The Yezidis have two sacred books, the Kitab al-Jilwa, the “Book of Revelation,” written by Sheikh Adi, and the Mishefa Reş, the “Black Book,” which is said by scholars to have been written in the 11th-12th centuries but, claim the Yezidis, has existed since Tawsi Melek, the Peacock Angel, first set foot upon Earth. The Kitab al-Jilwa describes Tawsi Melek and his special relationship with the Yezidis and those who worship him in other faiths. The Mishefa Reş delineates the creation of the universe and the Seven Great Angels, as well as the creation of the Yezidis and the laws they must follow.
Please note that these are ancient scriptures and that practices have changed. Many of the outdated customs outlined here are not practiced in the Yezidi communities today.
Kitab al-Jilwa, The Book of Revelation
I was, am now, and shall have no end. I exercise dominion over all creatures and over the affairs of all who are under the protection of my image. I am ever present to help all who trust in me and call upon me in time of need. There is no place in the universe that knows not my presence. I participate in all the affairs which those who are without call evil because their nature is not such as they approve. Every age has its own manager, who directs affairs according to my decrees. This office is changeable from generation to generation, that the ruler of this world and his chiefs may discharge the duties of their respective offices every one in his own turn. I allow everyone to follow the dictates of his own nature, but he that opposes me will regret it sorely. No god has a right to interfere in my affairs, and I have made it an imperative rule that everyone shall refrain from worshiping all gods. All the books of those who are without are altered by them; and they have declined from them, although they were written by the prophets and the apostles. That there are interpolations is seen in the fact that each sect endeavors to prove that the others are wrong and to destroy their books. To me truth and falsehood are known. When temptation comes, I give my covenant to him that trusts in me. Moreover, I give counsel to the skilled directors, for I have appointed them for periods that are known to me. I remember necessary affairs and execute them in due time. I teach and guide those who follow my instruction. If anyone obey me and conform to my commandments, he shall have joy, delight, and goodness.
I requite the descendents of Adam, and reward them with various rewards that I alone know. Moreover, power and dominion over all that is on earth, both that which is above and that which is beneath, are in my hand. I do not allow friendly association with other people, nor do I deprive them that are my own and that obey me of anything that is good for them. I place my affairs in the hands of those whom I have tried and who are in accord with my desires. I appear in divers manners to those who are faithful and under my command. I give and take away; I enrich and impoverish; I cause both happiness and misery. I do all this in keeping with the characteristics of each epoch. And none has a right to interfere with my management of affairs. Those who oppose me I afflict with disease; but my own shall not die like the sons of Adam that are without. None shall live in this world longer than the time set by me; and if I so desire, I send a person a second or a third time into this world or into some other by the transmigration of souls.
I lead to the straight path without a revealed book; I direct aright my beloved and my chosen ones by unseen means. All my teachings are easily applicable to all times and all conditions. I punish in another world all who do contrary to my will. Now the sons of Adam do not know the state of things that is to come. For this reason they fall into many errors. The beasts of the earth, the birds of heaven, and the fish of the sea are all under the control of my hands. All treasures and hidden things are known to me; and as I desire, I take them from one and bestow them upon another. I reveal my wonders to those who seek them, and, in due time my miracles to those who receive them from me. But those who are without are my adversaries, hence they oppose me. Nor do they know that such a course is against their own interests, for might, wealth, and riches are in my hand, and I bestow them upon every worthy descendant of Adam. Thus the government of the worlds, the transition of generations, and the changes of their directors are determined by me from the beginning.
I will not give my rights to other gods. I have allowed the creation of four substances, four times, and four comers; because they are necessary things for creatures. The books of Jews, Christians, and Moslems, as of those who are without, accept in a sense, i.e., so far as they agree with, and conform to, my statutes. Whatsoever is contrary to these they have altered; do not accept it. Three things are against me, and I hate three things. But those who keep my secrets shall receive the fulfilment of my promises. Those who suffer for my sake I will surely reward in one of the worlds. It is my desire that all my followers shall unite in a bond of unity, lest those who are without prevail against them. Now, then, all ye who have followed my commandments and my teachings, reject all the teachings and sayings of such as are without. I have not taught these teachings, nor do they proceed from me. Do not mention my name nor my attributes, lest ye regret it; for ye do not know what those who are without may do.
O ye that have believed in me, honor my symbol and my image, for they remind you of me. Observe my laws and statutes. Obey my servants and listen to whatever they may dictate to you of the hidden things. Receive that that is dictated, and do not carry it before those who are without, Jews, Christians, Moslems, and others; for they know not the nature of my teaching. Do not give them your books, lest they alter them without your knowledge. Learn be heart the greater part of them, lest they be altered.
Mishefa Re, The Black Book
In the beginning God created the White Pearl out of his most precious essence. He also created a bird named Angar. He placed the White Pearl on the back of the bird, and dwelt on it for forty thousand years. On the first day, Sunday, God created Melek Anzazl, and he is Ts-Melek, the chief of all, On Monday he created Melek Dardel, and he is eich asan. Tuesday he created Melek Israfel, and he is eich ams (ad-Dn). Wednesday he created Melek Miel, and he is eich Ab Bakr. Thursday he created Melek Azrel, and he is Sajad-ad-Dn. Friday he created Melek emnel, and he is Nasir-ad-Dn. Saturday he created Melek Nurel, and he is Yadin (Fahr-ad-Dn). And he made Melek Ts ruler over all.
After this God made the form of the seven heavens, the earth, the sun, and the moon. But Fahr-ad-Dn created man and the animals, and birds and beasts. He put them all in pockets of cloth, and came out of the Pearl accompanied by the Angels. Then he shouted at the Pearl with a loud voice. Thereupon the White Pearl broke up into four pieces, and from its midst came out the water which became an ocean. The world was round, and was not divided. Then he created Gabriel and the image of the bird. He sent Gabriel to set the four corners. He also made a vessel and descended in it for thirty thousand years. After this he came and dwelt in Mount Lali. Then he cried out at the world, and the sea became solidified and the land appeared, but it began to shake. At this time he commanded Gabriel to bring two pieces of the White Pearl; one he placed beneath the earth, the other stayed at the gate of heaven. He then placed in them the sun and the moon; and from the scattered pieces of the White Pearl he created the stars which he hung in heaven as ornaments. He also created fruit-bearing trees and plants and mountains for ornaments to the earth. He created the throne over the carpet.Then the Great God said: “O Angels, I will create Adam and Eve; and from the essence of Adam shall proceed ehar bn Jebr, and of him a separate community shall appear upon the earth, that of Aziz, i.e., that of Melek Ts, which is the sect of the Yezidis. Then he sent eich Ad bn Musfir from the land of Syria, and he came (and dwelt in Mount) Lali. Then the Lord came down to the Black Mountain. Shouting, he created thirty thousand Meleks, and divided them into three divisions. They worshiped him for forty thousand years, when he delivered them to Melek Ts who went up with them to heaven. At this time the Lord came down to the Holy Land (al Kuds), and commanded Gabriel to bring earth from the four comers of the world, earth, air, fire, and water. He created it and put in it the spirit of his own power and called it Adam.
Then he commanded Gabriel to escort Adam into Paradise, and to tell him that he could eat from all the trees but not of wheat.Here Adam remained for a hundred years. Thereupon, Melek Ts asked God how Adam could multiply and have descendants if he were forbidden to eat of the grain. God answered, “I have put the whole matter into thy hands.” Thereupon Melek Ts visited Adam and said “Have you eaten of the grain?” He answered, “No, God forbade me.” Melek Ts replied and said, “Eat of the grain and all shall go better with thee.” Then Adam ate of the grain and immediately his belly was inflated. But Melek Ts drove him out of the garden, and leaving him, ascended into heaven. Now Adam was troubled because his belly was inflated, for he had no outlet. God therefore sent a bird to him which pecked at his anus and made an outlet, and Adam was relieved.
Now Gabriel was away from Adam for a hundred years. And Adam was sad and weeping. Then God commanded Gabriel to create Eve from under the left shoulder of Adam. Now it came to pass, after the creation of Eve and of all the animals, that Adam and Eve quarreled over the question whether the human race should be descended from him or her, for each wished to be the sole begetter of the race. This quarrel originated in their observation of the fact that among animals both the male and the female were factors in the production of their respective species. After a long discussion Adam and Eve agreed on this: each should cast his seed into a jar, close it, and seal it with his own seal, and wait for nine months. When they opened the jars at the completion of this period, they found in Adam’s jar two children, male and female. Now from these two our sect, the Yezidis, are descended. In Eve’s jar they found naught but rotten worms emitting a foul odor. And God caused nipples to grow for Adam that he might suckle the children that proceeded from his jar. This is the reason why man has nipples.
After this Adam knew Eve, and she bore two children, male and female; and from these the Jews, the Christians, the Moslems, and other nations and sects are descended. But our first fathers are eth, Noah, and Enosh, the righteous ones, who were descended from Adam only.
It came to pass that trouble arose between a man and his wife, resulting from the denial on the part of the woman that the man was her husband. The man persisted in his claim that she was his wife. The trouble between the two was settled, however, through one of the righteous men of our sect, who decreed that at every wedding a drum and a pipe should be played as a testimony to the fact that, such a man and such a woman were married legally.
Then Melek s came down to earth for our sect (i.e., the Yezidis), the created ones, and appointed kings for us, besides the kings of ancient Assyria, Nisroch, who is Nair-ad-Dn; Kamush, who is Melek Fahr-ad-Dn, and Artms, who is Melek ams-(ad-)Dn. After this we had two kings, abur (Sapor) First (224-272 A. D.) and Second (309-379), who reigned one hundred and fifty years; and our amirs down to the present day have been descended from their seed. But we hated four kings.
Before Christ came into this world our religion was paganism. King Ahab was from among us. And the god of Ahab was called Beelzebub. Nowadays we call him Pir Bub. We had a king in Babylon, whose name was Bahtnasar; another in Persia, whose name was Ahura; and still another in Constantinople, whose name was Agriklus. The Jews, the Christians, the Moslems, and even the Persians, fought us; but they failed to subdue us, for in the strength of the Lord we prevailed against them. He teaches us the first and last science. And one of his teachings is:
Before heaven and earth existed, God was on the sea, as we formerly wrote you. He made himself a vessel and traveled in it in kunsiniyatof the seas, thus enjoying himself in himself. He then created the White Pearl and ruled over it for forty years. Afterward, growing angry at the Pearl, he kicked it; and it was a great surprise to see the mountains formed out of its cry; the hills out of its wonders; the heavens out of its smoke. Then God ascended to heaven, solidified it, established it without pillars. He then spat upon the ground, and taking a pen in hand, began to write a narrative of all the creation.
In the beginning he created six gods from himself and from his light, and their creation was as one lights a light from another light. And God said, “Now I have created the heavens; let some one of you go up and create something therein.” Thereupon the second god ascended and created the sun; the third, the moon; the fourth, the vault of heaven; the fifth, the farg (i.e., the morning star); the sixth, paradise; the seventh, hell. We have already told you that after this they created Adam and Eve.
And know that besides the flood of Noah, there was another flood in this world. Now our sect, the Yezidis, are descended from Naumi, an honored person, king of peace. We call him Melek Miran. The other sects are descended from Ham, who despised his father. The ship rested at a village called Ain Sifni,distant from Mosul about five parasangs. The cause of the first flood was the mockery of those who were without, Jews, Christians, Moslems, and others descended from Adam and Eve. We, on the other hand, are descended from Adam only, as already indicated: This second flood came upon our sect, the Yezidis. As the water rose and the ship floated, it came above Mount Sinjar,where it ran aground and was pierced by a rock. The serpent twisted itself like a cake and stopped the hole. Then the ship moved on and rested on Mount Judie.
Now the species of the serpent increased, and began to bite man and animal. It was finally caught and burned, and from its ashes fleas were created. From the time of the flood until now are seven thousand years. In every thousand years one of the seven gods descends to establish rules, statutes, and laws, after which he returns to his abode. While below, he sojourns with us, for we have every kind of holy places. This last time the god dwelt among us longer than any of the other gods who came before him. He confirmed the saints. He spoke in the Kurdish language. He also illuminated Mohammed, the prophet of the Ishmaelites, who had a servant named Muwiya, When God saw that Mohammed was not upright before him, he afflicted him with a headache. The prophet then asked his servant to shave his head, for Muwiya knew how to shave. He shaved his master in haste, and with some difficulty. As a result, he cut his head and made it bleed. Fearing that the blood might drop to the ground, Muwiya licked it with his tongue. Whereupon Mohammed asked, “What are you doing, Muwiya?” He replied, “I licked thy blood with my tongue, for I feared that it might drop to the ground.” Then Mohammed said to him, “You have sinned, O Muwiya, you shall draw a nation after you. You shall oppose my sect.” Muwiya answered and said, “Then I will not enter the world; I will not marry!”
It came to pass that after some time God sent scorpions upon Muwiya, which bit him, causing his face to break out with poison. Physicians urged him to marry lest he die. Hearing this, he consented. They brought him an old woman, eighty years of age, in order that no child might be born. Muwiya knew his wife, and in the morning she appeared a woman of twenty-five, by the power of the great God. And she conceived and bore our god Yezid. But the foreign sects, ignorant of this fact, say that our god came from heaven, despised and driven out by the great God. For this reason they blaspheme him. In this they have erred. But we, the Yezidi sect, believe this not, for we know that he is one of the above-mentioned seven gods. We know the form of his person and his image. It is the form of a cock which we possess. None of us is allowed to utter his name, nor anything that resembles it, such as eitn (Satan), aitn (cord), ar (evil), at (river), and the like. Nor do we pronounce maln (accursed), or laanat (curse), or naal (horseshoe), or any word that has a similar sound. All these are forbidden us out of respect for him. So hass (lettuce) is debarred. We do not eat it, for it sounds like the name of our prophetess Hassiah. Fish is prohibited, in honor of Jonah the prophet. Likewise deer, for deer are the sheep of one of our prophets. The peacock is forbidden to our eich and his disciples, for the sake of our Ts. Squash also is debarred. It is forbidden to pass water while standing, or to dress up while sitting down, or to go to the toilet room, or to take a bath according to the custom of the people.Whosoever does contrary to this is an infidel. Now the other sects, Jews, Christians, Moslems, and others, know not these things, because they dislike Melek Ts. He, therefore, does not teach them, nor does he visit them. But he dwelt among us; he delivered to us the doctrines, the rules, and the traditions, all of which have become an inheritance, handed down from father to son. After this, Melek Ts returned to heaven.
One of the seven gods made the sanjaks (standards) and gave them to Solomon the wise. After his death our kings received them. And when our god, the barbarian Yezd, was born, he received these sanjaks with great reverence, and bestowed them upon our sect. Moreover, he composed two songs in the Kurdish language to be sung before the sanjaks in this language, which is the most ancient and acceptable one. The meaning of the song is this:
Hallelujah to the jealous God.
As they sing it, they march before the sanjaks with timbrels and pipes. These sanjaks remain with our emir, who sits on the throne of Yezid. When these are sent away, the kawwls assemble with the emir, and the great general, the eich, who is the representative of eich Nasir-ad-Dn, i.e., Nisroch, god of the ancient Assyrians.They visit the sanjaks. Then they send each sanjak in care of a kawwl to its own place; one to Halataneye, one to Aleppo, one to Russia, and one to Sinjar. These sanjaks are given to four kawwls by contract. Before they are sent, they are brought to eich Ad’s tomb, where they are baptized amid great singing and dancing. After this each of the contractors takes a load of dust from eich Ad’s -tomb. He fashions it into small balls, each about the size of a gall nut, and carries them along with the sanjaks to give them away as blessings. When he approaches a town, he sends. a crier before him to prepare the people to accept the kawwl and his sanjak with respect and honor. All turn out in fine clothes, carrying incense. The women shout, and all together sing joyful songs. The kawwl is entertained by the people with whom he stops. The rest give him silver presents, everyone according to their means.
Besides these four sanjaks, there are three others, seven in all. These three are kept in a sacred place for purposes of healing. Two of them, however, remain with eich Ad, and the third remains in the village of Bahazanie, which is distant from Mosul about four hours. Every four months these kawwlstravel about. One of them must travel in the province of the emir. They travel in a fixed order, differing each year. Every time he goes out, the traveler must cleanse himself with water made sour with summak (sumac) and anoint himself with an oil. He must also light a lamp at each idol that has a chamber. This is the law that pertains to the sanjaks.
The first day of our new year is called the Serslie, i.e., the beginning of a year. It falls on the Wednesday of the first week in April. On that day there must be meat in every family. The wealthy must slaughter a lamb or an ox; the poor must kill a chicken or something else. These should be cooked on the night, the morning of which is Wednesday, New Year’s day. With the break of day the food should be blessed. On the first day of the year alms should be given at the tombs where the souls of the dead lie.
Now the girls, large and small, are to gather from the fields flowers of every kind that have a reddish color. They are to make them into bundles, and, after keeping them three days, they are to hang them on the doors as a sign of the baptism of the people living in the houses. In the morning all doors will be seen well decorated with red lilies. But women are to feed the poor and needy who pass by and have no food; this is to be done at the graves. But as to the kawwls, they are to go around the tombs with timbrels, singing in the Kurdish language. For so doing they are entitled to money. On the above-mentioned day of Serslie no instruments of joy are to be played, because God is sitting on the throne (arranging decrees for the year), and commanding all the wise and the neighbors to come to him, And when he tells them that he will come down to earth with song and praise, all arise and rejoice before him and throw upon each the squash of the feast. Then God seals them with his own seal. And the great God gives a sealed decision to the god who is to come down. He, moreover, grants him power to do all things according to his own will. God prefers doing good and charity to fasting and praying. The worship of any idol, such as Seyed-ad-Dn or eich ams is better than fasting. Some layman is to give a banquet to a kchak after the fasting of the latter forty days, whether it be in summer or in winter. If he (the kchak) says this entertainment is an alms given to the sanjak then he is not released from his fasting. When it comes to pass that the yearly tithe-gatherer finds that the people have not fully paid their tithes, he whips them till they become sick, and some even die. The people are to give the kchaks money to fight the Roman army, and thus save the sect (Yezidis) from the wrath of the man of the year.
Every Friday a load of gifts is to be brought as an offering to an idol. At that time, a servant is to call the people aloud from the roof of a kchak’s house, saying, it is the call of the prophet to a feast. All are to listen reverently and respectfully; and, on hearing it, every one is to kiss the ground and the stone on which he happens to lean.
It is our law that no kawwl shall pass a razor over his face. Our law regarding marriage is that at the time of the wedding a loaf of bread shall be taken from the house of a kchak and be divided between the bride and the bridegroom, each to eat one-half. They may, however, eat some dust from eich Ad’s tomb instead of the bread for a blessing. Marriage in the month of April is forbidden, for it is the first month of the year. This rule, however, does not apply to kawwls; they may marry during this month. No layman is allowed to marry a kchak’s daughter. Everyone is to take a wife from his own class. But our emir may have for a wife any one whom he pleases to love. A layman may marry between the ages of ten and eighty; he may take for a wife one woman after another for a period of one year. On her way to the house of the bridegroom, a bride must visit the shrine of every idol she may happen to pass; even if she pass a Christian church, she must do the same. On her arrival at the bridegroom’s house, he must hit her with a small stone in token of the fact that she must be under his authority. Moreover, a loaf of bread must be broken over her head as a sip to her that she must love the poor and needy. No Yezidi may sleep with his wife on the night the morning of which is Wednesday, and the night the morning of which is Friday. Whosoever does contrary to this commandment is an infidel. If a man steal the wife of his neighbor, or his own former wife, or her sister or mother, he is not obliged to give her dowry, for she is the booty of his hand. Daughters may not inherit their father’s wealth. A young lady may be sold as an acre of land is sold. If she refuses to be married, then she must redeem herself by paying her father a sum of money earned by her service and the labor of her hand.