The Magi were most likely priests of Zoroastrianism, the religious system founded by Zoroaster, a 6th century BC persian prophet, in what is now the Kurdistan region of Northern Iraq and Northern Iran. They were well versed in Astrology, which had a major part to play in their religion at the time and was a highly regarded Science at that time.
But the story begins in Persia where these great Astrologers had gathered to comprehend the significance of some recent events in the skies above them. There clay tablet records would have shown them that Saturn and Jupiter had been in conjunction three times that year (May 29, Sep 30, Dec 5). The triple conjunction of the 'King' planet, Jupiter, with Saturn, considered to be protector of the children of Israel must mean that an event of momentous importance was happenning. However, they new conjunctions of these two planets had happened in the past. But what was different this time was that this was the age of Pisces, marked by sunrise in the constellation of Pisces on the first day of Spring. Previous to that, sunrise on the first day of Spring happened in the constellation of Aries. The gradual change is brought about by the Earth's wobble, or precession.
The Magi, and described in later traditions as the 3 kings, Caspar, Melchior and Balthazar. Priests of the Zoroastrian religion of ancient Persia. They came to visit the infant Jesus with gifts of Gold, frankincense and myrrh.
So the Magi, or the 'wise men from the east' as decribed in Mathew's gospel, geban their journey. They planned to bring gifts to the infant Jesus.The Gospel does not mention how many Magi came to visit. The tradition that there were three probably arose from the fact that there were three gifts, which is mentioned in the bible.
The three wise men find Jesus in Bethlehem by following a star. What was this age-old mystery of the star of Bethlehem? What was this heavenly finger that pointed them to the baby Jesus? Which of our minds doesn't wander back two thousand years or so as we glance at the night sky of December and see the bright shining objects in the sky and wonder, was this too, what the three wise men saw as they set out on their perilous and fascinating journey two millenium ago.
The journey to Jerusalem from Persia would have been at least a thousand miles. A long, dangerous and perilous jouney into a foreign land. Travelling by camel at that time it would have taken many months. But what was it that guided them to Bethlehem from such a great distance. What was the 'star of Bethlehem' as mentioned in Mathew's gospel? Could it really have been the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn? And when did the journey take place? The Bible does give us an indication of the date. Emperor Augustus decreed that there should be a census around 8BC. This was why Joseph and Mary travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem. So the birth of Jesus and the Star of Bethlehem must have occurred around this time.
The Magi first arrived in Jerusalem. Here they had an audience with King Herod. Herod had shown great interest in their story. This new-born King was a threat to his rule. The Jewish residents under Herod's rule were also very interested in this birth. Jewish scholars had known of the prediction of the birth of a messiah written in the ancient books of the Old Testament. Perhaps the reign of the despised King Herod would be coming to an end.
Travelling from Persia to Jerusalem means travelling in a westerly direction. Yet the star they followed was in the East?
If the Magi did indeed visit the King of the Jews, is it not strange that after that event they disappeared into obscurity. They made their way back to Persia according to Mathew's Gospel. But there doesn't appear to be any accounts of their lives after that which surely would have beem a momentus occasion back in their homeland too.