Index / Religions / Yazdanism /
Religion with near 800,000 members world wide (other estimates set this as low as 100,000, but the higher figures are more likely). The largest group of Yazidis live in Iraq, near Mosul, but there are small communities in Syria, Turkey, Georgia, and Armenia.
Yazidis gathering at Lalesh.
|Yazidis by country
Last column: % Yazidis of the population
|2) Other countries
1) Other estimates set it at 70,000.
2) Other estimates set it at 30,000.
*) Calculated for the total population of North Africa and the Middle East, approx. 460,000,000.
Yazidi sanctuary at Lalesh
Inside the sanctuary at Lalesh
Peacock angel of Yazidism.
Relief showing the Yazidi Peacock angel.
Researchers believe that the Yazidi creed has elements from Zoroastrianism, Manicheism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
It is one of three Yazdani religions, Alevism and Ahl-e Haqq being the others.
The two religious books of the Yazidis have Arabic text: the Book of Revelation and the Black Book.
The Yazidis call themselves Dasin, while the term 'Yazidism' probably comes from the Persian word 'īzed', 'angel'. The name Yazidism is, moreover, connected to the 6th caliph, Yazid (680-83), from Shi'i point of view one of world history's most hated men, and highly disliked by most Sunnis, as well. There is, however, little evidence to show what role Yazid may have played in the founding or development of Yazidism.
The concept of gods
The Yazidi pantheon has God at the top, but he is only the creator, and is no longer an acting force.
The acting forces are represented by Malak Ta'us and Shaykh Adii. Shaykh Adii may have been the caliph, Yazid (there are many theories here), a man who rose to divinity through transmigration, and is now an acting and benevolent deity.
Shaykh Adii acts in cooperation with Malak Ta'us, the peacock angel who fell into disgrace, but then repents.
Malak Ta'us filled 7 jars of tears through 7,000 years. His tears were used to extinguish the fire in hell. Therefore, there is no hell in Yazidism. Yazidism has 6 other minor deities, which are also honoured.
Death and afterlife
Information on Yazidism's ideas about an afterlife is very limited. In Yazidism burial happens immediately after death. The corpse is placed in conical tombs, with hands crossed.
There appears to be the concept of a paradise, but there is no hell, thanks to Malak Ta'us. Rather it seems that souls that do not go to paradise are lost or extinguished.
Cult and Worship
Prayers in Yazidism must be performed some distance from non-Yazidis, twice a day, and in the direction of the sun. Prayer is dedicated to Malak Ta'us. Saturday is the day of rest, but it is Wednesday that is the holy day. In December, a 3 day fast is performed.
There is an annual pilgrimage to the tomb of Shaykh Adii, north of Mosul in Iraq, for 6 days in late August. This pilgrimage is the most important ritual of Yazidism. Central to this celebration are bathing in the river, washing of figures of Malak Ta'us, processions, music, hymns, ecstatic songs, and dances performed by the priests. Other elements are lighting of hundreds of oil lamps at the tombs of Shaykh Adii and other saints' tombs, offerings of special foods, and cooking of a sacrificed ox. Important parts of the rituals here have never been seen by outsiders, and are therefore unknown.
Childhood baptism is important, and is performed by a Shaykh, a religious leader. Circumcision for boys is performed soon after the baptism, but it is not compulsory. Burials are done immediately after death, and the hands are crossed, pointing in an eastern direction.
The Yazidis are organized much like the Kurds, with tribes headed by a chief. There are very strong ties between the laity and the religious leaders. Almost all Yazidis speak Kurdish. The Yazidis practice no intermarrying with other Kurds, and have no relationships with them.
The Yazidis believe that they are the descendants of Adam only, while the rest of the world are descendants of Eve, hence inferior. It is impossible to convert to Yazidism; you must be born one. The strongest punishment among Yazidis is expulsion, which means that your soul is lost forever. Monogamy is practised, but the chief has the right to take several wives. Divorce is difficult to get, as this only comes from adultery, and three witnesses are needed. But if a husband stays abroad for more than a year, he is automatically divorced from his wife, and has also lost the right to remarry inside the Yazidi community.
The reason for the Yazidis reputation of being devil worshipers is connected to the other name of Malak Ta'us, Shaytan, the same name as the Koran's for Satan.
But there is little suggesting that the Yazidis worship Malak Ta'us as if he were equal to the Koran's or the Bible's devil. The Yazidis have never been regarded as Ahlu l-Kitab, people of the book, and they have suffered much hardship from their Muslim neighbours.