Yazidism: The Cult of the Peacock Angel

Though most of my work is centred on my homeland in Europe, which is being assaulted and invaded by hostile forces from within and without, I wish to draw attention to a people in a similar situation in the Middle East as us Wotanists; namely, the Yazidi Kurds of Iraq. While most of the Middle East has succumbed to monotheism, this people stands out among all others because their religion seems to be a form of polytheism; where reverence is given not to a singular, cosmic God, but to seven holy beings known as the ‘heft sirr‘ (‘the seven mysteries’), with particular emphasis on Melek Taus, the ‘peacock angel’. Though they consider themselves Muslims and believe in the power of an almighty God, their religious practice seems to suggest that this is merely to avoid Islamic persecution, as they seem to believe that such a deity does not require worship, but that rather he should be worshipped through the heft sirr.

Melek Taus is revered by the Yazidis because he is seen as the creator and ruler of Earth, and was respected by God for refusing to bow down to Adam when he was created, representing the refusal of a spiritual being made from God’s light to be subordinate to a material creature. This has parallels to the Islamic story of Iblis, the angel who refused to bow down to Adam and so was cursed by Allah and became ‘Shaitan’, the Islamic Satan. This perverse concept that damns spiritual pride and independence has led to the Yazidis to be seen as ‘devil-worshippers’ by many Muslims, and has resulted in their persecution and, more recently, attempts to exterminate them by Islamic State. It doesn’t help that Melek Taus is also known as ‘Shaytan’ to the Yazidis, however, he doesn’t seem to be either good or evil as in Abrahamic religions. While the Yazidis do not have a concept of dualism and do not worship demons, this has led to the abominable practice of killing members of their ethnic group who attempt to leave or marry outside of their religion (also known as ‘honour killings’). Such an extreme practice reflects the severity of persecution and the fear that their unique religion will die out in a sea of monotheism, and the original religion of the Kurds will be forgotten.

The similarities between Yazidism and Wotanism are apparent, as the focus on seven holy beings (considered gods in Wotanism, though the Yazidis prefer to see them more as angels, probably under influence of monotheistic religions like Zoroastrianism and Islam) is a central feature of both religions. Nevertheless, these beings are still subject to higher authority, in Yazidism it is God, in Wotanism is is ‘wyrd’ (meaning something akin to ‘destiny’ and is from where we have the word ‘weird’), which is maintained by the three Norns governing past, present and future. However, these higher cosmic forces are not considered to require reverence, since they are self-sustaining and eternal. However, the gods or angels are dependent on human interaction to survive and maintain order in the cosmos, and so this is why it is they and not God who are focused on by both Yazidis and Wotanists. Melek Taus can also be compared to the god Wotan, as he is considered the leader of the heft sirr, as well as creator of the world (in Germanic mythology, the world was created by Wotan, Wili and We, a triplicity of Wotan). They also share the same holy day, Wednesday, which in English is named after the Anglo-Saxon Woden.

Yazidi customs include parading a golden model of a peacock, which is kissed by Yazidis for good luck. The Yazidis are keen to emphasize that they do not worship the idol, but that it is merely a representation of the spiritual force of Melek Taus. Their New Year is comparable to the modern Easter, as it falls slightly later than the Spring Equinox. They also have two holy books, known as ‘Kiteba Cilwe’ (‘the book of revelation’) and ‘Mishefa Res’ (‘the black book’). Though these have been deemed as forgeries by scholars, it has to be remembered that the Yazidis have a purely oral tradition, and so to make their beliefs and customs known to outsiders it was necessary for foreigners to write them down, as their content is consistent with Yazidi doctrine. Their society is led by a secular ’emir’ (‘prince’ or ‘general’) and a sheikh, who is the spiritual leader and is split into three castes who strictly marry among themselves. In this way, they maintain the structure that has held up their society for thousands of years. As they have been at the centre of many different civilisations, they have been influenced by all other religions in the area, from Zoroastrianism to Greek paganism and Sufi Islam, which is a sect of Islam that teaches pagan wisdom under the guise of Islam in order to preserve the knowledge, mainly among the Iranian peoples.

While the Yazidis join the fight with other Kurds against Islamic State, some of their women are taken as sex slaves and the Yazidis are seen by IS fighters as less than human. This is comparable to the recurring rape of European women by Islamic invaders, though our stronger state structure means that such events are somewhat successful at being covered up and ignored to avoid backlash and so, unlike in Iraq, we have not yet fallen into open warfare. However, it is important that we stand together with our polytheist brothers and sisters from all parts of the world, our struggle is the same and we have the gods on our side. Many Yazidis who have fled to Europe now carry the same fears from their homeland as millions of Islamic invaders are pouring into Europe. It is important that we realise that we are on the same boat and fight to preserve the traditions of all peoples against the cancer of dogmatism.

Wulf Willelmson

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