Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus.




(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.
..... Click the link for more information.
 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.
..... Click the link for more information.
. 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.
..... Click the link for more information.
 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 ?
A translation of a previously unpublished Mandaean lest from the Drower Collection (no.
Given the fact that the prayers which are associated with these rituals are generally abbreviated, and that not all of the Paruanaiia rituals are included, readers hoping to acquire a full picture of the rituals should consult Drawer's Canonical Prayerbook of the Mandaeans (Leiden: Brill, 1959) and her Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran (Leiden: Brill, 1962; recently reprinted by Gorgias Press) together with this text edition.
For Lupieri, the identification of the Mandaeans with Jerusalem and John the Baptist and his followers is somewhat misleading.
When the Portuguese first discovered the Mandaeans in the sixteenth century they mistakenly called them "Christians of St.
For the Ginza, Rudolph noted several manuscripts found in European libraries, and also additional manuscripts in the hands of Mandaeans in the East.
mun and (2) after this time, plus (3) one showing the possible migration routes of the Mandaeans.
For their part, members of the delegation praised the support provided by president Masum for Sabean Mandaeans, and support for their demands.
On behalf of President Hassan Rouhani, I express my deepest condolences over the passing away of the leader of Mandaeans and I hope that his soul rests in peace," Younesi said.
These include the religious traditions of the pre-Islamic ("jahiliyyah") Arabs; Mazdeans in Mesopotamia, Iran and Transoxania; Christians (of different communions such as Nestorians in Mesopotamia and Iran; Monophysites in Syria, Egypt and Armenia; Orthodox Melkites in Syria, Orthodox Christianity in North Africa); Jews in various places; Samaritans in Palestine; Mandaeans in south Mesopotamia; Harranians in north Mesopotamia; Manichaeans in Mesopotamia and Egypt; Buddhists and Hindus in Sind; tribal religions in Africa; pre-Islamic Turkic tribes; Buddhists in Sind and the Panjab; and Hindus in the Panjab.
Drower (1879-1972) was a self-taught British scholar and novelist who became recognized as an authority on the Middle East generally, but particularly of the Mandaeans, the last living Gnostic Baptists of Iraq and Iran.
Mandaeans have seen their population decrease in Iraq from 70,000 in the 1990s to just 3,000 today.
Communities of Christians, Mandaeans, and Yezidis also exist.