The Yezidis are an esoteric religious group inhabiting scattered villages in Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and southern Russia. Most are farmers and shepherds. Their faith prohibits unnecessary association with outsiders and their sacred books (Resh and Jalwa ) are sealed to nonbelievers. They venerate the tomb of Shaikh Adi, son of Musafir, located in Lalish Valley in northern Iraq.
Yezidis recognize seven facets of God (Jesus, the sun, Adi, Yezid, Gabriel, etc.); each treated as a separate entity. One facet is Satan, hence they are called devil-worshippers. Each deity is represented by a copper standard (Sanjaq ) to which they contribute financially.
Yezidis believe they are the sons of Shahid, who sprang from Adam's seed. Their society has sharply defined castes (princes, clergy, kochaks, faqirs, pirs, chanters, and commoners) between which marriage is prohibited. Every Yezidi must have a spiritual brother-sister from the clergy. They pray to the sun at dawn, observe three fasting days each year, make an annual pilgrimage to Adi's tomb, and have several feasts (Sari Sali, Qurban, Yezid, Ijwa, etc.). They practice baptism and circumcision and believe in the transmigration of souls. Their faith embodies countless dietary taboos (pork, fish, cabbage, cock and deer meat, lettuce), prohibits utterance of words containing "sh" and "t" sounds, and only family members of the clergy are permitted to acquire education.
Yezidism has borrowed heavily from other religions in the area (Babylonian, Mithraic, Zoroastrianism, Manichaean, Judaic, Christian, and Islamic), and thus embodies something of the entire religious experience of Western Asia.
Bibliography: s. s. ahmed, The Yezidis, Their Life and Beliefs, 2 v. (Baghdad 1971). i. chol, The Yezidis Past and Present (Beirut 1934). s. damluji, The Yezidis (Mosul 1949). e. s. drower, Peacock Angel (London 1941). r. h. w. empsen, The Cult of the Peacock Angel (London 1928). h. field and j. glubb, The Yezidis, Sulubba and Other Tribes of Iraq and Adjacent Regions (Manasha, Wis, 1943). j. isya, Devil Worship, The Sacred Books of the Yezidis (Boston 1919). m. j. menant, Les Yezidis (Paris 1892), t. menzel, "Yezidi," Encyclopedia of Islam 4 (Leiden 1938).
[s. s. ahmed]