An uthra or ʿutra (Classical Mandaic: ࡏࡅࡕࡓࡀ, Neo-Mandaic oṯrɔ, traditionally transliterated eutra; plural: ʿuthrē, traditionally transliterated eutria) is a "divine messenger of the light" in Mandaeism.[1] Charles G. Häberl and James F. McGrath translate it as "excellency".[2] Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley defines them as "Lightworld beings, called 'utras (sing.: 'utra 'wealth', but meaning 'angel' or 'guardian')."[3] Aldihisi (2008) compares them to the yazata of Zoroastrianism.[4] According to E. S. Drower, "an 'uthra is an ethereal being, a spirit of light and Life."[5]: 2 

Uthras are benevolent beings that live in škinas (ࡔࡊࡉࡍࡀ, "celestial dwellings") in the World of Light (alma ḏ-nhūra) and communicate with each other via telepathy.[4] Uthras are also occasionally mentioned as being in anana ("clouds"; e.g., in Right Ginza Book 17, Chapter 1), which can also be interpreted as female consorts.[6] Many uthras also serve as guardians (naṭra);[7] for instance, Shilmai and Nidbai are the guardians of Piriawis, the Great Jordan (yardna) of Life. Other uthras are gufnas, or heavenly grapevines.[6]

Uthras that accompany people or souls are known as parwanqa (ࡐࡀࡓࡅࡀࡍࡒࡀ), which can be translated as "guide", "envoy", or "messenger".[8]


Uthra is typically considered to be cognate with the Aramaic ʿuṯrā ‘riches’, derived from the Semitic root *w-t-r ‘to exceed’.[9] Based on that etymology, E. S. Drower suggests a parallel with the South Arabian storm god Attar, who provides irrigation for the people.[4]

However, that etymology is disputed by Charles G. Häberl (2017), who suggests it is the ʾaqtal pattern noun *awtərā "excellency".[9]


Uthras often have the term Ziwa / Ziua (ࡆࡉࡅࡀ "Radiance') attached after their names, due to their origins from the World of Light. In Manichaeism, the Syriac term Ziwa (ܙܝܘܐ) is also used to refer to Jesus as Ishoʿ Ziwā (Syriac: ܝܫܘܥ ܙܝܘܐ, Jesus the Splendor), who is sent to awaken Adam and Eve to the source of the spiritual light trapped within their physical bodies.

Pairs of uthras also typically have rhyming names. The names can be alliterative (e.g., Adathan and Yadathan), or one name may have an infixed consonant or syllable (e.g., Kapan and Kanpan). In Manichaeism, pairs of celestial beings can also have rhyming names, such as Xroshtag and Padvaxtag. Gardner (2010) discusses other parallels with Manichaeism.[10]

List of uthras

Commonly mentioned uthras

Below is a partial list of uthras. Some names of uthras are always listed together as pairs.

In the Ginza Rabba

Other uthras mentioned in the Ginza Rabba are:[11][6]

In Right Ginza 5.1, Yawar Ziwa appoints four uthras each over the four directions to watch over Ur (see also Guardians of the directions):

In the Qolasta

A few Qolasta prayers list the names of lesser-known uthras in sets of four. Mark J. Lofts (2010) considers them to be parallel to the Four Luminaries in Sethian Gnosticism. Qolasta prayers 17 and 77 list them as:[15]

Qolasta prayer 49 lists the "four uthras" as:

These four uthras are considered to be the kings (malkia) of the North Star, who give strength and life to the sun. Together with Malka Ziwa (another name for Hayyi Rabbi), they make up the "five primal beings of light." Conversely, Mandaeans consider the "five lords of the World of Darkness" to be Zartai-Zartanai, Hag and Mag, Gap and Gapan, Šdum, and Krun (the paired demons are considered to rule together as single lords).[16] (See Manichaeism § The World of Light for similar parallels.)

In Qolasta prayers such as the Asiet Malkia, the word niṭufta (spelled niṭupta), which originally means 'drop' and has sometimes also been translated as 'cloud', is also often used as an appellation to refer to the consorts of uthras.[17] It can also be interpreted as the semen or seed of the Father (Hayyi Rabbi), or a personified drop of "water of life".[5]: 13  (See also anana (Mandaeism).)

Other minor uthras mentioned in the Qolasta are:[18]

In other texts

In the Mandaean Book of John, Etinṣib Ziwa (Classical Mandaic: ࡏࡕࡉࡍࡑࡉࡁ ࡆࡉࡅࡀ, lit.'Splendid Transplant') is an uthra who starts a battle against Nbaṭ.[13]

Some uthras mentioned in the Diwan Abatur include:[19]


Main article: Gufna

In various Mandaean texts, several heavenly beings are described as personified grapevines (gufna or gupna) in the World of Light.


Main article: Anana (Mandaeism)

The Mandaic term anana (Classical Mandaic: ࡀࡍࡀࡍࡀ) is typically translated as 'cloud,' but can also be interpreted as a female consort of an uthra, and hence also an uthra.[6]

See also

Further reading


  1. ^ "Mandaean Scriptures and Fragments". The Gnostic Society Library. Retrieved 9 May 2022.
  2. ^ Häberl, Charles G.; McGrath, James F. (2019). The Mandaean Book of John: Text and Translation (PDF). Open Access Version. Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter.
  3. ^ Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen (2002). The Mandaeans: ancient texts and modern people. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515385-5. OCLC 65198443. p8
  4. ^ a b c Aldihisi, Sabah (2008). The story of creation in the Mandaean holy book in the Ginza Rba (PhD). University College London.
  5. ^ a b c Drower, E. S. (1960). The secret Adam: a study of Nasoraean gnosis. Oxford: Clarendon Press.
  6. ^ a b c d e Gelbert, Carlos (2011). Ginza Rba. Sydney: Living Water Books. ISBN 9780958034630.
  7. ^ "The Comprehensive Aramaic Lexicon".
  8. ^ Gelbert, Carlos (2023). The Key to All the Mysteries of Ginza Rba. Sydney: Living Water Books. ISBN 9780648795414.
  9. ^ a b Häberl, Charles G. (Spring 2017). "The Origin and Meaning of Mandaic ࡏࡅࡕࡓࡀ". Journal of Semitic Studies. 62 (1). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/jss/fgw044. The scholarly consensus that has developed over the past fifteen decades, namely that CM eutra is cognate with Aramaic ʽuṯrā 'riches' and therefore means 'riches', is not justified either by the internal evidence from the Mandaic literature or by the comparative evidence from the other semitic languages. By comparing its contemporary spoken form, nm oṯrɔ, with related words in all other branches of Semitic, I have demonstrated that CM eutra clearly derives from the PS root *w-t-r 'to exceed', that it is one of an extremely small class of relic C-stem deverbal adjectives in Aramaic, that its original meaning with reference to divine beings is 'excellent', and that in Classical Mandaic (and only in Classical Mandaic) it secondarily came to be used as a proper noun referring to an entire category of supernatural beings ('the excellencies').
  10. ^ Gardner, Iain (2010). "Searching for Traces of the 'Utria in the Coptic Manichaica". ARAM Periodical. 22: 87–96. doi:10.2143/ARAM.22.0.2131033.
  11. ^ Al-Saadi, Qais Mughashghash; Al-Saadi, Hamed Mughashghash (2019). "Glossary". Ginza Rabba: The Great Treasure. An equivalent translation of the Mandaean Holy Book (2 ed.). Drabsha.
  12. ^ Lidzbarski, Mark. 1920. Mandäische Liturgien. Abhandlungen der Königlichen Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen, phil.-hist. Klasse, NF 17.1. Berlin.
  13. ^ a b Haberl, Charles and McGrath, James (2020). The Mandaean Book of John: critical edition, translation, and commentary. Berlin: De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-048651-3. OCLC 1129155601.((cite book)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ a b Gelbert, Carlos (2017). The Teachings of the Mandaean John the Baptist. Fairfield, NSW, Australia: Living Water Books. ISBN 9780958034678. OCLC 1000148487.
  15. ^ Lofts, Mark J. (2010). "Mandaeism: the sole extant tradition of Sethian Gnosticism". ARAM Periodical. 22: 31–59. doi:10.2143/ARAM.22.0.2131031.
  16. ^ Drower, Ethel Stefana (1937). The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran. Oxford At The Clarendon Press.
  17. ^ Macúch, Rudolf (1965). Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic. Berlin: De Gruyter.
  18. ^ Drower, E. S. (1959). The Canonical Prayerbook of the Mandaeans. Leiden: E. J. Brill.
  19. ^ a b Drower, Ethel S. (1950). Diwan Abatur or Progress through the Purgatories. Studi e Testi. Vol. 151. Vatican City: Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana.
  20. ^ Drower, Ethel S. (1960). The Thousand and Twelve Questions: A Mandaean Text (Alf Trisar Šuialia). Berlin: Akademie Verlag. p. 228, footnote 3.