34 – Miriai’s Story

In the name of the Great Life
Sublime light be exalted

I am Miriai, daughter of kings of Babylon,
Daughter of the mighty rulers of Jerusalem.
Jews gave birth to me and priests nurtured me.
They carried me in the hems of their garments,
And brought me up to the house of gloom, (i.e.) to the temple.
Adunai placed a burden in my hands, and both my arms
I sweep and wash the “house of truth” –
There is no support in it for the poor
And in it there is no refreshing for tortured souls.

My father went out to the house of the people
And my mother went out to the temple
Father went out and said to me
And mother went out, ordering me,
“Miriai, shut your inner doors
And fasten the bolts
See that you not go out to the royal marketplaces,
and the sunshine of my lord fall upon you.”

I, Miriai, did not take to heart what I heard from my mother
And I did not heed the way my father ordered my time.
I opened the inner doors
and unfastened the bolts.
I came out to the royal marketplaces
And the sunshine of my lord fell upon me.
I, leaving home, I made my way towards the house of the people.
I came to the Mandaean sanctuary,
And I found my brothers and sisters as they offered lamentations and sang hymns.
My brothers chanted chants and my sisters songs.
I seemed to lay down, and fell asleep in my place to the sound of their chants and to the sound of their songs.
My brothers departed and did not wake me,
And my sisters departed and did not rouse me.
You, sister of truth, woke me from my sleep,
And said, “Get up! Get up, Miriai,
Before the day dawns and before the rooster crows!
Before the sun shines and (its) radiance shines forth upon the worlds!
Before the priests and the sons of priests go out,
and sit in the shadow of the ruin of Jerusalem!
Before your father comes and physically beats you –
A downfall which you do not deserve!”

I Miriai, did my best to conceal my prayers and hide my chants.

Straightaway the day dawned
Straightaway the rooster crowed
Straightaway the sun shone and (its) radiance shone forth upon the worlds
The priests and the sons of priests went out and sat in the shadow of the ruin of Jerusalem
My father came and physically beat me –
A downfall which I did not deserve.
And he said, “Where are you coming from, debauched woman of mixed race,
that did not push the bars and bolts?
Where are you coming to me from, bitch in heat,
that did not secure your pegs and leashes?
Where are you coming to me from,
fragment of sackcloth that rips that dress of mine?”
[Miriai replies:] “If I am a debauched woman of mixed race
Then tear away your bar and bolt!
If I am a bitch in heat,
Then cease with the pegs and leashes!
If I am a fragment of sackcloth that tears your dress,
Then roll me up and cut me off from your dress.”
He said, “Come see Miriai
Who has forsaken Judaism and has gone, she has loved her lord.
Come see Miriai,
who has left dyed garments and dyeing,
And has gone, she has loved her lord.
She has forsaken gold and silver,
And has gone, she has loved her lord.
She has forsaken (Jewish) phylacteries
And she has gone, she has loved a man in a (Mandaean) turban.”
Miriai said to him, “God forbid that I hate and love –
God forbid that I should hate except –
God forbid that I should hate my lord, Knowledge of Life,
Who becomes a support for me in the world –
In the world he becomes a support for me –
and a helper in the place of light.
Let there be dust in the mouth of the Jews,
and ashes in the mouths of all the priests!
Let the dung beneath the feet of horses
be upon the so-called mighty rulers of Jerusalem!”

Life is victorious, and victorious the man who goes there

About James F. McGrath

Clarence L. Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature, Butler University.
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