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Magi (māˈjĪ) [key], priestly caste of ancient Persia. Probably Median in origin, they were, according to Herodotus, a tribe rather than a priestly family. Zoroaster is thought to have been a Magus. Study of the Magi is hampered by the lack of original source material. They are thought to have molded a pre-Zoroastrian religion, but nothing is known of it except by inference. After Zoroaster, Magian priests headed Zoroastrianism; the greatest was Saena. The Magi were revered by classic authors as wise men, and their reputed power over demons gave rise to the word magic. For the Magi of Mat. 2, see Wise Men of the East.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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