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The Coronation of the Sualia

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  • Terje Dahl Bergersen
    Another series of notes stitched together concerning the Coronation of the king-priest among the Mandaeans. 7.12.02 The Initiation of the Sûalia (Postulant)
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 8, 2003
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      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"Š 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
      priests present.
      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
      The Margna.
      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


      Note 1.

      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
      evil influence.>

      Pax Pleromae
      Terje D. Bergersen
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