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Nebuchadnezzar`s daughter


Once on a time the Mandai, the Nasurai, and the Tarmidi had their dwellings in Jerusalem. The Nasurai there had a place apart, a building in which they worshipped and practised their rites, so secluded that no one could overlook them and no one might enter it. The daughter of Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon (and she was a Jewess) went to Jerusalem and hired a house next to the building belonging to the Nasurai. Then she made a hole in the wall, covering it with something transparent, so that she could see through it and overhear what was said, and what was read, and so learn their secret doctrine. She was very learned and quick of understanding, and after she had remained at the hole morning, noon, and night, always listening and studying, she arrived at understanding and learning what they read and their secret knowledge. Their writings, the Ta'alum as-Sirani, she learnt by heart. When they read from the Ginza Rabba she wrote down the words and conned them, until she had learnt and understood all. She remained in Jerusalem, studying thus, and did not return to her people.

Now the Nasurai have some secret knowledge ('ilm) which they only repeat softly, whispering, and they meet to practice this on the first and fifth days (Sunday and Thursday). She perceived that when they were engaged in this secret rite a light descended upon them, coming and going, giving and taking, between them and Heaven. (The narrator made the motion of descent and ascent with his hands.) One Sunday, one of the Nasurai remained behind when the others had gone out from their prayer to pleasure themselves in the garden: and he took that secret book containing the ritual, which they whispered, and he began to read it aloud. She was listening near him, and she wrote it all down. In this secret ritual they (the initiates) conversed with the world of light: with Adam Kasya, the Occult Adam who is of Mshuni Kushta, and with the spirits of Light. For we say that there are two Adams, Adam Paghra, the physical Adam, and Adam Kasya, the secret Adam who is of the world of Mshuni Kushta. The people of Mshuni Kushta are pure and perfect, and only the pure and perfect see them. They converse freely with the 'uthri and the melki.

When the princess had learnt this knowledge, she was very happy. She rejoiced exceedingly, and on the first day she began to do as they did on that day, and to perform their ritual with them: but they did not know that she was performing it, for she was always in her hiding-place. On the fifth day, likewise, she did as they did, and followed their ritual exactly. She had a chapel built in her house, which was like their place in every particular, and kept it closed and secret, so that not one of her people knew what was in it. When thus engaged, one Sunday, she saw a light coming from above and falling on her face, and she was enraptured and spoke with the Light, not with words, for the Light entered into the thoughts within her head. She cried, 'I will go to their place! I will see the other World! I wish to see with my eyes, wholly!' The Light said to her, 'Go to the Nasurai! They will give you the Way.'

On the first day of the Feast ofthe Five Days (Paranaia) she rose from her place and went to the Nas'urai, seized the Ginza Rabba, and began to read it. They were amazed. They said, 'Can this girl be a Nasurai?' and began to talk amongst themselves, saying, 'This knowledge must have been given her by God, for who else could have been her teacher?’ The princess said to them, 'Baptize me! Make me a Mandaean!' As soon as the Jews learnt of her conversion they rushed to the Mandai and made a great tumult and shouting. The priests, elders, and learned men of the Jews went to her and reasoned with her, saying, 'There will be killer and killed, you must return to your own place and marry there.' The girl said to them, 'I am not forced to do so, and there need be no killing on my account. Neither do I want a husband. I want neither money nor power, nor marriage. I only wish to serve God wholly.' They said to her, 'Leave the Nasurai!' She replied, 'I will not leave the Nasurai! You have not the knowledge that they have.' (Now this girl was the daughter of Nebuchadnezzar, and he was king of Babylon, and a Jew. Later, he left his kingdom and became a Nasurai, and the kingdom was taken by the Assyrians, who drove out the Babylonians, as you will hear.) The priests replied, 'We will kill them or learn their secrets!’ She said, 'Do not be foolish! You cannot kill them and learn their secrets! If you do, God will punish you!’ The Jews assembled in arms and wished to drag her away by force. The Nasurai said to them, 'Your daughter came to us: we did not compel her. Take her and go away.'

But the princess would not agree to go with the Jews, and when they tried to take her by force she began to read her secret doctrine, and whenever they approached her, their breath was taken from them by some invisible means. The Jews began to fear, and some of them tried to kill the Mandai. The Nasurai arose, and by the power, which they had on the Sunday they conversed with the spirits (melki) who said to them, 'Go to the Mountain of the Mandai.'

Many of the Mandai and Nasurai went. They prepared themselves for the journey and were led by the Nasurai. They were given such strength that, in a single day's march, they performed a forty days' journey. Each day they sowed millet, which grew and ripened by the power of God, so that they were never hungry. For forty days they traveled thus, performing in each day a forty days journey. Thus, quickly and with ease, they reached the Mountain of the Mandai, where they were happy and peaceful, enjoying the beautiful climate. There they could pray and live untroubled, and they said, 'God has saved us from these people'.

Meanwhile, some of the Jews pursued the Mandai. When they had traveled for forty days, they saw the green millet and the marks of the campfires, and said, 'Now we have them, and will seize them! They must be near.' But they never caught them. At last, after many days, the Jews approached the Mountain of the Mandai, where the Mandai were living with the daughter of the King of Babylon, who had made herself a place where she could worship like the Nasurai. When they were within sight of the mountain a light like a sword came down from on high before them, and whenever one of them advanced he died. Their priests consulted together and said, 'There is no escape! We must return!' and they went back to their place and were sad and cast down.

Now some Nasurai had not journeyed away with the rest, and the Jews came upon them and seized them. The Nasurai said to them, 'What do you want?' The Jews replied, 'We want your secret knowledge! Teach us and we will not kill you.' The Nasurai answered, 'We have no secret knowledge -there is none!' The Jews said, 'Teach us! Is it not better than dying?' The Nasurai answered, 'There is no secret knowledge, so how can we teach you? There is none!' Then the Jews killed one of them, and then a second, saying always, 'Teach us the meaning of your doctrine, or you shall die like these!' But the Nasurai continued to deny them, saying, 'Kill us if you will-secret knowledge there is none!' They killed them all, and learnt nothing. Then the Jews went to their Temple in Jerusalem and assembled there-rabbis and cohens-they all went. Their heart was afraid, knowing that they had killed these people (wrongly). In the morning they saw a white birds hovering above the Temple. All gazed at the bird, and, as they looked, a fire came from Heaven and consumed all those who had harried and killed the Nasurai. The rest of the Jews fled into the desert, fearing greatly. The fire was so fierce that it penetrated twelve nasakh into the ground.

Some of the Jews fled until they reached Babylon. The King Nebuchadnezzar (Bukhtanassar) said to the rabbis and cohens, 'Why did you thus? Why did you kill these people of your own blood without right?' They replied, 'The girl was your daughter, and we were angry for your sake.' He said to them, 'Did my daughter go because she was enamoured of a man?' They answered him, 'No.' He asked, 'What was her purpose, and why did she go?' They said, 'The Nasurai have a secret doctrine, and that was the reason.' The king replied, 'I myself, and my following, we will go also and become of their company.' He and his wise men left the Kingdom and went to the Mountain of the Mandai. Then he, and his wise men and all who had accompanied them, were made Mandai, and the king learnt the secret doctrine from his daughter. But, since that time, because they behaved so wickedly, the Jews (i.e. Chaldaeans) have had no king in Babylon. Whom God wishes to instruct, he causes to learn his doctrine, however secret, and it is my wish that you too, who love knowledge, shall become enlightened, even as this king's daughter!


The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran By E.S. Drower Clarendon Press, Oxford,1937 (Reprint Leiden:E.J. Brill 1962) page 282-288

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar

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