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The Yazidi are adherents of a small Middle Eastern religion with ancient origins. They are primarily ethnic Kurds, and most Yazidis live in Iraq and Syria with smaller communities in Turkey and Armenia. There are also Yazidi refugees in Germany. The Yazidi worship Malak Ta’us, apparently a pre-Islamic peacock god with links to Mithraism and, through it, to Zoroastrianism. The Yazidi maintain a well-preserved culture, rich in traditions and customs.

In the region that is now Iraq, the Yazidi have been oppressed and labeled as devil worshippers for centuries. During the reign of Saddam Hussein, however, they were considered to be Arabs and maneuvered to oppose the Kurds, in order to tilt the ethnic balance in northern Iraq. Since the 2003 occupation of Iraq, the Kurds want the Yazidi to be recognized as ethnic Kurds.

The Yasidi’s own name for themselves is Dasin. Terms Yazid and Yezid are connected to 6th caliph Yazid (680-683) who may be connected to the saint Shaykh Adii.


Yezidi faith contains elements of Manicheism, Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Gnostic and pre-islamic beliefs. It might be based on the original religion of the Kurds. In about 1162, Sheik-Adi Ibin Mustafa radically reformed the religion, so that some believe the previous form was a different religion from current belief. Different clans may also have different interpretations.

According to the Yazidi, Malak Taus is a fallen peacock angel who repented and recreated the world that had been broken. He filled seven jars with his tears and used them to quench the fire in Hell. Although primarily a monotheistic religion, Yezidism also includes minor deities and the saint Shaykh Adii, who cooperates with Mala Ta’us.

Malak Ta’us is also connected to the name Shaytan, which is similar to Muslim name to Devil and therefore they have been accused of devil worship. Because of this and due to their pre-Islamic beliefs, they have been oppressed by their Muslim neighbors and the Ottoman Empire. They themselves do not use the term Lucifer.

The Yazidi holy books are the Book of Revelation and the Black Book. The latter forbids eating of lettuce or butter beans and wearing of dark blue. The historical status of the book is questionable.

Yazidi are exclusive and do not reveal most of their secrets to the uninitiated. The twice-daily prayer services must not be performed in the presence of outsiders, and are always performed in the direction of the sun. Wednesday is the holy day but Saturday is the day of rest. There is also a three-day fast in December.

The most important ritual is the annual six-day pilgrimage to the tomb of Shaykh Adii in Lalish, north of Mosul, Iraq. During the celebration, Yazidi bathe in the river, wash figures of Malak Ta’us and light hundreds of lamps in the tombs of Shaykh Adii and other saints. They also sacrifice an ox, which is one reason they have been connected to Mithraism.


Historically, the Yazidis are a religious minority of the Kurds. Purportedly, they have existed since 2,000 B.C. Estimates of the number of Yazidis vary between 100.000 and 800.000. The latter is the claim of their website [[1]. According to the same site, refugees in Germany number 30.000.

Yazidi are dominantly monogamous but chiefs may have more than one wife. Children are baptized at birth and circumcision is common but not required. Dead are buried in conical tombs immediately after death and buried with hands crossed.

Yazidi are exclusive. Yazidi clans do not intermarry even with other Kurds and accept no converts. They claim that they are descended only from Adam. The strongest punishment is expulsion, which is also effectively excommunication because the soul of the exiled is forfeit.

Accusations and stereotypes

The Yazidi have a reputation for devil worship. Due to their alleged connection to the Devil, they have been accused of Satanism (like the Process Church of the Final Judgment). As a distant religious belief, many non-Yazidi people have written about them, and ascribed facts to their beliefs that have dubious historical validity. For example, horror writer H. P. Lovecraft made a reference to "... the Yezidi clan of devil-worshippers" in his short story "The Horror at Red Hook". The Yezidis have also been claimed as an influence on Aleister Crowley's Thelema.

External Links

(1) The plural form is rarely used in most references to the Yazidi. The singular form is used to refer to the religion, an individual adherent, or multiple adherents.