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THE MAN WHO SOUGHT TO SEE SIN, THE MOON

There once lived a man who, besides having knowledge of the sun, of Awathur (Abathur), and of other stars, had a special knowledge of Sin. His knowledge was not that which is seemly to those who study our religion, but was lore pertaining to the forbidden magic of Sin, matters into which a pious man should not enter. But his soul feared Sin, for if a man begins to study such matters, Sin takes possession of his soul, and for this reason it is forbidden to us to seek to enter into the secrets of Sin.

Now this man had a great longing to behold Sin, and was the master of forbidden knowledge and spells. His family had always possessed such writings and spells, and he said to himself, "Maku chara!" (There is no help for it!)

Now there is a certain diwan which, when read, calls up the image of Sin before the reader. So this man said, "I have knowledge of the stars (i.e. am able to protect myself from harm), and I desire to see Sin", and with that he began to read the incantation. He began to read it at moonrise, that is to say, when Sin came up, and while reciting it, he fell asleep. In his sleep, he felt same one poking him in the ribs.

He started awake, crying, " Who is it?" and gazed about him, but no one was there. He began to read again, but some one rapped him on the shoulder. Whenever he tried to sleep he was poked or rapped. In a fright he rose and began to pray in order to protect himself. But Sin would not allow him to sleep. Then he read holy books to protect himself: he read a butha of Melka Ziwa, whom Sin fears.

But every night after that it was the same. Whenever the moon rose, he was shaken or nudged and not permitted to sleep. Sometimes he felt grievously afraid, but nevertheless he said to himself, "How I should like to behold Sin! I cannot help it, I desire to see Sin!"

So he persisted in reading the incantation, and as soon as Sin had risen in the sky, whether at midnight or towards morning, he was unable to sleep at ease, for he was always awakened by touches or shaking. His wakening was always sudden and violent. Once he thought he saw something above his head. He began to be uneasy, for this constant sudden awakening was unpleasant, still, he continued to desire to behold Sin.

One night he read the incantation and fell asleep. He dreamt that he saw a shiviahi, with eyes set vertically in his face, gazing upon him. And then a thick and strangling darkness came upon him; he could not move hand or foot, and his blood moved weakly in his veins.

Now when one is oppressed by an incubus or nightmare, the only thing to do is to say, 'Ya Hiwel Ziwa!' and the o (the aleph) in the invocation is like an eye and resembles the eye of God. If one can say this, heaviness departs. If not, one cries out, oppressed by nightmare.

This man cried out the invocation, and his incubus departed from him and he was able to sit up, but he was extremely frightened, for he knew that if he had not called out the name of God he would have been strangled. However, he said, 'Hiwel Ziwa will free me again if I am in such danger, and I still long to behold Sin."

On the fourteenth night the moon was full. He went and plunged into the river and made his prayer (rahmi) and put on his rasta, saying to himself, "lf I am killed I this venture, at least I shall be prepared to die!"

Then he sat down and began to read the incantation of Sin. As he read, the power of the moon began to drag and drag at him, like a magnet pulls iron. Presently his head began to swim and he felt drowsy and heavy. Then something came and struck him. He woke in a fright. In spite of all his heaviness, each time his eyes closed, he was awakened thus.

He went to his house and said to his wife, "l am heavy with sleep! But if you hear me crying out in my sleep, wake me, or I may be killed."

He could not keep his eyes open longer, and his wife sat beside him to watch. When she touched him, she too began to feel heavy and her head to swim, though her heaviness was not so strong as his, for she preserved he waking senses. Above their bed, which was of reeds an clay, was a mosquito net. In those days our beds were couches of clay and reeds.

Then the man lying as if paralyzed and unable to move hand or foot, saw three very small white birds flying round the mosquito curtain. He tried to speak and move, but found that he was as if dead. His wife saw him lying rigid, trembling, and staring, and she shook him and pulled him up, crying, "Ushma ad Hei!" (Name of the Life!) He was then able to sit up. She said to him, "l saw them, too, and was half frozen with fright, but not so much as you. I said the name of God."

They sat up all the rest of the night and ate and tried to sleep no more. When the sun was up, they felt no longer afraid, and slept.

(The sun, lady, is very powerful for good! It has ten melki with Shamish, all mighty ones.)

The wife said to her husband, "Go to the ganzowra and ask him to exorcise you. Why should you be thus troubled in the night." For he had told her nothing of his spells and his knowledge of Sin.

He answered her, "What need have I of the ganzowra. I know as much as he does!" And this was true, for he was a very learned man. However, to please her, he went t the ganzowra on the Sunday and said to him, "What were those three birds, which I saw in the night?" When I saw them, I became as helpless as if I had drunk henbane or were struck by paralysis. What did the apparition mean?"

The ganzowra was a pious man who had a garden in which flowers, palms, and myrtle trees grew and he river flowed past it. The myrtle is a very beneficial tree, and useful to make' klilas'.

Now the man told the ganzowra about the birds, but said no word of how he had invoked Sin. However, as soon as the ganzowra heard of the three birds, he knew that Sin was concerned in the matter. He said to the man, "Carry a zrazta and wear a skandola on your finger. Then you will be able to sleep fearlessly. No devil or child of darkness can harm you if you are so protected."

The man thought this was good advice, and he provided himself with both, saying to himself, "Protected thus, I shall at last be able to see the image of Sin without risk to myself."

So he began to read moon-spells again, saying in excuse, "O Mara ad Rabutha (Lord of Greatness), I only wish to see his likeness--only that."

Then he slept, and he saw something resembling a mist of white cloud, and from it issued a black shape with seven heads, all black with a blackness which words cannot describe. Further details he was unable to see. Sin has the power to make himself black or white by night, for his power is in the darkness, and it is he who incites thieves to steal and people to commit crimes by night. As the man gazed at this black shape, a white substance seemed to wreathe up before it like the steam of boiling water, and moved upwards. All that had been black suddenly became white, and as much as his heart had been oppressed before, it began to be at ease now and to rejoice. While he had gazed at the blackness he had felt as though he would choke, but when the whiteness rose before it, he could breathe again, and calm fell on his spirit.

(When a man loves Hiwel Ziwa, darkness falls from him and light clothes him like a garment! Light and more light descends upon him.

Now, when the man beheld Sin in this last shape, in this last shape, he understood that the force and strength of Sin comes from Awathur and from that moment he beg to invoke the powers of light so that he might be released from darkness and from the evil which is darkness.

From that time however he was able to wake suddenly in a fright until he discovered that if he slept facing Awathur (the North Star) he could sleep peacefully.



The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran By E.S. Drower Clarendon Press, Oxford,1937 (Reprint Leiden:E.J. Brill 1962) pages 389-393

Narrator: Hirmiz bar Anhar


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