Yazidis are an ethnical group and a religious sect of Krudistan in the Mosul region of northern Iraq, accused of being devil worshipers.
Yazidis refer to themselves as Dasni, but other Kruds give them the name of Yezidi, which is thought to be derived from the Persian Yazdan, meaning "God."
Yazidis, religion is presumably a combination of Mazdaism, Islam and Christianity, and their theology resembles that of Gnostics and Albigensian beliefs. The world is believed to have been created by Muluk-Taus (Tawûsê Melek), the fallen angel as an agent of the supreme God, and Muluk-Taus is propitiated by worship in the symbolic form of the peacock. The reasoning of this worship is that it avoids mentioning the Devil by name and averts evil.
In their religious beliefs the Yezidis consider Christ to be an angel in human form, and Mohammed a prophet along with Abraham and others. They practice baptism and circumcision.
One of the key creation beliefs of Yazidism is that all Yazidis are descendants of Adam rather than Eve. Yazidis believe that good and evil both exist in the mind and spirit of human beings. It depends on the humans, themselves, as to which they choose. In this process, their devotion to Tawûsê Melek is essential, since it was he who was given the same choice between good and evil by God, and chose the good.
Yazidis, who have much in common with the followers of Ahl-e Haqq (in western Iran), state that the world created by God was at first a pearl. It remained in this very small and enclosed state for some time (often a magic number such as forty or forty thousand years) before being remade in its current state. During this period the Heptad were called into existence, God made a covenant with them and entrusted the world to them. Besides Tawûsê Melek, members of the Heptad (the Seven), who were called into existence by God at the beginning of all things, include Şêx Adî, his companion Şêx Hasan and a group known as the Four Mysteries: Shamsadin, Fakhradin, Sajadin and Naserdin.
The Islamic tradition regarding the fall of Shaitan from Grace is in fact very similar to the Yazidi story of Malek Taus - that is, the Jinn who refused to submit to Adam is celebrated as Tawûsê Melek by Yazidis, but the Islamic version of the same story curses the same Jinn who refused to submit as becoming Satan. Thus, Muluk-Tausk is often identified by orthodox Muslims as a Shaitan (Satan), a Muslim term denoting a devil or demon who deceives true believers and the Yazidis have been accused of devil worship.
For example, horror writer H. P. Lovecraft made a reference to "the Yezidi clan of devil-worshippers" in his short story The Horror at Red Hook.
Because of this and due to their pre-Islamic beliefs, they have been oppressed by their Muslim neighbors. Treatment of Yazidis was exceptionally harsh during the rule of the Ottoman Empire during the 18th and the first half of 19th century and their numbers dwindled under Ottoman rule both in Syria and Iraq. Massacres at the hand of Ottoman Turks and Muslim Kurdish princes almost wiped out their community in the 19th century. Several punitive expeditions were organized against the Yazidis by the Turkish governors (Wāli) of Diyarbakir, Mosul and Baghdad to force conversion of Yazidis to Islam and the Turkish Ottoman Empire.
- Children are baptized at birth and circumcision is common but not required. Dead are buried in conical tombs immediately after death and buried with hands crossed.
- Yazidi are dominantly monogamous but chiefs may be polygamous, having more than one wife. Yazidi are exclusively endogamous; clans do not intermarry even with other Kurds and accept no converts. They claim they are descended only from Adam and not from Eve.
- A severe punishment is expulsion, which is also effectively excommunication because the soul of the exiled is forfeit.
The Yazidis' concern with religious purity, and their reluctance to mix elements perceived to be incompatible, is shown not only in their caste system, but also in various taboos affecting everyday life. Some of these, such as those on exogamy or on insulting or offending men of religion, are widely respected. Others are often ignored when men of religion are not present. Others still are less widely known and may be localized.
The purity of the four elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water is protected by a number of taboos, e.g. against spitting on earth, water or fire. Some discourage spitting or pouring hot water on the ground because they believe that spirits or souls that may be present would be harmed or offended by such actions if they happen to be hit by the discarded liquid. These may also reflect ancient Iranian preoccupations, as apparently do taboos concerning bodily waste, hair, and menstrual blood.
Too much contact with non-Yazidis is also considered polluting. In the past, Yazidis avoided military service which would have led them to live among Muslims, and were forbidden to share such items as cups or razors with outsiders. A resemblance to the external ear may lie behind the taboo against eating lettuce, whose name koas resembles Kurdish pronunciations of koasasa. Additionally, lettuce grown near Mosul is thought by some Yazidi to be fertilized with human waste, which may contribute to the idea that it is unsuitable for consumption. However, in a BBC interview in April 2010, a senior Yazidi authority stated that ordinary Yazidis may eat what they want, but holy men refrain from certain vegetables because "they cause gases".
Yazidis refrain from wearing the color blue (or possibly green as stated in Soldier Poet and Rebel by Miles Hudson). The origins of this prohibition are unknown, but may either be because blue represents Noah's flood, or it was possibly the color worn by a conquering king sometime in the past. Alternatively, the prohibition may arise from their veneration of the Peacock Angel and an unwillingness to usurp His color.
Yazidis have five daily prayers:
- Nivêja berîspêdê (the Dawn Prayer),
- Nivêja rojhilatinê (the Sunrise Prayer),
- Nivêja nîvro (the Noon Prayer),
- Nivêja êvarî (the Afternoon Prayer),
- Nivêja rojavabûnê (the Sunset Prayer).
Worshipers should turn their face toward the sun, and for the noon prayer, they should face toward Laliş. Such prayer should be accompanied by certain gestures, including kissing the rounded neck (gerîvan) of the sacred shirt (kiras). The daily prayer services must not be performed in the presence of outsiders, and are always performed in the direction of the sun. Wednesday is the holy day but Saturday is the day of rest.There is also a three-day fast in December.
The Yazidi holy books are claimed to be the Kitêba Cilwe (Book of Revelation) and the Mishefa Reş (Black Book). However, scholars generally agree that the manuscripts of both books published in 1911 and 1913 were forgeries written by non-Yazidis in response to Western travelers’ and scholars’ interest in the Yazidi religion; the material in them is consistent with authentic Yezidi traditions, however. True texts of those names may have existed, but remain obscure. The real core texts of the religion that exist today are the hymns known as qawls; they have also been orally transmitted during most of their history, but are now being collected with the assent of the community, effectively transforming Yazidism into a scriptural religion. The qawls are full of cryptic allusions and usually need to be accompanied by čirōks or ‘stories’ that explain their context.
Some texts were translated by F. Nau, Recueil de textes et de documents sur les Yezidis (1918). There are other works describing the Yezidia and their beliefs: The Cult of the Peacock Angel by R. H. Empson (1928), Adventures in Arabia among the Bedouins Druses Whirling Derivishes & Yezidee Devilworshipers by W. B. Seabrook (1928), Peacock Angel by E. S. Drower. A.G.H.