Monday, October 19, 2015

World Religion: Yazidi

In the past year or so, I’ve read about the Yazidis and how they have suffered until ISIS rule. I assumed that they were an ethnic demographic, probably Muslim but maybe Christian. I didn’t really think about their religion, so I was surprised when I was reading an article about a Yazidi woman and saw the term “peacock angel” in reference to her faith.

The Yazidis are Kurdish, but they have their own religious practices tracing back to Zoroastrianism (like most monotheistic faiths). They believe God created the world then left it in the care of seven angels. The first and leader of the angels is Melek Taus, the peacock angel. Melek Taus fell out of God’s grace at one point, but extinguished hellfire with his tears of remorse, and reconciled with God. He causes both good and bad to happen, and descendants of Adam are not to question him.

Some of Yazidi belief of Melek Taus reflects the Sufi angel Iblis or the Judeo-Christian Satan. Yet while Satan is regarded as an evil opponent, or at best, an advocate, Melek Taus, though neutral, is highly revered. This caused early Western travelers to label the Yazidis as devil-worshippers. Wednesday is the holiest day. The first Wednesday of April is the New Year. Children are baptized. They pray five times a day, facing the sun.

Yazidis live primarily in the Ninevah province of Iraq, but there are communities throughout the country as well as Turkey and Syria. It is difficult to know how many there are due to war and dysphoria from 1980 to the present, but estimates are between 100,000 and 400,000. They do not accept converts. Members are baptized at birth and only marry within their clan. Yazidis believe they are the descendants of Adam (but not Eve), while non-Yazidis are descendants of Adam and Eve. The story is that Adam and Eve were arguing over their future children, and each put their seed in a jar. Eve’s jar produced insects and monsters. Adam’s jar produced a male child, the father of the Yazidi.

There are so many faiths that exist in the world that are not part of the Big Five. They seem to go unnoticed by the typical American audience. We think: Christianity, Islam, Judism, Buddhism, Confucianism, pagan. But “pagan” is so diverse. It can be polytheist or monotheist. It can include priestesses and princes and peacock angels. Unfortunately, it took ISIS persecution of Yazidi for me to know they exist, and have existed for thousands of years.

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