Mandaean women walk out of the Tigris River after dunking themselves in the water three time to baptize themselves in its water. Some 15,000 to 20,000 people of the minority Mandaean religious faith live in Iraq. The religion, which predates Islam in the region of Iraq, holds John the Baptist as a central person to its history. The full name of the religion, Mandaeands Sabians, means baptized, from the meaning of “Saba,” and, knowledge of “Menda,” from the mandiac language. The name thusly means, those who are baptized and who know the religion of God, according to the Mandaean Research Centre in Baghdad, Iraq.
Baptism is an important ritual to the Mandaeans and as the sun raised on Saturday March 18th the beginning of Bronaia, five days of the celebration creation, began for the Mandaeans. To celebrate the Mandaeans baptize themselves and their cooking utensils to be used for the great feasts that will follow through the five days. Baptism starts with the reading of versus from the book of prayer with the followers holding the bottom, then the top, of the crossed limbs of an olive branch draped in a shroud. After the reading of the prayers, the believers walk to the banks of the flowing Tigris River and crouch by its banks asking for permission of the water to baptize themselves by dunking themselves in its water three times. The religion believes the world is made up of two sources, the world of light in the north, and the world of darkens in the south. On these five days the Mandaeans do not acknowledge the coming of night and celebrate five days straight.
p>Interesting photos and click on the small plus sign under the photos to get the full text from the Max Becherer site. The photo essay is here. The Mandaeans live less than a three hour drive from where I’m sitting now. That is if I could cross the Iraq border and safely go there.