Dead Names, Dead Dog: Missing the Mandaeans

It was a week before Dead Names hit the stores when I saw “Simon” first post on the Sacred-Magick forums.  In that post, “Simon” claimed to have included information in the books on groups, both in the Middle East and elsewhere, that had kept the ancient traditions alive.

I knew exactly where “Simon” would start.  After all, he had mentioned Mandaic, the language of the Mandaeans, already in the introduction to the Necronomicon.  They were the logical choice!

So I went out and did some research to prepare to assess his argument.  As it turned out, “Simon” never wrote about the Mandaeans, even though he clearly knew about them.  His loss is your gain.

The Mandaeans, like the Yezidi, are a religious minority of the Middle East, in this case inhabiting Iraq and Iran.  Their language, which has been spoken since the 1st century, is a variant of Aramaic.  Mandaeans have survived in Muslim countries due to something of a loophole in the Koran.  Per that scripture, a mysterious group called the “Sabeans” were, with Christians and Jews, also “People of the Book.” As such, they need not convert or be killed if they produced a “Scripture” of some sort to outsiders.  The Mandaeans followed this course, and even until today are known to outsiders as the “Subbi.”

Unlike the Yezidi, the Mandaeans can’t be interpreted as sexy devil-worshipers, so they’ve been largely ignored by scholars. There are a few who’ve done work on them, and I’m not one of them, so all I can point out are a few interesting details about their religion that I’ve dug up recently.

It is known that the religion of Babylon survived until the 3rd century in places such as Cutha and Borsippa.  (Yes, those are indeed two of “Simon’s” favorite cities, and he missed the link completely.  We’ll get to both later.)  The early Mandaean faith seems to have derived many traits from these.  For example, the early literature of the Mandaeans exists on both penned inscriptions on earthware bowls and inscribed lead rolls employed as amulets.  Scholars who have examined such sources have found several motifs present in Babylonian magical incantations, indicating a continuity between the two cultures.

There’s still more.  Take this excerpt from E. S. Drower’s classic work, The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran, in which an informant states the following:

‘The ten ‘uthri who are with the sun are called Zuhair, Zahrun, Buhair, Bahrun, Sar, Sarwan, Tar and Tarwan, Rabia and Talia. These ten do not work only with Shamish but they come to Sin. On the 14th night of the moon they are all with Sin. The light they give is the radiancy of Melka d Anhura, not of Melka Ziwa, whose light is like that of the sun above the horizon-the noonday. They come to him (Sin) gradually and leave him gradually, and when he is without them, Melka d Hushka (King of Darkness) and the shiviahi have power to work them mischief.’

Yes, indeed, the Mandaeans do remember some (but not all) of the planets as intelligent beings under the same names as the Babylonians used!

The picture isn’t entirely rosy, though.  For the most part, the planets are usually only invoked in magical incantations.  The Mandaeans generally take a dim view of the planets – though these celestial bodies are influential, becoming involved with their worship is seen as a negative thing.  Still, it’s much better than crescents and star shapes, no?

Am I saying “Simon” is right?  Of course he is, seeing that the burning issue of Mesopotamian survivals seems to be one entirely of his own creation.  In fact, I’ve shown that, with a little effort, it’s possible to come up with examples that are much better than the ones “Simon” provides for his point.  Nonetheless, any of these systems viewed as a whole does little to provide evidence that the Necronomicon could have come from them.

I’ve got to go – family’s in town, and my brother wants me to “wiki Steven Tyler“.  In the interests of sibling rivalry, I’m giving him the anthropologist Stephen Tyler first, though I can’t even find a decent bio on him online.  Remember that when you start thinking everything’s on the Internet, folks.

I hope you all had a happy Fourth of July, the one holiday that, by virtue of its name, can be “celebrated” by anyone anywhere.

Published in: on July 5, 2006 at 10:43 am  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Ah, not only the fourth of july, but also the fifth of may (cinco de mayo).

  2. Ok…Im very confused. I have been reading the debate but what I don’t understand is this:

    “The Simon Necronomicon was a drunken party joke gone awry. Herman Slater and a bunch of his friends at a drunken late night party were talking about the infamous “booby traps” that Crowley wove into some of his spellbooks, namely, important safeguard steps that are left out but that any sensible and studious magician would notice instantly were missing and fill in. There’s always been the (unsubstantiated) rumor that Crowley did this on purpose, to weed out the unworthy. The drunks were arguing about whether or not this would work, and on a dare they decided to write a spellbook that was so booby trapped Then Slater did what Slater did to lots of authors, supposedly: stole it and published it. ”

    Ok this is a quote that has been snipped from a review I was given permission to post about your book Necronomicon Files. My question is then, the author is nobody really is he? They just made up a name. Although most seem to say Simon was Slater who has subsequently died. Now if this was put together by more than one person and he published it. Who is the guy over on Ancient Magick claiming to be “Simon” ? Is he one of the original people who put it together prior to it being published and since it did so well he is going for the gold again. I really am confused by this. If Herman Slater died…who is this man saying he is Simon when other than Slater it just seems to be a name they used in the hocus pocus of writing this book.

    Why is anyone listening to this man in the first place and whether or not some of it may work…so what. In chaosmagic anything is possible to work…that does not mean that historically there was a book called the Necronomicon and they have the rights to that name and publishing something and saying this is it. This is the book HP Lovecraft wrote about. This name he used for an ancient grimoire was total fiction from his imagination and they are saying here it really existed when its a bald faced lie and everyone knows it. Basically they are saying Lovecraft lied when he said it was just fiction and an invention for his stories. They coped the name for something they wrote and got published. If it works for some fine but they shouldn’t try to tie all the Lovecraft mythos into it.

    I guess I am just confused about who did write the original book and if this person claiming to be Simon had anything really to do witht he first one at all? I mean it would have to be someone in their fifties or pretty darn close to it. Could you explain this please…thank you……………….R

    Who is this man who has been posting. How does he fit into this. Is this another associate from that time coming out of the woodwork to claim it all for himself because it sure looks like that to me.

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