A dualistic religious group operating among the Kurds in
northern Iraq and the neighboring lands of Syria, Turkey, and
Iran. Their religion probably goes back to the Manicheans but
has borrowed heavily from the Shiite Muslims. The Yezidis call
themselves the Dawasin or Dasnayye. The term Yezidi was originally
probably a name of derision. It refers to a Caliph Yezid
who in 680 C.E. ordered the death of al-Husayn, the grandson
of the Prophet Mohammed. The Shiite hold al-Husayn in special
reverence, for they claim to derive their authority from
him. Others have suggested that the word is derived from the
Persian word ized (for angel, deity), and would mean worshippers
of God. They are also derogatorily referred to by their
neighbors as devil-worshippers. The Yezidi community is
centered upon the tomb of Shaykh Adi ibn Musafir at Llish in
the district of Mosul.
The Yezidi faith is quite eclectic, drawing upon Christian
(baptism, breaking of bread, drinking of wine), Jewish (dietary
restrictions), Muslim (fasts, circumcision, pilgrimages), Sufi
(reverence for Shaykhs, secrecy, ecstatic experiences), and Sabeansist
(reincarnation) traditions. They believe that they were
children of the seed of Adam (but not of Eve). Thus, they believe
themselves different from the rest of humanity, who are
derived from both Adam and Eve. They try to remain separate
and no outsider may join them. One must be born a Yezidi.
A dominant symbol among them is the peacock, a symbol
of the seven angels who cooperated in the creation of the world.
The peacock angel is their euphemism for evil. They believe
evil is a part of the divinity, along with good. Thus they are
more properly seen as dualists rather than devil worshippers.
The Yezidis also consider Christ an angel in human form, and
Mohammed as a prophet with Abraham and others.
Drower, E. S. Peacock Angel. London John Murray, 1941.
Empson, R. H. The Cult of the Peacock Angel. N.p., 1928.
Guest, John S. Survival Among the Kurds A History of the Yezidis.
London Kegan Paul International, 1993.
. The Yezidis. London KPI, 1987.
Nau, Abbé F. Recueil de textes et de documents sur les Yézidis.
ROC 2, no. 10 (191517).
Seabrook, William B. Adventures in Arabia among the Bedouins
Druses Whirling Dervishes & Yezidee Devil-worshipers. New York,