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The Mandaeans’ Religious System: From Mythos to Logos

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image of Iran and the Caucasus

Mandaeans, an ethno-religious group mostly living in Iraq and Iran, are bearers of a Gnostic tradition based on the scriptures written in Madaic. As a small minority living under the threat of cultural extinction and ethnocide, Mandaeans have developed highly elaborated purification rites as the source of their group identity. The concern for group integrity is well encoded in these rituals that symbolically and practically maintain the boundaries of group identity. In a mutual relation, the rituals and Mandaean world-view comprise a cultural system characteristic of Mandaean religion. However, political instability and wars have led to the emigration of a substantive number of the Mandaeans and the formation of diasporas in Australia, Europe and North America. The Mandaean dispersion is a turning point of the people’s history. It liquefies the boundaries of group identity and puts the Mandaean identity challenge in an unprecedented paradigm. Simultaneously, it is bringing about further development in their religious system in terms of accommodation, rationalization and exegeses. These changes can be summarized as pluralism and secularization in the community, especially in the diasporas and an incipient move from mythos towards logos in the religious system.

Affiliations: 1: University of Tehran


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