Thursday, January 12, 2012

Yazidi: The Devil Worshippers.


According to Yezidi belief, from Yazdan emanated 7 great spirits, of whom Malek Taus was the first and most powerful. To him was committed the creation of the world, and the governance of it for 10,000 years of which 4,000 still remain to run. Malek Taus is an evil and a fallen spirit; but not fallen beyond redemption. He is a sort of celestial Absalom - vicious, tyrannical, rebellious, but secure of ultimate pardon and rehabilitation. Shall there not at length come a time when the Chief of the Archangels shall be restored to his first pre-eminence? And will he not then be mindful of the poor Yezidis, who alone of all mankind never cursed him in his disgrace?, is every devout Yezidi's belief.

Entrance of Lalish
There is something distinctly quaint in this picture of a reclaimed Satan, still cherishing a faint grudge against those who denounced him in his unregenerate days.

The Yezidis have a regular hierarchy of seven orders of Priesthood. They hold a great annual feast at Sheikh Adi in October; which is continued for eight days, and is attended by all the faithful who can come. Pilgrimage to Sheikh Adi is incumbent on every Yezidi, but he is not commanded to pray, and he leaves that duty to his priests. Fasting can also be performed by deputy, and a group of Yezidis will select one of their number to do all their fasting for them, confessing to him the acts which need expiation and paying him a capitation fee for carrying out the corresponding penances.

Even though they are ethnically Kurdish, Yazidis are a distinct and independent religious community with their own unique culture. They live primarily in the Nineveh Province of Iraq. Additional communities in Armenia, Georgia, Turkey, Iran, and Syria exist as well.

Lalish
The Yazidis are monotheists, believing in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. The Peacock Angel, as world-ruler, causes both good and bad to befall individuals, and this ambivalent character is reflected in myths of his own temporary fall from God's favour, before his remorseful tears extinguished the fires of his hellish prison and he was reconciled with God.

This belief builds on Sufi mystical reflections on Iblis, who refused to prostrate to Adam despite God's express command to do so. Because of this connection to the Sufi Iblis tradition, some Muslims equate the Peacock Angel with their own unredeemed evil spirit Shaytan, which has incited centuries of persecution of the Yazidis as "devil worshippers".

The Yazidi people speak Kurmanji Kurdish and adhere to the religion Yazidism or Yazdânism, a religion rooted in Iranian religions blended with elements of pre-Islamic Mesopotamian religious traditions.

Entrance of the Sacred Area
Although they speak mostly Kurdish, their ethnicity is obscure. Commentators identify the Yazidis as predominantly Kurds but according to some sources, they tend to regard themselves as distinct from Kurds. Many Yazidis say that Kurds are originally Yazidi who shifted culturally after they adopted Islam.

Yazidis their principal holy site is in Lalish, northeast of Mosul. The Yazidis' own name for themselves is Êzidî or Êzîdî or, in some areas, Dasinî  Some scholars have derived the name Yazidi from Old Iranian yazata (divine being), and some Yazidis themselves believe that their name is derived from the word Yezdan or Êzid "God", though the current consensus among Western academics support the widespread idea that it is a derivation from Umayyad Caliph Yazid I (Yazid bin Muawiyah), who is revered as Sultan Ezi.The Yazidis' cultural practices are observed in Kurdish, and all speak Kurdish language. Kurdish language is the language of almost all the orally transmitted religious traditions of the Yazidis.

The religion of the Yazidis, Yazidism, is a kind of Yazdânism and has many influences: But the  theology is non-Islamic. Their cosmogonies apparently have many points in common with those of ancient Persian religions. Early writers attempted to describe Yazidi origins, broadly speaking, in terms of Islam, or Persian, or sometimes even "pagan" religions;

The origin of Yazidism is now usually seen by scholars as a complex process of syncretism, whereby the belief system and practices of a local faith had a profound influence on the religiosity of adherents of the 'Adawiyya Sufi order living in the Yezidi mountains, and caused it to deviate from Islamic norms relatively soon after the death of its founder, Shaykh 'Adī ibn Musafir, who is said to be of Umayyad descent. He settled in the valley of Laliş (some 36 miles north-east of Mosul) in the early 12th century. Adî himself, a figure of undoubted orthodoxy, enjoyed widespread influence. He died in 1162, and his tomb at Laliş is a focal point of Yazidi pilgrimage.

Lalish in Eighteen Century
The Yezidis are the followers of Yezîd bn Unaisa, who [said that he] kept friendship with the first Muhakkama before the Azariḳa". "It is clear, then, that Aš-Šahrastani finds the religious origin of this interesting people in the person of Yezîd bn Unaisa. ... We are to understand, therefore, that to the knowledge of the writer, ibn Unaisa is the founder of the Yezidi sect, which took its name from him." "Now, the first Muhakkamah is an appellative applied to the Muslim schismatics called Al-Ḫawarij. ... According to this it might be inferred that the Yezidis were originally a Ḫarijite sub-sect." "Yezid moreover, is said to have been in sympathy with Al-Abaḍiyah, a sect founded by 'Abd-Allah Ibn Ibaḍ.

Yazidi society is hierarchical. The secular leader is a hereditary Amir or prince, whereas a chief sheikh heads the religious hierarchy. The Yazidis are strictly endogamous; members of the three Yazidi castes, the murids, sheikhs and pirs, marry only within their group, marriage outside the caste is considered a sin punishable by death to restore lost honour. The current hereditary emir of the world's Yazidi is Prince Tahseen Said.

They have 5 prayers a day. 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). However, most Yezidis observe only two of these, the sunrise and sunset prayers.

Yazidi Black Book
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 New Year falls in Spring, on the first Wednesday of April (somewhat later than the Equinox). There is some lamentation by women in the cemeteries, to the accompaniment of the music of the Qewals, but the festival is generally characterized by joyous events: the music of dehol (drum) and zorna (shawm), communal dancing and meals, the decorating of eggs.

Similarly, the village Tawaf, a festival held in the spring in honour of the patron of the local shrine, has secular music, dance and meals in addition to the performance of sacred music. Another important festival is the Tawûsgeran (circulation of the peacock) where Qewals and other religious dignitaries visit Yazidi villages, bringing the senjaq, sacred images of a peacock made from brass symbolizing Tawûsê Melek. These are venerated, taxes are collected from the pious, sermons are preached and holy water distributed.

The greatest festival of the year for ordinary Yazidis is the Cejna Cemaiya "Feast of the Assembly" at Laliş, a seven-day occasion, focus of widespread pilgrimage, The religious centre of the event is the belief in an annual gathering of the Heptad in the holy place at this time. Rituals practised include the sacrifice of a bull at the shrine of Şhêikh Shams and the practice of sema.

Lalish Today
The most important ritual is the annual seven-day pilgrimage to the tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir in Laliş, north of Mosul, Iraq. A sacred microcosm of the world, as it were, it contains not only many shrines dedicated to the koasasa, but a number of other landmarks corresponding to other sites or symbols of significance in other faiths, including Pirra selat "Serat Bridge" and a mountain called Mt. Arafat. The two sacred springs are called Zamzam and Kaniya Sipî "The White Spring".

If possible, Yazidis make at least one pilgrimage to Laliş during their lifetime, and those living in the region try to attend at least once a year for the autumn Feast of the Assembly which is celebrated from 23 Aylūl (September) to 1 Tashrīn (October). During the celebration, Yazidis bathe in the river, wash figures of Tawûsê Melek and light hundreds of lamps in the tombs of Şêikh Adî and other saints. They sacrifice an ox, which is one reason they have been connected to Mithraism, in addition to the presence of the dog and serpent in their iconography. The sacrifice of the ox is meant to declare the arrival of fall and to ask for precipitation during winter to bring back life to the Earth in the next spring. Moreover, in astrology, the ox is the symbol of Tashrīn.

The Yazidis' concern with religious purity, and their reluctance to mix elements perceived to be incompatible, is shown in not only their caste system, but also various taboos affecting everyday life. Some of these, such as those on insulting or offending men of religion or exogamy are both widely respected and severely enforced, they stoned them who are suspected of both exogamy and conversion.

The purity of 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.

They avoid contact with non-Yazidis as it may pollute. thus they avoid 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 head lettuce, whose name koas resembles Yazidi pronunciations of koasasa. Additionally, lettuce grown near Mosul is thought by some Yazidis to be fertilized with human waste, which may contribute to the idea that it is unsuitable for consumption.  Yazidi authority stated that ordinary Yazidis may eat what they want, but holy men refrain from certain vegetables (including cabbage) because "they cause gases".

At birth, the children are baptized and the males are circumcised. However, Religiously speaking, circumcision Is not required by Yazidism and is more dependent on regional practices and culture, with the Yazidis in Sinjar and Armenia typically leaving their males intact, While those in other regions don't.

Dead are buried in conical tombs immediately after death and buried with hands crossed. Yazidis are dominantly monogamous but chiefs may be polygamous, having more than one wife. Yazidis are exclusively endogamous; clans do not intermarry even with other Kurds and accept no converts. They claim descent only from Adam and not from Eve. A severe punishment is expulsion, which is also effectively excommunication as the soul of the exiled is forfeit.

The tale of the Yazidis' origin found in the Black Book gives them a distinctive ancestry and expresses their feeling of difference from other races. Before the roles of the sexes were determined, Adam and Eve quarrelled about which of them provided the creative element in the begetting of children. Each stored their seed in a jar which was then sealed. When Eve's was opened it was full of insects and other unpleasant creatures, but inside Adam's jar was a beautiful boychild. This lovely child, known as son of Jar grew up to marry a houri and became the ancestor of the Yazidis. Therefore, the Yazidis regard themselves as descending from Adam alone, while other humans are descendants of both Adam and Eve. -[Allison, Christine (2001). The Yazidi Oral Tradition in Iraq. p. 40.]

The Yazidis hold religious beliefs that are mostly unfamiliar to outsiders, many non-Yazidi people have written about them and ascribed to their beliefs facts that have dubious historical validity. The Yazidis, perhaps because of their secrecy, also have a place in modern occultism. George Gurdjieff wrote about his encounters with the Yazidis several times in his book Meetings with Remarkable Men, mentioning that they are considered to be "devil worshippers"

Yezidi boys were unable to step out of a circle traced round them on the ground"- [Peter Ouspensky, "In Search of the Miraculous", p. 36]

Yezidis (Arabic) [possibly from Persian yazdan god; or the 2nd Umayyad Caliph, Yazid (r. 680–683); or Persian city Yezd] A sect dwelling principally in Iraq, Armenia, and the Caucasus, who call themselves Dasni. Their religious beliefs take on the characteristics of their surrounding peoples, inasmuch as, openly or publicly, they regard Mohammed as a prophet, and Jesus Christ as an angel in human form. Points of resemblance are found with ancient Zoroastrian and Assyrian religion. The principal feature of their worship, however, is Satan under the name of Muluk-Taus. However, it is not the Christian Satan, nor the devil in any form; their Muluk-Taus is the hundred- or thousand-eyed cosmic wisdom, pictured as a bird (the peacock). -[Encyclopedic Theosophical Glossary]

Idries Shah, in his Secret Societies claimed that Tawûsê Melek could be understood, from the Sufi viewpoint, as an allegory of the higher powers in humanity.

William Seabrook writes in his book Adventures in Arabia, as- "Among the Yezidees". He describes them as "a mysterious sect scattered throughout the Orient, strongest in North Arabia, feared and hated both by Moslem and Christian, because they are worshipers of Satan." In the three chapters of the book, he completely describes the area, including the fact that this territory, including their holiest city of Sheik-Adi, was not part of "Irak".

There's a lot of mystery surrounding the Yazidi, and a lot of contradictory information. Yazidi don't have a Satan. Malak Ta'us, an archangel, God's favorite, was not thrown out of heaven the way Satan was. Instead, he descended, saw the suffering and pain of the world, and cried. His tears, thousands of years' worth, fell on the fires of hell, extinguishing them. If there is evil in the world, it does not come from a fallen angel or from the fires of hell. The evil in this world is man-made. Nevertheless, humans can, like Malak Ta'us, live in this world but still be good.

E. S. Stevens describes the shrine of 'Sheikh Adi' as - "The courtyard before the entrance contains various small buildings and mulberry trees through which the sun casts chequered patterns on the facade. The door is to the extreme left of the wall, which is interesting on account of its curious magical signs cut in low relief on the stones, the principal being the great vertical snake, carefully black-leaded. to the right of the doorway. Pilgrims kiss this emblem of Satan. Within the temple is dark, dirty and shabby... the floor is greasy, with drippings from the oil lamps. On the north side of the temple a chapel, which they call Sheikh Hassan, contains an arkshaped chest or tomb, entirely covered with draperies and from this, again, a low door communicates with a second chapel in which is the tomb of Sheikh Adi himself." -[E. S. Stevens,'By Tigris and Euphrates'],

The Encyclopaedia Britannica explains: "The Yazidi religion is a syncretic combination of Zoroastrian, Manichaean, Jewish, Nestorian Christian and Islamic elements. The Yazidi themselves are thought to be descended from supporters of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid 1.

They themselves believe that they are created quite separately from the rest of mankind, not even being descended from Adam, and they have kept themselves strictly segregated from the people among whom they live. Although scattered and probably numbering fewer than 1,00,000, they have a well-organized society, with a chief shaykh as the supreme religious head and an amir, or prince, as the secular head.

The chief divine figure of the Yazidi is Malak Taus ('Peacock Angel'), worshipped in the form of a peacock. He rules the universe with six other angels, but all seven are subordinate to the supreme God, who has had no direct interest in the universe since he created it. The seven angels are worshipped by the Yazidi in the form of seven bronze or iron peacock figures called sanjaq, the largest of which weighs nearly 700 pounds.

Yazidi are anti-dualists; they deny the existence of evil and therefore also reject sin, the devil, and hell. The breaking of divine laws is expiated by way of metempsychosis, or transmigration of souls, which allows for progressive purification of the spirit. The Yazidi relate that when the devil repented of his sin of pride before God, he was pardoned and replaced in his previous position as chief of the angels; this myth has earned the Yazidl an undeserved reputation as devil worshippers. Shaykh Adi, the chief Yazidi saint, was a 12th century Muslim mystic believed to have achieved divinity through metempsychosis. As he said “I was present when Adam was living in Paradise, and also when Nimrod threw Abraham in fire.”

The Yazidi religious centre and object of the annual pilgrimage is the tomb of Shaykh 'Adi, located at a former Christian monastery in the town of Ash-Shaykh 'Adi, north of Mosul. Two short books written in Arabic, Kitab al-jilwah ('Book of Revelation') and Mashaf rash ('Black Writing'), form the sacred scriptures of the Yazidi, and an Arabic hymn praise of Shaykh 'Adi is held in great esteem."-[Encyclopaedia Britannica]

Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics: "The name of Yezldis has been given to a religious sect numbering about 50,000 persons, scattered from Mossul to the Caucasic region. They call themselves Dasni and speak a Kurdish dialect.

"At the head of the community is a khalifah, who is a descendant of Shaikh Adi. Under him are shaikhs, kavvals, and faqirs. Priesthood is hereditary. Morality is above the average in that part of the world. They are brave and shrewd. Their temperament is cheerful but calm. They have cleanly habits. Their women are not veiled and may receive strangers. They feel great repulsion for the colour blue. Being completely illiterate, they handed down their traditions orally. Their greatest festival is on 10th Aug., when a procession of flagellants takes place in the village of Ba'adri. There is the grave of their great saint, Shaikh Adi ben Musafir, who died in A.D. 1155. All around fires of naphtha and bitumen are kept burning.

"The origin of the Yezidi most probably from Av. Yazata, 'deity,', Pers. Yazdan, 'God'. It was given to them in contrast either to the Zoroastrians or to the Muhammadans. Although their priesthood is of the Muhammadan type and they recognize Muhammad and Abraham as prophets, yet they are far from being a Mubammadan sect. Nor are they Nestorians, although they have baptism and regard Christ as an angel in human form. In fact, they perpetuate with various admixtures a doctrine of the Magian type, combining Iranian and Assyrian elements. Their cult of fire is Iranian. They profess that the devil is a creative agent of the supreme God, inasmuch as he produced evil. Hence he deserves their adoration.

"The Yezidis say that God made the world beautiful. Then Malik-Taus appeared before him and said that there could be no light without darkness, no day without night, and accordingly he caused night to follow day."-['Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics]'

Joseph T. Parfit, writes  in his 'Marvellous Mesopotamia as - "The Yezidees or 'Devil-worshippers' inhabit a number of unkempt villages near Mosul and in the Sinjar Mountains. They seem to belong to a Kurdish stock, and speak Kurdish as well as Arabic. There are probably some forty thousand Yezidees in Mesopotamia and six thousand in the Caucasus. Their headquarters are at Sheikh Adi, a weird place North-East of ancient Nineveh. They have many excellent characteristics, though they are profoundly ignorant and superstitious...

It is hardly correct to call the Yezidees 'Devil worshippers', for they all believe in a great God who created the universe; but they pay deference to the 'Prince of this world', lest they should suffer his vengeance. They avoid the use of words that begin with the same letter as Satan's name, and instead of using the common Arabic words for the devil, they speak of him as the'Prince of Darkness', 'Lord of the Evening' or the 'Exalted Chief'. Many of the Yezidees practise baptisms; they make the sign of the cross, and kiss the threshold of Christian Churches."

The World Wonderland' adds, "Kurds are generally vicious, heartless, cruel and cowardly to the last degree... they are robbers and murderers pure and simple... The Kurds for the most part are destitute of religious belief, but as nominal Mohammedans, they were permitted to be armed by the Turks, who finding it impossible to subdue them, caused them to be enrolled as irregular cavalry and practically confided to them the duty of robbing and enslaving their Christian neighbours." -[Joseph T. Parfit, 'Marvellous Mesopotamia]'

 According to Wigram and Wigram, "The Yezidis or 'Devil Worshippers' congregate principally in the vilayet of Mosul. 'Devil worshippers' they are indeed, for they themselves do not scruple to admit that the being whom they seek to propitiate is actually identical with the 'Satan' of the Christians and Muslims and Jews. But, fortunately for the morals of the neighbourhood, their homage stops short of imitation. Theirs is a religion of faith, and not of works. They are under no obligation to make evil their good according to the boast of Milton's Satan, but only to 'respect the great place' of their divinity, and see to it that he is sometime honoured for his burning throne....

The Yezidis form one of the recognized 'millets' or subject religious sects, existing in the Turkish empire. But recognition in their case by no means implies toleration. They are universally abhorred as outcasts- almost as untouchables... the Yezidis possess no systematized religion woven by some great teacher into one harmonious whole. They make shift instead with a bewildering agglomeration of superstitions pieced together into an amazing patchwork....

The Yezidis believe in a Supreme Being - Yazdan, the most high. But to him, they pay no worship. He is the Lord of Heaven and takes no account of earth. From his name in all probability, they derive their own appellation of Yezidis; though the Muslims (Shiites) declare that they inherit it from Yezid ibn Mu'awiyah, the murderer of Hussein, and see in it an additional argument for persecuting them." -[Yezidis, Wigram and Wigram]

According to Yezidi belief, from Yazdan emanated 7 great spirits, of whom Malek Taus was the first and most powerful. To him was committed the creation of the world, and the governance of it for 10,000 years of which 4,000 still remain to run. Malek Taus is an evil and a fallen spirit; but not fallen beyond redemption.

According to their Believe, God could have made him submit to Adam, but gave Tawûsê Melek the choice as a test. So when God asked him,Why not yousubmit?"
He says, “How can I submit to another being! I am from your illumination while Adam is made of dust.” God pleased with this and made him His deputy to this world.

He is a sort of celestial Absalom— vicious, tyrannical, rebellious, but secure of ultimate pardon and rehabilitation. Shall there not at length come a time when the Chief of the Archangels shall be restored to his first pre-eminence? And will he not then be mindful of the poor Yezidis, who alone of all mankind never cursed him in his disgrace, is every devout Yezidi’s belief.

There is something distinctly quaint in this picture of a reclaimed Satan, still cherishing a faint grudge against those who denounced him in his unregenerate days.

The Yezidis have a regular hierarchy of seven orders of Priesthood. They hold a great annual feast at Sheikh Adi in October; which is continued for eight days, and is attended by all the faithful who can come. Pilgrimage to Sheikh Adi is incumbent on every Yezidi, but he is not commanded to pray, and he leaves that duty to his priests. Fasting can also be performed by deputy, and a group of Yezidis will select one of their number to do all their fasting for them, confessing to him the acts which need expiation and paying him a capitation fee for carrying out the corresponding penances.

We will end our article describing the experience of  “Jarett Kobek”, a visitor of Lalish- "All of Lalish is considered sacred ground; a line of stone blocks prevents vehicles from entering the main portion of the valley, a moderately sized dale surrounded by rocky, scrub-spotted mountains. Other than the few people charged with upkeep and security, Lalish has no residents. It is a place purely for religious pilgrimage.

Lalish’s most distinctive feature is a set of three fluted, conical spires that rise high into the air and mark the Yezidis’ holiest site, the sanctuary and tomb of Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir. The historical origin of the Yezidi dates to the 11th century, when Adi arrived with the intention of founding the Adawiyya Sufi order. The central mystery of the early years is how a Sufi order morphed into Yezidism.

Several men greeted us at the walled entrance to the sanctuary. They led us into a courtyard and asked that we remove our shoes and socks, as custom prohibits footwear in the valley. We were then ushered into a modern room where tea was served. Among the men was Baba Sheikh, the current spiritual leader of the Yezidi. He was tall, with a long black beard, and was dressed in white robes.

We then toured Adi’s tomb. Inside, a long lamp-lit hallway contains an altar and a small spring-fed well, with whose water all Yezidi are expected to be baptized. The hall opens into the tomb of Sheikh Hasan, another Yezidi saint, which leads underground to the valley’s second sacred spring, one of the few places barred from nonbelievers. Past Hasan’s tomb, we entered the room of Sheikh Adi. Adi’s tomb stands against one wall of the room and is decorated in devotional cloths of many colors. The largest of Lalish’s spires serves as the ceiling.

We wandered freely through the rest of the valley, moving in and out of its many shrines. Scattered throughout were sacred spots carved into the stone where olive oil is ritually burned. I was told that there are 365 such spots, one for every day of the year. When we returned to the reception room, Baba Sheikh was still holding court. A voice in English asked, “Would you like me to take you up the mountain?”

Being Yezidi is a matter of birth rather than faith. There are no converts. There is no written scripture, no book of rules. It is, and has been, a shifting oral culture passed down through families—and like any oral culture, it hosts contradictory ideas. Everything is a matter of debate, even the meaning of Lalish’s rituals.

As we reached the top of the mountain, I could see out over Lalish’s spires. The valley appeared pristine, peaceful."--Jarett Kobek

The end,
Not Yet Verified

Picture: wikipedia;

Source:
wikipedea;
Article of Mr. Noshir H. Dadrawala- http://tenets.zoroastrianism.com/deen33f.html
http://www.nyu.edu/alumni.magazine/issue14/14_feature_yezidi.html

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