Mandaeism Religion | Books, Founder, Beliefs &More.

Mandaeism Religion

All About Mandaeism Religion

Mandaeism Religion from Mandaean mandayya, “knowing”, ancient Middle Eastern religion still surviving in Iraq and Khuzistan (southwest Iran). The religion is usually treated as a Gnostic sect; it resembles Manichaeism in some respects. Whereas most scholars date the beginnings of Mandaeanism somewhere in the first three centuries AD, the matter of its origin is highly conjectural. Some scholars, emphasizing the Babylonian elements in Mandaean magical texts, use of the Iranian calendar, and the incorporation of several Iranian words into the Mandaic language, argue that Mandaeanism originated in the area of southwestern Mesopotamia in early Christian or even pre-Christian times. Others argue for a Syro-Palestinian origin, basing their case on the quasi-historical Mandaean document, the Haran Gawaita, which narrates the exodus from Palestine to Mesopotamia in the 1st century AD of a group called Nasoreans (the Mandaean priestly caste as opposed to Mandaiia, the laity). They also call attention to certain Mandaean affinities to Judaism: familiarity with Old Testament writings; parallels to Jewish ethics, particularly the high value placed on marriage and procreation; concern for cultic purity; and the use of Hebrew angelology.

Like other dualistic systems, Mandaeanism stresses salvation of the soul through esoteric knowledge (gnosis) of its divine origin. In its cosmological superstructure, evil Archons (rulers) obstruct the ascent of the soul through the heavenly spheres to a reunion with the supreme deity. Unlike many Gnostic systems, however, Mandaeism Religion strongly supports marriage and forbids sexual license.

The Mandaeans also developed an elaborate cultic ritual, particularly for baptism, which was not characteristic of any other known Gnostic sect. The Mandaeans viewed Jesus as a false messiah but revered John the Baptist, who performed miracles of healing through baptism, which the Mandaeans viewed as a magical process giving immortality, purification, and physical health.

Mandaeism Religion

Books Of Mandaeism Religion:

Among the more important extant Mandaean writings are the Ginza Rabba (Book of Adam), a cosmological treatise; the Book of John, describing the activities of John the Baptist; the Book of the Zodiac, a collection of magical and astrological texts; and the Baptism of Hibil Ziwa, describing the purification of the heavenly savior of the Mandaeans.

Mandaeism religion Founder:

Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram, and especially John the Baptist. They describe Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad as false Prophets. At the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia, the leader of the Mandaeans, Anush Bar-Danqa, appeared before Muslim authorities showing them a copy of the Ginza Rabba, the Mandaean holy book, and proclaiming the chief Mandaean prophet to be John the Baptist, who is also mentioned in the Quran as Yahya Bin Zakariya. This identified Mandaeans with the Sabians who are mentioned in the Quran as being counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb (People of the Book).
The Sabians were also said to be gnostics and descendants of Noah.

Mandaeism beliefs:

Mandaean theology is not systematic. There is no one single authoritative account of the creation of the cosmos, but rather a series of several accounts. Some scholars, such as Edmondo Lupieri, maintain that comparison of these different accounts may reveal the diverse religious influences upon which the Mandaeans have drawn and how the Mandaeism Religion has evolved.

In contrast with the religious texts of the western Gnostic sects formerly found in Syria and Egypt, the earliest Mandaean religious texts suggest a more strictly dualistic theology, typical of other Iranian religions such as Zoroastrianism, Zurvanism, Manichaeism, and the teachings of Mazdak. In these texts, instead of a large pleroma, there is a discrete division between light and darkness. The ruler of darkness is called Ptahil (similar to the Gnostic Demiurge), and the originator of the light (i.e. God) is only known as “the great first Life from the worlds of light, the sublime one that stands above all works”. When this being emanated, other spiritual beings became increasingly corrupted, and they and their ruler Ptahil created our world. The name Ptahil is suggestive of the Egyptian Ptah—the Mandaeans believe that they were resident in Egypt for a while—joined to the Semitic El, meaning “god”.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that Ptahil alone does not constitute the demiurge but only fills that role insofar as he is the creator of our world. Rather, Ptahil is the lowest of a group of three “demiurgic” beings, the other two being Yushamin (a.k.a. Joshamin) and Abathur. Abathur’s demiurgic role consists of his sitting in judgment upon the souls of mortals. The role of Yushamin, the senior being, is more obscure; wanting to create a world of his own, he was severely punished for opposing the King of Light. Lupieri observes that he is generally considered a positive figure nevertheless. The name may derive from Iao haš-šammayim (in Hebrew: Yahweh “of the heavens”)

Mandaean priest:

There is a strict division between the Mandaean laity and the priests. According to E. S. Drower (The Secret Adam, p. ix):

Those amongst the community who possess secret knowledge is called Naṣuraiia—Naṣoreans (or if the emphatic ‹ṣ› is written as ‹z›, Nazarenes). At the same time the ignorant or semi-ignorant laity are called ‘Mandaeans’, Mandaiia—’gnostics.’ When a man becomes a priest he leaves ‘Mandaeanism’ and enters tarmiduta, ‘priesthood.’ Even then he has not attained true enlightenment, for this, called ‘Naṣiruta’, is reserved for a very few. Those possessed of its secrets may call themselves Naṣoreans, and ‘Naṣorean’ today indicates not only one who observes strictly all rules of ritual purity, but one who understands the secret doctrine.

There are three grades of priesthood in Mandaeism Religion: the tarmidia (Classical Mandaic‎) “disciples” (Neo-Mandaic tarmidānā), the ganzibria (Classical Mandaic‎) “treasurers” (from Old Persian ganza-bara “id.,” Neo-Mandaic ganzeḇrānā), and the rišama (Classical Mandaic‎) “leader of the people”. Ganzeḇrā, a title which appears first in a religious context in the Aramaic ritual texts from Persepolis (c. 3rd century BCE), and which may be related to the kamnaskires (Elamite <qa-ap-nu-iš-ki-ra> kapnuskir “treasurer”), the title of the rulers of Elymais (modern Khuzestan) during the Hellenistic age. Traditionally, any ganzeḇrā who baptizes seven or more ganzeḇrānā may qualify for the office of rišama. The current rišama of the Mandaean community in Iraq is Sattar Jabbar Hilo al-Zahrony. In Australia, the Mandaean rišama is Salah Chohaili.

The contemporary priesthood can trace its immediate origins to the first half of the 19th century. In 1831, an outbreak of cholera in Shushtar, Iran devastated the region and eliminated most, if not all, of the Mandaean religious authorities there. Two of the surviving acolytes (šgandia), Yahia Bihram and Ram Zihrun, reestablished the priesthood in Suq al-Shuyukh based on their training and the texts that were available to them.

In 2009, there were two dozen Mandaean priests in the world, according to the Associated Press. However, according to the Mandaean Society in America, the number of priests has been growing in recent years.

Worship and rituals in Mandaeism Religion:

The two most important ceremonies in Mandaean worship are baptism (Masbuta), and ‘the ascent’ (Masiqta – a mass for the dead or ascent of the soul ceremony). Unlike in Christianity, baptism is not a one-off event but is performed every Sunday, the Mandaean holy day, as a ritual of purification. Baptism usually involves full immersion in flowing water, and all rivers considered fit for baptism are called Yardena (after the River Jordan). After emerging from the water, the worshipper is anointed with holy sesame oil and partakes in a communion of sacramental bread and water. The ascent of the soul ceremony, called the masiqta, can take various forms, but usually involves a ritual meal in memory of the dead. The ceremony is believed to help the souls of the departed on their journey through purgatory to the World of Light.[

Other rituals for purification include the Rishama and the Tamasha which, unlike Masbuta, can be performed without a priest. The Rishama (signing) is performed before prayers and involves washing the face and limbs while reciting specific prayers. It is performed daily, before sunrise, with hair covered and after the evacuation of bowels or before religious ceremonies. The Tamasha is a triple immersion in the river without a requirement for a priest. It is performed by women after menstruation or childbirth, men and women after sexual activity or nocturnal emission, touching a corpse, or any other type of defilement. Ritual purification also applies to fruits, vegetables, pots, pans, utensils, animals for consumption, and ceremonial garments (rasta). Purification for a dying person is also performed. It includes bathing involving a threefold sprinkling of river water over the person from head to feet.

A Mandaean’s grave must be in the north-south direction so that if the dead Mandaean were stood upright, they would face north.  Similarly, Essene graves are also oriented north-south. Mandaeans must face north during prayers, which are performed three times a day. Prayer in Mandaeism is called brakha.

A Mandī (Arabic: مندى‎) (Beth Manda) or Mashkhanna is a place of worship for followers of Mandaeism Religion. A Mandī must be built beside a river to perform Maṣbuta (baptism) because water is an essential element in the Mandaean faith. Modern Mandīs sometimes have a bath inside a building instead. Each Mandi is adorned with a Drabsha, which is a banner in the shape of a cross, made of olive wood half-covered with a piece of white pure silk cloth and seven branches of myrtle. The drabsha is not identified with the Christian cross. Instead, the four arms of the drabsha symbolize the four corners of the universe, while the pure silk cloth represents the Light of God. The seven branches of myrtle represent the seven days of creation.

in Mandaeism Religion, Mandaeans believe in marriage and procreation, and in the importance of leading an ethical and moral lifestyle in this world. They are pacifist and egalitarian, with the earliest attested Mandaean scribe being a woman, Shlama Beth Qidra, who copied the Left Ginza sometime in the 2nd century CE.  There is evidence for women priests, especially in the pre-Islamic era. They also place a high priority on family life. Circumcision is forbidden and Mandaeans abstain from strong drinks and most red meat. Meat consumed by Mandaeans must also be slaughtered according to the proper rituals. The approach to slaughter is always apologetic. On some days, meat is not allowed to be eaten.


World Religions

Sources: 1, 2, 3

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Mercy Cuthbert
Mom, Wife, Author, Bachelor of Arts Comparative Religion.

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