Displaying items by tag: history - Mandaean Associations Union - اتحاد الجمعيات المندائية

Many Mandaic 1 texts preserved in the depositories of world museums and libraries still escape the notice of scholars. Some of these scholars have no access to these institutions and so have to rely on already fin-ished publications or on catalogues published by the respective museums. Such catalogues containing Mandaic texts, or at least excerpts from these texts, have been compiled by leading orientalists with William Wright and Hermann Zotenberg compiling between them the two most essential and comprehensive catalogues containing Mandaic manuscripts. 2 Unlike Zotenberg's catalogue, Wright's catalogue contains several unrecognized and unpublished Mandaic texts. During my research, I found that the texts numbered X and XII in the catalogue are actually fragments of well known and already published Mandaean ritual scrolls. Text no. X belongs to Alma
Rišaia Rba (The Great First World)3 and no. XII to Maṣbuta ḏ-Hibil Ziua (The Baptism of Hibil Ziua).4 I will be elaborating more on these fragments
in a different study. In the present article I will be focusing on fragments no. XI and no. XIII of the same catalogue, which we can roughly characterize as the "magic" fragments.

 To read the full research

Published in History
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 06:40



It is not easy to speak about the origin and the history of the Mandaeans, because it is hardly discussed at all in their literature. They themselves believe that, as their religion was founded by the World of Light, they were not concerned with the history of this world. Up to the present day only one Mandaean text has emerged which refers, but in a very confused manner, to their history. It is the "Diwan of the great Revelation, called ' Inner Haran'" ("Haran Gawaita").

In "Haran Gawaita" there is a description of the Nasoraeans staying in the "Median hills", where they escaped under king Ardban from the rulers. King Ardban has been identified with the Parthian king Artaban III , IV or V. This seems to point to the existence of a legendary tradition which describes how the community, or part of it, penetrated into the Iranian territory of that time, that is during the period of the later Parthian kings, in the first or second centuries A. D. This same text describes how a Mandaean community was established in Mesopotamia and discusses its further history under the Sassanian rulers.

This tradition also includes events of the persecution of the community in Jerusalem by the locals in the course of which the city was destroyed as a punishment; the reference is probably to A. D. 70.

The emigration of the early Mandaean community from the Jordan valley in Palestine into eastern territories, brought about because of persecutions by locals, must have taken place during the second century A.D. at the latest, because several Mesopotamian and Parthian elements presuppose a fairly lengthy stay in these regions. The emigrants went first to Haran , and the Median hills, and then entered the southern provinces of Mesopotamia .

In the third centry, Mani , the founder of Manichaeism, had connections with the Mandaean community and was probably influenced by it in his system. The Manichaean 'Psalms of Thomas' show clearly both the friendly and the hostile relations between the two rival religions. In the ninth book of the 'right-hand' Ginza , the Mandaean holy book, there are polemics against the followers of Mar Mani . The pre-Manichaeam existence of a Mandaean tradition is more than assured today.

'Haran Gawaita' attests to the foundation of a community in Baghdad , i.e. In Mesopotamia, and the appointment of Mandaean governors in this region. In contrast to the Parthian rulers, under whom the Mandaeans obviously prospered, relations with the Sassanians were bad. The same scroll refers to considerable reduction in the number of the Mandaean Temples at that time. It is also clear from the inscription of the Zoroastrian high priest Kartar that those practicing non-Iranian religions – and the Mandaeans were among these – were persecuted during the reign of King Shahpur I.

Islam renewed oppression, in spite of its toleration of the Sabians as a "people of the book". In this way, the afflicted community retired more and more into the inaccessible marshes of southern Iraq and the river districts of Khuzistan, where the Mandaeans are even now to be found.

In the beginning of the twentieth century, however, the Mandaeans have returned again to the large cities ( Baghdad and Basra ), where they found opportunities to gain an education, earn money, and raise themselves socially.


The religious community of the Mandaeans today number, though difficult to determine, about 70,000 members who live in groups of varying size along the rivers of Iraq and Iranian Huzistan. Up into the 20 th century their range of distribution was predominantly in smaller market towns and villages of the marshland in southern Iraq , the Batiha, which corresponds to the ancient region of Mesene (Maisan). As a result of recent wars, political and religious persecution, some of them have chosen to live in other parts of the world. Their present-day centers are Baghdad , Basra , Nasiriya, and Ahwaz . Their Arabic neighbors call them "Subba", meaning "Baptists"; they call themselves "Mandaee" (Gnostics). What distinguishes them from the surrounding peoples is their religion and religious tradition, written in a sematic (East Aramaic) dialect with its own script.


We are indebted to T. Noldeke and M. Lidzbarski for the fundamental study of the language and literature of the Mandaean community. The former wrote the standard grammar (1875), the latter edited and translated the most important Mandaean works. Attempts were repeatedly made to gain access among the Mandaeans to better understand their texts. But it was the English scholar Lady Drower who was the first to succeed in opening up these almost inaccessible sources. By her exquisite skill and unceasing energy, she succeeded in taking exact notes of the cultural and religious manifestations of the Mandaeans. Also, she obtained and published a number of, up until then, unknown manuscripts, which were in part accessible only to the priests.


The extent of the Mandaean literature, considering the relative smallness of the community, is surprising; it forms a remarkable body of gnostic writings, the authors of which are not known to us by name. This extensive written tradition has a purely religious character. It comprises liturgies, prayers, hymns, commentaries, legends, theological-mythological tractates and priestly speculations.

The most important works of the Mandaean literature are the following:

The Ginza , which means the 'Treasure'. It is consisting of two main parts, the right Ginza and the left Ginza . The first part is a collection of eighteen tractates, predominantly preachy mythological and cosmological content. The second and smaller part consists essentially of the hymns for the mass for the dead. It is really a book which is devoted only to the soul and its ascent (masiqta) to the World of Light.

The Book of John (drasha dyahya), a mixed collection (perhaps a supplement to the Ginza ) of thirty-seven sections of varying size, chiefly mythological in content, among which are tractates about John the Baptist.

The canonical prayer book (Qolasta), which means 'collection', contains songs and prayers together with directions for religious ceremonies, above all for baptisms and masses for the dead.

Thousand and Twelve Questions ( Alf trisar shuiale ), a collection which consists of seven parts and is intended for priests only.

The chronology of the Mandaean literature is beset by difficulties, since it offers scarcely any specific historical references. However, some researchers can date it between the pre- Christian period and the third century A. D.


The Mandaean Community is divided into priests and laity. There are three different ranks of priests. They include ordinary priests (tarmide, 'disciples, pupils'), bishops or 'treasurers' (ganzibre) and the 'head of the people' (rishama). At the present time, Rishama Abdullah Negim of Baghdad is the only one that holds such an office. For a while, the number of priests seemed to be shrinking to half a dozen or less. However, in recent years, many young educated Mandaeans have entered the priesthood. The priest acts as the representative of heavenly messengers and angels (uthre) and thus he is equated with them repeatedly in the rituals.

The most important ceremonies, and also the oldest, are baptism (masbuta) and 'ascent of the soul ceremonies' (masiqta).

Baptism takes place on Sundays (habshaba), the first day of the week, which is for the Mandaeans, a holiday. Baptism consists of a threefold complete immersion in the white sacral robe (resta), a threefold "signing" of the forehead with water, a threefold draught of water and the crowning with a myrtle wreath. There follows on the bank an anointing of the forehead with oil, a simple communion of bread and water, and the handshake of "truth" (kushta). Baptism can take place only in flowing (=living) water, hence in rivers. All rivers fit for baptism bare the name Jordan (Yardana). It is believed that these Jordans are fed from the celestial World of Light. The chief purpose and significance of baptism is first that the Mandaean, by immersion in the Jordan , enters into close communion with the World of Light, thus receiving a share of salvation. And secondly, receives a purification from transgressions and sins. Thus as once in the primeval times beings of light first baptized Adam , the Mandaean believes that at his baptism the World of Light is present and takes an active part. Without baptism, no Mandaean (or his soul) may pass on to the next world.

The other important rite, the mass for the dead, or rather the ascent of soul to the World of Light. It is a characteristic feature of the Mandaean religion to resolve the problem of death by firm belief in the after life of the soul. For the Mandaeans, the fate of the soul is a chief concern. An extensive number of ritual performances are developed with this aim in view. These include, among few other rituals, certain ceremonial meals. Meals in memory of the dead, like baptism ceremonies, belong almost to every Mandaean feast and thus reveal an important side of the religion. The mass for the dead has a symbolic value in connection with the rebirth of the soul, and helps the soul in its dangerous journey through "places of detention" or purgatory (matarata) to the World of Light.


The Mandaean worldview is stamped by gnostic dualism. A World of Light (nhura) and a World of Darkness (hshuka) exist in mutual hostility. The World of Light is a world of light and brilliance, of goodness and truth, and eternity without death. Heading the World of Light is a sublime being, The King of Light "Life" (Haii). Countless number of light beings "angels" (uthra) surrounds this God. The World of Darkness is a similar construction to the World of Light, but it stems originally from the chaos or 'dark waters'. The World of Darkness is full of evil and falsehood. Hostile relations between light and darkness, life and death, good and evil have always existed. These relations led to the creation of the earthly world (Tibil). Earth was created as a result of joint actions from darkness and light. Basically, it was an evil act with the interference by the World of Light to tilt the balance in its favor. The Mandaean literature narrates different versions as to how this took place.

The high point of creation is the creation of the first man Adam , whose body ( adam pagria ) was produced by the evil beings, the wicked spirit-ruha- and the planets.

("We shall capture Adam and seize him And detain him with us in the world.

We shall install him in our assembly, We shall seize and lay hold of his heart.") ginza Rba-Right III

This purpose is prevented by the beings of light, in that they create for Adam a "companion", the soul or 'inner' (hidden) Adam (adam kasya), and impart to him the secrets of the world.

This event produces one of the major themes of Mandaean mythology. From the primeval couple Adam and Eve descend the Mandaeans; they comprise the 'family of Life' for their souls derive from the World of Light and ever since they have had to take up their residence in the 'darkness' or bodily (earthly) world.

The redemption of Adam is held to be a prototype of redemption in general. This event stands at the center of the Mandaean concern. After the soul's fall into the body of Adam, Manda dHaii – the 'Knowledge of Life' a personification of redemptive knowledge; gives the Ginza to Adam, revealing the 'mysteries' of cosmos to him. Adam is therefore assisted to knowledge and redemption. Redemption consists in the happy return of the soul to the World of Light, and every instruction has this object in view.


A few words may be devoted to the Mandaean ethics and morality. Unlike other gnostic sects they recognize no strict religious demands or for that matter free thinking. Monogamy and having children are directly prescribed, dispensing of alms (zidqa) is necessary for salvation, and also other works, observance of food laws, ritual slaughter, and rules pertaining to purification, to which belong the baptisms and lustrations. The Mandaeans are taught to love their neighbours. Among other things, a reservatio mentalis is sanctioned when oppressed by alien religions. A detailed 'moral code' is found in the first two sections of The Right Ginza.

Published in History
Tuesday, 23 April 2013 19:53

Mandaean Holidays

The Mandaean New Year

Dehwa Hanina

Parwanaiia or Panja (Banja) (Benja)

The Mandaean Great New
The Mandaean Great New Year will begin on 30 Akhir Paiz or Qam Gadia ( July 21, 2000 Friday). (1) This day is called Kansia Uzahila (New Year's Eve) which literally means sweeping and cleaning. (2) Traditionally there is much preparation leading up to New Year's eve. The house is cleaned from top to bottom. All animals own by Mandaean families must before sunset are boarded with non-Mandaean caregivers. A Mandaean may not touch any animals from sundown till 36 hours has passed. All food and any slaughtering of sheep and chicken are finished before sunset. Water, enough for the next 36 hours, is drawn in the house and covered. All day long the priests are busy conducting baptisms and all faithful Mandaeans are baptized. (3)

"And any person who is not baptized on Kansia uzahila on the eve of the Great New Year will incur great punishments will be struck seventy blows But every person who is baptized it will be counted for him as seventy baptisms." (4)

Just before the sun sets, every Mandaean performs the three-fold immersion (tamasha). Everyone retires to their house or a relative's house. No matter what purpose or reason, for the next 36 hours no Mandaean leaves his (or her) house. (5)

The reason for the 36-hour period is the time period that the Mandaean will be without their natri or guardian spirits nor the uthri are in attendance. All of the uthri and natri have gone to pay homage to Mara Rba Kabrina, the Lord of Greatness. For it is on Great New Year Day that the creation was completed.

"...the two days preceding the Assembly and Purification (sweeping and cleaning) of the Great New Year that is the two day at the end of the year are void. Moreover the eve of the Great Feast – that is New Year – with the day of the festival of the Great New Year and the night and day that follow it cover the period in which the Mighty Great Mana created himself, so that it is a good day upon which the worlds and ages wait upon Him. ..."(6)

"New Year's Day commemorates the Creation for Mana Rba Kabira, The Great Mana, the Lord of Greatness, completed his work of creation on this day. Therefore all spirits of light, whatever they may be, leave their posts and go to visit him and pay their compliments. Abathur 'closes his door', Nidbai and Shilmai forsake their guardianship of the running waters; Hibil, Shitil, and 'Anush depart; the dwellers in Mshynia Kushta with Adam Kasia at their head and their guardian spirit Shislam Rba (the dmutha of Hibil Ziwa)- all rise into the infinite world of light. Swiftly as these creatures of light move, the long journey takes them twelve hours. They reach their goal at dawn of the New Year and spend that day in the bliss of contemplating perfection. The journey back covers the next night." (7)

"With us Subba a great feast takes place about the time that the dates ripen. It is called the Dehwa Rabba and its eve, or dakhala, is called the Kanshi Zahla . The Kanshi Zahla lasts for two nights and the day between, and during that time all the Mandaeans remain in their houses, taking with them enough water and food to last over the period. They keep their fowls, dogs and cats, cows and buffaloes shut off in a place apart from the dwelling-rooms of the house. For during those two nights and a day the 'uthri of the sun, moon, and water go to Olma d Anhura, the World of Light, and while they are absent every Mandaean must remain in his house and his animals must be shut up. When the melki and 'uthri return, we go our and feast, wash in the river, and rejoice." (8)

While the earth is left unguarded, Ruha and her followers can influence and try to harm mankind. (9)

"Nevertheless, Ruha the Faulty came on the day of the Great New Year whilst the Earth was denied and attacked any person who drinketh of its waters, he will become their portion so that on that day souls are not permitted by Manda-d-Hiia to dip their hands into running water. Any person who putteth his hand his hand into running water during those thirty-six hours will be cursed with Sislam –Rba and his body will be polluted." (10)

"He who dippeth his hand into flowing water on New Year's Day will become a portion of fire: if however they baptize him with fifty baptisms, clothed in a new ritual garments, then he will be delivered from that evil which is cast upon the Jordan" (11)

So the Mandaeans take extra precautions to avoid any contact with Ruha or her associates. For the entire 36-hour period no adults, especially males, sleeps in order to avoid pollution. Children are of course allowed to sleep. (12)

"Every man, who controls himself for the space of thirty six hours that is for 2 nights and a day -- will be belong to Me - be Mine - the Father of the 'uthras." (13)

Care is also taken to see that no insects get into the food or water. If this should happen the food and water is polluted and cannot be touched. The same idea also goes for the Mandaeans. If a Mandaean becomes polluted due to the touching of an insect or animals or any other method, they usually remove themselves from the rest of the people until the 36 hours is over. During this time the priests are busy consulting the Sfar Malwasha . Lay Mandaeans are busy playing games, telling stories, and eating. (14)

New Year's Day this year is on 1 Awwel Sitwa or Qam Daula which is July 22, 2000 Saturday. (15) The day is called Dahwa Rba (Great feast) (16) or The Day of Lacking because no rituals may be performed. (17)

On the second day of the New Year (this year -- Sunday July 23, 2000 ) the Mandaeans come out of their homes to visit each other. The first stop is to that of the priest. While it is a time of rejoicing no rituals may be performed, an exception to that rule is funerals. (18)

If a man dies during the 36 hours he is not buried right away. He is washed with the water stored in the house and dressed in the death rasta. When he has taken his last breath he is covered with a white cloth. At dawn on the second day he may be buried. (19)

"It is considered a disaster for the soul of the dead to have passed at such a time and when Pawanaia (or Panja) comes, zidqa brikha and masiqta must be performed over a substitute."(20)

On the 3rd day of the New Year, 3 Awwel Sitwa or Qam Daula , ( Mon 24 July 2000 ) Eid Elkabeer (the big feast) occurs and will last for 4 days. (21)

On the 6th day of the New Year (this year – July 27, 2000 Thursday) is called Nauruz Zota or the Little New Year. (22) On this day:

"...sixth day of the month which is Little New Year is that on which was created an 'uthra (Pthahill) none of whose works succeeded." (23)

The 6th day and the 7th day are called together Dehwa d-Sislam Rba. The night between these two days is called "the night of power" (24). On this night, if you are truly pious the Gates of Abathur are opened. Through a vision you may obtain what ever you desire. A truly pious man will not ask for material items but for spiritual gifts. The results are not immediately seen but will become apparent in time. On this night all lights and fires are extinguished and food is given to the poor.

During Dehwa d-Sislam Rba the Mandaean priests visit their parishioners and bless the houses by placing a small wreath of willow and myrtle on every lintel. The wreath will remain there for the next year protecting the family within. (25)

On the 15th of the month (this year – August 5, 2000 ) the Mandaeans are allowed to slaughter and eat meat once again. (26)

"For a period of 14 days from New Year's Day unto the fourteenth day all that thou doest will be of no avail because during that time rituals are not permitted." (27)

"These are the days which are defiling: I will instruct you about them. From the great New Year's Day, which marks the Beginning of construction, the beginning of the month of Aquarius perform no baptism for fourteen days and celebrate no mastiqta because the sixth day of the month which is Little New Year is that on which was created an 'uthra (Pthahill) none of whose works succeeded." (28)

(1) "The Mandaean Date Calculator "by Aseel N.A. Amarah Version 1.1 1999
(2) Mandaic Dictionary by E.S. Drower and Rudolph Macuch , Oxford : Claredon Press, 1963, pg: 119
(3) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page:85
(4) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 121
(5) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 85
(6) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 200
(7) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 86
(8) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 330
(9) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 85
(10) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 200
(11) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 121
(12) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 85
(13) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 121
(14) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 86
(15) "The Mandaean Date Calculator" by Aseel N.A. Amarah Version 1.1 1999
(16) Mandaic Dictionary by E.S. Drower and Rudolph Macuch , Oxford : Claredon Press, 1963, pg:107
(17) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 85
(18) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 87
(19) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page:85-56
(20) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 86
(21) "The Mandaean Date Calculator" by Aseel N.A. Amarah Version 1.1 1999
(22) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 87
(23) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 199
(24) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 88
(25) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill,1962, page:88-89
(26) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 89
(27) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 119
(28) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 199

DAHWA HANINA (EID ALSAGIR) occurs on 18 Awel Ebhar or Qam Tora and will be on Friday 5 November 2004 (1)

Lady Drower in her book The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran writes:

"The 18th day of Taura is the Dehwa Hnina or Little Feast, sometimes called the Dehwa (Dihba) Turma....The feast lasts for three days and baptisms should take place and the dead be remembered by lofani or ritual meals for dead. Dehwa Hnina celebrates the return of Hibil Ziwa from the underworlds to the worlds of light" (2)

(1) "The Mandaean Date Calculator "by Aseel N.A. Amarah Version 1.1 1999 http://users.bigpond.net.au/Mandaean/
(2) The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower Leiden: Brill 1962 (reprint of 1937) page 88

Parwanaiia or Panja
Parwanaiia or Panja is one of the most holy of the religious holidays celebrated by the Mandaean people. The holiday can be called Parwanaiia: (1) or Panja: (2) Parwanaiia or Panja (Banja or Benja) occurs between the 8th & 9th months & lasts for 5 days. (3)

These are the five intercalary days of Parwanaiia, or Panja, the happiest time of the whole year, during which the great baptismal river feast is held. It falls at the time when the river is swollen by melting snows from the north, i.e. during the first warm days of spring. In 1932/ 1933/ 1934/ 1935 Panja fell an April 5th but in I936 it fell on April 4th. (4)

The five days prior to Panja are considered mbattal days:

The last five days of Shumbulta (the Ear of Corn, Virgo) are mbattal for they are dedicated to the five lords of the underworld, Shdum, Hagh, and his consort Magh, Gaf, and his consort Gafan, Zartai-Zartani, and Krun, the Mountain-of-Flesh. These five mbattal days, given over to the Darkness, necessitate the reconsecration of the manda, or cult-hut, during the five ensuing days of light. (10)

Panja is the time when darkness (i.e. evil) has no hold on the earth:

Thereupon come those five days of Parwanaiia that are uncounted in the reckoning of the days nor are they counted or included in a calculation of months of the year). They are the days of vigil, darkness hath no share in them and there is no night in them because night is defiling and night hath no claim in these five days, they are allotted to souls which ascends to the Life our Father. For rays from the world of light stream down to the earthly world. In them (five days) there is no darkness (souls) are awakened and are signed by baptism and they give garments to the departing souls that is to those that depart the body. (16)

Each of the five days of Panja is dedicated to an Uthra, a light being:

Each of the five days is dedicated to a spirit of light and, as the doors of the world of light are open during Panja by night as well as by day, prayers may be at night. On other nights of the year no prayer may be said after sunset. (17)

These five light beings are all manifested from Kings of Kings, who himself, is self-created:

"During those five days the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year were created so that in each one, one day (being?) was created, and then the five days of Pawanaiia which are called (days of) Commemorations. They are (days of) Commemorations of brightness. No darkness is in them: within them darkness has no mandate: on the contrary, mandate, command, and dominion are Mine. They (the five days) are like one single day; night doth not divide them.

For the first day belongeth to the King of Kings, Father of all worlds, in it He who is great and lofty created Himself.

The second day is that in which the Lord of (Celestial ) Majesty (Rabuta) created himself.

The third day is Mara d-Rabutha, he who created Manda d Hiia (knowledge of life): in it he created himself.

The fourth day is Mara d-Rabutha, he who is Dmuth-Kusta; he created himself therein.

The fifth day which is the day of Commemorations running streams were distributed, for he Mara d-Rabutha, Divider of running streams, he created himself therein.

For they are five Kings, in them they created themselves and they are the five mysteries of the Beginning in which spirit and soul rejoice (at?) the seven crowns that are placed upon them. (18)

This is a time for religious observation and devotion especially to the souls. At this time all Mandaeans should be dressed in white for this is a religious time:

During Panja every true believer should dress completely in white (this is not observed strictly), and should either wear sandals woven of grass or go barefoot. The latter is usually the custom, though priests tell me that in ancient times it was considered a sin to walk barefoot on the earth, and that the real object of the injunction was that worshippers of the Life should not wear upon their feet the skins of dead animals. (19)

This is also the time when no meat may be eaten except for the lamb that is included in any meals prepared for the dead:

"Then on the two days of Susian and the five days before Parwanaiia and the (fire?) following the Feast of Daima do not slaughter or cook (boil) neither shalt thou grid on the sacred girdle except for a dying person. . (20)

No meat may be eaten except the flesh of sheep sacrificed in the ritual meals for the dead. (21)

This is also the time that the mandi is consecrated and the appropriate steps taken in regards to slaughter and consumption of meat:

... the consecration of the manda involves the sacrifice of a sheep and a dove, described in a later chapter. (22)

Lady Drower wrote about her observation of a re-concencration of a mandi during Panja. For more information on the mandi please click here.

All Mandaeans, that can, are baptized during this time. This is also the time that anyone, who died, especially those under unfavorable conditions, may have lofanis, zidqa brikhas, and dukhranas said for them:

Thereupon Ziwa-Sagia ( Great Radiance) whose brilliance is more dazzling than all the worlds spoke about those nine treasures which we confer upon the soul when the five days of Yawar-Ganziel arrive, when the banner is unfurled in the presence of Abathur and all the souls stand before him each one seeking her share of the masiqtas, commemorations and tabahata. (23)

Panja is a religious festival rather than a season of carnival, and Subba who live far from a priest travel long distances in order to be baptized as many times as their means allow, and join in the lofanis, zidqa brikhas, and dukhranas for the dead. The dead, assembling at the sacred meals and summoned by the mention of their names in the ritual, are refreshed by the spiritual double of the foods, and bless the living. The uneasy souls of those delayed upon the road to the worlds of light because they died an unclean death, or on a mbattal day, or without the proper death-ceremonies and clothing, are represented by proxies at the ceremonies of ahab d mania and others, and clothed, purified, and sustained are furthered on their way through the mataratha. Families save up to pay the fees necessary for these ceremonies; indeed, they regard the barriers between them and their dead relatives, back to distant ancestors and the spirits of light who beget them, as down during the five days of holiness. The soul of a person who dies during this period, when it emerges from the tomb on the third day, passes without hindrance through the mataratha, and the costly death-masiqta is not necessary for such a one. Hence relatives of a person dangerously ill long that he should die at this time, and I have noted that in a small hamlet three persons died of different diseases in one year at this season. No doubt, if a person is dangerously ill, a baptism in the river might be expected to produce the desired result. The patient himself is anxious to leave the world at this season, for no demons or wild beasts (zangoyi) will have power to harm his soul on its journey, and it accomplishes the long and difficult journey to the Gate of Abathur in a single day. (24)

Published in History
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 03:50

Where In The World Are The Mandaeans

The Mandaeans have for the last 2000 years resided along the banks of the Lower Euphrates and Tigris rivers in Southern Iraq and in Khuzestan ( Iran ) along the Karun River . Mandaeans today may also be found in the larger cities such as Bagdad and Ahwaz .

In the last few years the Mandaeans have been migrating to the United States , Canada , Europe , Australia , and New Zealand due to a number of conditions that exist in both Iraq and Iran .

Tne important item that must noted is that while the Mandaeans are often referred to as the "Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran " this term is simply a geographic title. The Mandaeans lived along the river sytems that now encompass the Iraq- Iran border and when the area was divided into countries the Mandaeans were split. Much in the same way as Berlin --when the wall went up there were families on both sides and both sides were basically of the same ethnic makeup.

he Mandaeans no matter in which country they are now located are of the same basic ethnic, cultural, and religious makeup. Many even have the same genealogical ties due to intermarried across this "wall" that now divides family members.

Published in History
Tuesday, 23 April 2013 23:44

Mandaean Moral Values

"And when ye , my chosen ones give alms, do not proclaim it to anybody. If ye proclaim it to anybody ye do not give. When ye give alms with your right hand do not tell your left hand: when you give alms with your left hand, do not tell your right hand. He who gives alms and proclaim it - to him the reward shall be denied and it shall not abscribed to him."

"Blessed are they that listen and believe"

"all things whatsoever that are hateful to you, do not ye do them to your neighbor"

"Honor thy mother and thy father and thy elder brothers as thy father"

"Perfect and faithful: do not deviate from your words and love not lies and falsehood. "

"If ye have children...then teach them, when they have grown up the wisdom of truth and let them wander the road of Kusta (truth): if ye do not teach them ye will be deem guilty in the house of judgment: if ye teach them and they do not learn they have to account for their sins themselves"

"Take a wife and found a family, so that the world may multiply through you"

"Love not gold and silver and the possessions of this world, for this world will come to nothing and perish and its possessions and its works will be abandoned. "

"Give bread, water, and shelter to poor and persecuted people who suffer persecution."

"Do not commit adultery or fornicate, do not sing or dance. Do not let your heart be fettered by Satan 's singing, which is full of magic, deception, and seduction ... "

"Do not eat the blood of animals, not one dead, not one pregnant, not one casting its young, not one standing (or, what has fallen), and not one which a wild animal attacked. But slaughter with iron and rinse, wash, purify, cook, and eat it."

Do not worship Satan , the idols, the images, the error, and the confusion of this world: whoever worships Satan falls into the blazing fire until the day of judgment, until the hour, the hours of release, as long as the sublime King of Light desires it."

Published in History
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 03:38

Mandaean belief system

Below is a very simple list (using English terminology) of the Mandaean belief system.

A monotheistic belief system
Adam was the first Mandaean who received the religious instructions directly from God.
Last Prophet or teacher is John the Baptist
Only God may take a life - no Mandaean may ever take a life
The Mandaeans do have an elaborate baptism ritual system.
Marriage and children are held in great esteem
There are strict dietary requirements
The Mandaeans have no symbols, no idols, and no images that can be used to pray to
Sunday (with the exception of specific religious holidays) is their holy day
Please refer to Mandaean values pages to get a learn about their moral belief system
Their language is called Mandaic and Modern Mandaic is still spoken in Iran among the laypeople. Also all the priests still speak Mandaic.

Published in History
Tuesday, 23 April 2013 23:33

History Highlights

275 AD

The Kaftir inscription at Naqsh-I-Rustam mention religious groups that are persecuted at the hands of the Sassanians.

272 AD
This is the date associated with one of the earliest known Mandaean copyists named Zazai d-Gawazta, son of Hawa. He is the earliest copyist on the following: The Thousand and Twelve Questions, Alma Risaia Zuta , Diwan Masbuta d-Hibil Ziwa, Qolasta, and he is mention in the Abahatan Qadmaiia . The language at this time represents a fully developed Babylonian-Aramaic idiom and a poetic skill that has never been match or surpassed in any later Mandaean literature. The classical period ends with the redaction of the Ginza in the first Muslim century.

224 AD
The Mandaeans suffer persecution under the Sassanians (Persian dynasty 224 AD TO 640 AD)

200's AD
Mani is born and begins his religion of Manichaeanism--Mandaean material is used in the creation of this new religion.

160 to 235 AD
Life of Hippolytus
Hippolytus tells of a book obtained by a man called "Elchasai". He got this book from Serae, a town of Parthia , and that he gave this to the Sobiai (assumed to be the Mandaeans). More than likely this person Elchasai received the book from the Sobiai (Mandaeans).

81 BC –224 AD
Kingdom of Elymais existed in which there is a form of script copied from the Mandaic. This form is called Elymaean and is considered by Macuch to be a late form of Mandaic instead of an earlier form. The main writing comes from a few inscriptions found in Khuzistan at Tang-e Sarvak and the Shimbar Valley .

Published in History
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 03:25

Who Are the Mandaeans?

The Mandaeans are a religious sect of great antiquity that still exists in limited numbers in the border territories of southern Iraq and Iran . Neither Christian , Moslem, Jewish nor Zoroasterism, the Mandaean religion contains a variety of ancient elements that attest to their antiquity. Adherents to the faith can be found in the cities and villages in the lands of the lower Euphrates , the lower Tigris , the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab, and in the adjacent Iranian Province of Khuzistan (once called Arabistan).

Their religion is a proto-religion in which they descended from Adam who was the first to receive the religious instructions of the Mandaeans. Their last great teacher and healer was John the Baptist. The origins of both the people and of the religion are one of the continuing mysteries of Mandaean research.

Other names used for the Mandaeans

Christians of Saint John

It was through the Portuguese monks that the name Christians of Saint John or Chrsitiani S. Ioannis . The first time this term is used is in a report dated 1555 written by the Portuguese monks of Ormuz. Upon seeing their baptismal rites and hearing the stories of John the Baptist, the Portuguese called the Mandaeans "Christians of St. John" or Christiani di San Giovanni. Assuming that these people were simply the last remnants of John the Baptist followers and that they simply had not heard the word of Jesus, the monks decided all the Mandaeans needed was a little prodding to become good Catholicss.


We first seee this term in the the writings of Muhammad ' ibn Ishaq 'ibn 'al-Nadim (died 995 AD). 'Ibn al-Nadim wrote about a baptizing sect that he calls Sabat al-bata'ih—the Sabians of the Marshs. He also calls them informally al- Mughasilah "the Baptists" or "ones who wash themselves".

Published in History

The Mandaeans (Subbiyun) have survived in the marshy area of the lower plains of Babylonia and have lived and continue to live basically in around Shat al-Arab and along the rivers that converge on it, Tigris and Euphrates, and the Karun, in the Iranian Khuzistan. The Mandaeans had settled for centuries in these distinct areas and generally lived in straw and mud huts. Today, there is in addition a significant Mandaean community in Baghdad. With continuous persecution, the population of the Mandaeans in Diaspora has increased significantly. They make proficient goldsmiths, blacksmiths, carpenters (boat builders), shepherds and farmers.

The Mandaeans have always had a special interest in the study of astronomy and mathematics just like their forefathers, the ancient Babylonians. The dean of translators in this aspect was Thabit bin Qurrah (ca. 836-901), who had a patron in the successor of al-Mutawakkil. He is credited with having translated into Arabic-in collaboration with his son and other disciples-the bulk of the Greek mathematical and astronomical works including those of Archimedes (d. 212 BC). Other known Mandaeans are Ibrahim bin Sinan, who was a famous engineer during the Abbasid period and Albutani, who was a mathematician and astronomer. Two of their best-known figures in modern Iraqi history have been Dr. Aabdul Jabar Abdullah, a well-known physicist and Malik Saif, aka Comrade Kamal, a distinctive member of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party during the middle of the 20th century.

Mandeaen priest baptizing in the name of John the Baptist The Mandaeans are sometimes referred to as Sabaeans, but one must not confuse them with the Sabaeans of the early Yemen history, in the southwestern edge of the Arabian Peninsula. Mandaeans during Islam acquired a dhimmi status just like the Christians and the Jews, and were classified by Moslems as a "protected" sect. Traditionally though when a Mandaean family converts to any other religion, although not abandoning its ethnic identity, it no longer is considered Mandaean.
For the Mandaeans, Sunday is considered a holy day, which they call hab?aba (habshaba). The ceremony practiced on Sunday could last almost all morning. Mandaeans or "Saint John Christians", as they are called sometimes, believe in God and His Monotheism. God is called in their holy book and other religious sources, "The Great Life or The Eternal Life". Also, they believe that Adam was their first prophet and teacher. Their second prophet was Sheet who is named "Shetel" in Mandaiac; followed by Sam son of Noah. Aspects of the Mandaean Religion include: Monotheism; Baptism; Praying; Fasting and Giving (moral and material).

The religious ideas of the Mandaeans show some remarkable similarities to the ancient doctrines, whether pagan or Christian. In the Ginza "Treasury", perhaps the best known of the Mandaic sacred books, we find at least seven different accounts of the origins of the cosmos, each with features most difficult to reconcile. The Mandaeans hold on the immense shoulders of Ur, an enormous serpent-like sea monster of the abyss. Most of the stories about the language and religion of the Mandaeans were collected by Catholic missionaries, who acknowledged that great uncertainties surrounded them. First, the name; it is not certain what Mandaean means but it is thought that it came from their own claim of being Mandaiia, which is related to madda, meaning "knowledge". The most sacred Mandaean ceremonies are performed by the priests, who are called tarmidia "disciple," inside a fenced-off area called a mandi with a building inside this area called manda or bimanda (from bet manda, "house of knowledge". Second, it is thought that the name came from Manda d-Hiia, meaning "Knowledge of Life". What is certain is the name their Arab neighbors gave them: Subba, "baptizers," "those who immerse [themselves in water]. Baptism and submersion in the flowing water of a river is the principle religious practice. For Mandaeans, flowing water is considered life-creating force of the world.

A very interesting religious ritual is giving the new born four names; one used during religious rituals given by the priest, second is the family name, a third is a sort of clan name, and a personal Arab name used for everyday life that does not has any astrological value (not to cause particular problems). The astrological name, called the "name of the sign of the zodiac" is calculated in this manner: the (12) signs of the zodiac, from Aries to Pisces, are placed in a circle, and beginning from the sign corresponding to the month of the child's birth, the priest passes from sign to sign, for as many positions as there were hours in the day until the moment of birth, to arrive at the sign of the zodiac under whose influence lay the hour of the day in which the birth occurred. The numerical value of this sign is what counts, and the numerical value of the astrological name of the child's mother is subtracted from this. Once a certain number has been arrived at, a list of names corresponding to that number is compiled from the list in the "Book of the Zodiacs," and the parents choose a name from that list. There are other rituals that evolve around constant consultation of the stars and others in which the priests redact horoscopes and predict the future. Other rituals include the daily ablution of all parts of the body, and others, which I will not get into in this short article.
Within the community of believers, who are known as the laupa, there are those who are not priests but know how to read and write classical Mandaean language and are called ialupia "cultured secular layman". They have access to the sacred texts and the knowledge those texts convey. Above the priests are the ganzibria (singular ganzibra) meaning "bishop", a name connected to ginza "treasury," which could mean also "the treasurer of knowledge." Heading the religious hierarchy was a ri? (rish) ama "head of the people" but this position has not been filled since the 19th century, which few many describe as a sign for a declining of Mandaeanism.
The classical Mandaean language is a type of Oriental Aramaic, with features similar to those of the language of the Babylonian Talmud and with external influence, especially Persian. Spoken Mandaean, called raTtna, uses a simplified language system and betrays considerable Arabic influence. The alphabet is made of (24) signs, of which (22) represent the normal letters, the 23rd is a double letter, and the last one is the repetition of the first "a". In this way a multiple of (6) is obtained (the number that symbolically indicates Mandaean things), as well as the correspondence to the number of hours in a day. Unlike other Semitic languages, the vowels do not appear as little dots or secondary graphical signs compared to consonants but are always written in their full form, being thought of as letters like the rest.

The oldest Mandaean liturgical text is a set of collection of Hymns of Praise called Qulasta. Other parts of the text are Sidra d-Ni?mata "The Book of Souls", containing liturgies for the maSsbuta (plural maSsbutiata) "solemn baptism"; prayers for the masiqta "elevation, a ceremony to help the soul"; Asut Malkia "The Greeting to the King"; Rahmia (everyday prayers); Abahatan Qadmaiia "Our First Fathers"; prayers for weddings; drap?a "ceremonial standard with a support in the form of a cross"; zidqa brika "blessed offerings"; klila "crown of myrtle", and so forth. Other texts include Sidra Rba "Great Book" or Ginza "Treasurer" iamina (of the right) and smala (of the left). In addition, in Mandaic a large number of magic texts have been redacted.
Around 1290, a learned Dominican Catholic from Tuscany, Ricoldo da Montecroce, or Ricoldo Pennini, was in Mesopotamia where he met the Mandaeans. He described them as follows:
"A very strange and singular people, in terms of their rituals, lives in the desert near Baghdad; they are called Sabaeans. Many of them came to me and begged me insistently to go and visit them. They are a very simple people and they claim to possess a secret law of God, which they preserve in beautiful books. Their writing is a sort of middle way between Syriac and Arabic. They detest Abraham because of circumcision and they venerate John the Baptist above all. They live only near a few rivers in the desert. They wash day and night so as not to be condemned by God, ..."
Catholic missionaries have other encounters with the Mandaeans towards the middle of the 16th century. But the Mandaeans remained, or were kept, unknown, and Pennini's information and few others remained unpublished until 1940s. What was the reason behind this neglect by the Vatican?
Pope Eugene IV (March 3, 1431-February 23, 1447) signed agreements, on the basis of orthodoxy, with certain hitherto dissident Nestorian groups in Mesopotamia in 1444 and in Cyprus in 1445. The Nestorians of Cyprus consequently converted to Catholicism as a whole and their bishop asked that they be called Chaldeans from that time on. In 1552, a Nestorian monk, Sulaqa, traveled to Rome, accepted Catholicism and was proclaimed patriarch over the Assyrians in 1553. But the title was eventually replaced with the title patriarch over the Chaldeans to be in parallel with the title Chaldean given to the Nestorian converts in Cyprus.

The Catholic missionaries have been contacting the Christians of northern Mesopotamia yet earlier but this is not the topic of the article. And at the same time the contacts of the Catholics continued with the Mandaeans. Some Portuguese Jesuits had met some "Saint John Christians" or Mandaeans around the Strait of Hormuz in 1559, when the Portuguese fleet met the Ottoman Turkish army in Bahrain and forced the latter to retreat but lost later in 1581. Communications between the Catholic missionaries and these Mandaean Christians continued, as the latter seemed to be willing to obey the holy Roman Church. They already knew and used the seven Catholic sacraments and the related ceremonies in their lives.
In 1604, Gerolamo Vecchietti, a Tuscan and one of the finest of narrators, who was entrusted by the Pope and other European sovereign to look for manuscripts in Oriental languages, was traveling along the Baghdad-Basrah route. He stopped by a small village where he found a group of Mandaean Christians. One of these had fled from Kuzistan, spoke Portuguese and he provided information to Vecchietti about his people, in all he said that they were around 60,000 of them. About the Mandaeans' language, Vecchietti concluded that the Mandaeans called it Chaldean language, although he identified it as Syriac. After arriving in Basrah, Vecchietti met many Mandaeans. Having gathered what he could from the Mandaeans in term of news and information, Vecchietti deduced that the Mandaeans were "a generation of the ancient Chaldean Christians," reduced to ignorance by Islamic persecution, stated Professor Lupieri. We know that many of the Christians of southern Mesopotamia were forced into Islam after the latter's conquest of southern Mesopotamia during the second quarter of the 7th century. This was due to many reasons, most importantly perhaps was to escape the heavy taxes levied on non-Moslems. Although we see prominent Christians in the fields of medicine, science and in the courts of the Abbasid Caliphates, the Christians in general were decreasing rapidly in numbers in southern Mesopotamia, unlike northern Mesopotamia, and just before the fall of the Abbasid Dynasty and Baghdad in 1258 at the hands of the Mongols, the Christians in southern Mesopotamia were a small minority.

Everything in the Mandaeans' history indicates a strong descendent link to the ancient Babylonian society of southern Mesopotamia, which included the ancient Chaldeans in its fabric. One must wonder who is more authentic to claim a descent from the ancient Babylonians and the Chaldeans? The Mandaeans who continue to live in southern Mesopotamia and have many religious, language, ritual, and other aspects of those original forefathers or some Christians living in Assyria, over 300 miles to the north, whom the Vatican wrongly called Chaldeans? The Vatican had made its decision to call every Church of the East member "wrongly labeled Nestorian" convert to Catholicism as a Chaldean for consistency with what had happened in Cyprus in 1445. But it had to figure out a way to deal with these new peoples the Roman Catholics have encountered, i.e. the Mandaeans. Therefore, the Vatican decided to keep the Mandaeans, the heirs of ancient Babylonians, somehow in the shadows. The Vatican figured, what better name to propagate than that of some people mentioned in the Bible, the ancient Babylonians and ancient Chaldeans, who have shown signs of survival in southern Mesopotamia through the Mandaeans and their ways!

What did the Vatican cause by doing so? From one side, the Vatican denied the small community of the Mandaeans their legitimate descent from the ancient Chaldeans. This was true since the term Chaldean was wrongly generalized to include every Nestorian convert to Catholicism from Cyprus to India, even though these people have no connection with the ancient Chaldeans. And from the other side, the Vatican put the foundation to destroy its real rival church by creating a new ethnic group out from the Church of the East, i.e. the Chaldeans.
Hence, the two most unfortunate victims of this unforgiving move by the Vatican, in my opinion, were: the Mandaeans and the Assyrians.

From The Assyrian Society of UK

Published in History
Wednesday, 24 April 2013 02:58

Contemporary Issues for the Mandaean Faith

The Mandaean religion has survived as a unique and independent religion from the period of gnosticism that flourished in the Middle East at the time of early Christianity. It is one of the earliest monotheistic religions, with its own holy books and prophets, and spiritual leaders. Having survived centuries of repression and persecution, Mandaean communities worldwide are only too keenly aware of the challenges that face this ancient faith in contemporary society, and of the importance of its appreciation as a world religion.

The term 'Tarmida' refers to the second rank of Mandaean priesthood. Tarmida Yuhana Nashmi will speak today, briefly outlining the key beliefs structuring the Mandaean faith as context to the program Being Mandaean . This framework will bring into focus the contemporary issues that face the Mandaean communities in diaspora, as well as those remaining in Iraq and Iran .

Speech by: Tarmida Yuhana Nashmi
Liverpool Museum July 2004

Contemporary Issues for the Mandaean Faith

Thank you Professor Aobed
Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen

The Mandaean religion is one of the ancient monotheists, independent religions. It has its own religious philosophy, a unique language, holy books and group of prophets, holy teachers and fathers.

The Mandaeans have lived in many regions over a wide geographical setting. Yet, they live mainly in Iraq and Ahwaz ( Southern Iran ). There are Mandaean communities in Europe, America , Australia and other countries. Their number does not exceed 100,000. Despite this little number, they have had an outstanding role in the fields of science, literature and knowledge since the Abassid age.

As with all religions, Mandaeism agrees with other religions on some points of belief and differs with them on others. It is the points of difference that give every religion its own quality.

At times, the Mandaeans have been referred to as a Jewish or Christian sect. However, we must say that Mandaeans are not a Jewish community because we do not follow the Torah's teachings.

And we are not a Christian sect because we do not acknowledge Jesus as god.

I would like to briefly outline some of the key beliefs of Mandaeans:

• The Mandaeans believe in one god, who we call Haii Rabi , which translates to mean THE GREAT LIFE or The GREAT LIVING GOD.

The Mandaeans believe that life on earth is only a part of many lives in the universe.

• The Mandaeans believe there is always conflict or fighting between the good and bad and that the good is represented by the light (Nhora) and the flowing living water (Maia Haii) and that the bad is represented by the dark (Hshokh) and the dead and salty water (Maia Tahmi).

• Mandaeans believe that the two waters are mixed within all things on earth to achieve a balance.

• They believe in next life or a heaven, which we call the WORLDS OF LIGHT.

• The Mandaeans believe that a person consists of body and soul .. and the soul equal to the mind which we call (Mana). We call the soul Neshemtha and it is a part o the great life and this part must return back to the life. The Mandaeans don't believe that there is a perfect good person or perfect bad person. And this, then, creates a full life cycle whereby the soul returns to god (Haii Rabi) who created it and it will get into a body of light and life (Damotha).

However, to reach the Worlds of Light, a person must account for what they did on earth.
• The Mandaeans believe in repeated baptism (Masbuta), which is the key ritual in the Mandaean faith to cleans us of our sins and to save our souls from all earthly bad effects.
• The Mandaeans also believe in knowledge and education about our religion and the universe as the way to reach god. Manda means knowledge in Aramic, and from this comes the name Mandaean.
• Peace is also central to the Mandaean's faith, and the Mandaeans do not believe in using force or violence for any conflict.
• The Mandaeans believe in the great Mandaean Fasting, which means the abstinence from anything that, distorts man's relation with his God and other human beings. And this fasting must continue for ever life.
• The Mandaeans believe that " Adam " realized the existence of Haii through the Mandaean religion and considered to be their first prophet and teacher. Their second prophet was his son " Shetel " (Seth); followed by " Sam " the son of " Noah " and finally " Yahya Yuhana " (or John the Baptist).
• The Mandaeans believe that the life is significant resource of knowledge.

There are different ranks for the Mandaean clergymen, and this depends on his education, completion of certain religious rituals, and being elected by the other clergymen.
The first rank is Rabi. This is a very high rank, chosen by Haii, our god. Rabis are considered as prophet. The last person who reached this rank is John the Baptist more then 2000 years ago.
The second rank is Reshama, which we call the Head of Nation. There is only one person in this position at any time.
The third rank is Ganzbra. This person has a high education in religious matters and can explain and interpret religious texts and occurances. There are currently four Ganzbras worldwide.
Tarmida is an initial rank of the clergyman, and he can perform religious ceremonies such as weddings, but is still building religious knowledge and teachings. Currently there are about 30 Tarmidas worldwide.
Shkanda are assistants to the clergyman and must be present when they are performing important religious rituals.

For me, I never imagined that I would become a Tarmida, as my family did not have religious lineage. But I was deeply interested and inspire in the Mandaean philosophy, traditions and customs of the Mandaean faith.
My becoming a priest is testimony to the fact that both society and religious ideals are changing. Now there are approximately 30 religious priests, mostly youths, who did not have ancestry of the clergy.

Many people within the community believe that Mandaean church should take new steps to survive within its new environments, especially due to social, economic and technological pressures and opportunities in our new homeland. If we work collaboratively there is the opportunity for the Mandaean faith to become stronger.
All the clergymen, and community, recognize that it is now important to hold a conference between the Mandaean Priests worldwide to discuss the issues that have arisen for the community in diaspora and in Iraq and Iran .
I pray to Haii to give us the courage and the motivation to reach these goals. I hope and expect that this conference may happen next year. It has been proposed that the conference be held in Iraq , Sweden or Australia as selected by the priests.
Some of the most important issues that are facing the Mandaean community are:

Firstly: Working to prove and promote the religious and official rights of the Mandaean people in Iraq and Iran .
Mandaean people are not considered in the constitutions of Iraq and Iran and there are no equal opportunities for the community in education, employment and legal representation.
This has led to a system of social persecution and a lack of recognition.
If we can achieve a secular constitution, removed from all religious influence, it will benefit all minority groups in Iraq and Iran , including Mandaeans.

Secondly: Maintaining a unified identity amongst diasporic Mandaean communities who are now spread throughout twelve countries.
Dating back to the Arab invasions of Mesopotamia approximately 1400 years ago; there is a history for Mandaean people to isolate themselves from the mainstream society and to try to avoid the pressures of new cultures, which bought persecution.
Today, for all of the communities in diaspora it is important that we don't follow the pattern of isolation again. We must be open to our new environments and try to build the community from the inside out, in order to integrate with our new homelands.

Thirdly: A return to true Mandaean practices.
Throughout history, Mandaean rituals and practices have become influenced by the pressures of living under Arab and Muslim rule, and as a consequence these practices have inherited rituals of other faiths.
Now that Mandaean communities are removed from this environment we have an opportunity to re-examine our rituals and teachings in order to return to the true spiritual side of the practice

Fourthly: The issue of Conversion.
There are many young Mandaean people who have married a person of another faith for the full variety of reasons that people marry in any culture, and many of these people remain determined to keep their faith and for their children to be considered Mandaean.
After a history of oppression the Mandaean community did isolate itself and it became practice not to permit conversions, and this idea has become adopted as a religious law. However, I feel we must discuss the idea of conversion somehow.

Lastly: the issue of Education.
It is important for both priests and the community to teach Mandaean studies to young people in a way that is attractive, fun and social so that the religion remains relevant to their lives. This is especially important now that youth face new pressures and opportunities in the new environment and culture.

Many Mandaeans throughout the world think that Australia is a suitable place for all of the community to come to rest. For us, Australia is a very suitable country from all aspects of government, environment and social recognition. In particular, the beautiful flowing and clean rivers in Australia are essential to the Mandaean practice of baptism. The democratic system of society also gives us freedom and a respect for our human rights.
In Australia , Mandaeans also receive opportunities to work, and because of the country's multiculturalism, there is the economic opportunity to build facilities and support for the Mandaean people as a whole.
In my eyes, Australia is opening opportunities for us to live in harmony and to give us what we were denied for centuries in our original homeland.
I hope and wish that the Mandaean community will be an active and productive one in our new homeland of Australia .
Thank you ladies and gentlemen for your listening to my speech and I hope that I was useful for all of you. And thank you also for your patient.
Please accept my full respect and my prayers to our Haii Rabi to give a happy and significant life to all of you.

Published in History
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