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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 ?
There are angels watching over it," said Sheikh Satar Jabar, head of Iraq's Mandaean community.
Since the 1991 war most of the Mandaean population, which had lived in the country for 2,000 years, have been displaced.
Sheikh Mohammed is the boss, and it was his decision that Mickael should be on board Mandaean at York.
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.
Cautiously I suggest that the upper heading was written by Lady Drawer herself, while the one below was authored by a Mandaean, perhaps by Sheikh Negm, who purchased this manuscript for Drawer and produced the copy of the first part to make the text of ZHZ "complete." (29) In addition, text-type B (DC 13) does not have any heading (the beginning of the manuscript is however missing; see the discussion above), but there is a rubric beside drawing 2 that suggests that the name of the composition is Zarazta d-Hibil Ziua: hazin qmaha uzarazta d-hibilziua.
In this context, the choice of words in Mandaean scriptures describing the redeemer's actions in the material world seem to match perfectly the scene in question: "What has the Stranger done in the house, that he could found himself a party therein?" (16) It must be emphasized that, in Gnostic writings, an emissary, who takes human shape, is not regarded by archons as a threat in the struggle for human souls.
Manduro sired last season's Criterium de Saint-Cloud winner Mandaean in his first crop of two-year-olds.
Sir Henry Cecil still has three potential runners in Wrotham Heath, Frankel's little brother Noble Mission and Thomas Chippendale while Godolphin have decided to keep both Mariner's Cross and Dante flop Mandaean in the reckoning.
"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.