Avishay ArtsyDECEMBER 8, 2007
When you come up to the north side of a grey duplex, it looks like any other home in this working-class Lincoln neighborhood.
But step inside, and you find men with beards and mustaches sitting cross-legged on pillows and smoking cigarettes. Kawil Hassan offers me a steaming cup of sweet Iraqi tea. He's the unofficial leader of the Yezidi community here, and right now they're all getting ready to celebrate their big holiday.
The Yezidis call their God Ezid, and this week's holiday is also called Ezid. Yezidis say it's to remember when Ezid appeared to them as a bright light in the sky, around 6,000 years ago. That places the founding of their religion well before the Judeo-Christian tradition. This year, Ezid starts at three a.m. on Tuesday with an early meal, followed by a short nap. Kawil's daughter Layla says they won't eat or drink again until sundown.
"We get up around seven a.m., before the sun comes out, and wash our face and pray, she explains, as her father recites the prayer in Kurdish.
Kawil recites the names of the seven angels and their leader, the Peacock Angel. For three days, the Yezidis will fast and pray, asking for forgiveness and for peace. They haven't seen much of the latter. The Yezidis are a religious minority in a rough part of the world, and they keep count of all the times they've been invaded throughout history. Things didn't get any better under Saddam Hussein. Around the time Layla was born, 19 years ago, her father and several other Yezidi men were rounded up by Iraqi police. They put Kawil Hassan in prison for 45 days. There, he says he was beaten, shocked with electrified cables and immersed headfirst in ice-cold water.
"They thought that we were too religious, too connected to our religion, and they would find any excuse to take us, Layla says.
When the first Gulf War broke out two years later, Saddam Hussein began forcing Yezidi men to join his army. Kawil decided to make a run for it. He and his family hid in caves until they could make it across the border into Syria. They lived there for seven years, in a United Nations refugee camp. Layla remembers it well.
"They brought us blankets and they would help us, but still, we didn't have a future… The bread that they brought us was full of bugs and stuff, she says.
They didn't forget their religion and traditions. They still fasted for three days on Ezid.
On the fourth day, Layla and the other children would sing, and dance, and collect candy from the other Yezidis.
"I would get up early in the morning, take one of the bags that we'd get from the store, and visit every camp that was in the village, and I would visit it and ask for candy, she recalls.
Layla's family made it to the U.S. in 1998. But their problems didn't go away. It's hard for them to explain their religious restrictions to people in Lincoln. They don't wear the color blue, because they believe it offends God. They don't eat lettuce. And on the rare occasion their religion makes the news, it's because of something horrible. On one day last August, suicide bombers killed about 300 Yezidis in northwest Iraq. Kawil Hassan watched the coverage on TV and says it was like reliving a nightmare.
Then I came across this comment in another post on the Yezedi. Which helps explain the popular misconception that they are 'Satanists'.
That and references by Anton LaVey to them in his Satanic Bible which may have been influenced by John Keel's book Jadoo. Much like tales of Zombies in Haiti were influenced by journalist and occultist William Seabrook's; Magic Island.
As a distant religious belief, many non-Yazidi people have written about them, and ascribed facts to their beliefs that have dubious historical validity. 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". The Yezidis have also been claimed as an influence on Aleister Crowley's Thelema. More notably, Anton Lavey drew upon the Yezidis for his own philosophy, LaVeyan Satanism, (e.g. The Law of the Trapezoid) in the "Satanic Bible" and "Satanic Rituals". In addition; The Order of the Peacock Angel, an obscure secret society based in the London suburb of Putney loosely based its rites on Yezidi beliefs as well.
in The Satanic Bible, Anton LaVey refers to the Yazidi as "a sect of Devil worshippers", and interprets their beliefs as follows:
They believe that God is all-powerful, but also all-forgiving, and so accordingly feel that it is the Devil whom they must please, as he is the one who rules their lives while here on earth.
Keel was apparently followed in the footsteps of P.B. Randolph who also got a mysterious invitation from the Sheik Baba, of the Yezedi to learn of their ways. Unlike Randolph who was an accomplished magickian and occultist, Keel was an accomplished stage magician and skeptic who from his experiences became a believer in the paranormal.
The Yezedi's creation mythos sounds strikingly familiar perhaps because their deity Malek Taus has been mistaken for the Fallen Angel of Judaeo-Christian-Isalmic mythology.
The Yezedis are an insular people who have their own customs. They never wear the color blue or eat lettuce.
They have kept their religion alive through oral history and have falsely come to be known as devil worshippers because they are followers of the fallen angel, Lucifer.
The Yezedis, however, believe Lucifer was forgiven by God and returned to heaven. They call him Malek Taus (the peacock king) and pray to him. They do not ever use the word “Satan.”
And they are getting more recognition because of articles like this.
The Yezidi (Yazidi) cosmology and religion is non-dual. They thus acknowledge an inactive, static and transcendental God who created, or "became", Seven Great Angels, the leader of which was Tawsi Melek, the Peacock "King" or Peacock "Angel".
Leading up to the creation of the cosmos, many Yezidis believe that the Supreme God was originally "over the seas", a notion reminiscent of the Biblical passage: "And the Spirit of God (as seven Elohim) moved upon the face of the waters." While playing with a white pearl, state the Yezidis, their Supreme God cast it into this cosmic sea. The pearl was broken and served as the substance from which the Earth and other planets and stars came into being.
The Supreme God then created or manifested a vehicle for completing the creation of the universe. This was the first and greatest angel, Tawsi Melek, the Peacock Angel. Since Tawsi Melek embodied the power and wisdom of the Supreme God he was easily able to know and carry out His bidding. Six more Great Angels were then created to assist Tawsi Melek in his work.
Soon after the Earth was created it began to shake violently. Tawsi Melek was then dispatched to Earth to stop the planet's quaking, as well as to endow it with beauty and abundance. When Tawsi Melek descended to Earth, he assumed the form of a glorious peacock - a bird full of the seven primary and secondary colors. Landing in a place now known as Lalish, Tawsi Melek transferred his peacock colors to the Earth and endowed it with a rich flora and fauna.
Tawsi Melek then traveled to the Garden of Eden to meet Adam. The first human had been created without a soul, so Tawsi Melek blew the breath of life into him. He then turned Adam towards the Sun, symbol of the Supreme Creator, while stating that there was something greater than a human being and it should be worshipped regularly. Tawsi Melek then chanted a prayer for all humanity to daily repeat to the Creator, and he did so in the 72 languages that were going to be eventually spoken by the 72 countries and races that were destined to cover the Earth.
Then Eve was created. But according to the Yezidis before copulating the primal couple enrolled in a kind of competition to see if either of either of them could bring forth progeny independent of the other. They both stored their seed in a sealed jar and then after an incubation period opened them. Eve's jar was opened and found to be full of insects and vermin, while inside Adam's jar was a beautiful boy-child. This lovely child, known as Shehid bin Jer, “Son of Jar,” grew quickly, married, and had offspring. His descendants are the Yezidis. Thus, the Yezidis regard themselves descendants of Adam but not Eve.
Shehid bin Jer inherited the divine wisdom that Tawsi Melek had taught his father Adam and then passed it down to his offspring, the earliest Yezidis. It is this wisdom that has become the foundation of the Yezidi religion.
Yezidis, Alagyaz, Aragatsotn Region, Republic of Armenia © Onnik Krikorian / Oneworld Multimedia 1998
My feature article and photographs for Geographical, the magazine of the Royal Geographical Society, were meant to be published in the January 2008 edition, but now it looks like it’s already been published in the December issue. Unfortunately, the full text of the article is not available online yet, but when it is I’ll post another link and an excerpt. Until then, this is what Geographical has for now.
A people divided
Armenia’s Yezidi people practise one of the purest versions of Kurdish culture, but, as Onnik Krikorian discovers, outside forces have riven the small community.
My last published article on Yezidis in Armenia was for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting and can be read online here, and many of the transcripts of the interviews I’ve done since 1998 are here. Also, until the full Geographical article can be read online, there’s plenty of posts and links to previous articles on Yezidis in Armenia and Georgia under the relevant category.
Because of America's invasion of Iraq the world now hears more about the plight of the Kurds and the Yezedi in particular not only in Iraq but in Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Iran, etc. Unfortunately for them they are not only a persecuted ethnic minority, but a persecuted religious minority and a politically persecuted one as well as many Yezedi villages support the PKK. Which are now under attack by Turkish forces.
"The syncretic volatility of the region has only been enhanced (as
has our knowledge of these groups) by the ethnic, political and
military tensions that have waxed and waned after the "Great Game"
and most especially since the Gulf War, which brought far more
contact with the Yezidi as a result of Saddam Hussein's Kurdish
purges. Furthermore, the PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) has
garnered both support and antagonism from various sectors of the
Yezidi community, and many Yezidi Kurds fled the Turkish - Iraqi
border to Germany where they have their own online and print
magazine  - as well as a World Conference  to discuss the
intricacies of their metaphysics and social structure. As more
details emerge about their religious history, we may find that
cross-pollination will occur back into the western Hermetic
tradition and its own angelick cultus."
SEE:My Favorite Muslim
Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani
Find blog posts, photos, events and more off-site about:
Yezedi, Yezidi, Yazedi, Iazadi, Iraq, Turkey, Devil-worship, Lucefer, Peacock, Gnostic, heresy, Sheik Adi, Kurds, Kurdish, Kurdistan, Zororastrian, Gurdjieff, Crowley, Lavey, Satanism, heresy, Luciferian, Lucifer, Aryan, Fire religions,
Knights Templar, Malak Tawus, Baphomet, Islam, Sufi, Sufism, el-Hallaj, Gnosticism, Burton, Tawasin, muslims, heresy, heretics,