Repost from the old site. This is a very, very long piece, so be warned. But the subject, the Yezidi religious group, is extraordinarily complex, as I found out as I delved deeper and deeper into them.
They are still very mysterious and there is a lot of scholarly controversy around them, mostly because they will not let outsiders read their holy books. However, a copy of their holiest book was stolen about 100 years ago and has been analyzed by scholars.
I feel that the analysis below of the Yezidis (there are various competing analyses of them) best summarizes what they are all about, to the extent that such an eclectic group can even be defined at all. The piece is hard to understand at first, but if you are into this sort of thing, after you study it for a while, you can start to put it together. There are also lots of cool pics of devil and pagan religious art below, for those who are interested in such arcana.
See also the companion piece, The Yezidis, a Mysterious Kurdish Religious Sect. This piece was written two years after that one when I realized that the prior piece had barely touched the surface of this very strange religious sect.
The Yezidis, a Kurdish religious group in Iraq practicing an ancient religion, have been accused of being devil worshipers by local Muslims and also by many non-Muslims. I wrote about the Yezidis in depth in a previous post; see them for more background on these interesting people.
The Yezidis appeared in Western media in 2007 due to the stoning death of a Yezidi teenage girl who ran off with a Muslim man. The stoning was done by eight men from her village while another 1000 men watched and cheered them on. Afterward, there has been a lot of conflict between Muslim and Yezidi Kurds.
As Western media turned to the Yezidis, there has been some discussion here about their odd religion. For instance, though the local Muslims condemn them as devil worshipers, the Yezidis strongly deny this. So what’s the truth? The truth, as usual, is much more complicated.
The Yezidis believe that a Creator, or God, created a set of deities that we can call gods, angels or demons, depending on how you want to look at them. So, if we say that the Yezidis worship the devil, we could as well say that they worship angels. It all depends on how you view these deities.
In the history of religion, the gods of one religion are often seen as the devils of another. This is seen even today in the anti-Islamic discourse common amongst US neoconservatives, where the Muslim God is said to be a demonic god, and their prophet is said to be a devilish man.
Christian anti-Semites refer to the Old Testament God of the Jews as being an evil god. Orthodox Jews say that Jesus Christ is being boiled alive in semen in Hell for eternity.
At any rate, to the Yezidis, the main deity created by God is Malak Taus, who is represented by a peacock. Although Yezidis dissimulate about this, anyone who studies the religion closely will learn that Malak Taus is actually the Devil.
On the other hand, the Yezidis do not worship evil as modern-day Satanists do, so the Satanist fascination with the Yezidis is irrational. The Yezidis are a primitive people; agriculturalists with a strict moral code that they tend to follow in life. Why do they worship the Devil then?
First of all, we need to understand that before the Abrahamic religions, many polytheistic peoples worshiped gods of both good and evil, worshiping the gods of good so that good things may happen, and worshiping the gods of evil so that bad things may not happen. The Yezidis see God as a source of pure good, who is so good that there is no point in even worshiping him.
In this, they resemble Gnosticism, in which God was pure good and the material world and man were seen as polluted with such evil that the world was essentially an evil place. Men had only a tiny spark of good in them amidst a sea of evil, and the Gnostics tried to cultivate this spark.
This also resembles the magical Judaism of the Middle Ages (Kabbalism). The Kabbalists said that God was “that which cannot be known” (compare to the Yezidi belief that one cannot even pray to God), in fact, the concept of God was so ethereal to the Kabbalists that mere men could not even comprehend the very concept. A Kabbalist book says that God is “endless pure white light”. This comes close to my own view of what God is.
Compare to the Yezidi view that God “pure goodness”. The Yezidi view of God is quite complex. It is clear that he is at the top of the totem pole, yet their view of him is not the same as the gods of Christianity, Islam, Judaism or of the Greeks, although it is similar to Plato’s conception of the absolute.
Instead, it is similar to the Deists. God merely created the world. As far as the day to day running of things, that is actually up to the intermediary angels. However, there is one exception. Once a year, on New Years Day, God calls his angels together and hands the power over to the angel who is to descend to Earth.
In some ways similar to the Christian Trinity of God, Jesus and the Holy Ghost, the Yezidis believe that God is manifested in three forms.
An inscription of the Christian Trinity, the father, or God, as an old man with a beard; Jesus, a young man, and the Holy Ghost, here depicted as a winged creature similar to Malak Tus, the winged peacock angel. Compare to Yezidi reference for Šeiḫ ‘Adî, Yazid and Malak Tus (Father, Son and Holy Ghost)
The three forms are the peacock angel, Malak Tus; an old man, Šeiḫ ‘Adî (compare to the usual Christian portrayal in paintings of God as an old man with a long white beard); and a young man, Yazid (compare to the usual Christian paintings of Jesus as a healthy European-looking man with a beard and a beatific look – a similar look is seen in Shia portraits of Ali).
Since there is no way to talk to God, one must communicate with him through intermediaries (compare to intermediary saints like Mary in Catholicism and Ali in Shiism). The Devil is sort of a wall between the pure goodness of God and this admittedly imperfect world.
This is similar again to Gnosticism, where the pure good God created intermediaries called Aeons so that a world that includes evil (as our world does) could even exist in the first place. On the other hand, Malak Tus is seen my the Yezidis as neither an evil spirit nor a fallen angel, but as a divinity in his own right.
One wonders why the Malak Tus is represented by a bird. The answer is that worshiping birds is one of the oldest known forms of idol worship. It is even condemned in Deuteronomy 4: 16, 17: “Lest ye corrupt yourselves and make a graven image, the similitude of any figure, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the air.”
More likely, the peacock god is leftover from the ancient pagan bird-devil gods of the region. The ancient Babylonians, Assyrians both worshiped sacred devil-birds, and carvings of them can be seen on their temples. The Zoroastrians also worshiped a sort of devil-bird called a feroher.
A winged demon from ancient Assyria. Yezidism appears to have incorporated elements of ancient Babylonian and Assyrian religions, making it ultimately a very ancient religion. Note that devils often have wings like birds. Remember the flying monkey demons in the Wizard of Oz?
The pagan Phoenicians, Philistines and Samaritans worshiped a dove, and the early monotheistic Hebrews condemned the Samaritans for this idol-worship. The pagans of Mecca also worshiped a sacred dove. Pagan Arabian tribes also worshiped an eagle called Nasar.
What is truly odd is that peacocks are not native to the Yezidi region, but instead to the island of Sri Lanka. The Yezidis must have heard about this bird from travelers and incorporated it into their religion somehow.
In the Koran, both the Devil and the peacock were thrown out of Heaven down to Earth, with the Devil and the peacock both suffering similar punishments. So here we can see Islam associating the peacock with the Devil also.
In popular mythology, peacocks tend to represent pride. Note that the Koran says that the Devil was punished for excessive pride (compare with a similar Christian condemnation of excessive pride). Peacocks are problematic domestic fowl, and tend to tear up gardens, and so are associated with mischief.
The Yezidis revere Malak Tus to such a great extent that he is almost seen as one with God (compare the Catholic equation of Mary with Jesus, the Christian association of Jesus with God, and the Shia Muslim association of Ali with Mohammad).
Malak Tus was there from the start and will be there at the end, he has total control over the world, he is omniscient and omnipresent and he never changes. They do not allow anyone to say his name, as this seems to imply that he is degraded. Malak Tus is the King of the Angels, and he is ruling the Earth for a period of 10,000 years.
They also superstitiously avoid saying an word that resembles the word for Satan. When speaking Arabic, they refuse to use the Arabic shatt for river, as it sounds like the word for Satan. They substitute Kurdish ave instead. Compare this to the Kabbalist view of God as “that which can not even be comprehended (i.e., spoken) by man.
In addition to Malak Taus, there are six other angels: Izrafael, Jibrael, Michael, Nordael, Dardael, Shamnael, and Azazael. They were all at a meeting in Heaven when God told them that they would worship no one other than him. This worked for 40,000 years, until God mixed Earth, Air, Fire and Water to create Man, as Adam.
God told the seven angels to bow before Adam, and six agreed. Malak Taus refused, citing God’s order to obey only Him. Hence, Malak Taus was cast out of Heaven and became the Archangel of all the Angels. Compare this to the Christian and Muslim view of the Devil, the head of the angels, being thrown out of Heaven for the disobedience of excessive pride.
In the meantime, Malak Taus is said to have repented his sins and returned to God as an angel. So, yes, the Yezidis do worship the Devil, but in their religion, he is a good guy, not a bad guy. They are not a Satanic cult at all. In Sufism, the act of refusing to worship Adam (man) over God would be said to be a positive act, one of refusing to worship the created over the creator, as in Sufism, one is not to worship anything but God.
The Yezidis say that God created Adam and Eve, but when they were asked to produce their essences, Adam’s produced a boy, but Eve’s was full of insects and other unpleasant things. God decided that he would propagate humanity (the Yezidis) out of Adam alone, leaving Eve out of the picture. Specifically, he married Adam’s offspring to a houri.
We can see the traditional views of the Abrahamic religions of women as being sources of evil, tempters, sources of strife, conflict and other bad things. The Yezidis see themselves as different from all other humans. Whereas non-Yezidis are the products of Adam and Eve, Yezidis are the products of Adam alone.
Eve subsequently left the Garden of Eden, which allowed the world to be created. So, what the Abrahamic religions see as man’s greatest fall in the Garden, the Yezidis see as mankind’s greatest triumphs. The Yezidis feel that the rest of humanity of is descended from Ham, who mocked his father, God.
Compare this to the Abrahamic religions’ view of women as a source of corruption. Christians say that Eve tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden, causing them to be tossed out. In Islam, women are regarded as such a source of temptation and fitna (dissension) that they are covered and often kept out of sight at all times. In Judaism, women’s hair is so tempting to men that they must shave it all off and wear wigs.
The Yezidis say they are descended directly from Adam, hence they are the Chosen People (compare to the Jewish view of themselves as “Chosen People”).
Yezidism being quite possible the present-day remains of the original religion of the Kurds, we must acknowledge that for the last 2000 years, the Yezidis have been fighting off other major religions. First Christianity came to the region.
As would be expected, the Nestorian Christians of Northern Iraq, or “Nasara” Christian apostates, as an older tradition saw them, hold that the Yezidis were originally Christians who left the faith to form a new sect. The Nestorians and other ancient Christian sects deny the human or dual nature of Jesus – instead seeing him as purely divine.
This is in contrast to another group also called “Nasara” in Koran – these being the early Jewish Christian sects such as the Ebionites, Nazarenes and Gnostics, who followed Jesus but denied his divine nature, believe only in the Book of Matthew, and retained many Jewish traditions, including revering the Jewish Torah, refusing to eat pork, keeping the Sabbath and circumcision.
Mohammad apparently based his interpretation of Christianity on these sects. The divinity of Jesus was denied in the Koran under Ebionite influence. The Koran criticizes Christians for believing in three Gods – God, Jesus and Mary – perhaps under the influence of what is called the “Marianistic heresy”. At the same time, the Koran confused human and divine qualities in Jesus due to Nestorian influence.
Finally, the Koran denied the crucifixion due to Gnostic influence, especially the apocryphal Gospel of Peter. The local Muslims, similarly, hold that the Yezidis are apostates, having originally been Muslims who left Islam to form a new religion.
There is considerable evidence that many Yezidis were formerly Christians, as the Christian story holds. Šeiḫ ’Adî, one of the tripartite of angels worshiped by the Yezidis, was a Sufi Muslim mystic from Northern Iraq in the 1100’s. He attracted many followers, including many Christians and some Muslims who left their faith to become Yezidis. Yezidism existed before Šeiḫ ’Adî, but in a different form.
Šeiḫ ’Adî also attracted many Persian Zoroastrians, who were withering under the boot of Muslim dhimmitude and occasional massacre in Iran. Šeiḫ ‘Adî (full name Šeiḫ ‘Adî Ibn Masafir Al-Hakkari) was a Muslim originally from Bait Far, in the Baalbeck region of the Bekaa Valley of what is now Eastern Lebanon.
He came to Mosul for spiritual reasons. He was said to be a very learned man, and many people started to follow him. After he built up quite a following, he retired to the mountains above Mosul where he built a monastery and lived as a hermit, spending much of his time in caves and caverns in the mountains with wild animals as his only guests.
His followers were said to worship him as a God and believed that in the afterlife, they would be together with him. He died in 1162 in the Hakkari region near Mosul. At the site of his death, the Yezidis erected a shrine and it became one of the holiest sites in the religion. However, Šeiḫ ’Adî is not the founder of Yezidism, as many believe. His life and thought just added to the many strains in this most syncretistic of religions.
The third deity in the pseudo-“Trinity” of the Yezidis is a young man named Yezid. They say they are all descended from this man, whom they often refer to as God, as they sometimes refer to Šeiḫ ’Adî. In Šeiḫ ’Adî’s temple, there are inscriptions to both Šeiḫ ’Adî and Yezid, each on opposing walls of the temple. In a corner of this temple, a fire, or actually a lamp, is kept burning all night, reminiscent of Zoroastrianism.
There is a lot of controversy about what the word Yezid in Yezidi stands for. The religion itself, in its modern form, probably grew out of followers of Yazid Ibn Muawiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan, the 2nd Caliph in the Umayyad Dynasty of Caliphs. Yazid fought a battle against Mohammad’s grandson, Hussayn, in a battle for the succession of the Caliphate.
Hussayn’s followers were also the followers of Ali, the former caliph who was assassinated. The followers of Hussayn and Ali are today known as the Shia. The Sunni follow in the tradition of the Umayyads. In a battle in Karbala in 680, Hussayn and all his men were killed at Kufa and the women and children with them taken prisoner.
To the Shia, Yazid is the ultimate villain. Most Sunnis do not view him very favorably either, and regard the whole episode as emblematic of how badly the umma had fallen apart after Mohammad died.
Nevertheless, there had been groups of Sunnis who venerated Yazid Ibn Muawiyah Ibn Abu Sufyan and the Umayyads in general in northern Iraq for some time even before Šeiḫ ’Adî appeared on the scene. Šeiḫ ’Adî himself was descended from the Umayyads.
Reverence for Yazid Ibn Muawiyah mixed with the veneration of Šeiḫ ’Adî in the early Yezidis. It was this, mixed in with the earlier pagan beliefs of the Semites and Iranians discussed elsewhere, along with a dollop of Christianity, that formed the base of modern Yezidism. But its ultimate roots are far more ancient. Yezidism had a base, but it was not yet formed in its modern version.
Here we turn to the etymology of the word Yezidi. It is possible that the figure of “Yezid”, the young man-God in the Yezidi trinity, represents Yazid Ibn Muawiyah. By the mid-1200’s, the local Muslims were getting upset about the Yezidis excessive devotion to these two men. In the mid-1400’s the local Muslims fought a large battle against the Yezidis.
To this day, the top Yezidi mirs are all related to the Umayyads. Muslim scholars say that Yezid bin Unaisa was the founder of the modern-day Yezidis. Bin Unaisa was one of the early followers of the Kharijites, an early fanatical fundamentalist sect that resembled our modern-day Al Qaeda and other takfiri Salafi-jihadi terrorists. Bin Unaisa was said to be a follower of the earliest Kharijites.
These were the first Kharijites. Early split-offs from Ali’s army, they took part in the Battle of Nahrawan against Ali’s forces outside Madaen in what is now the Triangle of Death in Iraq. In 661, the Kharijites assassinated Ali, one of the penultimate moments in the Sunni-Shia split.
At some point, bin Unaisa split from the Kharijites, except for one of their early followers who were following a sect Al-Abaḍia, founded by ‘Abd-Allah Ibn Ibad. He said that any Muslim who committed a great sin was an infidel. Considering his fundamentalist past, he developed some very unorthodox views for a Muslim.
He said that God would send a new prophet to Persia (one more Iranian connection with the Yezidis), that God would send down a message to be written by this prophet in a book, and that this prophet would leave Islam and follow the religion of the Sabeans or Mandeans. Nevertheless, he continued to hold some Kharijite beliefs, including that God alone should be worshiped and that all sins were forms of idolatry.
In line with this analysis, the first Yezidis were a Kharijite subsect. The fact that bin Unaisa said that the new prophet would follow Sabeanism implies that he himself either followed this religion at one time or had a high opinion of it.
Muslim historians mention three main Sabean sects. They seemed to have derived in part from the ancient pagan religion of Mesopotamia. They were polytheists who worshiped the stars. After the Islamic conquest, they referred to themselves as Sabeans in order to receive protection as one of the People of the Book (the Quran mentions Jews, Christians and Sabeans and People of the Book).
One of the Sabean sects was called Al-Ḫarbâniyah. They believed that God dwelt within things that were good and rational. He had one essence but many appearances, in other words. God was pure good, and could not make anything evil. Evil was either accidental or necessary for life, or caused by an evil force. They also believed in the transmigration of souls (reincarnation).
It is interesting that the beliefs of this sect of Sabeans resemble the views of modern Yezidis. So Yezîd bn Unaisa believed in God and the Resurrection Day, he probably respected angels and the stars, yet he was neither polytheistic nor a true follower of Mohammad.
At the same time, he lined himself up with those People of the Book who said that Mohammad was a prophet, yet did not follow him (in this respect, he was similar to Western non-Muslims who acknowledge Mohammad as the prophet of the Arabs).
Although most orthodox histories of the Yezidis leave it out, it seems clear at this point that Yezîd bn Unaisa was the founder of the Yezidi religion in its modern form and that the Yezidis got their name from Yezîd bn Unaisa. This much may have been lost to time, for the Yezidis themselves say that Yezidi comes from the Kurdish word Yezdan or Êzid meaning God.
After naming their movement after Yezîd bn Unaisa, the Yezidis learned of Šeiḫ ‘Adî’s reputation, and become his followers, along with many Muslims, Christians and Iranians.
Like their founder, the Yezidis believe in God and the Resurrection, expect a prophet from Iran, revere angels and stars, regard every sin as idolatry, respect Mohammad as a prophet yet do not follow him and at the same time pay no attention to Ali (recall that the early Kharijites assassinated Ali). Being opposed to both Mohammad and Ali, bn Unaisa is logically despised by both the Sunni and the Shia.
The fact that the Yezidis renounced the prophet of the Arabs (Mohammad) while expecting a new one from Iran logically appealed to a lot of Persians at the time. Hence, many former Zoroastrians, or fire-worshipers, from Iran joined the new religion, surely injecting their strains into this most syncretistic of religions.
There is good evidence that many Yezidis are former Christians. The Yezidis around Mosul go by the surname of Daseni, of Dawasen in the plural. It so happens that there was a Nestorian diocese in Mosul called Daseni, or Dasaniyat. It disappeared around the time of Šeiḫ ’Adî. The implication is that so many of its members became Yezidis that the Diocese folded.
Furthermore, many names of Yezidi villages are actually names in the Syriac (Christian) language, more evidence that many Yezidis are former Christians.
Adding even more weight to this theory, the Yezidis retain two Christian customs – the baptism and the Eucharist.
The Yezidis must baptize their children at the earliest possible age and the priest puts his hand on the child’s head as her performs the rite. Both customs mirror the Christian baptism precisely.
When a Yezidi couple marries, they go to a local Nestorian Church to partake of the Eucharist. The cup of wine they drink is called the cup of Isa (Jesus). The Yezidi have great respect for Christian saints and houses of worship, and kiss the doors and walls of churches when they enter them.
When a Yezidi woman goes to the home of her bridegroom on wedding day, she is supposed to visit every every religious temple along the way, even the churches. On the other hand, Yezidis never enter a mosque. Sadly, the Yezidi reverence for Christianity is not returned by the Eastern Christians, who despise the Yezidis as devil-worshipers.
They revere both Jesus and Mohammad as religious teachers, not as prophets. They have also survived via a hefty dose of taqqiya, or dissimulation, in this case pretending outwardly to be some species of Shia Muslims.
This is common for minority faiths around the region, including the Alawi and Druze, who have both proclaimed at the top of their lungs that they are Muslims and have hidden to the aspects of their religion which would cause the Muslims to disown them at best or kill them at worst. The primary Islamic influence on the Yezidis is actually Sufism, not Shiism per se.
There are traces of other religions – Hinduism may possibly be seen in the five Yezidi castes, from top to bottom – Pir, Shaikh, Kawal, Murabby, and Mureed (followers). Mureeds are about on a par with Dalits or Untouchables in Hinduism. Marriage across castes is strictly forbidden, as it has been disapproved in India.
On the other hand, pre-Islamic Iran also had a caste system, and the base of the Yezidi religion seems to be derived from Persian Zoroastrianism. The Yezidi, like the Druze and the Zoroastrians, do not accept converts, and like the Druze, think that they will be reincarnated as their own kind (Druze think they will be reincarnated as Druze; Yezidis think they will be reincarnated as Yezidis).
The Yezidis can be considered fire-worshipers in a sense; they obviously got this from the Zoroastrians. The Yezidis say, “Without fire, there would be no life.” This is true even in our modern era, if we substitute “electrical power” for fire, our lives would surely diminish. Even today, when Kurdish Muslims swear on an oath, they say, “I swear by this fire…”
Many say there is a resemblance between Malak Taus and the Assyrian God Tammuz, though whether the name Malak Taus is actually derived from Tammuz is much more problematic. Tammuz was married to the Assyrian moon goddess, Ishtar. But this connection is not born out by serious inquiry.
Ishtar the Goddess of the Moon, here represented as a bird goddess. Worship of birds is one of the oldest forms of pagan idolatry known to man. What is it about birds that made them worthy of worship by the ancients? The miracle of flight?
Where do the Yezidis come from? The Yezidis themselves say that they came from the area around Basra and the lower Euphrates, then migrated to Syria and then to Sinjar, Mosul and Kurdistan.
In addition to worshiping a bird-god, there are other traces of the pre-Islamic pagan religions of the Arabs in Yezidism.
They hold the number 7 sacred, a concept that traces back to the ancient Mesopotamians. The Yezidis have seven sanjaks, and each one has seven burners of the flame, their God created seven angels and the sculpture carved on the temple of Šeiḫ ’Adî has seven branches.
The Sabeans, another ancient religion of Mesopotamia who are now called star-worshipers by their detractors, also worshiped seven angels who guided the courses of seven planets – it is from this formulation that our seven days of the week are derived. In the ancient religion of Assyria, Ishtar descended through seven gates to the land of no return. The ancient Hebrews likewise utilized the number seven in their religion.
An ancient seven-armed candelabra, a symbol nowadays used in the Jewish religion, with demonic sea monsters drawn on the base.
The Yezidis worship the sun and moon at their rising and setting, following the ancient Ḥarranians, a people who lived long ago somewhere in northern Iraq. Sun-worship and moon-worship are some of the oldest religious practices of Man. The ancient pagans of Canaan worshiped the Sun.
At the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem, the religion practiced there had little in common with Talmudic Judaism of today. For instance, the horses of the Sun were worshiped at that temple (see II Kings 25: 5, 11). The ancient Judeans, who the modern-day Jews claim spiritual connection with, actually worshiped the “host of heaven” – the Sun, the Moon and the Planets. So much for “the original monotheists, eh?
In Babylonia, there were two temples to the Sun-God Shamas.
Another pre-Islamic Arab pagan belief is the belief in sacred wells and sanctuaries that contain them. The springs contain water that has curative powers. The holy water found at the Zamzam Well in Mecca is an example; even to this day, Muslims bottle the water and carry it off for this purpose. Often sacred clothes are used to make these pilgrimages, because ordinary clothes are thought to contaminate the holy site.
In pre-Islamic days, when the pagans circled the rock at the Kaaba, they were completely naked. In Islam, men and women are supposed to remove their clothing and wear a special garb as they circulate around the rock. In Mandeanism, both men and women go to the Mishkana, or tabernacle, take off their clothes, and bathe in the circular pool. Emerging, they put on the rasta, a ceremonial white garment.
At the temple of Šeiḫ ‘Adî, there is a sacred pool. The Yezidis throw coins, jewelry and other things into this pool as offerings. They think that Šeiḫ ‘Adî takes these things from time to time. And they must remove their clothes, bathe and wear a special garment when they visit the holy valley where this temple resides.
The ancient Arabs also worshiped trees. There were sacred trees at Nejran, Hadaibiya and Mecca. The pagans hung women’s ornaments, fine clothes, ostrich eggs, weapons and other items.
Similarly, the Yezidis also worship trees. They have their favorite trees, and sick people go to these trees and hang pieces of cloth on them, hoping to get well, and believe that whoever takes one of these down will get sick with whatever disease the person who hung the cloth had.
The ancient Meccans used to worship stones. At one point the population became so large that they had to move out of the valley where the Kaaba resided, so when they formed their new settlements, they took rocks from the holy place and piled them outside their settlements and made a sort of shrine out of these things, parading around the rock pile as they moved around the Kaaba.
In Palestine, there were sacred wells at Beersheba and Kadesh, a sacred tree at Shekem and a sacred rock at Bethel. As in animism, it was believed that divine powers or spirits inhabited these rocks, trees and springs. This tradition survives to this day in the folk religion of the Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese.
The Yezidis also have certain stones that they worship. They kiss these stones in reverence.
When the Yezidis reach the goal of their pilgrimage or hajj, they become very excited and start shouting. After fasting all day, they have a big celebration in the evenings, with singing and dancing and gorging on fine dishes.
This hajj, where they worship a spring under Šeiḫ ‘Adî’s tomb called Zamzam and then climb a mountain and shoot off guns, is obviously taken from the Muslim hajj. Mecca has a Zamzam Spring, and pilgrims climb Mount ‘Arafat on hajj.
The shouting, feasting, singing, dancing and general excitement is typical of a pagan festival. The non-Yezidi neighbors of the Yezidis claim that Yezidis engage in immoral behavior on this hajj. No one knows if this is true or not, but if they do, it may be similar to the festivals of the Kadeshes discussed in the Old Testament, where people engaged in licentious behavior in their temples.
Although the Yezidis have a strict moral code, observers say that they allow adultery if both parties are willing. That’s pretty open-minded for that part of the world.
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