Monday, December 22, 2008

Paper Topic - Nasuraiia versus Nazirite

I have selected a paper topic that I plan to focus my research over in the coming months. The title for my initial paper proposing my theory Could the Mandaean term Nasuraiia be Related to or have come from Nazirite. The core to my proposal is that I will be attempting to answer the scenario presented by Professor James McGrath at the end of his recent conference paper.

I am aware of the fact that the terms are derived from different roots and my theory shall address that. Not being a scholar that is familiar with reading Greek, Hebrew, or Mandaic I am a little fearful that I may be overlooking something very important in my theory, so I will be relying on others to correct me on this topic. Essentially my theory is that a Judaic group having taken the Nazirite Vow became influenced to believe that they were guarding secrets that others had not had revealed to them. This influence could have come from any number of sources and likely it would have been a combination of several, but I believe that the Zoroastrians played a large part in this influence. This initial group would have remained relatively small and may have even hardly qualified as a Judaic sect. It wasn't until the rise of Christianity that the sect may have felt compelled to open themselves up to followers outside of Judaism being inspired by the growing numbers of the Christians. This group may have even felt that they were kindred spirits to the early Nasoreans. Once the Nazirite sect opened itself up it came to differentiate its members with the original Judaic members being called Nasuraiia, presumably a corruption or possibly playing off of Nazirite, by the Gentiles that where coming into the sect. The sect came to be called Mandaeans in general and the collection of the teachings started to be put down in the 1st and 2nd centuries. The reason the teachings were not collected before would have been to avoid being persecuted as heretics in the Jewish faith.

This is a quick and condensed version of my forthcoming paper which will actually take time to provide citation and logical reasoning for my views and ideas. I would greatly appreciate any feedback on this topic as I am still developing my paper and I would like to be sure to address any major weaknesses to my theory.

Internet Archive and Accesmylibrary

I received an e-mail from Professor McGrath reminding me of a valuable source on the internet that I haven't written about yet. That is better known as the Internet Archive. If you haven't visited this site before please do so now as it is full of useful stuff. My search for Mandaeans in the text area brought up three results but if you are familiar with German or French search for authors Lidzbarski and Pognon.

The best part about this site is it lets you view entire books such as Lady Drowers The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran and you get to choose amongst several formats to read it in. I haven't spent enough time playing around with the site yet to know the full extent of material it has but I'll continue to use it and post about my findings.

Another resource that I have found has great possibilities, which by providing an e-mail and a public library card number you can gain access to all the data they have. This being said I should clarify that the data that they provide is more along the lines of listing what is available in the libraries that this site is associated with making it one giant card catalog. I am holding out hope that they may grow to include PDF's of their magazine articles in the future but there is no way know whether that will happen or not.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Encyclopaedia Iranica on Mandaeans

Of all the websites I looked over during my search of the web the one that I am most enamored of is Encyclopaedia Iranica. It contains 6 articles that pertain to Mandaeans with two including them but not enough to be worth overly investigating and 4 articles that are simply amazing. Prominent authors in the fields of Gnosticism and Mandaean studies wrote these articles including both Jorunn Jacobson Buckley and Edmondo F. Lupieri. From what I can tell according to the styling of the articles the website is attempting to put together a five part collection of essays on the Mandaeans. These essays cover i)History, ii) The Mandaean Religion, iii) Interaction with Iranian Religion, iv) The Community in Iran, and v) The Mandaic Language, currently section v is missing. It is my belief that these articles are being written explicitly for the website as three of the dates are from early 2008 while the fourth date is from 2005. I recommend reading the article on Interaction with Iranian Religion as it brings up some intriguing conversation on the influence that Zoroastrian had on Mandaeanism.

This idea of Zoroastrianism having an influence on Mandaeanism would help to account how a sect in the Judaic family diverted in such a way. Judaism was certainly in contact with Zoroastrianism, could some of the Israelites have seen something in the teachings of Zoroaster? This is all speculation until more detailed research is done into the subject. Kurt Rudolph has made an excellent summary of the possibilities of this now it is time for someone to take the research farther.

Mandaean Bibliography

Here is a short bibliography for those interested in delving deeper into the subject of Mandaeans.

Primary Sources:
Drower, E. S., Mandaean Book of Black Magick. 1990.

Drower, E.S., The Canonical Prayerbook of the Mandaeans. 1959.

Lidzbarski, Mark, Mandaean prayers and hymns. 2002.

Secondary Sources:
Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen, The Great Stem of Souls. 2006.

Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen, The Mandaeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People. 2002.

Drower, E. S. and Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley, The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran: Their Cults, Customs, Magic Legends, and Folklore. 2002.

Gunduz, Sinasi, The Knowledge of Life: The Origins and Early History of the Mandaeans and their Relations to the Sabians of the Qur'an and to the Harranians. 1994.

Lupieri, Edmundo, The Mandaeans: The Last Gnostics. 2001.

Noldeke, Theodor, Mandaean Grammar / Mand?ische Grammatik (Ancient Language Resources). 2005.

Ryen, Jon, The Tree in the Lightworld: A Study in the Mandaean Vine Motif. 2006.

Yamauchi, Edwin M., Gnostic Ethics And Mandaean Origins. 2004.

These are all relatively newer writings that should be easier to obtain copies of. Scholars such as E.S. Drower and Edwin Yamauchi have a good body of work on the subject but are older materials that may prove difficult for some to obtain.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


A few videos show up when you search 'Mandaean' my current results are producing a large amount of videos entitled Mandaean Brakha - Prayer or some variation of that. Here are a few links I like more than others.

Mandaean baptism - A rare chance to see a baptism for most people. Accompanied by music.

Mandaean Sweden Baptism - Another baptism great to see. Unaccompanied.

Plight of the Iraqi Mandaeans - While many who come to this site are familiar with the situation in Iraq some may not be and this is a moving peace covering the topic.

Mandaeans and the internet

This post is going to be divided into sections based on what category I feel each site falls into. Remember this is my opinion and you may find that certain sites would fit better in a different category as that is the nature of opinions so please give any constructive criticism that you can and I will take it under consideration.

My initial research began by doing a comparison of three search engines and the top thirty results that they provided. My choices in search engines are Google, Yahoo, and LiveSearch. I chose these as they are listed as the top three search engines based on market share. ( This comparison revealed that amongst the three major sites that the first three pages of each included relatively all the same sites making any of the three worth using. This is the culmination of that comparison and searching. The criteria of my search was the single word 'Mandaean' which provided 62,300 results (Google), 259,000 results (Yahoo), and 25,900 results (Live). The sheer amount provided by Yahoo made it appear to include the largest amount of irrelevant searches. I decided to categorize the sites I found most useful or intriguing into one of three areas News, Data Site, and For Mandaeans. Afterward, I chose to review a couple of the sites and will continue to review sites in the future. Those reviews will appear in a separate blog post.

News: - A news article based on the persecution of Mandaeans undergoing forced conversions in Iraq. (Google) - While not a direct news source the author of this blog is more concerned with the modern happenings of Mandaeans than studying their development. Quite interesting to read though. (Google) - The first Iranian website about mandaeans and mainly contains articles about the current situation of the Mandaeans. (Yahoo, Live)

Mandaean Human Rights Group Annual Report - This is the annual report on atrocities against Mandaeans, it includes a brief history about known migrations and attacks on Mandaeans. (Yahoo, Live)

Data Site: - Naturally the number 1 result from all three engines while fundamentally correct it lacks depth but most encyclopedic articles do. (Google, Yahoo, Live) - Certainly a useful collection of online Mandaean scriptures as well as a resource for other gnostic literature for those that are interested. (Google, Yahoo, Live) - A site that any scholar of Mandaeans should be grateful for, includes scanned copies of Mandaean scripture with copies of scrolls included when possible. A PDF reader is required to view these scans. (Google, Yahoo, Live) - A site full of information but difficult to navigate as several links are dead and others have errors relating to geocities maintenance and bandwidth issues. Not recommended to attempt serious research with. (Google, Yahoo, Live) - A short lived but interesting blog about Mandaeans and a group trying to do their part in preserving the Mandaean culture. (Google, Yahoo) - A site that I would recommend to be read in conjunction with wikipedia to obtain a better overview of Mandaeanism as a whole but again not great for those who are familiar with the subject. (Google) - Not a site covering just Mandaeans but few are it has a well put together bibliography and an interesting essay arguing against their being traces of Mandaean customs being found on the Shroud of Turin. (Google, Yahoo)

Mandaean Polemic against Jews and Christians as Evidence about the Origins and Setting of Early Mandaism - Professor McGrath's conference paper from this year, that has only been posted for a little while now and already sits at number 30 on Google search. (Google) - An intriguing site with some interesting facts in the section that I could read. Those familiar with Arabic may find this more useful than I did. (Yahoo)

Encyclopedia Iranica - A site with several well put together articles relating to Mandaeans, this site achieves greater depth in the discussion of Mandaeans than many others I found. (Yahoo) - A virtual copy of the wikipedia article, I include this only because I believe I should warn that it is reviewed by fewer people and may have a few misleading facts in it that have been, to my knowledge, corrected on wikipedia. (Yahoo) - A site with a simplistic lay-out a fair amount of information but again lacks depth, being unable to argue the varying viewpoints on the development of Mandaeanism. (Yahoo, Live)

For Mandaeans: - The site for the Mandaean Associations Union which is an umbrella group working to put any Mandaean groups willing to abide by the MAU by laws under this umbrella. It works to connect Mandaean communities with each other and to provide a united international presence for the Mandaeans. (Google, Yahoo, Live) - A Mandaean date calculator; probably better classified as something for non-Mandaeans. I did not feel that it belonged under data sites but was interesting enough to warrant inclusion. (Google)

http://www. A site designed to create a sense of unity for Mandaean youth in Australia while providing a connection to Mandaeans across the world.(Google, Yahoo, Live) - A site dedicate to Mandaeans and encouraging giving to help those in trouble. (Google, Yahoo) - A livejournal group for the Mandaean community. (Yahoo)

Amongst these pages I have a few favorites. I must say that Google is my preferred search engine for the most relevant variety but Yahoo did provide one of my favorite sites to look at. I found Live to be the least useful due to numerous amounts of repetition of the pages belonging to the same site and the occurrence of many free dictionary definitions of Mandaean. A small note I should mention is that these commonly occur in the top thirty but due to the nature of search engine algorithms and the frequency users visit various sites the lists can change minute to minute.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Research

This semester has seen me use this site very little but I will be posting, tonight and over the weekend, all that I have been working on during my research. My initial interest in the topic of Mandaeans came when my Professor and fellow contributor to the blog, James McGrath, began his own research into the subject. He introduced me to the history of the Mandaeans and offered me a chance to do some research over the summer. Unfortunately my application for research funding was turned down so doing research was put on hold. So this fall I decided to take an opportunity to use an independent study that I need for one of my degrees to do my research. We set my goal for the course to be largely about gathering data, working on the basics of the language, and with any luck writing a small paper that would be the beginning for a larger research topic in a more specific area of Mandaean life.

To go about this we decided that a blog would be the best route for posting my findings as I gather data, creating a kind of central hub from which I or anyone else could use to quickly find useful websites, articles, and books. My interest in learning the language came a little later as I began to find that any true research into the field would require at least some knowledge of Mandaic. For anyone interested in the study of Mandaic please refer to Exploring Our Matrix the regular blog of Professor McGrath. In fact his blog regularly includes something on Mandaeans so it is a place to keep in your bookmarks if you are interested in the topic. For my study of Mandaic I began with the alphabet, having no background in languages outside those that use the latin alphabet I was quite amazed at the difference it can make when trying to learn. My progress thus far with the language has been minimal but I will continue working on it and will post my progress as it happens.

The last goal is to write a paper that will hopefully set some groundwork for future research. Many topics are possible and I have yet to decide which to focus on, amongst my choices are looking at the development of the term 'Nasorean' in the context of the Mandaeans and early Christians, Mandaean talismans, and the influence Mandaeanism and Islam had on the development of one another. Certainly this is a varied selection of topics but all are quite interesting to me. Once I have a paper I will be sure to post it or a briefer version of it here. Now off to prepare my next post on reviewing the information available about Mandaeans on the web.