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

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Besides their great saint, the Yezidis believe in seven other šeiḫs through whose intermediation they invoke God. These are also deified and assigned places of honor at Šeiḫ ‘Adî's side. In their case as in that of their chief, the tradition has led some critics to believe that they are archangels; others, different attributes of God; and still others, the seven Amshaps of Zoroaster, or immortal spirits of the Avesta. The last conjecture is made by Victor Dingelstadt. 1 Cholsohn goes a step further in making the assertion, "Der Tempel des sheikh Shams ist ohne allen Zweifel ein sonnentempel der so gebaut ist, dass die ernsten Strahlen der sonne so hàufig als möglich auf ihn fallen." The ground for this positive statement is, we are told "Layard berichtet." 2 Now, the English scholar seems to base his contention on the fact that the building is called the sanctuary of Šeiḫ Šams; that the herd of white oxen which are slain on great festivals at Šeiḫ ‘Adî's M

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are dedicated to Šams; "that the dedication of the bull to the sun" was generally recognized in the religious system of the ancients, which probably originated in Assyria; and that the Yezidis may have unconsciously preserved a myth of their ancestors. 3 To my mind the ground for such a view is the apriori assumption that the religion of the devil-worshippers is the remnant of an ancient cult, and that every phenomenon in it is to be regarded, therefore, a survival of the past system. For certain reasons I hold that such is not the case.

One reason, as Badger rightly remarks, the Yezidis so designate the place for the sake of brevity, is the entablature over the doorway records the name in full, "Sheikh Shams Ali Beg and Faris." Two persons are mentioned in the inscription. 4 In like manner, the word Šams frequently enters into the construction of Mohammedan names. The most celebrated one that bore this name was Šams u-d-Din of Tabriz, the friend and spiritual guide of Jalal ad-Din, who flourished during the first half of the 13th century of our era.

Moreover, round about the tomb of Šeiḫ ‘Adî are many such abandoned shrines, each of which is dedicated to a similar deified šeiḫ. Many of these šeiḫs are known to be historical personages. Take for example, Šeiḫ ‘Abd al-Ḳadir of Gilan. He is Šeiḫ Muḥiyyu d Din ‘Abd al Ḳadir of Gilan in Persia, the founder of the Ḳadiri order of dervishes. He was born in A. H. 471 (A. D. 1078-9) and died

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[paragraph continues] A. H. 516 (A. D. 1164-5). So also Šeiḫ. Ḳaḍib al-Ban. He was from Mosul, and was a contemporary of Šeiḫ ‘Adî. In giving the life of Muḥi ad Din al-Šharnozuri, Ibn Ḫallikan (v. 2,651) says, "His corpse was removed to a mausoleum built for its reception outside the Maidan Gate of Mosul, near the tomb of Ḳadib al-Ban, the celebrated worker of miracles." Further, Manṣur al-Ḥallaj was a celebrated mystic, revered as a saint by the more advanced sufis. He was put to death with great cruelty at Bagdad in A. H. 309 (A. D. 921-2) on a charge of heresy and blasphemy, because he had said in one of his ecstacies, "Ana-l-Ḥaḳḳ, I am the truth, God." All biographers of sufi saints speak of him with admiration.

There are still others who are mentioned even among the seven šeiḫs enumerated in the principal prayer. Šeiḫ Ḥasan (written also Šeiḫisin) was from Baṣrah. He was a celebrated theologian and died in A. D. 728. His life is given by Ibn Ḫallikan. He was noted for self-mortification, fear of God and devotion. And Faḫr ad-Din is ibn Abd Allah Mohammed Ibn Amar al-Ḥaṣain Ibn al-Haṣan, Ibn ‘Ali Al-Taim al-Bakri al-Taberstani ar-kai-zi (native of Kai in Tabarestan), surnamed Faḫr ad-Din (glory of faith). He was a doctor of the Shafite sect, a pearl of his age, a man without a peer. He surpassed all his contemporaries in scholastic theology, and preached both in Arabic and Persian. He would draw floods of tears from his eyes. His virtues and merits were boundless, He was born at Kai, 25th of

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[paragraph continues] Ramadan, A. H. 54D (A. D. 1150), and died at Ḥerat, the first of Shawal, A. H. 606 (March A. D. 1210). (See ibn Ḫallikan in loco.)

In the light of these facts, I conclude, then, that those who cannot be identified--for many bear the same name, and we do not know which is which--are also historical personages.

This is what I mean by the statement that in order to yield satisfactory results the inductive method must be supported by historical investigations.

In a question like this, however, the philosophical method also, when carried on critically, may yield a satisfactory result. Accordingly, observations should be made in the sphere of religious consciousness. Now one of the characteristics of the human mind is the tendency to defy man. This is shown in the titles which men gave to their superiors. In the Tell-al-Amarna tablets, we find various kinglets of Syria, in writing to the king of Egypt, address him as "my gods" (ilani-ia). Thus Abimilki of Tyre writes: "To my lord, the king, my son, my god." What is more, a superhuman character is attributed to the dead. This appears from the attitude which the primitive mind entertained towards the deceased. At first, the relation to the dead was hostile, hence their spirits were feared. Gradually, the relation became familiar, so that their association was sought and sacrifices and gifts were offered to them. They came to be looked upon as elohim, who knew the future events. Thus we find that in the Old Testament, worship was

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offered to the dead, and that the tombs of ancestors and heroes frequently appear as places of worship, as, e.g., the grave of Miriam at Kadish (Num. 26: 1). Even to-day tombs of saints are common in Arabia, and thousands of people visit them annually to ask the intercession of the saints. Likewise, the Nuṣairiyeh of Syria have deified ‘Ali, the Drus their chief Hakim, the Babis their Beha, and the Christians their saints. 5 We cannot, therefore, be surprised that the Yezidis have defined their šeiḫs and heroes. They have only shown that common trait of the mind--the tendency to deify man.

It is to be noticed, further, that in the historical development of religions we find that when the stage of the mere belief in spirits is past, individual deities stand out from the great mass of the spirits, and these are plainly imagined to be personal gods, such as Astarte and Ba‘al by the side of Hadad and Aschirat. 6 Now this is practically what we find in the evolution of modern Yezidism. Out of many šeiḫs and murids, seven, next to šeiḫ ‘Adî, stand out as individual divinities.

Yearly festivals in honor of these šeiḫs are commemorated in April at different villages with the same rites as those observed at Šeiḫ ‘Adî's tomb. Lamps are nightly lighted and left to burn in the shacks called after the names of their respective kits; and in those to which a room is attached, ḳawwals assemble at sunset every Tuesday and Thursday, when they burn

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incense over each tomb; and after watching a short time, and smoking their pipes, they return home.

An interesting festival is that of Šeiḫ Mohammed, celebrated by the people of Ba‘šiḳa, where his tomb exists. They say that they are solemnizing the nuptials of Šeiḫ Mohammed, whom they believe to be married once a year. The men and women dance together while the ḳawwals play on their flutes and tambourines. They bring Melek Ṭâ’ûs in procession from Baḥazanie to Ba‘šiḳa amid rejoicing and sound of music: Two pirs precede the bearer of the sacred peacock, carrying in their hands lighted candles which they move to and fro. As they pass along the bystanders bow in adoration and, immersing their hands in the smoke, perfume with it their arms and faces. They carry the image of Melek Ṭâ’ûs to the house of the one who is the highest bidder for the honor of entertaining it. Here it remains two days, during which all profane festivals are suspended and visits are paid to it.


169:1 S. G. M., ibid.

169:2 Die Sabien, I, 296.

170:3 Nineveh and Its Remains, Vol. II, p. 239.

170:4 Nestorians and Their Rituals, vol. I, p. 117.

173:5 S. J. Curtis. Primitive Semitic Religion To-day, p. 96; J. A. O. S., vol. 8, 223.

173:6 Cf. Marti's Die Religion des A. T., pp. 28-29.

Next: II. The Day of Sarsal