babylon immediately and to go a different way than they came, especially not returning to Jerusalem to tell Herod where the new King may be found.

This adventure can be ended here or may be played out until the wise men return home.  Any encounters not used during the trip to Bethlehem can be used on the way back to Babylon.

Eventually, the wisemen arrive back in Babylon and report to the king the wondrous things they have seen.

 

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NOTES

There is a small risk that some players may become fascinated with the occult practices of the magi.  The Adventure Master needs to discourage this should it arise.

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The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Appendix

 

Wise Man Character Generation

While LightRaider characters have the Fruit of the Spirit to determine their skills and abilities, Once Born characters do not.  So, the abilities of dragon slaves must be determined by their physical qualities.  The following is presented to help you make Once Born character generation a quick and simple process.

The basic Character Strengths of once born are Agility, Charisma, Endurance, Intelligence, Strength, and Reason.  Roll a Shadow Stone for each to determine the values of these Strengths. 

Charisma (CHA) is a measure of the character's physical appearance and attractiveness of personality as perceived by others.

Reason (RE) is the ability to think through a problem or situation using accumulated human knowledge and experience.

Calculate the wise man's abilities with the equations below:

Battle Ability - BA = (AG + 2EN + IN + ST) / 5

Courage - CO = (EN + IN + RE) / 3

Maximum Movement - MM = (AG + EN) / 3

Personality - PER = (2CHA + IN + RE) /4

Physical Vitality - PV = (AG + EN + IN + ST + RE) / 1.5

Literacy - LIT = (2IN + RE) / 3

Recover from Injury - RFI = (2EN + ST + RE) / 4

Will Power - WIL = (EN + IN + 2RE) / 4

 

Maximum Movement (MM) is the number of five foot squares that a character may move by running during a round of battle.

Personality (PER) is the force of character an NPC projects towards others.  It is their ability to motivate, lead, and persuade others.

Will Power (WIL) is the strength of the once born's inner character.  It is used to determine his resistance to some sin enchantments and the ability to continue in difficult tasks.

The Profession skill level (Wise Man) is one roll of the Shadow Stone + 1.

To determine specific skills and abilities, choose two skills from the list below.  Roll the Shadow stone to determine the skill level.

Once Born Character Skills

 

Acrobatics

Blend with Surroundings

Boating

Climb Skillfully

Converse with Animals

Herbalism

Medicine

Merciful Compassion

Persuade Hostile Foe

Riding

Righteously Mingle with Evil

Sailing

Sense Evil

Siege Engineering

Talk with Locals

Tinkering

Track Enemy

Water Movement

From among the following, choose one weapon for each Magi:

Dagger

Dart, normal

Net, Melee

Quarterstaff

Short Bow, arrow

Sling

Spear

Sword, short              

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Wise Man Character Sheet

 

Name:

 

Agility:

Charisma:

Endurance:

Intelligence:

Strength:

Reason:

 

Courage:

MM:

 

BA:

Damage: by weapon type -

PV:

RFI:

 

Literacy:

Personality:

Will Power:

Profession: Wise Man (Magi of Babylon), Skill Level:

Optional Skill #1:

Optional Skill #2:

 

Physical Description:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Melee Weapon

 

Weapon Name              Damage

 

Broadsword*              1--10+2

Flail                             1--10

Hand-To-Hand           1--5

Lance*                        1--10

Mace*                         1--10

Net* +                          -

Quarterstaff                1--5

Sword                         1--10

Sword, short               1--10-2

 

+ Net – no damage, can only be used to entangle opponent's weapon. If LR makes successful hit, weapon is entangled. Opponent must make successful hit to untangle, then LR can try to re-entangle…

 

 

Distance Weapons

 

Weapon Name             Damage          Range

 

Arrow                          1--5                  -

Dart*                           1--5                 30'

Shortbow                    -                       100'

Sling                            1--5                 75'

Whip*                         1--5                  15'

 

 

Multiple Use Weapons (can be used in melee or at a distance)

 

Weapon Name             Damage          Range

 

Battle Axe*                 1--10                20'

Dagger                        1--5                  25'

Hand Axe                   1--5                  30'

Hatchet                       1--5                  30'

Military Fork*             1--10                35'

Rock                            1--10/1--5        varies

Scimitar                       1--10                25'

Solo Battle                  {varies}           {varies} subtract SS from to-hit and damage rolls

Spear*                         1--10                80'

War Hammer*             1--10                50'

 

 

SAMPLE NON-PLAYER CHARACTERS

Caravan Animal Handler

Name:

Agility: 5

Charisma: 4

Endurance: 6

Intelligence: 5

Strength: 6

Reason: 5

Courage: 5

MM: 4

BA: 5

Damage: by weapon type – Quarterstaff, d5

PV: 18

RFI: 6

Literacy: 5

Personality: 4

Will Power: 5

Profession: Animal Handler, Skill Level: 6

Optional Skill #1: Riding

Optional Skill #2: Herbalism

Physical Description:

 

 

Caravan Guard

Name:

Agility: 6

Charisma: 3

Endurance: 7

Intelligence: 4

Strength: 6

Reason: 4

Courage: 5

MM: 4

BA: 6

Damage: by weapon type – Short Sword, d10-2

PV: 18

RFI: 6

Literacy: 1

Personality: 3

Will Power: 5

Profession: Guard, Skill Level: 6

Optional Skill #1: Acrobatics

Optional Skill #2: Talk with Locals

Physical Description:

 

Desert Bandit

Name:

Agility: 6

Charisma: 3

Endurance: 7

Intelligence: 4

Strength: 6

Reason: 4

Courage: 5

MM: 4

BA: 6

Damage: by weapon type – Short Sword, d10-2

PV: 18

RFI: 6

Literacy: 1

Personality: 3

Will Power: 5

Profession: Thief, Skill Level: 5

Optional Skill #1: Blend with Surroundings

Optional Skill #2: Climb Skillfully

Physical Description:

 

 

Bedouin Tribesman

Name:

Agility: 5

Charisma: 4

Endurance: 6

Intelligence: 5

Strength: 6

Reason: 5

Courage: 5

MM: 4

BA: 5

Damage: by weapon type – Spear, d10

PV: 18

RFI: 6

Literacy: 5

Personality: 4

Will Power: 5

Profession: Bedoiun, Skill Level: 4

Optional Skill #1: Climb Skillfully

Optional Skill #2: Herbalism

Physical Description:

 

 

Roman Soldier

Name:

Agility: 6

Charisma: 4

Endurance: 7

Intelligence: 5

Strength: 7

Reason: 5

Courage: 5

MM: 4

BA: 6

Damage: by weapon type – Sword, d10

PV: 20

RFI: 6

Literacy: 5

Personality: 4

Will Power: 5

Profession: Soldier, Skill Level: 6

Optional Skill #1: Riding

Optional Skill #2: Track Enemy

Physical Description:

 

 

 

 

 

The following information is from Wikipedia.com:

Zoroastrianism also called Mazdaism and Magianism, is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra, in Avestan) and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in the eastern part of ancient Greater Iran.

In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil originates from him. Thus, in Zoroastrianism good and evil have distinct sources, with evil (druj) trying to destroy the creation of Mazda (asha), and good trying to sustain it. While Ahura Mazda is not imminent in the world, his creation is represented by the Amesha Spentas and the host of other Yazatas, through whom the works of God are evident to humanity, and through whom worship of Mazda is ultimately directed. The most important texts of the religion are those of the Avesta, of which a significant portion has been lost, and mostly only the liturgies of which have survived. The lost portions are known of only through references and brief quotations in the later works, primarily from the 9th to 11th centuries.

Zoroastrians believe that there is one universal and transcendent God, Ahura Mazda. He is said to be the one uncreated Creator to whom all worship is ultimately directed. Ahura Mazda's creation—evident as asha, truth and order—is the antithesis of chaos, which is evident as druj, falsehood and disorder. The resulting conflict involves the entire universe, including humanity, which has an active role to play in the conflict.

The religion states that active participation in life through good deeds is necessary to ensure happiness and to keep chaos at bay. This active participation is a central element in Zoroaster's concept of free will, and Zoroastrianism rejects all forms of monasticism. Ahura Mazda will ultimately prevail over the evil Angra Mainyu or Ahriman, at which point the universe will undergo a cosmic renovation and time will end. In the final renovation, all of creation—even the souls of the dead that were initially banished to "darkness"—will be reunited in Ahura Mazda, returning to life in the undead form. At the end of time, a savior-figure (a Saoshyant) will bring about a final renovation of the world (frasho.kereti), in which the dead will be revived.

 

Frankincense, also called olibanum is an aromatic resin obtained from trees of the genus Boswellia. The English word is derived from old French "franc encens" (i.e. pure incense) and is used in incense and perfumes.

Frankincense is tapped from the very scraggy but hardy Boswellia tree by slashing the bark, which is called striping, and allowing the exuded resins to bleed out and harden. These hardened resins are called tears. There are numerous species and varieties of frankincense trees, each producing a slightly different type of resin. Differences in soil and climate create even more diversity of the resin, even within the same species.

Boswellia Sacra trees are considered unusual for their ability to grow in environments so unforgiving that they sometimes grow directly out of solid rock. The means of initial attachment to the stone is not known but is accomplished by a bulbous disk-like swelling of the trunk. This disk-like growth at the base of the tree prevents it from being torn away from the rock during the violent storms that frequent the region they grow in. This feature is slight or absent in trees grown in rocky soil or gravel. The tears from these hardy survivors are considered superior for their more fragrant aroma.

 

Myrrh is the aromatic oleoresin of a number of small, thorny tree species of the genus Commiphora, which grow in dry, stony soil. An oleoresin is a natural blend of an essential oil and a resin. Myrrh resin is a natural gum.

When a tree wound penetrates through the bark and into the sapwood, the tree bleeds a resin. Myrrh gum, like frankincense, is such a resin. When people harvest myrrh, they wound the trees repeatedly to bleed them of the gum. Myrrh gum is waxy, and coagulates quickly. After the harvest, the gum becomes hard and glossy. The gum is yellowish, and may be either clear or opaque. It darkens deeply as it ages, and white streaks emerge.

Myrrh gum is commonly harvested from the species Commiphora myrrha, which is native to Yemen, Somalia, Eritrea and eastern Ethiopia. Another farmed species is C. momol. The related Commiphora gileadensis, native to Eastern Mediterranean and particularly the Arabian Peninsula, is the biblically referenced Balm of Gilead, also known as Balsam of Mecca. Several other species yield bdellium and Indian myrrh.

Myrrh was an ingredient of Ketoret, the consecrated incense used in the First and Second Temples at Jerusalem, as described in the Hebrew Bible and Talmud. An offering was made of the Ketoret on a special incense altar, and was an important component of the Temple service. Myrrh was used by the ancient Egyptians, along with natron, for the embalming of mummies.

Myrrh was traded by camel caravans overland from areas of production in southern Arabia by the Nabataeans to their capital city of Petra, from where it was distributed throughout the Mediterranean region.

So valuable has it been at times in ancient history that it has been equal in weight value to gold. During times of scarcity, its value rose even higher than that. It has been used throughout history as a perfume, incense and medicine.

 

 

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