None of the MSS., however, is older than the 16th century.9 The following sketch represents, as far as can be gathered from these heterogeneous sources, the principal features of the Mandaean system.
8 Mandaean MSS.
A number of Mandaean inscriptions relating to popular beliefs and superstitions have been published by H.
Primal Life, who is properly speaking the Mandaean god, has the same predicates as the primal spirit, and every prayer, as well as every section of the sacred books, begins by invoking him.
The Mandaean marriage service occurs both in Paris and in Oxford as an independent MS. The Diwan, hitherto unpublished, contains the ritual for atonement.
In the Mandaean representation the sky is an ocean of water, pure and clear, but of more than adamantine solidity, upon which the stars and planets sail.
In the Mandaean view the Old Testament saints are false prophets; such as Abraham, who arose six thousand years after NU (Noah) during the reign of the sun, Misha (Moses), in whose time the true religion was professed by the Egyptians, and Shlimun (Solomon) bar Davith, the lord of the demons.
The chief depositaries of these Mandaean mysteries are the priests, who enjoy a high degree of power and social regard.
"fountain") a sort of eucharist, which has a special sanctifying efficacy, and is usually dispensed at festivals, but only to baptized persons of good repute who have never willingly denied the Mandaean faith.
The Mandaean places of worship, being designed only for the priests and their assistants (the worshippers remaining in the forecourt), are excessively small, and very simply furnished; two windows, a door that opens towards the south so that those who enter have their faces turned towards the pole star, a few boards in the corner, and a gabled roof complete the whole structure; there is neither altar nor decoration of any kind.
Besides Sundays there are six great feasts: (1) that of the New Year (Nauruz rabba), on the first day of the first month of winter; (2) Dehwa h' nina, the anniversary of the happy return of Hibil Ziva from the kingdom of darkness into that of light, lasting five days, beginning with the 18th of the first month of spring; (3) the Marwana, in commemoration of the drowned Egyptians, on the first day of the seoond month of spring; (4) the great five days' baptismal festival (pantsha), the chief feast, kept on the five intercalary days at the end of the second month of summer - during its continuance every Mandaean, male .and female, must dress in white and bathe thrice daily; (5) Dehwa d'daimana, in honour of one of the three hundred and sixty `Uthras, on the first day of the second month of autumn; (6) Kanshe Zahla, the preparation feast, held on the last day of the year.
In external appearance the Mandaean is distinguished from the Moslem only by a brown coat and a parti-coloured headcloth with a cord twisted round it.
It seems clear that the trinity of Anu, Bel, and Ea in the old Babylonian religion has its counterpart in the Mandaean Pira, Ayar, and Mana rabba.
Other features are borrowed by the Mandaean mythology under this head from the well-known epos of Istar's descensus ad inferos.
Above all we can see from the original sources of the Mandaean religion, which also represents a branch of Gnosticism, how great a part the sacraments played in the Gnostic sects (Brandt, Mandciische Religion, p. 96 seq.).
In the Mandaean speculations the Seven are introduced with the Babylonian names of the planets.
These Persian fancies can hardly be borrowed from the Christian Gnostic systems, their definiteness and much more strongly dualistic character recalling the exposition of the Mandaean (and Manichaean) system, are proofs to the contrary.
According to Kessler, these prayers are closely related to the Mandaean and the ancient Babylonian hymns.