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Religions of the world

Part 1
The Yazidi branch of Yazd'nism:
Overview, origins, beliefs & practices.

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Overview:

The Yazidi (a.k.a. Yezidi and Ezdae; 'zid't' or 'zid' in Kurdish) belong to the smallest of the three branches of Yazd'nism.

According to Wikipedia, Yazidis mainly:

"... live near Mosul, Iraq with smaller communities in Armenia (some 40,000 according to 2001 census), Georgia, Iran, Russia (31,273 as per 2002 census), Syria, and Turkey (some 80,000 in 1970; 23,000 in 1985 and 377 people in 2007). They number around 500,000 individuals in total, but estimates vary on their population size, partially due to the Yazidi tradition of secrecy when asked about one's religious beliefs. Yazidi refugees also live in Europe (specifically in Germany) and the United States. 1,2

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of mis-information on the Internet and various media about the Yazidis. 3

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Yazidi origins:

The origin of their religion pre-dates Islam. Some have estimated that they have existed since 2000 BCE, about the time when the Bible implies that Abraham lived. Another source suggests that their religion dates back to the time of the Umayyad caliphate, 661 to 750 CE. 4 Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir, a 12th century holy man laid down many of the Yazidi ceremonies and is deeply revered. 5 During the 15th and 16th centuries CE, they moved from southern Iraq into the mountains of northern Iraq.

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Yazidi beliefs:

The Yezidi Human Rights Organization reports:

In the past 20 years to present, ... the Internet has become the easiest way to find information regarding whatever a person wish to search for. We have seen that more than 99% of the writers accusing the innocent Yezidi as devil worshipers. This is absolutely pure fiction." 6

The following description is believed to be accurate:

bulletYazidis believe that the name of their religion is derived from the word "Yezdan" or "'zid" which means "God."

bulletTheir religion appears to shows elements absorbed from:

bulletAncient Persian religions, including Zoroastrianism;

bulletJudaism;

bulletChristianity;

bulletSunni, Shiite and Sufi traditions within Islam;

bulletShamanism;

bulletVedism;

bulletMithraism -- a close rival to Christianity in the Roman Empire, particularly among the military and civil service before it was crushed; and perhaps

bulletOther ancient Pagan religions from the Middle East and Greece.

bulletThey believe that God created the world as a pearl. He later reconstructed it in its current form and size.

bulletThe world is in the care of seven Holy Beings, generally referred to as archangels, who are periodically reincarnated in human form.

bullet The principal archangel is the Peacock Angel which they call Melek Ta'us. Ta'us' name may have been related to the Greek words "Zeus" and Theos, meaning "God." Yazidi look upon Melek Ta'us as "God's Angel," the leader among the angels, roughly comparable to the archangel Michael within Christianity. He is regarded as God's representative on Earth. He comes down to Earth once a year during springtime, on the first Wednesday of the month of Nisan. They celebrate this as their New Year's day.

bullet They believe that God first created Melek Ta'us from his own illumination as the original and highest archangel. He then created the six archangels and ordered them to bring him dust from the earth. God then built the body of Adam -- the first human -- from the dust, and finally breathed life into Adam. The second part of this belief closely parallels that of Genesis 2:7 in the Bible.

bullet Another name for the Angel is "Shaytan," which unfortunately is the same name as is used for Satan in the Qur'an -- the Muslim holy book. This has caused many Christians and Muslims in Iraq to assume that the Yazidis are worshiping the Satan found in the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament), the Christian Scriptures (New Testament), and the Qur'an. The Yazidi deny this, saying that they do not believe in the existence of a devil.

bulletThey believe that Adam gave birth to a baby boy from whom the Yazidis are all descended. Other humans share both Adam and Eve as their first parents. Because of this belief, they do not accept converts from outside of their group.

bullet They reject the idea of Hell, and believe that the seven archangels live in Heaven

bullet They believe in transmigration of the soul at death, (a.k.a. metempsychosis). After death, the soul reincarnates into either another human body, or in an animal or plant. 2
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Yazidi practices:

bullet The Yazidi speak primarily Kurdish except in some areas like the villages of Bashika and Bashane where they speak a dialect of Arabic with some words of Turkish, Kurdish, and Syrian origin.

bulletThey use the term 'zid' or 'z'd' to refer to themselves.

bulletTheir main holy site is in Mosul, Iraq.

bulletThey follow two holy books: Kit'ba Cilwe (Book of Revelation) and the Mishefa Reş (Black Book).

bulletThey have strong purity taboos: marrying outside of the group, having excessive contact with non-Yazidis, wearing blue clothing, eating lettuce, spitting or pouring hot water on the ground, sharing cups or razors with outsiders, etc are all forbidden.

bulletBoys are frequently circumcised.

bulletChildren are baptized at birth.

bulletNormally, Yazidi males have only one wife. However, chiefs are allowed to engage in polygyny.

bulletThey are divided into three castes: the murids, sheikhs and pirs.

bulletThey pray five times during the day, at dawn, sunrise, noon, afternoon and sunset. During the noon prayer, they face Lalish, a valley about 37 miles (60 km) north-east of Mosul in Iraq where the tomb of their founder is buried. At other times, they orient their face to the sun.

bullet At least once during their lifetime, if physically capable, they are expected to make a six day pilgrimage to Lalish to visit various sacred locations.

bulletYazidis who live near Lalish are expected to make a yearly pilgrimage to attend the Feast of the Assembly from the 23rd of the month of Elul to the 1st of Tishrei; this occurs in our month of September.

bulletAfter death, they are immediately buried in conical tombs. 2

This topic is continued in the next essay

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. T. Reshid, "Yezidism: historical roots," International Journal of Kurdish Studies, 2005-JAN, at: http://findarticles.com/
  2. "Yazidi," Wikipedia, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/
  3. "The Truth about the Yezidis," at: http://www.yeziditruth.org/
  4. "Syria: Yazidi," About.com, at: http://atheism.about.com/
  5. "Paul Schemm, "Beleagured Yazidi find peace high in Iraq's northern mountains," Christians in Iraq, 2006-OCT-13, at: http://www.christiansofiraq.com/
  6. "Yezidi Human Rights Organization" has a home page at: http://www.yezidihumanrights.org/
  7. "Iraq: Amnesty International appalled by stoning to death of Yezidi girl and subsequent killings," Amnesty International, at: http://web.amnesty.org/

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Copyright © 2007 to 2016 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally written: 2007-AUG-16
Latest update: 2016-JUN-19
Author: B.A. Robinson

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