Sheik Basaam Kaleel
of Baghdad, 41, baptizes Osama Omar of Baghdad, 11, left, on the first day of
the annual Golden Day of Baptism in Tigris River in Baghdad, Iraq, on
Thursday, March 18, 2004.
Mandeans are a small
pre-Christian sect that view the John the Baptist
as their savior. The religion combines some aspects of Christianity, Judaism,
Islam and Gnosticism. There are an estimated 100,000 Mandeans worldwide,
mainly in Iraq and Iran. Baptism is the most important rite. The central rite
of the Mandean cult is immersion in water, which is regarded as a symbol of
life. The greater the number of ablutions performed the better. Mandeans must
face the North Star during prayers. Mandeans are only allowed to marry other
Mandeans in order to preserve pure bloodlines.