Sacred Texts  Asia  Index  Previous  Next 
Buy this Book at

Sacred Books and Traditions of the Yezidiz, by Isya Joseph, [1919], at

p. 53


They say our hearts are our books, and our šeiḫs tell us everything from the second Adam until now and the future. When they notice the sun rise, they kiss the place where the rays first fall; they do the same at sunset, where its rays last fall. Likewise they kiss the spot where the moon first casts its rays and where it last casts them. They think, moreover, that by the multiplication of presents to šeiḫs and idols they keep troubles and afflictions away.

There is a great difference among the ḳôchaks, they contradict one another. Some say, "Melek Ṭâ‘ûs appears to me and reveals to me many revelations." Others say, "We appear to people in many different ways." Some believe that Christ is Šeiḫ Šams himself. They say that they have had prophets in all times; the ḳôchaks are the prophets. One of the kôchaks says in one of his prophecies: "I was in Jonah's ship, where a lot was cast in my presence. It fell on Jonah; and he was thrown into the sea, where he remained forty days and nights." Another said: "I was sitting with the great God, who said, 'I hope the time will come when I shall send Christ to the world.' I said to him, 'Yes.' Then he sent him. After making a sign in the sun, Christ came down to the earth." He appeared to go

p. 54

our sect only, and made for us seven circles, which are at Šeiḫ ‘Adî. Now he appeared to us because we observe the necessary order, which the other sects do not observe. Their origin and race are unknown; ours are known. We are emirs and sons of emirs; we are šeiḫs and sons of šeiḫs; we are ḳôchaks and sons of ḳôchaks, etc. But Christians and Moslems make priests and mullas for themselves out of those who had none of their kindred in those offices before, and never will have afterward. We are better than they. We are allowed to drink wine; our young men also may desire it when they, in company with women, engage in religious dancing and playing. Some of the ḳôchaks and šeiḫs, however, are not allowed to drink it. When one is about to die, he is Visited by a ḳôchaks, who places a bit of Šeiḫ ‘Adî's dust in his mouth. Before he is buried his face is anointed with it. Moreover, the dung of sheep is placed on his tomb. Finally, food is offered on behalf of the dead. The ḳôchaks pray for the dead at the graves, for which service they are paid. They tell the relatives of the dead what they see in dreams and visions, and the condition of their dead, whether they have been translated to the human or to the animal race. Some people hide silver or gold coins that they plan to take out in case they are born the second time in this world. Some believe that the spirits of many righteous persons travel in the air. Those spirits make revelations to the ḳôchaks, who are acquainted with the world of mysteries and secrets. Life and death are in their hands.

p. 55

[paragraph continues] Hence the fate of the people depends on the gratitude and honor which they show the ḳôchaks. According to Yezidis, hell has no existence. It was created in the time of the first Adam, they say, when our father, Ibrîḳ al-Aṣfar, was born. 21 By reason of his generosity and noble deeds, Ibrîḳ had many friends. Now, when he viewed hell he became very sad. He had a small baḳbûḳ aṣfar22 into which, as he kept weeping his tears fell. In seven years it was filled. He then cast it into hell, and all its fires were put out that mankind might not be tortured. This incident relates to one of the noble deeds of our first father, Ibrîḳ al-Aṣfar. They have many more such upright men of noble deeds. Such an one is Mohammed Rašân, whose resting place is behind the mount of Šeiḫ Mattie. 23 He (Rašân) is exceedingly strong, so that the most sacred oaths are sworn by him. If any one becomes sick, he takes refuge in making vows to ḫasin, i.e., pillars of idols. Now there is a place of religious pilgrimage which is called Sitt Nafîsah. This place is a mulberry tree in the village of Ba‘ašîḳa. Another such place is called ‘Abdi Rašân, and is in the villa of Ḳarabek. A third place of pilgrimage is in the village Baḥzanie, which is called Šeiḫ Bakû. Nearby is a spring, and beside this is a mulberry tree. Whoever is afflicted with fever, goes to that tree, hangs on its branches a piece of cloth from his clothes, and casts bread in the spring for the fish. All this he does that he may be cured. They entertain the belief that whoever unties or shakes off one of the shreds

p. 56

of cloth will catch the disease with which the man was afflicted when he hung it up. There are many such trees in the village of Ba‘ašîḳa, and in some other places. There is also a spring of water, called in the common language ‘Ain aṣ-Ṣafra (Yellow Spring). The Yezidis call it Kanî-Zarr. 24 In this swim those who are afflicted with the disease of abû-ṣafar (jaundice.) But those who are troubled with dropsy go for cure to the house of the Pir that lives in the village of Man Reš.

When they assemble at Šeiḫ ‘Adî's, no one is allowed to cook anything. Everyone is to eat from Šeiḫ ‘Adî's table. As to the ḳôchaks, every one of them sits on a alone, as one sits in prayer. To them the laity go, seeking succor. They give them money while making their petition, and vow to the stone on which the ḳôchak sits, sheep and oxen, everyone according to his means. Now, at the New Year the places are given in contract. When they assemble at the New Year, they dance and play with instruments of joy. Before eating the kabdûš, i.e., the vowed ox, they swim in the water of Zamzam, a spring coming from beneath the temple of Šeiḫ ‘Adî. Then they eat in haste, snatching meat from the pot like fanatics, so that their hands are frequently burned. This practice is in accordance with their rules. After eating, they go up the mountain, shooting with their guns, and then return to Šeiḫ ‘Adî. Everyone of them takes a little dust and preserves it for the times of wedding and death. They wear entwined girdles which they call the ties of the

p. 57

back (belt). They baptize these and the sanjaḳs with the water of Zamzam. He who is called Jawiš 25 wears a stole which is woven from the hair of a goat It is nine spans in length and around it are sansûls (tinsels).

When the gathering comes to an end, they collect the money from the ḳôchaks and the contractors, and bring it to the emir. After everyone has taken according to his rank, the remainder goes to the emir.

They have another gathering which takes place at the feast of Al-Hijâjj. At this pilgrimage they go up to the mountain which is called Jabal al-‘Arafât. 26 After remaining there an hour, they hasten toward Šeiḫ ‘Adî. He who arrives there before his companions is praised much. Hence everyone tries to excel. The one who succeeds receives abundant blessings.

They still have another assembly. This is called "the road of the ḳôchaks," when each, putting a rope around his neck, goes up the mountain. After collecting wood they bring it to Šeiḫ ‘Adî, carrying it on their backs. The wood is used for heating purposes and for the emir's cooking.

During these assemblies the sanjaḳs are passed around. In the first place they are washed with water made sour with sumac in order to be cleansed from their rust. The water is given away in drinks for purposes of blessing. In return money is taken. In the second place, the kôchaks go around with the sanjaḳs to collect money.

p. 58

In their preaching, the šeiḫs tell the people that all kings have come from their descent, such as Nisroch, 27 who is Nasr-ad-Dîn, and Kamuš who is Fahr-ad-Dîn, and Artâmîs, who is Šams-ad-Dîn, and many others, as Shabur and Yoram; and many royal names of the ancient kings, together with their own (Yezidi) kings, are from their seed. The sign of the Yezidi is that he wears a shirt with a round bosom. It differs from that of the other people, the bosom of whose shirts are open all the way down.

There is one occasion when no Yezidi will swear falsely, viz., when one draws a circle on the ground, and tells him that this circle belongs to Ṭâ‘ûs-Melek, Šeiḫ ‘Adî, and Yezîd, and baryshabaḳei. He places him in the middle of the circle, and then tells him that Melek Ṭâ‘ûs and all those who were mentioned above will not intercede for him after his death, and that the shirt of the Jewish Nasim 29 be on his neck, and that the hand of Nasim be on his neck and eye, and that Nasim be his brother for the next world, and let him be to him for a šeiḫ and a pir if he does not tell the truth. Then if he swears to tell the truth, he cannot conceal anything. For an oath made under such conditions is considered greater than that made in the name of God, and even than that made in the name of one of their prophets.

They fast three days in a year from morning till evening. The fast falls in December, according to the oriental calendar. They have no prayer 30 except what is mentioned above, such as that referring to the sun

p. 59

and the moon, and asking help from šeiḫs and holy places when they say, "O Šeiḫ ‘Adî, O šeiḫ Šams." and the like. They are all forbidden to teach their children anything, with the exception of two stanzas which they teach their children out of necessity and because it is traditional.

A story is told about them by reliable people. Once when Šeiḫ Naṣir was preaching in a village at Mount Sinjar, there was a Christian mason in the audience who, seeing the house filled with people, thought they were going to pray. He then pretended to take a nap, that he might amuse himself with what he should hear. He knew the kurdish language. When the Christian seemed to be asleep, but was really awake and listening, Šeiḫ Naṣir began to preach saying: "Once the great God appeared to me in vision. He was angry at Jesus because of a dispute with him. He therefore caught him and imprisoned him in a den which had no water. Before the mouth of the den he placed a great stone. Jesus remained in the den a long time, calling upon the prophets and the saints for help and asking their aid. Every one whose succor Jesus asked went to beg the great God to release him. But God did not grant their requests. Jesus therefore remained in a sorrowful state, knowing not what to do." After this the preacher remained silent for a quarter of an hour, and thus a great silence prevailed in the house. Then he went on to say: "O poor Jesus, why are you so forgotten, so neglected? Do you not know that all the prophets and all the saints have no favor with

p. 60

the great God unto Melek Ṭâ’ûs? Why have you forgotten him and have not called upon him?" Saying this, the preacher again remained silent as before. Afterward he again continued: "Jesus remained in the den till one day when he happened to remember Melek Ṭâ’ûs. He then sought his aid, praying, 'O Melek Ṭâ’ûs, I have been in this den for some time. I am imprisoned; I have sought the help of all the saints, and none of them could deliver me. Now, save me from this den.' When Melek Ṭâ’ûs heard this, he descended from heaven to earth quicker than the twinkling of an eye, removed the stone from the top of the den, and said to Jesus, 'Come up, behold I have brought thee out.' Then both went up to heaven. When the great God saw Jesus, he said to him, 'O Jesus, who brought thee out of the den? Who brought thee here without my permission?' Jesus answered and said, 'Melek Ṭâ’ûs brought me out of the den and up here.' Then God said, 'Had it been another, I would have punished him, but Melek Ṭâ’ûs is much beloved by me; remain here for the sake of my honor.' So Jesus remained in heaven." The preacher added, "Notice that those who are without do not like Melek Ṭâ’ûs. Know ye that in the resurrection he will not like them either, and he will not intercede for them. But, as for us, he will put us all in a tray, carry us upon his head, and take us into heaven, while we are in the tray on his head." When the congregation heard this, they rose up, kissed his clothes and feet, and received his blessing.

p. 61

Now the views of the Yezidis regarding the birth of Christ and the explanation of the name of the Apostle Peter, are found in one of their stories, which runs thus: "Verily Mary the Virgin mother of Jesus, begat Jesus in a manner unlike the rest of women. She begat him from her right side, 31 between her clothes and her body. At that time the Jews had a custom that, if a woman gave birth, all her relatives and neighbors would bring her presents. The women would call, carrying in their right hand a plate of fruits which were to be found in that season, and in the left hand they would carry a stone. This custom was a very ancient one. Therefore when Mary the Virgin gave birth to Jesus, the wife of Jonah, who is the mother of Peter, came to her; and, according to the custom, carried a plate of fruit in her right hand and a stone in her left. As she entered and gave Mary the plate, behold, the stone which was in her left hand begat a male. She called his name Simon Cifa, that is, son of the stone. Christians do not know these things as we do."

They have a story explaining the word heretic. It is this: When the great God created the heavens, he put all the keys of the treasuries and the mansions there in the hands of Melek Ṭâ’ûs, and commanded him not to open a certain mansion. But he, without the knowledge of God, opened the house and found a piece of paper on which was written. "Thou shalt worship thy God alone, and him alone shalt thou serve." He kept the paper with him and allowed no

p. 62

one else to know about it. Then God created an iron ring and hung it in the air between the heaven and the earth. Afterward he created Adam the first. Melek Ṭâ’ûs refused to worship Adam when God commanded him to do so. He showed the written paper which he took from the mansion and said, "See what is written here." Then the great God said, "It may be that you have opened the mansion which I forbade you to open." He answered, "Yes." Then God said to him, "You are a heretic, because you have disobeyed me and transgressed my commandment."

From this we know that God speaks in the Kurdish language, that is from the meaning of this saying, "Go into the iron ring which I, thy God, have made for whosoever does contrary to my commandment and disobeys me."

When one criticizes such a story as this by saying that God drove Melek Ṭâ’ûs from heaven and sent him to hell because of his pride before God the most high, they do not admit that such is the case. They answer: "It is possible that one of us in his anger should drive out his child from his house and let him wait until the next day before bringing him back? Of course not. Similar is the relation of the great God to Melek Ṭâ’ûs. Verily he loves him exceedingly. You do not understand the books which you read The Gospel says, 'No one ascended up to heaven but he who came down from heaven.' No one came down from heaven but Melek Ṭâ’ûs and Christ. From this we know that the great God has been reconciled to

p. 63

[paragraph continues] Melek Ṭâ’ûs, who went up to heaven, just as God came down from heaven and went up again."

The following is a story told of a kôchak: It is related that at one time there was no rain in the village of Ba‘ašîḳa. In this village there was a Yezidi whose name was Kôchak Berû. There were also some saints and men of vision dwelling there. They (people) gathered to ask Berû to see about the rain. He told them, "Wait till tomorrow that I may see about it." They came to him on the next day and said, "What have you done concerning the question of rain? We are exceedingly alarmed by reason of its being withheld." He answered: "I went up to heaven last night and entered into the divan where the great God, Šeiḫ ‘Adî, and some other šeiḫs and righteous men . were sitting. The priest Isaac was sitting beside God. The great God said to me, 'What do you want, O Kôchak Berû; why have you come here?' I said to him, 'My lord, this year the rain has been withheld from us till now, and all thy servants are poor and needy. We beseech thee to send us rain as thy wont.' He remained silent and answered me not. I repeated the speech twice and thrice, beseeching him. Then I turned to the šeiḫs who sat there, asking their help and intercession. The great God answered me, 'Go away until we think it over.' I came down and do not know what took place after I descended from heaven. You may go to the priest Isaac and ask him what was said after I came down." They went to the priest and told him the story, and asked him what was said

p. 64

after Kôchak Berû came down. This priest Isaac was a great joker. He answered them, "After the kôchak came down, I begged God for rain on your behalf. It was agreed that after six or seven days he would send it." They waited accordingly, and by a strange coincidence, at the end of the period it rained like a flood for some time. Seeing this, the people believed in what they were told, and honored the priest Isaac, looking upon him as one of the saints, and thinking that he must have Yezidi blood in him. For more than twenty years this story has been told as one of the tales of their saints.

Once Šeiḫ ‘Adî bn Musâfir and his murids were entertained by God in heaven. When they arrived, they did not find straw for their animals. Therefore Šeiḫ ‘Adî ordered his murids to carry straw from his threshing floor on the earth. As it was being transported, some fell on the way, and has remained as a sign in heaven unto our day. It is known as the road of the straw man.

They think that prayer is in the heart; therefore they do not teach their children about it. And in their book neither is there any rule regarding prayer, nor is prayer considered a religious obligation.

Some assert that at one time Šeiḫ ‘Adî, in company with šeiḫ ‘Abd-al-Ḳâdir, made a pilgrimage to Mecca, where he remained four years. After his absence Melek Ṭâ’ûs appeared to them (the two šeiḫs) in his symbol. He dictated some rules to them and taught them many things. Then he was hidden from them.

p. 65

[paragraph continues] Four years later Šeiḫ ‘Adî returned from Mecca; but they refused him and would not accept him. They asserted that he had died or ascended to heaven. He remained with them, but was without his former respect. When the time of his death came, Melek Ṭâ’ûs appeared to them and declared, "This is Šeiḫ ‘Adî himself, honor him." Then they honored him and buried him with due veneration, and made his tomb a place of pilgrimage. In their estimation it is a more excellent spot than Mecca. Everyone is under obligation to visit it once a year at least; and, in addition to this, they give a sum of money through the šeiḫs to obtain satisfaction (that Šeiḫ ‘Adî may be pleased with them). Whoever does is not is disobedient.

Moreover, it is said that the reason why the pilgrimage to his tomb is regarded as excellent by us and by God is that in the resurrection Šeiḫ ‘Adî will carry in a tray all the Yezidis upon his head and take them into paradise, without requiring them to give account or answer. Therefore they regard the pilgrimage to his tomb as a religious duty greater than the pilgrimage to Mecca.

There are some domes, huts, around the tomb of Šeiḫ ‘Adî. They are there for the purpose of receiving blessings from the tomb. And they are all attributed to the great Šeiḫs, as the hut of ‘Abd-al-Ḳâdir-al-Jîlânî; 32 the hut of Šeiḫ Ḳadîb-al-Bân; the hut of Šeiḫ Šams-ad-Dîn; the hut of Šeiḫ Manṣûr-al-Ḥallâj, and the hut of Šeiḫ Ḫasan-al-Baṣrî. There are also

p. 66

some other huts. Each hut has a banner made of calico. It is a sign of conquest and victory.

Eating of deer's meat is forbidden them, they say, because the deer's eyes resemble the eyes of Šeiḫ ‘Adî. Verily his virtues are well-known and his praiseworthy qualities are traditions handed down from generation to generation. He was the first to accept the Yezidi religion. He gave them the rules of the religious sect and founded the office of the šeiḫ. In addition to this, he was renowned for his devotion and religious exercise. From Mount Lališ, he used to hear the preaching of ‘Abd-al-Ḳâdir-al-Jîlânî in Bagdad. He used to draw a circle on the ground and say to the religious ones, "Whosoever wants to hear the preaching of Al-Jîlânî, let him enter within this circle." The following custom, which we have, began with him: If we wish to swear to anyone, a šeiḫ draws a circle, and he who is to take an oath, enters into it.

At one time, passing by a garden, Šeiḫ ‘Adî asked about lettuce; and, as no one answered, he said, "Huss" (hush). For this reason lettuce is forbidden and not eaten.

As regards fasting, they say about the month of Ramaḍân that it was dumb and deaf. Therefore, when God commanded the Moslems to fast, he likewise commanded the Yezidis, saying to them in the Kurdish language, "sese," meaning "three." The Mohammedans did not understand it; they took it for "se," "thirty." For this reason, they (Yezidis) fast three days. Moreover, they believe there are eating,

p. 67

drinking, and other earthly pleasures in the next world. 33 Some hold that the rule of heaven is in God's hands, but the rule of the earth is in Šeiḫ ‘Adî hands. Being exceedingly beloved by God, he bestowed upon him according to ‘Adî's desire.

They believe in the transmigration of souls. This is evinced by the fact that when the soul of Manṣûr-at-Ḥallâj parted from his body when the Caliph of Bagdad killed him and cast his head into the water, his soul floated on the water. By a wonderful chance and a strange happening, the sister of the said Manṣûr went to fill her jar. The soul of her brother entered it. Without knowing what had happened, she came with it to the house. Being tired, she felt thirsty and drank from the jar. At that moment the soul of her brother entered her, but she did not perceive it until she became pregnant. She gave birth to a son who resembled Šeiḫ Manṣûr himself. He became her brother according to birth and her son according to imputation. The reason why they do not use drinking-vessels which have narrow mouths, or a net-like cover, is that when one drinks water from them they make a sound. When the head of Šeiḫ Manṣûr was thrown into the water it gurgled. In his honor they do not use the small jars with narrow necks.

They assert that they expect a prophet who will come from Persia to annul the law of Mohammed and abrogate Islam. They believe that there are seven gods, and that each god administers the universe for ten thousand years; and that one of these gods is

p. 68

[paragraph continues] Lasiferos, the chief of the fallen angels, who bears also the name Melek Ṭâ’ûs. They make him a graven image after the form of a cock 34 and worship it. They play the tambourine and dance before it to make it rejoice with them. They (ḳawwâls) travel within the Yezidis' villages to collect money, at which time they take it into the houses that it may bless and honor them. Some say that Šeiḫ ‘Adî is a deity; others that he is like a Vizier to God. To him all things are referred. This is Melek Ṭâ’ûs' age. The ruling and administrative power is in his hands until the thousandth year. When the time comes to an end he will deliver the power to the next god to rule and administer until another thousand years shall be ended, and so on until the seventh god. And yet there is accord and love among these gods, and none is jealous of the one who may rule and administer the world for a period of ten thousand years. They have a book named Al Jilwah that they ascribe to Šeiḫ ‘Adî, and they suffer no one who is not one of them to read it.

Mention is made in some of their books that the First Cause is the Supreme God, who before he created this world, was enjoying himself over the seas; 35 and in his hand was a great White Pearl, with which he was playing. Then he resolved to cast it into the sea, and when he did so this world came into being.

Moreover, they think themselves not to be of the same seed from which the rest of mankind sprung, but that they are begotten of the son of Adam, who was born to Adam of his spittle. For this reason they

p. 69

imagine themselves nobler and more pleasing to the gods than others.

They say they have taken fasting and sacrifice from Islam; baptism from Christians; prohibition of foods from the Jews; their way of worship from the idolaters; dissimulation of doctrine from the Rafiḍis (Shi‘ites); human sacrifice and transmigration from the pre-Islamic paganism of the Arabs and from the Sabians. They say that when the spirit of man goes forth from his body, it enters into another man if it be just; but if unjust, into an animal.


55:21 Ibrîḳ al-Aṣfar means "the yellow pitcher."

55:22 Bakbûḳ is a pitcher with a narrow spout.

55:23 p. 85 Mar Mattie is a Syrian monastery about seven hours' ride east of Mosul, generally known by the name of Šeiḫ Mattie, in accordance with the general custom of sheltering a Christian saint beneath a Moslem title. Elijah is known as Al-Ḫuder, "the green one." Aphrates was bishop of Šeiḫ Mattie. The church of this monastery is a large building,, chiefly interesting as containing the tomb of the great Bar Hebraeus, known as Abu-l-Faraj, who was ordained at Tripolis, and became in 1246 A. D. Metropolitan of Mosul. He lies buried, with his brother Barsom, in the "Beth Kadišeh (sanctuary) of the church, and over them is placed the inscription: "This is the grave of Mar Gregorias, and of Mar Barsome his brother, the children of the Hebrew, on Mount Elpep" (the Syriac name for Jabal Maḳlûb).

56:24 Kani in Kurdish means a spring; zarr, yellow. In Kurdish, as in Persian, the adjective usually follows the modified noun; cf. Tartibi Jadid, Ta‘alimi Faresi. The New Method for Teaching Persian (in the Turkish language, ed. Kasbar, Constantinople, A. H. 1312), p. 18.

57:25 Jawiš is a Turkish word, signifying a sergeant.

57:26 This ceremony, as well as the names ‘Arafat, Zamzam, etc., seems to be a mere copy of the Meccah Pilgrimage. ‘Arafât, "The Mount of Recognition," is situated twelve miles from Mecca, a place where the pilgrims stay on the ninth day of the day of the pilgrimage, and recite the midday and afternoon prayer. The Mohammedan legend says, that when our first parents forfeited heaven for eating wheat, they were cast down from the Paradise, Adam fell on the Isle of Ceylon, and Eve near Jiddah (the port of Mecca) in Arabia; and that, after separation of 200 years, Adam was conducted by the Angel Gabriel to a mountain near Mecca, where he found and knew p. 86 his wife, the mountain being then named ‘Arafat, "Recognition."

58:27 The god Nisroch of Scripture, II Kings 19:37; Isa. 37: 38. There is no footnote 27--JBH.

58:29 A superstitious name signifying an ill omen.

58:30 That is, public prayers like those of the Mohammedans and of the Christians; cf. Al Mašrik, II, 313.

61:31 The text has "her hand."

65:32 While the Yezidis venerate ‘Abd al-Ḳâdir of Jîlân, the Nusairis curse him; cf. JAOS, VIII, 274.

67:33 This belief is taken from Mohammedanism.

68:34 The Arabs worshiped a deity under the form of a nasr (eagle), Aš-Šahrastânî, II, 434; Yakut, IV, 780; The Syriac Doctrine of Addai (ed. George Philips), p. 24.

68:35 Cf. Gen. 1: 2, and the Babylonian Creation Epic.

Next: The Poem in Praise of Šeiḫ ‘Adî