The Coronation of the Sualia
- Another series of notes stitched together concerning the Coronation of
the king-priest among the Mandaeans.
The Initiation of the Sûalia (Postulant)
First the candidatge is examined by the priests in the `ndruna (a
lightly constructed hut of reeds and greenery similar to the none
used for weddings)
; as a qualification the candidate should be male, intact, and not
have shaven his beard or cut his hair. His candidacy is void if he is
circumcised, and the loss of one finger on the right hand by accident
makes the ordination void.
No son of a widow (sic!) with her second husband is eligible.
He must belong to the priestly caste (be of one or another of the
etnarchs lineages), his food should always be prepared only by
himself or his wife.
This is all done particularly with the aim of making him the "gada"
or luck, and glory of his flock. He will proceed to protect them
against evil and disease, writing phylacteries and performing
excorcisms, reads them their stars and tell them according to
astrological precepts whether undertakings are safe or dangerous. In
the Mandaic calender weeks are divided into fortunate and unfortunate
days, corresponding to a complex interpretation of the zodiac,planets
and the major celestial bodies.
Astrology is usually considered to be a late adaptation, whereas the
incantation bowls, charms and phylacteries are a feature of semittic
folklore and magical traditions as old as the people itself. However,
I feel that perhaps there is a more or less direct relationship
between the Sabians of Harran and the Mandaeans; the role of Melaka,
the dual aspects of the planetary guardians and of shamash/abatur the
Sun in beneficial and malevolent aspect, the creation of a celestial
body/vehicle by way of symbolically
uniting the two generating prinsciples, the disrobement and clothing
involved in the Initiation, and certain names and terminology - are
particularly close between the two. The charge against the Harranians
that they worshipped the Moon, and the rhetoric against such
practices, although its practicioners remain unnamed in Mandaic
scripture, usually they are only called "Sorcerors", and sometimes
connected to a wicked and warrior-like people which could correspond
to the semittic view of the Chaldeans, which were a name the early
Islamic historians gave to the Harran religionists - suggest there
were a time when these two religious currents brushed shoulders with
eachother, and were cross-polinated by their ideas and myths. Another
point is the magical and theurgical skills associated with the
Darawishes, the wandering teachers who would end up bestowing the
entire "inheritance", from Adam and onwards, to the people - and the
corresponding power, considered inferior on account of the presumed
"wickedness" and idolatrous practices of these - associated with the
"Sorcerors" Needless to say, the importance invested in Astrology
and the reading of portents, divinations of one kind or another -
firmly anchored with a Abrahamite legend of the great sage and
patriarch, Enoch (Anosh) - is a paradox to post-medieval Mandaeans,
since certain scripture explicitly forbids anyone from practicing it,
while the Priest is more or less defined by his ability and
willingness to do so for his flock.
Moreover, I have mentioned before the ambivalent view which Mandaean ethics has
on diet and interefering with creation; Mandaean agriculture, much
like Manichaean, proscribes that the soil is not cultured, turned
over or anything but cleared from weeds which is considered corrupt -
seeds are harvested and sown as they would have been in the
wilderness, leaving to fortune,portents or chance whether they will
result in a plant or not.
Whenever the housewife needs meat, there are festive occasions, such
as weddings, which actually proscribe such - she goes to the priest
and brings the lamb or fowl (pork,oxen and several other kinds of
meat is not eaten, and is considered forbidden since they are not
explicitly mentioned in the scriptures as foodstuff), the priest has
a purified blade by which he kill and ritually slaughter the animal,
over which is prayed several lenghty prayers, and a general
purification ritual is performed, involving among other things, the
baptism of the cadaver in the river.
Children are baptized and "sealed" for protection.
At all the great feasts, baptism are performed upon the flock by the
Priest, otherwise only special conditions make it necessary for the
Priest to perform the ritual, since laity has their own baptismal
ritual which they may perform together or alone; one of these special
conditions, however, are for women after childbirth and menstruation
- and generally after having touched the dead, or when death of self
or relatives is imminent.
Anyways, the ritual proceeds from the private investigation of the
constitution of the priest´s physical form, towards examining whether
he has learned the proscribed hymns and prayers contained in the Book
of Souls (the specific and general baptismal services).
Within the `ndruna the Sualia removes his clothing and puts on the
new rasta (a very complex vestment consisting of several single
pieces, ritually tied together by knots - always white, but
unbleached, and always made of raw linnen), fully vested, he is
presented with two new silken "crowns" (this was Drower´s wording, I
happen to know that the standard is that no silk is to be used in
clothing at all - to show disregard for the vanity of the foreigners
is quite important.), whilst cotton crowns are distributed to all
The mentor, rba, of the candidate are given likewise two of these
silken crowns (I think it means it is of a finer texture than the
others, to show distinction).
Following the rituals, the candidate and his mentor is left alone,
and they spend the night in a Skinta, a reed hut of a more permanent
character than the `ndruna (the `ndruna is semi-open and square, the
skinta is closed and circular in shape - incidentally the Harranian
temples take shape after their association with the elements, the
planets and the major celestial bodies; a square temple is associated
to elements, to the planet earth and to the mundane purpouses, no
higher theurgical actions are done in a square temple - however,
there is greater variety among the Harranians who were notorious
builders of temples for all kinds of purpouses, than the Mandaeans.),
fortified by red clay (which is incidentally, a strong association
with Adam, and Adam is the first Prophet and Priest in Mandaic lore).
I wrote in my notes : Spending the night together in a "marriage hut"
is vaguely resemblant of what is suggested in the Secret Gospel
according to Mark. However, I was wrong, of course, since Drower
explicitly tells us that mentor and candidate raise a new structure -
The Skintha, wherein they spend the first night - and the following
six days and nights, so in total the candidate and his mentor spends
seven days and seven nights in the consecrated building.
Seven is an interesting number, since it corresponds both to the
seven planets of our solar system, and the seven days - concluded
with what in the judeo-christian faith system is called the Sabbath.
Drower wrote that the Skintha corresponds to the sanctuary of a
Nestorian Church. After its purification and consecration no layman
may enter it.
Inside of it, the young priest puts on a new vestment (Rasta) and is
given regal insignia, namely his golden ring (Sûm yawar - having
engraved upon it the name of Yawar-Ziwa, Priest of Priests and King
of Light), his two crowns and his priestly staff, the styrax, named
Inside the Skintha, the Sualia lives for seven days and nights,
leaving it only to relieve himself. The rba (mentor) stays with him
constantly and both observe the strictest rules of ritual purity.
The postulant must make and bake his own bread, drink from the Jordan
and must not be in contact with anything considered ritually unclean.
If a member of the families of the rba and the postulate, menstruate,
the whole procedure would need to be repeated. This also applies for
baptisms, burials and marriages.
During the 7 days the postulant will be initiated into the following mysteries:
Each day the Ganzibra (or Bishop) will teach him three secret words (21 in all)
, as these words are too sacred to be pronounced 1. , the ganzibra
will write them with his priestly staff in the dust.
A variant (from Drower´s Secret Adam):
The Ganzivra writes
7 words, at three times, during the day and evening,
these words are written in a language which is not known to the layman,
and they are written in the dust on the floor of the dwelling, every
time they have been read and studied, they are obliterated
These words are tradition and instruction, part of the Nasirutha, which
is not written down or part of the canonical traditions, i.e. what
is written in the holy books.
During the same period, the Sualia functions as server or acolyte
during baptisms, or the priestly sanctified kind of baptism named
He also serves in an official capacity as assistant at the Masiqta, the last
of these as the proxy, or recipient of the ablutions and rites
reserved for the dead. The entire ritual of the Masiqta takes a full
twelve hours to perform, from dawn until the evening.
Concerning the Masiqta,
Water into Wine! Water into Wine! is chanted.
Partaking of the consecrated wine (from the bowl) is seen as
effectively connecting the souls of those who do so with
the host, a union with the mystical or invisible body (`Stun)
of Adam Kasia ("all-humanity"), the generation of which by
the Father in the womb of the Mother is reenacted in the
comingling. The Pitha is then dipped into the wine-bowl and
swallowed, symbolizing `laufa, ultimate union of the Microcosm
of the individual with the Macrocosm.
On the eight day the Sualia takes position among the Tarmidi
(consecrated priests) and serves as an official servant at the
rituals and festivals
of the Mandaeans, until he marries and takes the role of a fully ordained
Emphasis on Oral transmission is the original attitude of the tradition,
which were spread through a few wandering king-priests (sometimes
described as semi-astral entities, angel-men, which puts us in mind
not only of the character of Melchizedek, the King of Salem - and the
early christian consideration of the hierophants, in that they were
called Angelos, or messengers, and considered to be "sent from
heaven")..their prayers,hymns,entrities,invocations and charms were
all memorized and not subject to parchment until the 6th or 7th
century of the common era, one of the reasons we do not know the
exact period wherein the Mandaean religion became an institution
adapted by one particular ethnic group.
<We might note from the earlier article "The Masiqta", that the
restoration of an original "unity" or "pairing" of two generative
prinsciples, male and female - and the creation of a new "body" or
vehicle/vessel for the Soul on its Journey after "departure from the
body",plays a vital part in both the eschatology and soteriology of
the mandaeans - There is a certain duality between "this place" and
the realm of Truth, Mshunia Kushta - it is said in the genesis
account of the Mandaeans that physical creation were done with the
consent of the Guardian Angel of this sphere, but nevertheless, so
done in order so that the "fruit" of light, from whose substance the
chaos as well as the resulting physical creation originated, might be
purified and restored, particle by particle - this idea we may also
find in the Manichaean writings and the Gnostic School which wrote
The Pistis Sophia.. as such, instruction into the nature of the
higher realm, the importance of purificatory and initiatory
preparation for the moment of release/departure from the world, and
"right identification" is so important that it might not be entrusted
to the written word, or words entirely..
paradoxically, like with the prescription against astrology and
divination in the writings when the role of the priest for the
community more or less circle around that activity entirely - we find
an emphasis on the actual Mandaic alphabeth as being a divine
language (like Hebrew) and the Holy Books as being both a source of
divine inspiration and instruction, and a Relic and amulet against
Terje D. Bergersen