The Mandaeans are commonly referred to throughout history as “Baptists” due to their sacraments and rituals that involve use of immersion rites. Mandaeans revere water, and they believe that running water contains a transcendental spiritual substance. Their houses of worship are always near running water.
The central intent of Mandaean rituals is the liberation of the divine spark within the individual. This is achieved through a series of sacraments and rites administered by the priest. There are two main Mandaean rituals, the masbuta rite and the masiqta rite.
The masbuta rite is closely related to the orthodox baptism. Administered on Sunday, this rite involved immersion in running water. There is a threefold immersion in water followed by a threefold signing on the forehead with water. The individual is crowned with a myrtle wreath. Anointment with oil follows the crowning; then there is a communion with bread and water. Finally, the individual’s body is sealed against evil spirits. The final part of the masbuta rite involves the kushta, or “act of truth”. The kushta is a handclasp with the right hand and is exchanged between the individual and the priest. All important Mandaean feasts and celebrations include the masbuta rite.
The second most important Mandaean sacrament is the masiqta rite. This is a rite for the dead. Commonly, this rite will begin three days after the individual has passed away and will continue for forty-five days after. Masiqta means “ascent”, and the Mandaeans believe that this rite aids the deceased soul’s ascent to the realm of light. There is heavy emphasis on prayer for the departed in Mandaean services. It is believed that this specific rite imparts knowledge in the soul so that it may safely transcend through the threatening realms into the safety of the realm of Light.