A Gnostic sect which survives in S. Iraq and SW Iran. Their origins may go back to a group practising repeated baptisms, living to the east of the R. Jordan in the 1st and 2nd cents. ad. They hold that the soul, unwillingly imprisoned in the body and persecuted by demons, will be freed by the redeemer, Manda de Hayyê, the personified ‘Knowledge of Life’, who was once himself on earth and defeated the powers of darkness. Although Mandaean texts are hostile to Judaism and Christianity, many elements appear to be derived from these sources.