Ancient Iraq: An Introduction To Yazidi Culture And Religion In Iraq

Filmed in 2011, before the Moderate Obama insurgency. My objective review of this documentary is found below the video.


YT description: The Yazidis, also Yezidi, Ezidi or Yazdani, are a Kurdish ethnoreligious group. They live largely in the Nineveh Province of Iraq. Additional communities in Armenia, Georgia, and Syria have been in decline since the 1990s as an outcome of significant migration to Europe, especially to Germany.

Their syncretic religion, known as Yazidism and qualified by Mehrdad Izady as a sort of Yazdanism, has links to Zoroastrianism and ancient Mesopotamian faiths. Yazidis are monotheists, believing in God as developer of the world, which he has put under the treatment of seven divine beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel, who, as world-ruler, induces both bad and great to befall individuals, an ambiva reflected in myths of his own temporary fall from God’s support, before his remorseful splits snuffed out the fires of his hellish prison and he was reconciled with God. They venerate Sheikh Adi ibn Musafir whose shrine goes to Lalish.

Title: The Iraqi Yazidi and Yazidism Religion, Who and what is it? – Documentaries (YT link) Uploaded by Documentaries.

An Introduction To Yazidi Culture And Religion In Iraq – (2012) 4 stars

Run time: 52 minutes. This documentary was filmed before the current terrorist atrocities that have taken place in Northern Iraq at the sponsorship of the Obama Administration. The Yazidi people are currently being genocided, with Catholic and other news sources mentioning mothers unwittingly being fed from the bodies of their murdered children, the men being murdered while the women are taken as wives or slaves by fundamentalist Muslim mercenaries, and Yazidi girls being shot in the back of the head for the grievous sin of having bad teeth. Further, thanks to way H.P. Lovecraft portrayed the Yazidi in his horror fiction, these people have been generally branded as Satan or devil worshipers. I wanted to find out a little more about the religious customs of these people in order to form my own opinion.

Setting aside what I wrote in the first paragraph, let me approach this analysis from an objective point of view. My first impression is that Yazidi culture is a very primitive culture. According to the lore, their religion was the dominant religion in the region up until the arrival of Islam. The Yazidi worship a bronze figurine of a peacock as their primary deity. We have something partially similar in the worshipers of the flame from Iran, known as the Zoroastrians. However, in Zoroastrianism we have definite links to Gnosticism and spirituality that I did not see as part of this documentary.

The Yazidi have a grand total of two musical instruments, the flute and a large tambourine. This lack of diversity exemplifies the culture in microcosm. Without more variety, the music necessarily becomes stunted, and again, this is reflected in the ways of the people. Their mode of dress is simple, even for religious events, I didn’t see much in the way of artwork, and they are entirely solitary and tribal. This reluctance of an entire culture to evolve with the societies around them has resulted in their lack of growth and cultural / personal expansion. It is one thing to be intelligent without writing, as seen in Aztec, Inca and Maya culture, where we have astronomy, agriculture, art, mathematics and even surgery in some cases. It is quite another thing to live in barren desert and to have nothing except huts made of mud and a dependence of government handouts.

An unscrupulous Iraqi leader in Saddam Hussein pushed these people into living in larger communities. Instead of taking advantage of this communal atmosphere and learning / working / living together, as soon as these people got the chance they hurried back to their wasteland to build villages with four houses or only one large family. The result is that the men have very little choices for employment. Either they have to travel far to work, or they hire themselves off as mercenaries. By refusing to live and get along with others, which is the traditional Arab way as seen by many unruly Muslim immigrants, the Yazidi may have segregated themselves into oblivion. If Iraq refuses to feed them, they will die. If ISIS raids their villages, they will die.

Effectively, these people have put themselves in the difficult spot between hunter-gatherers and villagers. They have nothing to hunt or gather, and they have no true social community to help stabilize them into a working village. The only other culture I can think of with a similar lack of foresight are the barbaric Celts, who lived in small groups of three or four family units. Celtic productivity meant raiding another family tribe, murdering their male warriors, taking the women and children captive, and pillaging whatever wealth they could from peers that were as poor as they were. Sounds a lot like Obama’s ISIS, doesn’t it? The problem is the Yazidi don’t have the same type of tribal warrior mentality, and so they will be the perennial victims of whoever comes by to push them around, like the Turkish Kurds of Northern Syria, who are also everyone’s personal whipping boys.

I don’t like their idea of religion either. These people kiss everything, from door frames to bronze effigies to blankets to tambourines. I have seen veneration towards idols in Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism and even Voodoo, but the Yazidi look about as spiritual as the average Catholic, which is not very much at all. Kissing a peacock figurine is equal to kissing the feet of a saint in a cathedral, a meteorite fragment in Kaaba or a mud wall in Jerusalem. These are public examples of piety and have nothing to do with spiritual progress. In fact, at one point we see an older Yazidi man counting out currency one bill at a time, not to show devotion to his peacock god, but to impress the room full of devotees that surrounds him. We also see a Yazidi holy man giving a sermon, while two people away, another holy man counts the day’s take. Why can’t each village have their own peacock figurine, instead of everybody gathering together to give money to the traveling holy group? What other religion does this? Notice that when the holy man gives his sermon, he makes reference to their god as being ‘the sheik’s’ god. This takes the focus away from the peacock and puts it on a human leader, much like Catholicism has their Pope and Islam has its Caliphs. This sheik guy just happens to be the same guy that is so tacky in counting the loot in front of the crowd. Any religion that puts a man in front of a god is doing just that: putting a man in front of a god.

If there is a spiritual component to Yazidi religion, the producers of this documentary did an awful job in showing it. The Zoroastrians made it loud and clear that the eternal flame represents knowledge and soul, as do many other religions that worship ‘things’ such as statues, paintings, shrines and artifacts. The Aborigines of Australia have some profound concepts embedded in their oral traditions, as do many Native Americans from Canada all the way down to Chile. I want to say that even African bush tribes and South Pacific islanders have more of a cosmology than what is seen here. What we see is monolatrism; that is the worship of a single god while knowing there are other gods around. This is what the Canaanite Hebrews believed in before the Jews ran with the idea and invented monotheism. Remember all the Old Testament battles between the bull god El, the bull god Baal and the fish god Dagon, all in the city-states of Canaan? That, ladies and gentlemen, is called a pantheon. Anyway, I will have a look for more in-depth details into the Yazidi peacock deity, because I just don’t see how this works as the centerpiece of a religion that is allegedly over 1500 years old.


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