Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Mandaean Holidays

Written by  Julie Abadirad
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The Mandaean New Year

Dehwa Hanina

Parwanaiia or Panja (Banja) (Benja)

The Mandaean Great New
The Mandaean Great New Year will begin on 30 Akhir Paiz or Qam Gadia ( July 21, 2000 Friday). (1) This day is called Kansia Uzahila (New Year's Eve) which literally means sweeping and cleaning. (2) Traditionally there is much preparation leading up to New Year's eve. The house is cleaned from top to bottom. All animals own by Mandaean families must before sunset are boarded with non-Mandaean caregivers. A Mandaean may not touch any animals from sundown till 36 hours has passed. All food and any slaughtering of sheep and chicken are finished before sunset. Water, enough for the next 36 hours, is drawn in the house and covered. All day long the priests are busy conducting baptisms and all faithful Mandaeans are baptized. (3)

"And any person who is not baptized on Kansia uzahila on the eve of the Great New Year will incur great punishments will be struck seventy blows But every person who is baptized it will be counted for him as seventy baptisms." (4)

Just before the sun sets, every Mandaean performs the three-fold immersion (tamasha). Everyone retires to their house or a relative's house. No matter what purpose or reason, for the next 36 hours no Mandaean leaves his (or her) house. (5)

The reason for the 36-hour period is the time period that the Mandaean will be without their natri or guardian spirits nor the uthri are in attendance. All of the uthri and natri have gone to pay homage to Mara Rba Kabrina, the Lord of Greatness. For it is on Great New Year Day that the creation was completed.

"...the two days preceding the Assembly and Purification (sweeping and cleaning) of the Great New Year that is the two day at the end of the year are void. Moreover the eve of the Great Feast – that is New Year – with the day of the festival of the Great New Year and the night and day that follow it cover the period in which the Mighty Great Mana created himself, so that it is a good day upon which the worlds and ages wait upon Him. ..."(6)

"New Year's Day commemorates the Creation for Mana Rba Kabira, The Great Mana, the Lord of Greatness, completed his work of creation on this day. Therefore all spirits of light, whatever they may be, leave their posts and go to visit him and pay their compliments. Abathur 'closes his door', Nidbai and Shilmai forsake their guardianship of the running waters; Hibil, Shitil, and 'Anush depart; the dwellers in Mshynia Kushta with Adam Kasia at their head and their guardian spirit Shislam Rba (the dmutha of Hibil Ziwa)- all rise into the infinite world of light. Swiftly as these creatures of light move, the long journey takes them twelve hours. They reach their goal at dawn of the New Year and spend that day in the bliss of contemplating perfection. The journey back covers the next night." (7)

"With us Subba a great feast takes place about the time that the dates ripen. It is called the Dehwa Rabba and its eve, or dakhala, is called the Kanshi Zahla . The Kanshi Zahla lasts for two nights and the day between, and during that time all the Mandaeans remain in their houses, taking with them enough water and food to last over the period. They keep their fowls, dogs and cats, cows and buffaloes shut off in a place apart from the dwelling-rooms of the house. For during those two nights and a day the 'uthri of the sun, moon, and water go to Olma d Anhura, the World of Light, and while they are absent every Mandaean must remain in his house and his animals must be shut up. When the melki and 'uthri return, we go our and feast, wash in the river, and rejoice." (8)

While the earth is left unguarded, Ruha and her followers can influence and try to harm mankind. (9)

"Nevertheless, Ruha the Faulty came on the day of the Great New Year whilst the Earth was denied and attacked any person who drinketh of its waters, he will become their portion so that on that day souls are not permitted by Manda-d-Hiia to dip their hands into running water. Any person who putteth his hand his hand into running water during those thirty-six hours will be cursed with Sislam –Rba and his body will be polluted." (10)

"He who dippeth his hand into flowing water on New Year's Day will become a portion of fire: if however they baptize him with fifty baptisms, clothed in a new ritual garments, then he will be delivered from that evil which is cast upon the Jordan" (11)

So the Mandaeans take extra precautions to avoid any contact with Ruha or her associates. For the entire 36-hour period no adults, especially males, sleeps in order to avoid pollution. Children are of course allowed to sleep. (12)

"Every man, who controls himself for the space of thirty six hours that is for 2 nights and a day -- will be belong to Me - be Mine - the Father of the 'uthras." (13)

Care is also taken to see that no insects get into the food or water. If this should happen the food and water is polluted and cannot be touched. The same idea also goes for the Mandaeans. If a Mandaean becomes polluted due to the touching of an insect or animals or any other method, they usually remove themselves from the rest of the people until the 36 hours is over. During this time the priests are busy consulting the Sfar Malwasha . Lay Mandaeans are busy playing games, telling stories, and eating. (14)

New Year's Day this year is on 1 Awwel Sitwa or Qam Daula which is July 22, 2000 Saturday. (15) The day is called Dahwa Rba (Great feast) (16) or The Day of Lacking because no rituals may be performed. (17)

On the second day of the New Year (this year -- Sunday July 23, 2000 ) the Mandaeans come out of their homes to visit each other. The first stop is to that of the priest. While it is a time of rejoicing no rituals may be performed, an exception to that rule is funerals. (18)

If a man dies during the 36 hours he is not buried right away. He is washed with the water stored in the house and dressed in the death rasta. When he has taken his last breath he is covered with a white cloth. At dawn on the second day he may be buried. (19)

"It is considered a disaster for the soul of the dead to have passed at such a time and when Pawanaia (or Panja) comes, zidqa brikha and masiqta must be performed over a substitute."(20)

On the 3rd day of the New Year, 3 Awwel Sitwa or Qam Daula , ( Mon 24 July 2000 ) Eid Elkabeer (the big feast) occurs and will last for 4 days. (21)

On the 6th day of the New Year (this year – July 27, 2000 Thursday) is called Nauruz Zota or the Little New Year. (22) On this day:

"...sixth day of the month which is Little New Year is that on which was created an 'uthra (Pthahill) none of whose works succeeded." (23)

The 6th day and the 7th day are called together Dehwa d-Sislam Rba. The night between these two days is called "the night of power" (24). On this night, if you are truly pious the Gates of Abathur are opened. Through a vision you may obtain what ever you desire. A truly pious man will not ask for material items but for spiritual gifts. The results are not immediately seen but will become apparent in time. On this night all lights and fires are extinguished and food is given to the poor.

During Dehwa d-Sislam Rba the Mandaean priests visit their parishioners and bless the houses by placing a small wreath of willow and myrtle on every lintel. The wreath will remain there for the next year protecting the family within. (25)

On the 15th of the month (this year – August 5, 2000 ) the Mandaeans are allowed to slaughter and eat meat once again. (26)

"For a period of 14 days from New Year's Day unto the fourteenth day all that thou doest will be of no avail because during that time rituals are not permitted." (27)

"These are the days which are defiling: I will instruct you about them. From the great New Year's Day, which marks the Beginning of construction, the beginning of the month of Aquarius perform no baptism for fourteen days and celebrate no mastiqta because the sixth day of the month which is Little New Year is that on which was created an 'uthra (Pthahill) none of whose works succeeded." (28)

(1) "The Mandaean Date Calculator "by Aseel N.A. Amarah Version 1.1 1999
http://www.cs.mu.oz.au/~ana/Mandaean.html
(2) Mandaic Dictionary by E.S. Drower and Rudolph Macuch , Oxford : Claredon Press, 1963, pg: 119
(3) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page:85
(4) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 121
(5) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 85
(6) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 200
(7) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 86
(8) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 330
(9) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 85
(10) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 200
(11) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 121
(12) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 85
(13) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 121
(14) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 86
(15) "The Mandaean Date Calculator" by Aseel N.A. Amarah Version 1.1 1999
http://www.cs.mu.oz.au/~ana/Mandaean.html
(16) Mandaic Dictionary by E.S. Drower and Rudolph Macuch , Oxford : Claredon Press, 1963, pg:107
(17) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 85
(18) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 87
(19) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page:85-56
(20) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 86
(21) "The Mandaean Date Calculator" by Aseel N.A. Amarah Version 1.1 1999
http://www.cs.mu.oz.au/~ana/Mandaean.html
(22) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 87
(23) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 199
(24) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 88
(25) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill,1962, page:88-89
(26) Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower , Leiden : E.J. Brill, 1962, page: 89
(27) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 119
(28) Alf Trisar Suialia (1012 Questions) by E.S. Drower : Berlin : Akademi Verlag 1960: page 199

DAHWA HANINA
DAHWA HANINA (EID ALSAGIR) occurs on 18 Awel Ebhar or Qam Tora and will be on Friday 5 November 2004 (1)

Lady Drower in her book The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran writes:

"The 18th day of Taura is the Dehwa Hnina or Little Feast, sometimes called the Dehwa (Dihba) Turma....The feast lasts for three days and baptisms should take place and the dead be remembered by lofani or ritual meals for dead. Dehwa Hnina celebrates the return of Hibil Ziwa from the underworlds to the worlds of light" (2)

(1) "The Mandaean Date Calculator "by Aseel N.A. Amarah Version 1.1 1999 http://users.bigpond.net.au/Mandaean/
(2) The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran by E.S. Drower Leiden: Brill 1962 (reprint of 1937) page 88

Parwanaiia or Panja
Parwanaiia or Panja is one of the most holy of the religious holidays celebrated by the Mandaean people. The holiday can be called Parwanaiia: (1) or Panja: (2) Parwanaiia or Panja (Banja or Benja) occurs between the 8th & 9th months & lasts for 5 days. (3)

These are the five intercalary days of Parwanaiia, or Panja, the happiest time of the whole year, during which the great baptismal river feast is held. It falls at the time when the river is swollen by melting snows from the north, i.e. during the first warm days of spring. In 1932/ 1933/ 1934/ 1935 Panja fell an April 5th but in I936 it fell on April 4th. (4)

The five days prior to Panja are considered mbattal days:

The last five days of Shumbulta (the Ear of Corn, Virgo) are mbattal for they are dedicated to the five lords of the underworld, Shdum, Hagh, and his consort Magh, Gaf, and his consort Gafan, Zartai-Zartani, and Krun, the Mountain-of-Flesh. These five mbattal days, given over to the Darkness, necessitate the reconsecration of the manda, or cult-hut, during the five ensuing days of light. (10)

Panja is the time when darkness (i.e. evil) has no hold on the earth:

Thereupon come those five days of Parwanaiia that are uncounted in the reckoning of the days nor are they counted or included in a calculation of months of the year). They are the days of vigil, darkness hath no share in them and there is no night in them because night is defiling and night hath no claim in these five days, they are allotted to souls which ascends to the Life our Father. For rays from the world of light stream down to the earthly world. In them (five days) there is no darkness (souls) are awakened and are signed by baptism and they give garments to the departing souls that is to those that depart the body. (16)

Each of the five days of Panja is dedicated to an Uthra, a light being:

Each of the five days is dedicated to a spirit of light and, as the doors of the world of light are open during Panja by night as well as by day, prayers may be at night. On other nights of the year no prayer may be said after sunset. (17)

These five light beings are all manifested from Kings of Kings, who himself, is self-created:

"During those five days the three hundred and sixty-five days of the year were created so that in each one, one day (being?) was created, and then the five days of Pawanaiia which are called (days of) Commemorations. They are (days of) Commemorations of brightness. No darkness is in them: within them darkness has no mandate: on the contrary, mandate, command, and dominion are Mine. They (the five days) are like one single day; night doth not divide them.

For the first day belongeth to the King of Kings, Father of all worlds, in it He who is great and lofty created Himself.

The second day is that in which the Lord of (Celestial ) Majesty (Rabuta) created himself.

The third day is Mara d-Rabutha, he who created Manda d Hiia (knowledge of life): in it he created himself.

The fourth day is Mara d-Rabutha, he who is Dmuth-Kusta; he created himself therein.

The fifth day which is the day of Commemorations running streams were distributed, for he Mara d-Rabutha, Divider of running streams, he created himself therein.

For they are five Kings, in them they created themselves and they are the five mysteries of the Beginning in which spirit and soul rejoice (at?) the seven crowns that are placed upon them. (18)

This is a time for religious observation and devotion especially to the souls. At this time all Mandaeans should be dressed in white for this is a religious time:

During Panja every true believer should dress completely in white (this is not observed strictly), and should either wear sandals woven of grass or go barefoot. The latter is usually the custom, though priests tell me that in ancient times it was considered a sin to walk barefoot on the earth, and that the real object of the injunction was that worshippers of the Life should not wear upon their feet the skins of dead animals. (19)

This is also the time when no meat may be eaten except for the lamb that is included in any meals prepared for the dead:

"Then on the two days of Susian and the five days before Parwanaiia and the (fire?) following the Feast of Daima do not slaughter or cook (boil) neither shalt thou grid on the sacred girdle except for a dying person. . (20)

No meat may be eaten except the flesh of sheep sacrificed in the ritual meals for the dead. (21)

This is also the time that the mandi is consecrated and the appropriate steps taken in regards to slaughter and consumption of meat:

... the consecration of the manda involves the sacrifice of a sheep and a dove, described in a later chapter. (22)

Lady Drower wrote about her observation of a re-concencration of a mandi during Panja. For more information on the mandi please click here.

All Mandaeans, that can, are baptized during this time. This is also the time that anyone, who died, especially those under unfavorable conditions, may have lofanis, zidqa brikhas, and dukhranas said for them:

Thereupon Ziwa-Sagia ( Great Radiance) whose brilliance is more dazzling than all the worlds spoke about those nine treasures which we confer upon the soul when the five days of Yawar-Ganziel arrive, when the banner is unfurled in the presence of Abathur and all the souls stand before him each one seeking her share of the masiqtas, commemorations and tabahata. (23)

Panja is a religious festival rather than a season of carnival, and Subba who live far from a priest travel long distances in order to be baptized as many times as their means allow, and join in the lofanis, zidqa brikhas, and dukhranas for the dead. The dead, assembling at the sacred meals and summoned by the mention of their names in the ritual, are refreshed by the spiritual double of the foods, and bless the living. The uneasy souls of those delayed upon the road to the worlds of light because they died an unclean death, or on a mbattal day, or without the proper death-ceremonies and clothing, are represented by proxies at the ceremonies of ahab d mania and others, and clothed, purified, and sustained are furthered on their way through the mataratha. Families save up to pay the fees necessary for these ceremonies; indeed, they regard the barriers between them and their dead relatives, back to distant ancestors and the spirits of light who beget them, as down during the five days of holiness. The soul of a person who dies during this period, when it emerges from the tomb on the third day, passes without hindrance through the mataratha, and the costly death-masiqta is not necessary for such a one. Hence relatives of a person dangerously ill long that he should die at this time, and I have noted that in a small hamlet three persons died of different diseases in one year at this season. No doubt, if a person is dangerously ill, a baptism in the river might be expected to produce the desired result. The patient himself is anxious to leave the world at this season, for no demons or wild beasts (zangoyi) will have power to harm his soul on its journey, and it accomplishes the long and difficult journey to the Gate of Abathur in a single day. (24)

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