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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).

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References in periodicals archive ?
Sheikh Jabar estimates there are just 10,000 Mandaeans left in Iraq today, a fraction of what it was before.
Rudolf Macuch, (3) and mostly deal with Mandaean religion, traditions, cultural heritage, and folklore.
Mandaeans are an ethno-religious community, practicing Mandaeism, which is a Gnostic religion with a strongly dualistic worldview.
They wanted to go to Syria because the country was one of the few that had Mandaean places of worship and priests.
Later I learned that this church, known as Ibrahim Khalil, was not only providing spiritual nourishment but also real food to hundreds of refugee families: Christians, Muslims, Mandaeans; anyone who needed it.
The person who studies the Jews, or the Zoroastrians, is not in Edward Said's view an "Orientalist." For Said, the non-Muslims, and even non-Arabs, hardly exist, are occasionally mentioned, are never discussed or acknowledged as Orientals with a history and presence: there are no Copts, no Maronites, not Mandaeans, no Samaritans, no Assyrians, no Greek Orthodox Christians, no Chaldeans, no Berbers, and of course no Jews in the "Orient" for which Said means--must mean--the Middle East and North Africa, peopled with Arabs and Muslims on the one hand and "all the others" on the other hand.
The accord also safeguards the rights of religious groups including Shi'ites, Sunnis, Christians, Jews, Baha'is, Mandaeans, and Yezidis.
The Mandaeans, an ancient Middle Eastern sect that lived (both geographically and doctrinally) in the interstices of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity, come in for similar treatment: They say the Christians have secret rites where they worship a female donkey with three legs.
Chapters cover the classic schools of Christian Gnosticism, Hermetic Gnosis, Manicheism, and the Mandaeans. Chapters are keyed to standard translations of Gnostic writings, including "The Nag Hammadi Scriptures: The International Edition" edited by Marvin W.
Yazidis, like other ancient communities in Iraq such as Christian ChaldoAssyrians, Sabean Mandaeans, and Shabaks, are facing extinction, particularly in their traditional areas, in what is known as the Nineveh plains.
As a specialist in the Mandaean religion and as a human-rights worker for the people, I take exception to Eliot Weinberger's "Mandaeans" (Mythology, May).
The legacy of Mesopotamian astronomy/astrology, which heavily influenced both Greek and Indian cultures, may be most vividly seen in the astrological works of the Mandaeans, a Gnostic community living in southern Iraq (299).