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families. The name of one of these villages is Kara Bûlak.* We have never learned that there are any more in that vicinity.
Some few villages are found west of the Euphrates on entering Syria. We see, however, that nearly all this people are found within what is popularly regarded as Mesopotamia, and within two days' journey of Mosul.
Population. After having made repeated estimates of the whole population of the Yezidies, I have ventured to put it at rising of fifty thousand souls. I should not be surprised, if farther investigations should carry this number somewhat higher. A universal geography in Armenian gives the whole population of this people at 1,000,000, counting those of the Sinjar as 500,000 souls; but this is too large an estimate.
Language. The language of the Yezidies, in their villages and families, is universally, and, I believe, solely the Kurdish. Though with other nations they speak Arabic or Turkish, yet I know of none with whom these languages are vernacular. Those that live in the Tor mountain, surrounded by Jacobites talking Syriac, still use the Kurdish. In the main they inay be regarded as speaking the same dialect of the Kurdish; yet, being occasionally contiguous to Kurds speaking one of the three other dialects, their own may become much modified. This dialect is that of Amadieh, in Kurdistan proper, of which Father Gazzoni published a grammar, in 1787, at Rome. These Kurdish dialects bear an intimate relation to the Zend, or Pehlevi, the ancient language of Assyria and Media, which has always, in a large number of its words, though not in forms, borne a relation to the Chaldee. Gazzoni, Rich, Wolff, Dr. Grant and others, testify that their language is Kurdish ; only Wolff pretends they have, besides, a secret language. If they have any secret language, it can only be certain words to express religious ideas. At any rate, it cannot be the Chaldee or Syriac, which are spoken by thousands of families around them, for it would no longer be a secret language. Mr. W., obtaining all his information from Jews, would give a Sheritish form to all the words he might cite.
Character and Manners. In general they must be regarded as even inferior in civilization to the proper Kurds, by whom they are surrounded. For centuries past, according to the tes
* Smith and Dwight's Researches in Armenia, Vol. II. p. 270. timony of all travellers, they have manifested to all who were not of their sect an inimical spirit. Whether in the Sinjar, east of the Tigris, or near Orfa, they have been in the habit of plundering all caravans, and would, like such people generally, make exploits of this kind their boast and glory. They are said also to have manifested a hardened, cruel spirit, in leaving their victims stark naked in a burning plain, or in recklessly murdering them. These traits, however, do not prevent the same individual at his own home from being hospitable, goodnatured and affectionate. They are brave, if this animal quality is to be praised, for they reck little of eternity. They would rush-accompanied perhaps by their women—from their fastnesses, armed with sabre and pistols and a ten-foot lance, firing behind them, as they fled at speed from the enemy, like the ancient Parthians, whose country they inhabit.
Their social customs are, to a great extent, the same as those of other Kurds. Like them they are attached to robes of white cotton, with white turbans, crossed by a black band. Like them, their long reddish-black locks, from behind their heads, are curled long and fall down before on their shoulders. Their women also wear the same dress as the Kurdish women, with a high frame-work on their heads, covered with white cotton and the black band. In fact there is nothing in dress to distinguish them from the Mohammedan Kurds. Their women go unveiled, and are regardless of other exposures, yet faithful to their husbands. Polygamy is not lawful among them. Living as they do, in excluded coinmunities, having no books or knowledge of literature, cut off from intercourse with the more civilized people around them, we must expect to find among them the same traits that distinguish any other degraded people.
Race. The facts we have already mentioned of the coincidence of their language, moral qualities, dress and manners, with those of the Kurds, would suggest that we must regard them as being originally of the same race with them. All the traits we have mentioned, they have in common with the people inhabiting independent Kurdistan, and the Carduchian mountains of Xenophon. And all the facts we shall enumerate will indicate that they originally spread out from that centre east of the Tigris. Those Kurds that now overrun all that country south of Erzroom, as far as Diarbekir, are all said to have come, within one hundred and fifty years, from this same region; and although they are orthodox Kurds, having no sym
pathy with Yezidies, yet the name which some give to them is also Dasini, though some say Dasemi. The physiognomy of both Kurds and Yezidies is similar, and if it corresponds with many of the Christians of those same regions, it is no more than was to have been expected, if they are both either aborigines of the country, or formerly intermixed. However, the difference in dress, which Mohammedan bigotry enforces upon the Christians, gives wiih its dark colors a semblance of greater difference than really exists. Dr. Grant suggests that they may be of the same race with the Nestorians, whom he regards as of Hebrew descent; and this partly on the ground that the Nestorians affirm that the Yezidies were formerly Nestorians. The Jacobite Syrians also claim that the Yezidies formerly belonged to them; and, as we see, have some historical affinities by which they establish it. They are both probably correct; for as the Nestorian and Jacobite churches included people of various nations, so also some of the Yezidies belonged to both of these churches.
If, with many ethnographers, we regard the Kurdish as of the Persian family of languages,* and that it was one of the languages of Assyria and Chaldea when the Jews were transported thither, then we might perhaps apply to them the name Chaldean even as a race, as we now apply it to the Nestorians, who have retained the name as a distinction of religion. An additional testimony of their being Kurds is found in the following, as one from many, in Hagi Kalfa’s geography. He says: “ The Kurds are Sonnies, except the tribes of Sini, and Dasini, and Khalvi, who are Yezidies,” implying that the Yezidies are of the Kurdish tribes.
Civil Organization. Little exists to distinguish them in their relations as communities from the rest of the Kurds. They are divided into many tribes. They have some tribes, as the Koreish of the Sinjar, and the Sheikkhauli near El Kosh, who by birth are regarded as being superior to all the rest ; but neither of the heads of these tribes can be regarded as being either pope or king of the whole body of the Yezidies. Whether the Koreish are of the same tribe as that from which the prophet descended, I know not; but south of Erzroom is a tribe of orthodox Kurds, who also are called Koreish. The relative importance of the various tribes changes from year to year;
* Balbi Abreg. Geog. Paris, 1834.
and sometimes the interests of two or several tribes are merged in the growing greatness of some one chief and his followers. The Yezidies make war on each other as much as on Kurds; and the law of retaliation, existing in full vigor, entails perpetual feuds. The Koreish intermarry with no other tribe, and the Sheikhs of many of the villages are alone chosen from among them. Mr. Rich says Emir Sheikh Khan is pope of all the Yezidies east of the Tigris. Being descended, according to some, from the family of the Ommiades, and living near their most important place of pilgrimage, he is doubtless treated by them with great respect. Their political dependence is of course now entirely upon the Turks, and through the energy of the almost independent pashas of Bagdad and Mosul, all their rebellious or marauding spirit is effectually quelled ; and they submit to all the reformed institutions of the day in spite of themselves.
RELIGION. This main and most essential feature of our observations must still remain, in many important points, unexplained. After a careful comparison of the contradictory statements of various travellers, and of the reports of the people with whom I conversed, the following facts alleged, seem worthy of credence.
They believe in the existence of an eternal supreme being, creator of all things; whom, however, they do not venture to worship, but profess to reverence him. Him they regard as the good God.
With respect to Satan, and their belief on this point has been regarded as the most peculiar, they believe him a created, but for the present, independent evil principle. They do not worship him, but they reverence him ; thinking that he has all but infinite power on earth. The reverence and honor they show him are not from love, but to deprecate his wrath. They will not mention him by any of the common names by which he is known in the languages of the country, lest the evil one should regard it as a mark of disrespect. Nor will they make use of any of the words by which one may express the effects of his wrath: as e. g.“ curse," lest he should think that they regarded his dispensations as evils, and were dissatisfied with them. Consequently, they will not pronounce the Arabic word “ shat” for the Tigris, because its sound is so similar to Shātan or Satan. Nor will they let any one pronounce in their own country, with impunity, the word “nal,” a horse-shoe, which also in sound means a curse, lest the evil one should hear it, and regard it as a malediction against himself. Nor will they drink out of a jug, which bubbles as the water flows from it, for it sounds, they say, like the whisperings of Satan. When they designate him by any name, it is as “the great chief,” the “ Lord of the evening," or some similar title. The time is coming when he is to be reconciled with the Deity.
It is with a knowledge of these feelings of theirs, that the people of the country rudely torment them, by such tricks as getting into their hands the articles they may have brought to market for sale, and then they begin to curse Satan. Upon which the poor Yezidi either leaves his property unsold, or sells it cheap, that he may not be obliged to hear similar wickedness. For not tortures even would induce them to express, in any manner, a detestation of the Lord of darkness.
It is a story which I have often heard repeated, that the Yezidies of Sinjar assemble at certain times, in front of a certain cavern in their mountain, which some describe as bottomless, where they devote much of their wealth and ornaments to the service of the devil, as being rightfully his, and to which they can have no claim. Lieut. Hende says, “ that this is accompanied by the most horrible ceremonies, dancing to the wild music of their horns and cymbals, with the most uncouth and frantic . expressions of religious inspiration."*
În refutation of the notion so often repeated, that they worship the devil, I must say that the most candid and intelligent of the people of the east, with whom I have conversed, have generally said that these poor people ought not to be regarded as devil-worshippers. The bigotry of the Mohammedan doctors, operating upon the willing prejudices of the people, has led them to decry them as devil-worshippers, just as they charge on the Persians, that they worship the Caliph Ali as God. The. following portion of a conversation that J. Wolff records between himself and a Yezidi bears strong marks of truth, and is a good picture of their state of mind. “W. Do you worship the devil ? Y. We worship nothing: we never mention him whom you have just named, and we love him whom you have named. W. Do you believe the devil is good? Y. No. W. Why love him ? Y. Thus it is. W. Do you believe in the existence of God? Y. We believe. W. Why not pray to him ? Y. Thus it is. W. God gives you life and raiment, etc., why not thank
* Voyage up the Persian Gulf, London, 1817.