The Mandeans

By Ehsan Mansouri

The Christians of Saint John named Mandaeans (Arabic: ٱلصَّابِئَة ٱلْمَنْدَائِيُّون‎, romanized: aṣ-Ṣābiʾah al-Mandāʾiyūn) were forced to flee about 1950 years ago from persecutions and harms happened in Jerusalem and had to settle on sides of Euphrates in cities of Baghdad, Basra, Amarah, Khorramshahr, Hoveyzeh, Shooshtar and Anwaz that were all located on the Persian Empire.

You can find them fully in white customs made from cotton next to the Karun River at Ahwaz City of Iran while they are doing their own unique ablution and prayers. They live next to the river and mostly their profession is in Silverwork, Enamels and Goldsmith.

The Christians of Saint John have two separated calendars, first is the great celebration of Adam named “Dahwa Rabba” starting the 15th of July each year that is now year of 445,338 and the second one is the birth of Saint John. 

The Mandaeans have four celebrations including 5 holy days “Banjeh” on every late March, The birth of Saint John, The great celebration “Dahwa Rabba” and the small celebration of the creation of the earth “Dahwa Hamina” on November.

They also organize “Ashoorie” to respect the victims of the great flood from the Book of Genesis, and furthermore “Fal Festival” with preparation of a special meal made of date palm and sesame.

Their holy book named “Ganza Rabba” means the great treasure that is teachings of Adam and his son Seth that covers the whole Mandaeans’ rituals. They believe that Adam had 3 sons and 3 daughters, but it was not allowed any marriages between siblings, therefore, God ordered to send 60 similar families from the world of light to the earth and they all created the very first civilization.

Ganzoora Nejah Chahili is the spiritual leader of the Mandaeans in Iran, He is a 60 years old goldsmith, a very tall with long white beard in a white custom. He believes that they are mostly forgotten by outside world and some people think they are worshiping stars and water but that is a wrong statement. They have some prophets including Adam, Seth, Noah, Shem, Enosh and especially John the Baptist. The Mandaeans group existence into two main categories: light and dark. They have a dualistic view of life, that encompasses both good and evil; all good is thought to have come from the World of Light (i.e. light world) and all evil from the World of Darkness. In relation to the body–mind dualism coined by Descartes, Mandaeans consider the body, and all material, worldly things, to have come from the Dark, while the soul (sometimes referred to as the mind) is a product of the light world. The World of Light is ruled by a heavenly being, known by many names, such as “Life,” “Lord of Greatness,” “Great Mind,” or “King of Light”. This being is so great, vast, and incomprehensible that no words can fully depict how awesome Life is. It is believed that an innumerable number of beings, manifested from the light, surround Life and perform cultic acts of worship to praise and honor this great being. They inhabit worlds separate from the lightworld and are commonly referred to as emanations from the First Life; their names include Second, Third, and Fourth Life.

The Lord of Darkness (Krun) is the ruler of the World of Darkness formed from dark waters representing chaos. A main defender of the dark world is a giant monster, or dragon, with the name “Ur;” an evil, female ruler also inhabits the dark world, known as “Ruha”. The Mandaeans believe these malevolent rulers created demonic offspring who consider themselves the owners of the Seven (planets) and Twelve (Zodiac signs).

According to Mandaean beliefs, the world is a mixture of light and dark created by the demiurge (Ptahil) with help from dark powers, such as Ruha, the Seven, and the Twelve. Adam’s body (i.e. believed to be the first human created by God in Abrahamic tradition) was fashioned by these dark beings; however, his “soul” (or mind) was a direct creation from the Light. Therefore, many Mandaeans believe the human soul is capable of salvation because it originates from the lightworld. 

The holy book is in old Aramaic language and they are native to the alluvial plain of southern Mesopotamia and are followers of Mandaeism, a monotheistic Gnostic religion. They were probably the first to practice baptism and are the last surviving Gnostics from antiquity. The Mandaeans were originally native speakers of Mandaic, a Semitic language that evolved from Eastern Middle Aramaic, before many switched to colloquial Iraqi Arabic and Modern Persian.

They are not allowed to divorce, and the water is sacred as they believe the water was sent by order of God from the world of light to the earth to create the life. Their diet is mostly birds and only ram as read meat.

There are five spiritual degrees in their ritual and faith.

  1. Ashkanda: A person who is responsible for baptism, Termida assistance, slaughter and etc.
  2. Termida: is a Marriage officiant, responsible for baptism and all other holy rituals.
  3. Ganzoora: a spiritual leader, Marriage officiant, responsible for baptism and all other holy rituals.
  4. Risha Adama: High Priest of the Mandaeans.
  5. Rabbani: Prophets.


Mansouri, E. The Christians of St. John named Mandeans, Tota Pulchra 2020: