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More Mandaean Material

From:Leo Caesius <leo_caesius@...>
Date:Thursday, August 31, 2000, 16:37
Dear List:
    A kind individual, who knows far more about Mandaean religion and
culture than I, took the time to reply to my posting of some two or three
weeks back about the Mandaeans and their rituals.  He hosts quite a lot of
fascinating information on the web (see the URLs below) and has been
involved in the field of Mandaean Research for over two decades.  I thought
the content of his letter might be interesting for several members of this
list, so I asked his permission to reprint it (there's been quite an
interesting discussion raging on the AUXLANG list over the right to publish
someone else's private correspondence, and I've been reprimanded myself...
so I thought it best to play by the book).  For those of you who are
interested in Mandaean religion, culture, and language, hopefully this post
will answer a few more of your questions.

<beginning of AJAE's letter>

>Hello to all who reads this
>I would like to address a posting earlier this summer—I just now >came across this posting while doing a search. Please if I may, I >would like to provide some additional details that may be helpful to >those who were interested. Thank-you
>Mr. Leo Caesius Wrote: > >>…snip…Sure, I'll see if I can render it in Iranists' terms, >because I can't remember the native (Aramaic/Mandaic) terms (and >there is no reference for this sort of thing). Please forgive me if I >misspell something. >>
>My Response: >For general information on the Mandaeans see Mandaean World at:
>Mr. Leo Caesius Wrote: > >>…snip…There were a battery of priests (although I think one >or two would suffice) wearing white outfits including, I believe, >analogs of the kusti and the sudra (it may interest you to know that >the "symbol" of the Mandaeans is a standard made from two crossed >olive branches and a white stole, which is draped around the cross as >if it were a scarecrow). >>
>My Response: >In a Mandaean baptism the number and rank of Mandaean priests needed >is determined depending upon the purpose for the baptism. The white >outfits are called rastas in Modern Mandaic. The clothing represents >the garments of the <heavenly lights>. The symbol you mention is >called a drabsa. The main part of the Drabsa is the white cloth with >is symbolic of <heavenly light> and it is draped over a cross bean >and staff which is then <planted> into the Yardan <any river with >running water>. The kusta is the sacred handshake <promise> made >between the baptised person and God through the Mandaean Priest.
>For more information and photos of the rasta please see >
>Mr. Leo Caesius Wrote: > >>First water was taken from the Charles and every object used in the >ceremony was "purified" by generous ablutions in the Charles' water. >A small fire was lit and something that looked like a wafer was >prepared, again using the Charles water…snip… This wafer was >baked in the fire and then broken up and fed to the children who were >being baptised. Then, one by one, the children would stand in the >Charles behind the priest. The priest would face west and splash each >child while reciting the names of a whole slew of divinities. Flowing >water (and baptisms in it) are central to the religious life of the >Mandaeans. >>
>My Response: >Before baptisms are begun --much preparation is needed. Everything >used must be blessed and purified. The bread that is prepared is >called the pihtha <sacramental bread> must be made and baked by the >priest also before baptisms begin. The ceremony of the bread and >water was so similar to the Christian Mass that the Portuguese >missionary called the Mandaeans --- Christians of St. John.
>Mr. Leo Caesius Wrote: > >>>The Arabs refer to the community of Mandaeans as >mughtasil, "washed." Interestingly enough, the community venerates >John the Baptist (Yahya yuhana - I know, that's just the Arabic and >Aramaic names stuck together, but that's how they refer to him) as >their most sacred leader, and because of him, the word for baptist in >Mandaic is "yuhana." There have been numerous attempts to link the >Mandaeans with the shadowy "Johannine community" which some see in >Matthew. But the Mandaeans are no more a Christian sect than they are >a Jewish sect - although their own legends place them along the banks >of the Jordan during the time of Christ. Christ himself is both >worshipped and reviled in the Mandaean community.
>My Response: >The neighboring Arabs also call the Mandaeans Subbi or Sobbi—the >word translates as Sabians, which is the name used in the Quran to >indicate the Mandaeans. The word Mandaeans appears to be a later >designation.
>John the Baptist is called Yahia Yohanna — this may be the due >to a redaction of the main Mandaean book on John the Baptist after >the Islamic influence.
>True the Mandaeans are not Christian or Jews but as far as the ><Johnannine community> is concerned these could have been a form of >Mandaeism.
>Jesus as worshipped among the Mandaeans?? I am very surprised to >hear this. Jesus is not worshipped as the Christ---out of respect to >the Christian they do honor him as a prophet of the Christians but do >not worship him. I would have to know the source of this information >to be able to figure it out. I have never heard this from any the >Mandaeans that I am in contact with.
AJAE Mandaean World Research E-Group Mandaean World Web Site </end of AJAE's letter> Naturally, I'm not able to prove that the Mandaeans "worship" Jesus - what I meant to say was that he was revered by Mandaeans as a Christian prophet; "worship" is perhaps a strong word. -Chollie _________________________________________________________________________ Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at Share information about yourself, create your own public profile at