View Full Version : The Yezidi Religion

Friday, May 27th, 2005, 07:43 PM
Three figures from the Yezidi folk pantheon

(Victoria Arakelova)

The Sun and the Moon (Sheykh Shams and Faxr ad-din)‎
‎ ‎
Sheykh Shams (Šēx Šams, Šēx Šims, Šēšims, Šēšim) and Faxr ad-din (Farxadīn, Faxradīn): ‎deified historical personalities, brothers, the sons of ‘Adi II, who was the third to lead the ‎Adawiyya community. Except for the fact that the former, Sheykh Shams, became the head ‎of the community after his father’s death, we can hardly find any significant event in their ‎real biographies. The tradition has preserved neither scriptures nor even any oral testaments ‎attributed to them.

Still, both informally canonised, they passed the limits of mere saints, and penetrated ‎into the Yezidi folk pantheon, having become associated with the lords of the sun and the ‎moon. Generally, the deification process, if it does not have a traceable genesis, as it does in ‎the case of Sheykh Adi, for example, belongs to the most enigmatic, although widely ‎represented, phenomena in many syncretic religious systems, and in Yezidism in particular. ‎Sometimes it has nothing to do with the real contribution of the deified personage to the ‎history of the religious movement, nor with his deeds, nor even with thaumaturgy. The ‎‎“required” mythological details hide a hero’s realistic characteristics and together with them ‎the probable derivation of the process itself. All the more so in the doctrines deprived of a ‎centralised religious institution, in which orthodoxy is completely left for the spiritual ‎masters’ interpretation, and the orthopraxy’s fate entirely depends on the tradition preserved ‎by spiritual castes. In such cases it is sometimes useless to search for the roots of ‎phenomena which are lost, as a rule, in the divagations of the early stages of a teaching’s ‎formation.

The case with Sheykh Shams, however, does not seem to be so problematic: the ‎secondary reference of his name with the sun – Šams ad-dīn (→ Šēx Šams – the ‎personification of the sun (šams – Arabic “the sun”) – determined his identification with the ‎god of the Diurnal Star.‎

Sheikh Shams is the third manifestation of Malak-ţāwūs, corresponding to the Angel ‎Israfil (Raphael). Although mainly the sun’s personification, Sheykh Shams is sometimes ‎endowed with the characteristics of the Godhead: one of his epithets is bīnāyā ĉavā– “the ‎eyes’ light”, which is a metaphor for God among the Yezidis. And sometimes he is ‎identified with Isa (while ‘Īsā, Jesus, is only nominally represented in the Yezidi liturgy).

Sheykh Shams is considered the wazīr of Sheykh ‘Adi, that is, his deputy, and the ‎head of the Yezidi spiritual council (dīvān).

Kreyenbroek’s suggestion that Sheykh Shams should be also regarded as the Lord ‎of the Moon (although traditionally this is his brother Farxadin’s domain) seems to be ‎unwarranted, as it is based on an erroneous interpretation of the hymn to which the author ‎refers. The line Šēšimsē min xudānē māngа, translated as “My Sheikh Shams is the Lord of ‎the Moon”, should be in fact interpreted as “My Sheikh Shams is the Lord of the Disc (Disc ‎of the Sun)”. The word māng in similar contexts, which mainly occur in religious hymns, ‎has two meanings – “moon” and “disc, circle” (either that of the sun or of the moon; “moon” ‎itself is hīv or hayv in Kurmanji). See the following passage from the hymn to Sheykh ‎Shams (Baytā Šēx Šims):‎

Wē kim, řo hiltēya,‎
Māngā zara p’ēya,‎
Šēx Šims divānbagē xwadēya ‎

I testify, the Sun has risen,‎
The golden disc [of course, that of the sun, not of the moon] has ascended,‎
Sheykh Shams – the Head of God’s Council [divān]. ‎

Or:‎ Řō hātiya a’ršāna,‎
Hilātiya māngā girāna,‎
Nūr, nadara Šēx Šims dāya ma’sīyā binē ba’rāna‎

The Sun has ascended to the sky,‎
The heavy disc has risen,‎
The light [and] the look of Sheykh Shams penetrated [even] to the fish under the sea.‎

Sheykh Shams is the essence of the Yezidi religion, as in Šēx Šims masabē mina – ‎‎“Sheykh Shams is the essence [literally “confession, doctrine”] of my religion”, the light of ‎the faith – ĉirā dīnē, qible – qibla, the power of the faith – qawatā dīn, the master of ‎spiritual knowledge – xudanē ma’rīfatē ū ark’ān ū nāsīna, the owner of the seal – mōrā Šēx ‎Šims, the torch of the Yezidi community – ĉirā bar sunatē and, the most important, God’s ‎eye – ĉavē xwadē.‎

The tradition attributed Sheykh Shams with the power over hell and the Sirāt bridge:‎

Wē kim, řō hilāta,‎
Mizgīna walāta,‎
Dastē Šēx Šims dāya p’ira dōža-salāta.‎

Wē kim, hiltē řōža,‎
Šēxē nurī biškōža,‎
Dastē Šēx Šims dāya p’ira Salāt ū dōža9 (Celil, Celil 1978,1 p.33).‎

I testify, the Sun has risen,‎
The good news to the world,‎
The bridge of hell – Sirat – is given into the hands of Sheykh Shams.‎

I testify, the Sun is ascending, ‎
Sheykh Shams is in the button, ‎
The Sirat bridge and hell are given into the hands of Sheykh Shams.‎

According to the tradition, Sheykh Shams has twelve children (in accordance with ‎the twelve months). Nine of them are sons: Xidir (Xidir-nabi), Šēx ’Alī Šams, Āmādīn ‎‎(‘Imād ad-dīn), Bābādīn, H’asan, Āvdal (A’vdāl), Bāvik (Bābik), Tōqin and Hāvind. ‎Another version of this list is as follows: Āmādīn, Xidir, Bābik, ’Alī, Āvdal, Bābādīn, ‎Hāwind, H’asan and Tōqil (or Tōqal). With the exception of Sheykh Ali Shams and ‎Xidir, all of them are represented in the tradition nominally, exclusively as Sheykh Shams’ ‎sons (although there are separate allusions to some of them).‎

As for the daughters of Sheykh Shams, we know nothing about them but their ‎names: Sti Sti (Stī Stī), Sti Gulan (Stī Gulān) and Sti Nysrat (Stī Nisrat) (stī is a honourable ‎title, going back to the Arabic saidatī – “my lady”). See the following:‎

Tu bāvē Stīyēyī,…‎
Tu bāvē Stī Nisratē,… ‎
Tu bāve Stī Gulānē ‎

You (Sheykh Shams) are the father of Sti Sti,‎
You are the father of Sti Nysrat,‎
You are the father of Sti Gulan.‎

In the Praying Code “Dirōzga” all the children of Sheykh Shams are mentioned:‎

Yā rabī, xatirā,‎ Oh God, Glory to
Šēx Xidirē Šamsā,‎ Sheykh Xidir Shams
‎(Xidir-nabi, the son of Shams), ‎
Šēx A’vdalē Šamsā,‎ Sheykh Avdal Shams,‎
Šēx Āmādē Šamsā,‎ Sheykh Amadin Shams,‎
Šēx Bābādīnē Šamsā,‎ Sheykh Babadin Shams,‎
Šēx Bābikē Šamsā,‎ Sheykh Babyk Shams,‎
Šēx Tōqilē Šamsā,‎ Sheykh Toqil Shams,‎
Šēx Hāvindē Šamsā,‎ Sheykh Havind Shams,‎
Šēx H’asanē Šamsā,‎ Sheykh Hasan Shams,‎
Šēx A’lē Šamsākī.‎ Sheykh Ali Shams.‎

Yā rabī, xātirā Istīēkī,‎ O God, glory to Sti Sti,‎
Xatīra Istī Gulānkī…‎ Glory to Sti Gulan,‎
‎(Xatīra Istī Nisratkī) ‎ Glory to Sti Nysrat.‎

Sheykh Shams is probably the most frequently mentioned name in prayers and ‎incantations. The hymns dedicated to him are read at the funerals of especially honoured ‎members of the Yezidi community.

The sun’s polyvalence allows Sheykh Shams to interfere in the other deities’ ‎domains, and sometimes even to acquire the Demiurge’s features. See, for example, the ‎following: ‎

Yā Šēšim, tuyī řah’manī,‎
Xāliqē minē jānī,‎
Li h’amū dardā tuyī darmānī,‎
Li h’amū muxliqā tuyī řah’mānī.‎
‎ ‎
Yā Šēšims, tu mafarī,‎
Xāliqē minī har ū harī;‎
Rizgā diday u rizgā dibarī…‎

Ži darajē h’atā darajē,‎
Šēšims xudāne farajē, ‎
Dast ū dāmanēd Šēšims dē t’iwāf kayn
Šūnā Ka’bat-illāhē ū h’ajē.‎

O Sheykh Shams, you are compassionate,‎
You are my dear creator, ‎
‎ For all ills you are the remedy,‎
To all creatures you are merciful.‎

O Sheykh Shams, you are a refuge,‎
You are my creator for ever and ever;‎
‎(You) give sustenance and you take it away.‎

From stage to stage
Sheykh Shams is the Lord of dawn.‎
We shall kiss the hand of Sheykh Shams and the hem of his clothes,‎
The place of God’s Ka‘aba and [the object] of pilgrimage.‎

To be more precise, the last two lines should be translated as follows: ‎

We shall make tavaf [sacred procession] around the hand‎
Of Sheykh Shams and the hem [of his toga] – ‎
Instead of tavaf around the Ka‘aba and the pilgrimage to Mecca.‎

See also further: ‎

Ži sarī h’atā p’ēyā,‎
Yā Šēšims, ta am naqšāndin dānāyina sarēd řēya,‎
Am, Šēšim, nābiřīn ži hīvīya.‎

From head to feet,‎
O Sheykh Shams, you designed us and set us upon our paths,‎
We shall not give up our hopes of Sheykh Shams. ‎

The Yezidi folk beliefs maintain that Sheykh Shams is also venerated by Jews and ‎Christians – a phenomenon difficult to explain. The Yezidi deities are extremely esoteric, ‎and their attribution to other religious traditions (even those who have vivid analogues) is ‎strictly prohibited by the tradition. Sheykh Shams has become an exception, probably due to ‎the omnitude and universality of the sun. See, for example, the following:‎

Jihū ku di jihūna,‎
Salafxōrin di Bōtānē būna,‎
Aw žik (ži ku) li pē Šēšim dičūna.‎

Falah ku falāna,‎
Yē bi k’ašiš ū ābūnana,‎
Aw žik li pē Šēšim dihařina.‎

The Jew, who are Jews,‎
Were usurers in Bohtan,‎
They too have gone in search of Sheykh Shams.‎

The Christians, who are Christians,‎
Who have priests and monks,‎
They too are going in search of Sheykh Shams.

Special attention is to be attracted by the fact that Islam is not mentioned among the ‎alien confessions, which, at first sight, looks strange, taking into consideration the present-‎day emphasis on the Yezidis’ past separation from the latter. The most probable explanation ‎here could be only that the qawl’s text was created at an early stage of the formation of the ‎Yezidi community, when the memory of its Adawiyya genesis was still alive and the ‎complete rupture with Islam had not yet taken place: that is, when the community still ‎identified itself as a derivative of mystical Islam.‎

In some contexts Sheykh Shams has the title Tatar – Šēx Šimsē T’atar, as in the ‎following:‎

Či ark’ānaka nadar!‎
Nāv mērādā bū badal
Xarqa hāt xalātē Šamsē T’atar.‎

What a visible cornerstone,‎
Took his turn among the good men:‎
The khirqe (robe) came to Shems the Tartar. ‎

The same author’s argument for this interpretation is that Shams-e Tabrizi, the ‎dervish who inspired Jajal al-Din Rumi, being an inhabitant of Tabriz, and thus a Turkic-‎speaker, can be referred to as “Tartar”. Such an overlap, or juxtaposition of two characters, ‎that is, Sheykh Shams and Shamsi-e Tabrizi, in fact, does occur in the tradition. Still, the ‎weakness of this explanation seems to be obvious. For the Yezidis, the Turkic-speaking ‎world has never been the back of beyond, a remote reality – the greater part of their history, ‎finally, took place within the Ottoman Empire. Thus, the Turkic milieu has always existed in ‎the Yezidi oecumene, and had an unambiguous definition – t’irk “Turk”, walatē t’irkē (or ‎Rōmē) “Turkey, the country of Turks”.‎

The Yezidis (as well as other Near Eastern peoples) could hardly at that time have ‎considered Tabriz to be a Turkic town, as it had always had for them a definite Iranian ‎attribution. Thus, the problem should be introduced as follows: by the time of the creation of ‎this piece of folklore (and this was most probably the early stage of Yezidism, as noted ‎above), had Tabriz been Turkicised at all? And if so, was it Turkicised enough to gain the ‎character of a Turkic town par excellence? The travellers from the tenth to the fourteenth ‎century (Naser Khosrow, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta) chronicled mainly the Iranian ethnic ‎element in the northern Iranian provinces; the wide-ranging transition from the Iranian ‎dialects of the area to the Turkic dialects took place only after the fifteenth century.

Besides, Shams-e Tabrizi, a renowned Persian poet, could hardly be associated with ‎the Turks, far much less with Tartars: Turks were never called “Tartars” in the Near East. ‎The term “Tartar” has been applied to “Turks” in the European tradition, and in particular by ‎Russians (cf. “the Caucasian Tartars” as applied to the Turkic-speaking population of Arran ‎and Shirvan provinces – the present-day Republic of Azerbaijan).

The title t’atar is, apparently, a corrupted form of the Persian takfūr (which is ‎attested in the same form in Kurdish dialects) meaning “king”, probably “lord, god”. The ‎exceptional phonetic development is explained by the secondary reference of the word t’atar ‎‎– “Tartar”. The Persian takfūr, in its turn, is borrowed from the Armenian dialectal t‘äk‘fur ‎‎(Classical Armenian t‘agawor) – “king”, which has penetrated into many languages of the ‎region – apart from Persian and Kurdish, also to Arabic, some Turkic dialects, and so on. ‎

An interesting detail – the sacrifice of a bull – has prompted some authors to draw ‎certain parallels between Sheykh Shams and the Old Iranian Mithras, in later tradition ‎mainly identified with the sun. In the Yezidi tradition the bull-sacrifice takes place on the ‎fifth day of Jažnē jamā‘īyya (Arabic ‘ayd al jamā`īyya) – the feast of popular gathering ‎which is annually celebrated during a week starting from September , at Shaykh Shams’ ‎shrine in Lalesh.‎

True, tauroctony is one of Mithras’ main characteristics: he is over and again ‎depicted as bull-slaying Mithras. But we can hardly trace the Yezidi rite of the bull-‎sacrifice back to the Mithraic mysteries, or to the Old Iranian religious Weltanschauung in ‎general. The analogy in such a multi-cultural ethnic-religious area as Northern Mesopotamia ‎could be attributed to any indirect influence: the idea of the bull-sacrifice could have various ‎roots, including, of course, the Old Iranian ones. A bull as a cultic animal could have ‎become the object of various rites in many traditions; this requires a very fastidious ‎approach while interpreting the given cases. Moreover, the myth about the sacrifice of a ‎bull, carried over from one tradition to another, can acquire a principally new content.

It is not the “iconography” of the bull-slaying idea that must come first here, but the ‎idea of sacrifice itself. Because if the “icon”, the scene, the rite itself, can pass unchanged ‎from one tradition to another, it is still usually filled with another content, which is closer ‎and clearer to the mentality of a new culture. It is just the idea which is being transformed, ‎when it transcends the scope of the authentic culture. A shining example of such a ‎transformation can be provided precisely by Mithras, who migrated from the Old Iranian ‎pantheon to the Roman one, and thus, the authentic Iranian idea of bull-slaying in the act of ‎cosmogony was transformed in order to become meaningful for the Roman devotee. In this ‎regard J. Hinnells states “…the Roman Mithraic reliefs depict the divine sacrifice which ‎gives life to a man, a concept which ultimately derived from Iran but which was expressed ‎in terms meaningful to people living in the Graeco-Roman world.”

Thus, even if the parallel between the sacrifice of a bull to the Yezidi sun-deity and ‎Mithras’ tauroctony seems to be obvious, still the interpretations of the ideas of these rites in ‎both traditions may have practically no points of contact.‎

Due to the special attitude of the Yezidis to the sun, Shaykh Shams is one of the ‎most venerated religious characters in the tradition: Šēx Šams ĉirāya – “Shaykh Shams is ‎our light”, they say. At dawn a righteous Yezidi should kiss the place where the first rays ‎of the sun fall, and neither a Muslim nor a Christian nor a Jew should see him at that ‎moment. Still, this is not an adequate reason to consider Yezidis to be sun-worshippers, as ‎they are often characterised in literature. In the phrase of Sheykh Hasane Mamud (field ‎materials) – Sheykh Shams is xāčē maya, “our cross”, only one of the Yezidis’ symbols. The ‎sun-worshipping among the Yezidis does not have any special resonance or relevance ‎beyond the scope of the universal comprehension of the solar cult.‎

The situation with Farxadin, that is, Faxr ad-din (Faxradīn, Farxadīn) – the ‎personification of the moon – is more enigmatic. There is no way to relate his name to the ‎moon; and the information about his historical prototype gives no grounds for the similar ‎development of the mythological personage. Farxadin acquired his lunar character, most ‎likely, as a result of his sibling relationship with Sheykh Shams, who was transmogrified ‎into the solar deity due to his name. Such a cliché is quite typical for the Near Eastern ‎religious mentality, according to which the sun and the moon are male deities, neighbouring ‎each other in the sky. Thus it is no wonder that the full blood-brother of Sheykh Shams, the ‎personification of the sun, could come to be approached as his celestial brother as well. This ‎does not come into conflict with the fact that the Yezidi folk tradition considers the sun and ‎the moon to be brother and sister.

In any case, the elusive concept of this personage is also evidential of the secondary ‎character of Farxadin as that of the lunar deity. It is enough to mention that a prolix hymn ‎dedicated to Farxadin – Qawlē Malak Farxadīn – does not even allude to his connection ‎with the moon.‎

Malak Faxradīn (Farxadīn) or A’zīz Malak Faxradīn, that is, (Saint) Angel Farxadin, ‎according to the “Black Scripture”, is identified with Turail (or Nurail), the seventh avatar ‎of Malak-ţāwūs. Thus, actually, the only reference to his lunar character is the fact that in ‎folk tradition the moon is called Māngā Malak Farxadīn – “The disc of the Angel ‎Farxadin”. Another, rather indirect, reference to the celestial nature of Farxadin can be ‎found, probably, in the following passage of the qawl: ‎

Či bāziyakī bi-nūrīna,‎
Fiřī, ču a’zmīna,‎
Min nadizānī ku suřā Faxradīna.‎

What a luminous falcon it is! ‎
It flew away, it went to Heaven,‎
I was unaware that it was a mystery of Fekhr el-Dīn.‎

The lunar nature of Faxradin is also revealed from the ability to heal from the “lunar ‎disease” – kēma hayvī or hīvē lēxistī (literally “the moonstruck”), ascribed to him. Still, my ‎field materials about the healing procedure, collected among the Yezidis of Armenia and ‎characterised by numerous archaic elements preserved both in everyday life and rituals, ‎contains neither any appeal to Farxadin nor any sacrifice to him. He is not even mentioned ‎in the rite, while the role of the moon itself is obvious. One of the elements of the rite ‎presupposes that a crescent-shaped pendant cut from a coin should be worn around the ‎patient’s neck for three years, “until the moon is completely changed”

Mothers used to carry their sick children outside to the new moon, repeating Yā hīvā ‎nu, tu dāykā zārēyī, az dāmārī, wī zārē xilāzka ži vī āgirī – “Oh New Moon, you are the ‎‎[real] mother of the child, and I am [his] stepmother; rid this child from the malady [literally ‎‎‘fire’]”. ‎
Malak Farxadin is also believed to be a creator of the Yezidi religious lore – Qawl-ū-‎bayt.

That is why the qawwals – the reciters – are considered Jēšē Malak Faxradīn, qawālē ‎Šēxadī – “the armies of Malak Farxadin, the qawwals of Sheykh Adi”. They should ask for ‎Farxadin’s permission before reciting hymns: Haka ži bā Malak Faxradīn bētin dastūre (or ‎ījāzatē) – “If authorisation comes from dear Malak Farxadin”.

The deliquescence and ambivalence of the moon’s nature (and correspondingly that ‎of Malak Faxradin) is determined, above all, by the fact that in the folk tradition, the moon ‎is apprehended as something mystical and even inauspicious. The Yezidis believe that the ‎moon (Farxadin) is able to bring misfortunes and calamities to people and livestock, as well ‎as natural disasters – floods, earthquakes, and so on.

Despite the fact that in many cultures the moon has always been a worshipped ‎figure, folk traditions never approach it so unambiguously: its declining from the full disc ‎and complete waning through the crescent and its waxing again to the appearance of the disc ‎have always been fearsome for the human mind, which has preserved a number of negative ‎characteristics of this celestial body as of something mutable, inconstant, connected with the ‎powers of darkness, bringing disease and destruction. It is no wonder that the moon has ‎always been the object of magic, the patron of witches and magicians. The most infernal is ‎considered, of course, the phase of the full moon, when, according to various folk beliefs – ‎Armenian, Iranian and Slavic (as well as various Western European) – the gates of hell are ‎open and the earth is overrun with devilry. Clapping the eyes on the full moon, a Yezidi ‎passes his hand across his face and turns to Farxadin: Yā māngā Farxadīn, tu ma bēī řah’mē ‎‎– “Oh Farxadin’s disc, have mercy for us”.

A Yezidi should meet a new moon by touching his face with his hands while ‎watching the young crescent. In former times the procedure included also singing and ‎dancing, which was called līstikē hīvē – “the moon-dance”. People also let the livestock ‎outside and asked Farxadin for fertility.‎

Among the Yezidi sheikhs of Armenia there is a rather marginal belief, that the ‎moon is also the domain of Sheykh Sin (Malak Šēx Sīn), that is, Sheykh Hasan – one of the ‎Adawiyya’s esteemed leaders. This fact conveys the suggestion of the secondary reference ‎‎(as in the case of Sheykh Shams) to the Assyrian-Babylonian Lord of the Sun, Sīn. ‎However, Sin as the Lord of the Moon exists in the Mandeaen tradition, and the described ‎development could exclusively be the result of Mandaean influence. Other variants can ‎hardly be proposed, no matter how strange this may seem at first sight (as both Yezidis and ‎Mandeaen have been closed esoteric societies, which considerably reduces the possibility of ‎mutual influences). In the Mandaean tradition the moon is one of the seven planets – the ‎creatures of God, each having a spirit in it: Shamish, Sin or Sera, Nirigh, Bel, Enwo, Liwet ‎and Kiwan. The Mandaean Sin is also an ambivalent personage. His power is in darkness, ‎so by night he can make himself black or white. His sinister influence manifests itself in ‎men’s behaviour, as he inclines people to commit crimes, his face “is like a cat, animal-like ‎and black”, and the King of Darkness, pulling men to evil, accompanies Sin in the “moon-‎ship”. The Mandaean legend refers to sleeping under the sinister light of Sin’s eye.‎

Monday, August 20th, 2007, 09:18 PM
Here is an article on the Yezidi religion. The Yezidi are a Kurdish people (this is sometimes disputed) traditionally found in parts of Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, Syria, and Iraq, though many have migrated to Europe in recent years.

The article can be read HERE (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/19/wiraq219.xml).

Here are some excerpts:

It's an impressive list. The Yezidi honour sacred trees. Women must not cut their hair. Marriage is forbidden in April. They refuse to eat lettuce, pumpkins, and gazelles. They avoid wearing dark blue because it is "too holy".

They are divided strictly into castes, who cannot marry each other. The upper castes are polygamous. Anyone of the faith who marries a non-Yezidi risks ostracism, or worse. Some weeks ago a young girl was stoned to death by her Yezidi menfolk in Iraq; she had fallen in love with a Muslim and was trying to convert. The sickening murder was filmed, and posted on the internet, adding to the Yezidis' unhappy reputation.

Yezidism is syncretistic: it combines elements of many faiths. Like Hindus, they believe in reincarnation. Like ancient Mithraists, they sacrifice bulls. They practise baptism, like Christians. When they pray they face the sun, like Zoroastrians. They profess to revile Islam, but there are strong links with Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam.

In the centre of town I am greeted by Halil Savucu, a westernised spokesman for the Yezidi. Also with us is Uta Tolle, a German scholar of Yezidism.

In Halil's Mercedes we drive into the suburbs. On the way, the two of them give me their view of the faith. "Yezidi is oral, not literary," says Uta. "This is why it is sometimes hard to pin down precise beliefs. There are religious texts, like the Black Book, but they are not crucial. The faith is really handed down by kawwas, sort of musical preachers."

And who is Melek Taus? Halil looks slightly uncomfortable: "We believe he is a proud angel, who rebelled and was thrown into Hell by God. He stayed there 40,000 years, until his tears quenched the fires of the underworld. Now he is reconciled to God."

But is he good or evil? "He is both. Like fire. Flames can cook but they can also burn. The world is good and bad."

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007, 06:13 AM
Wow. Interesting stuff!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007, 08:11 PM
Rather, they are Kurds practising the Kurdish religion, rather than the Arab religion of Islam. Many Kurds, whose ancestors were (forcibly) converted to Islam, are reviving their Yezidi heritage, thanks to Kurdish nationalism gaining power with the strengthening political power in Northern Iraq.

Kurdish is an Indo-European language, and they have several traditions & ceremonies similar to ours, such as Newroz, celebrating the spring by jumping over fires - compare this with the Walpurgis celebrations.

A people with an interesting history. Let's just hope they leave Europe...

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007, 07:42 PM
Thank you, Enlil, for your very insightful and informative observations. A couple of the points that you made were new information to me.

I would like to make a few comments, however.

It is true that most scholars consider them to be Kurds and this is accepted by most Yezidi. However, a minority of Yezidi, particularly in Armenia, dispute this and consider themselves to be ethnically distinct from the Kurdish people (see, for example http://www.kurdmedia.com/article.aspx?id=9868 ). (Granted, this may be for political and religious reasons in some cases.)

This uncertainty is probably exacerbated by the fact that the origin of the Kurds is itself not clear. Several genetic studies have indicated strong affinities with a number of otherwise distinct Middle Eastern peoples including Turkish, Jewish, and Persian. (for example, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?cmd=Retrieve&db=PubMed&list_uids=11380939&dopt=AbstractPlus). One study even indicated Mongol affinites in some Kurdish populations (see http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/sites/entrez?tmpl=NoSidebarfile&db=PubMed&cmd=Retrieve&list_uids=17486763&dopt=AbstractPlus ).

Even if the Kurdish origin of the Yezidi is accepted, scholars are not at all certain whether it is a form of the original Kurdish religion (though many do believe that). Some scholars, along with some Kurds, think that the original Kurdish religion was a form of Zoroastrianism (for a study critical of this view see http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0SBL/is_1-2_19/ai_n15954362 ). It appears that a lot of work, therefore, still remains to properly understand these very unusual and interesting people.

If I could make one closing comment about the article itself: The posted article suggested a Christian source for Yezidi baptism. If the ancient origins of the Yezidi religion are to be accepted, I think that it is just as likely that its form of baptism came from a preChristian source. Baptism and other forms of ritual cleansing were practiced by many different Middle Eastern peoples long before there were any Christians. Perhaps both forms simply share a common ancestry.

Friday, August 24th, 2007, 03:03 PM

Spirit of Fire
Sunday, August 26th, 2007, 08:46 PM
Yezidis' religion is an ancient Persian pagan religion influenced by some other religions, and their practice is far from worshipping the devil in a biblical sense or the modern day satanism. First of all Malak Taus is nothing like the Judeo-Christian-Islamic satan. Their concept of deities is different from the biblical-koranic concepts. One must study Gnostciism and ancient Persian heathenry to understand it. Here is some accurate info (by a left wing journalist) about the Yezidi religion:


God told the seven angels to bow before Adam, and six agreed. Malak Taus refused, citing God's order to obey only Him. Hence, Malak Taus was cast out of Heaven and became the Archangel of all the Angels. Compare this to the Christian and Muslim view of the Devil, the head of the angels, being thrown out of Heaven for disobedience of excessive pride.

In the meantime, Malak Taus is said to have repented his sins and returned to God as an angel. So, yes, the Yezidis do worship the Devil, but in their religion, he is a good guy, not a bad guy. They are not a Satanic cult at all. In Sufism, the act of refusing to worship Adam (man) over God would be said to be a positive act, one of refusing to worship the created over the creator, as in Sufism, one is not to worship anything but God.

There are traces of other religions - Hinduism may possibly be seen in the five Yezidi castes, from top to bottom - Pir, Shaikh, Kawal, Murabby, and Mureed (followers). Mureeds are about on a par with Dalits or Untouchables in Hinduism. Marriage across castes is strictly forbidden, as it has been disapproved in India.

On the other hand, pre-Islamic Iran also had a caste system, and the base of the Yezidi religion seems to be derived from Persian Zoroastrianism. The Yezidi, like the Druze and the Zoroastrians, do not accept converts, and like the Druze, think that they will be reincarnated as their own kind (Druze think they will be reincarnated as Druze; Yezidis think they will be reincarnated as Yezidis).

The Yezidis can be considered fire-worshipers in a sense; they obviously got this from the Zoroastrians. The Yezidis say, "Without fire, there would be no life."

Here is another good source of information about the Yezidis:


This page icludes translations of parts of the Yezidi holy book. The Yezidi 'Sacred Books' are reputedly never shown to strangers. The online book on the web site I linked above includes a set of translations from an Arabic manuscript given to Joseph by a Muslim which purport to be the text of these books.

This is one of the only public domain sources of information on the religious beliefs of the Yezidi, a small group originally from the northern region of Iraq. Although they speak Kurdish, they are a distinct population from the Kurds. The Yezidi are notable because they have been described as devil-worshippers, which has, unfortunately, led to constant persecution by the dominant Islamic culture of the region. Yezidi religious beliefs upon closer examination appear to be a mixture of Gnostic cosmology with Muslim, Christian and other influences. They have many unique beliefs, such as that the first Yezidi were created by Adam by parthenogenesis separately from Eve. They believe that there was a flood before the flood of Noah. They also have a set of food taboos which include meat, fish, squash, okra, beans, cabbage and lettuce.

In some polytheistic religions good and evil deities are worshipped equally; the good gods so that good things will happen, and the evil ones also are propitiated so that bad things won't happen. The Yezidi theology differs in that God is so good that he has no need of worship; Melek Ta`us is sort of a firewall between this imperfect world and the perfection of the supreme being. This is similar to beliefs of some ancient Gnostics that God, being purely good, had to create a set of intermediaries, the Aeons. This is so that the Aeons, in turn, could create a world which includes evil.

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016, 12:50 PM
Asatrian and Arakelova shatter many misconception about the Yezidi Kurds in their book. And Malek Tawus actually is Satan though the Yezidi are not imaginary devil worshippers. The roots of Yezidi Satanism are a Sufi influence upon a pre-Islamic people.

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016, 01:32 AM
And Malek Tawus actually is Satan though the Yezidi are not imaginary devil worshippers.

How did you come to this conclusion?

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016, 03:16 AM
How did you come to this conclusion?

Well, its not anyone's conclusion its a fact. The Peacock Angel is not a Yezidi-only symbol but a Sufi one. Check that book The Religion of the Peacock Angel for Islamic/Sufi and pre-Islamic influence on Yezidism.

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016, 04:19 AM
Well, its not anyone's conclusion its a fact. The Peacock Angel is not a Yezidi-only symbol but a Sufi one. Check that book The Religion of the Peacock Angel for Islamic/Sufi and pre-Islamic influence on Yezidism.

I don't see how this lies within the realm of verifiable fact but okay. All three of these characters - Satan, Iblis/Shaytan, and the Peacock Angel may derive from the same story but they have such utterly different qualities in character and essence that it doesn't make sense to immediately equate them any more than it would of Abrahamic religions.

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016, 07:55 AM
Encylopedia Iranica article on the Yazidis:


The only significant Yazidi population outside their homeland is in Germany - some of it from the recent influx, but some from before the 1990s. They estimate themselves to be c. 100,000 in number in Germany.

Wednesday, May 4th, 2016, 10:21 AM
I don't see how this lies within the realm of verifiable fact but okay. All three of these characters - Satan, Iblis/Shaytan, and the Peacock Angel may derive from the same story but they have such utterly different qualities in character and essence that it doesn't make sense to immediately equate them any more than it would of Abrahamic religions.

I see Abrahamic religions as much the same. Whatever. But I see what you're saying. :)