Mandaeans at Sunday morning prayer by Karun River, Ahvaz, Iran in October 2013
Mandaeans at Sunday morning prayer by Karun River, Ahvaz, Iran in October 2013. Source: Kipala (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Mandaeans are followers of John the Baptist and have lived in Southern Iraq and Iran for over 2,000 years. Originally Aramaic speakers and although their scriptures date from the third century AD, they have preserved many customs of the last age of the city of Babylon. As a minority religious group in Iraq, they have experienced persecutions over the centuries, however under Saddam Hussein’s rule they had some protections.

Before 2003 there were an estimated 70,000 Mandaeans in Iraq. But since 2003, the chaos, war and rise of fundamentalism has seen tens of thousands of Mandaeans flee to neighbouring countries and many thousands have migrated to Western countries, including Australia.

Religious Observances

The most important ceremony for Mandaeans is that of baptism. Unlike Christians, Mandaeans do not baptise once, but do so regularly for their faithful. Baptisms only take place in free-flowing rivers and are administered by a ‘ganzevra’ (bishop) with the assistance of ‘tarmidi’ (priests) and ‘ishkandi’ (deacons). Ceremonies are conducted in the Mandaean Aramaic language in accordance with holy books, the most important text being the ‘Ginza Raba’.

The Mandaeans use a solar calendar which consists of 360 days divided into 12 months - see the Mandaean Calendar for details of significant dates.

History in Australia

The first Mandaeans arrived in Australia in the early 1980s, and their community is now estimated at 5,000 members. The majority are living in Sydney and have established a place of worship, ‘Mandi’ in Liverpool, New South Wales. In Melbourne, Victoria there is no established Mandaean community but you can contact the Mandaean Synod, a national body for the Mandaean community, below.

Further Reading & Materials