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him? Y. Thus it is. W. Do you know how to read? Y. No.
Notions derived from Christianity. Whatever knowledge they may have received, of the doctrines of Christ, now exists chiefly in some superstitious ceremonies and corrupted traditions of doctrine. They believe in Christ as the Son of God, and, in some sense at least, as a Saviour.t Mr. Wolff reports the following reply of a Yezidi east of the Tigris.“ W. What do you think of Christ ? Y.-looking around to see that no Turk was present,—He was God; we call him Jesus, the enlightened : he was the word. Kyafa (Caiaphas) and Pilapus (Pilate) his faithful disciples drew the nails from his feet that he never died.” This accords with what is commonly reported of their belief as to his death. As proof that they were formerly instructed in the doctrines of the gospel, we see that they speak of wine as the blood of Christ; and, whenever they drink it on ordinary occasions, they hold the cup with both hands, as the Christians do when partaking of the communion. And if by chance a few drops fall on the ground, they carefully cover them with earth, that they may not be trodden under foot of
They also make the sign of the cross, by crossing the middle fingers or thumbs of each hand. They sometimes even call themselves by the name that Mussulmans call Christians, i. e. Isaoi, or followers of Jesus.
Baptism is always used as an initiatory rite for all children. There is particularly a spring of water near a monastery where the Yezidies dip their children solemnly in the water three times, although they do not accompany the ceremony with any prayers.
Člergy. They deny that they have any priests, but still they have a large body of men, more or less devoted to the services of their religion. A distinction, very commonly made, of the Yezidies into black and white, is founded on the fact that this large body dress chiefly in black, in robes and appendages much resembling those of Christian priests. They are married, and engage in secular labors like the rest. They are often called “faquirs,” and “fugara,” or mendicants; and some explain them as being an order of dervishes or monks. They are divided into three orders, pirs, sheikhs and faquirs. The pir indi
* Sketch of Life and Journal, Norwich, England, 1827.
cates the head of a body, the sheikhs are the intermediate order, and the faquirs, which are by far the most numerous order, as the name indicates, are servants or inferiors. This division may correspond with that of bishops, priests and deacons, or with the orders in a tekké or monastery. They speak of their clergy as their “babawat” or fathers, after the custom of the Christians. They have a power independent of the civil power, or of that of their chiefs, and can excommunicate by peculiar ceremonies, and even condemn to death. They are called by the Mussulmans by the same name they give to Christian priests, - kara bash, i. e. black heads.
There is a class who hold a station midway between the blacks and whites, the clergy and people, who are called Kowwals, and correspond to the ancient chanters, or preachers in the church. Kowwal comes from the Arabic Kal, to speak. They are said to be numerous at Baazani. They are noticeable from the fact that they alone use stringed or wind instruments. On some occasions they improvise narrations and praises in prose, and poetry in rhyme, on subjects chiefly of a religious nature, accompanying their voices, in their not disagreeable chanting tones, with these instruments. They have degraded their office so that they chant, sometimes for the mere amusement of strangers, national songs of love and glory.*
Respect to Christian Priests and Churches. It illustrates the character and origin of their own priesthood, that they so greatly honor the priests of the various sects of Christians. They kiss the hands of one whom they meet, kissing both of his palms, as do the Christians; and one could adopt no safer or more inviting mode of travelling among them, than in the character of a Christian priest. That this is not hypocrisy is clear from the fact that while both Mussulmans and Christians admit its truth, the Mohammedans confess that the Yezidies hate their Ulema. As a relic of their former attachment to the famous monastery of El Kosh, they send it presents every year; and no one can be made a sheikh, without having shown this mark of respect.
With regard to churches, they have no buildings in their villages for public worship, nor any fixed day in the week for worship; but they are said to assemble in the ruins of the old churches of Sinjar for peculiar ceremonies ; and the great place
* Rich's Tour, Vol. II.
of their pilgrimage was formerly a monastery and church, whose sanctuary is still visible. Every tribe, as in the Church of the Sepulchre at Jerusalem, has its own place in it. And never do they enter a church, without taking off their shoes, and as they enter, kissing, like the Christians, the threshold and side-posts.
These are all the practices that deserve mention, as showing their regard for Christianity; unless it is the additional one, that the only writings they preserve among themselves are certain large pieces of parchment in the Estrangelo character of the Syriac. These they call “ Menshour,” which is the Arabic name in use for a ball, or encyclical letter of the patriarchs of the various sects. Those which they possess are probably relics of such letters from the chairs of Antioch or Seleucią.
Death and Resurrection. When a person dies, they do not say“ he is dead,” but “he is changed;" and unless he has died a violent death, which demands revenge, they make the funeral rather a matter of external rejoicing. In the former case they consign his body in silence to the grave, and, shaving their beards, do not let them grow till they have avenged themselves. Into some of the pits of which we have spoken, it is said they throw money on occasions of a person's death; and it is probably true that with them also the custom exists, as with the Shanshié, of putting pieces of money into his mouth for his use in the other world, to buy a place in Paradise. Some buy the place of their own sheikhs. They have been said to deny the resurrection; yet they believe in a state of future existence, holding rather to the doctrine of metempsychosis—the soul for a certain series of years passing into the bodies of various animals previous to its final change.* Some of their tombs, as at Baasheka, are expensive monuments, in the form of fluted cones or pyramids, kept white in the midst of olive groves.f
Saints. They respect whomsoever is regarded as a saint by the Christians, but their chief or patron saint, whom they say was the founder of their sect, is Sheikh Adi or Hadi. His tomb is at three hours distance from Sheikh Khan, at an ancient monastery. It is the great place of pilgrimage for Yezidies from all parts. Their principal burying place is also in its vicinity at Bozan, at the foot of Rabban Hormuzd; whither all who
* Gregoire Hist. Vol. II. p. 412.
can, have their bodies transported, even from the distance of Sinjar. This Sheikh Adi is supposed to have been either Thaddeus, one of the apostles, or Addeus, one of the seventy, or one of the twelve disciples of Mani or Manes.* Some sects are said not to show him any respect.
Idolatrous Worship. They worship both the fire and the sun. This is evident from many of their customs. When they rise in the morning, they turn their faces toward the east, cross a finger of each hand at the same time, and repeat some words of devotion. Others, as they rise, kiss the wall nearest to them upon which the sun shines; and others still are said to salute the sun as he emerges, with three prostrations. They will not spit on the fire nor blow out a candle with their breath, lest they should defile the fire.
They are reported also to worship images or pictures. Many have told me that they worship a peacock, calling him the Melek Taous, or King Taous. Some say they put it on a stand, like a high candlestick, and repeat their devotions before it, perhaps but a few times in a year. The figure of the peacock may be made of metal or on stone or paper. A merchant who had travelled much among them, said that when he drew the figure of it on paper before them, they would kiss it with respect. The image of this bird, as they make it, has but one eye. The ancient fire worshippers believed that birds watched men to keep off evil from them. I have often seen in Mesopotamia ancient sculptured stones, having upon them in bas relief, rude figures of a cock. The sides of a gate in the walls of Diarbekir are composed of many such ancient stones, with similar figures, The patriarch of the Jacobites pretended that every one of them carrried a similar image about with him. It is probable that they show a superstitious respect to some other animals. An Armenian, who possessed a lamp with three branches but not lighted, told me that a Yezidi priest who saw it in his room kissed it with respect.
Prayer. Although it has been charged upon them that they never pray, yet it is only in the sense that they do not observe the legally appointed five times for prayer of Islamism. But when they rise in the morning, and at meals, they repeat prayers; and when assembled at the tomb of Sheikh Adi, the presid
* J. S. Asseman, Bib. Or. Vat. Tom. III. p. 2.
ing priest repeats prayers, to which all the people say, Amen. Although they are careful never to lift their hands to heaven when they pray, yet they have been seen praying on their heels, their elbows and their foreheads. A Yezidi told Mr. Wolff that they never pray in Sinjar, but that the Yezidi Almanusia* pray in the open air one night in the year and call it the night of life; and fast thrice in the year." Haji Kalfa also says, “They have made our fast and prayers a part of their abominable faith ;" which must be, however, rather as an affectation of being Mohammedans than in reality.
Remaining Customs. They have sacrificial festivals which occur at least once a year. Their principal one is on St. George's and the prophet Elias's day." At Baasheka it draws together several thousand men, women and children; who, after sacrifice, play martial games, and end with excessive drinking. The custom of sacrifices, they have in common with the Mussulmans, Armenians, Nestorians and Jews. Like the Greeks they respect particular fountains as agiasmas—for certain salutary effects in curing diseases. It is a matter of notoriety that if any one draws a circle around a Yezidi, he dares not overstep it, till some one breaks it for him. They are charged by some Mussulmans with holding most shameful nocturnal asseinblies: but they bring the same charges against all heretical Mussulmans, and these charges are denied in their behalf by the Christians. When Mr. Rich was in the vicinity, there was a virgin named Bezama, who possessed a spirit which they supposed enabled her to foretell future events. Mr. Wolff pretends that in commemoration of the three days repentance of the Ninevites, they sit three days on the ground, and deny even suck to their infants during the period.Ş That they dance around the ruins of ancient Babylon is extremely improbable, if only on account of the distance, there being no Yezidies in the vicinity.
Origin of the Sect. To investigate the truth of all the various pretensions of the people of Mesopotamia, who are found in their midst, as to the origin of the Yezidies, would demand too protracted a space. It may be worth while to record, on this
* Is this word derived from Mani, founder of the Manicheans, Al being the article ?
+ Rich's Tour. Wolff's Journals.