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(măn`dēənz), a small religious sect who maintain an ancient belief resembling that of GnosticismGnosticism
, dualistic religious and philosophical movement of the late Hellenistic and early Christian eras. The term designates a wide assortment of sects, numerous by the 2d cent. A.D.
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 and that of the ParsisParsis
or Parsees
, religious community of India, practicing Zoroastrianism. The Parsis (numbering about 75,000) are concentrated in Maharashtra and Gujarat states, especially in Mumbai. Their ancestors migrated from Iran in the 8th cent. to avoid Muslim persecution.
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. They are also known as Christians of St. John, Nasoraeans, Sabians, and Subbi. There are about 60,000 Mandaeans worldwide, most now in Jordan and Syria (having fled there from Iraq), some near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in Iraq, others in the area of Shushtar, Iran, and in cities of Asia Minor; emigration has led also to communities in Sweden, Britain, Australia, Canada, and the United States.

Their customs and writings indicate early Christian, perhaps pre-Christian, origin. Their system of astrology resembles those of ancient Babylonia and the cults of the MagiMagi
, 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.
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 in the last centuries B.C. Their emanation system and their dualism suggest a Gnostic origin, but unlike the Gnostics, they abhor asceticism and emphasize fertility. Although some of their practices were influenced by Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, they reject all three. The Mandaeans respect St. John the Baptist because of his baptizing, since their principal concern is ritual cleanliness and their chief rite is frequent baptism. The custom, which antedated the baptisms of St. John, stems from the belief that living water is the principle of life. They have a communion sacrament, which is offered for the remembrance of the dead and resembles Parsi ritual meals. Their chief holy book, the Ginza Rba, like their other books, is a compendium of cosmology, cosmogony, prayers, legends, and rituals, written at various times and often contradictory.

The origin of the Mandaeans is not known; it is conjectured that they came from a mountainous region N of Babylonia and Persia, where they settled in ancient times; however, more recent scholarship places their origin in Palestine or Syria. The sect is diminishing because younger members tend to apostatize, and because Mandaeans do not practice conversion. They have been discriminated against in Iran under the Islamic republic and have been persecuted in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.


See S. A. F. D. Pallis, Mandaean Studies (rev. ed. 1926); Lady Drower, The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran (1937, repr. 1962) and Secret Adam: A study of Nasorean Gnosis (1960); E. M. Yamauchi, Gnostic Ethics and Mandaean Origins (1970).

References in periodicals archive ?
Segelberg, "Old and New Testament Figures in Mandaean Version," in Syncretism, ed.
He said that "the Mandaean Sabian minority had suffered from margining and isolation during the past periods; and now time has come to be just towards them," calling for "necessity for their participation in the decision-making in different institutions of the State of Iraq.
Eliot Weinberger goes to great lengths to portray the Mandaeans in an exotic light, drawing from both Mandaean and non-Mandaean sources for their history and beliefs.
Whereas Iraq's Christians are struggling to maintain their presence in the country, the nation's Mandaeans are facing a far more fearful fate: extinction.
Baghdad / NINA /-- President of the Republic Fuad Masum, called to pay attention and care to the sons of Sabean Mandaeans and care since they consist an original component of the people and have a big role in the country's history.
Mandaean was a notable inclusion among 11 potential runners in the Prix Niel.
THERE'S been a lot of talk this week about the fact that Mickael Barzalona rode Mandaean in the Dante Stakes at York on Thursday - rather than me.
An armed group attacked two houses, one of them belongs to a Christian family and the other to a Sabian Mandaean family, in al-Aalam neighborhood, south of Baghdad, leaving three seriously wounded in each house," the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.
SIR - Amid the huge problems across the Middle East, it came as a surprise to many who attended a gathering at the Welsh Centre for International Affairs on Tuesday to hear the tragic unfolding of another example of oppression and ethnic cleansing, this time of the Mandaean people.
of New Jersey), the data presented is unique for a number of reasons: Neo-Mandaic is the only surviving dialect of Aramaic directly descended from any of the attested dialects of Late Antiquity; Neo-Mandaic preserves most of the original verbal systems of Aramaic, with the exception of the prefix-conjugation; and, as a modern reflex of Classical Mandaic, the liturgical language of the Mandaean religion, "Neo Mandaic deserves to be considered as both a living language of the modern Middle East and also the vehicle of one its greatest religious traditions, much like Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian.
The Abdulas, Nasirs and Al Khadadys and many of the other Iraqi refugees being resettled in Worcester are Mandaean, members of an ancient Christian sect that suffered systematic religious persecution after Saddam Hussein's secular dictatorship fell.