Many thanks to A Burjus for answering my questions and being prepared to share his personal view of his religion with me. In an effort to retain his voice I have largely posted his replies unadulterated.
Disclaimer: Please understand that this blog interview is a very subjective, personal view of the Ezidi faith and does not claim to be an exhaustive, academic account. Neither does it claim to represent the views of all Ezidi people.
Q: Welcome and many thanks for agreeing to share your religion with us. How do you like to be called? I’ve seen your religion written Yezidi, or Ezidi- what do you like it to be called? How did your religion come about?
A: Before I answer your question, I would like to mention that there is very little true information about the religion because Ezidis have faced 74 genocides and hundreds of ethnic cleansings in their history. In addition, the Ezidi were not permitted to write about their religion in Iraq and Syria, where the majority of Ezidis are living, until 2003. In addition, Ezidi people were forced to live in villages and rural area where very little or no education was available. As a result, the Ezidi couldn’t write information about their religion, traditions and so on during the computer or electronic era. At the same time, many Muslim writers especially Iraqi-Arabs have written much incorrect information about Ezidis and their religion and until now there are hundreds of books and electronic pages filled with wrong information about Ezidis and their religion.
The correct name is Ezidi ( Ezi = God in our language) and the whole word means ‘God followers’, but, Yazidi or Yezidi is also true and is used more than Ezidi in the press and media. Quote: (Since their founding many thousands of years ago in India, these people have always been known as the Yezidis or Yazidis. According to Eszter Spat in The Yezidis, the name is derived from ez Xwede dam, meaning “I was created by God.” Some Yezidis maintain that it translates as “Followers of the true path.” The term Yezidi or Yazidi is also very close to the Persion/Zoroastrian word Yazdan, meaning “God“, and Yazata, meaning “divine” or “angelic being“.
For this reason some scholars have theorized a Persian origin for the Yezidis. Other scholars have associated the name Yazidi with Yazid bin Muawiyah, a Moslem Caliph of the early Umayyad Dynasty. According to the current Yezidi belief, however, the Yazidi religion has nothing at all to do with Yazidi bin Muawiyah, the Amoy leader and we believe that the Caliph Yazid was a Moslem ruler who eventually became disenchanted with his religion and converted to Yezidism). Source http://www.yeziditruth.org/the_yezidis
Q: I’ve heard that it is linked to Zoroastrianism. Is this true? Can you give me a brief history?
A: We believe and also many historic researchers believe that Yazidism is the first and very ancient religion on the earth. This means Yazidism is even older than Zoroastrianism. Yazidism and Zoroastrianism have many common links as both sanctify the four elements which are water, soil, wind and fire.
Q: What are the main ideas in your religion? Who do you worship?
A: We believe in One God and 7 angels. We call the head of the Angels Taws Malak or Peacock Angel. Many people believe that the Yazidi worship the Peacock Angel without God!!! And they thought that Peacock Angel is the devil! That’s why they called us Devil Worshippers. Please read in this website more about peacock angel http://www.yeziditruth.org/the_peacock_angel
Q: What are the main festivals?
A: The Yezidi religious year includes four main holy festivals: The New Year, The Feast of Sacrifice, The Feast of Seven Days, Sept 23-30, The first Friday of December feast following three days of fasting.
Q: What is the role of women – are they considered equal? Do they have any religious roles?
A: Women and men are equal in Yezidism…They have the same religious role as men.
Q: What religious artifacts do you like to have in your homes?
A: We have special shape of temple for all our religious places and I would like to have this artifact in my home…If you googled Lalish Yazidi temple you will see the shape
Q: Do you have any holy texts/ books and what are they called?
A: Our religious texts are memorised or save by heart by special religious groups and they transfer from one person to another(like school). This happens because in our history we believe that the enemy burned all our text and books and the only way to save the religious text was by memorizing by group of special people. We say that we have 2 books but we don’t have them in our hand and we don’t know what they contain!!! Here is some information about those books http://www.yeziditruth.org/yezidi_scriptures
Q: I’ve heard that your religion is very much supportive of wildlife and nature? Is this true and where does it come from? What is the relationship between Yezidism and nature?
A: Yezidism is very supportive to nature. We believe that the all universe and all organisms are made from nature and then we sanctify four natural elements, water, soil, wind and fire. In addition, we sanctify the sun and the moon too because we believe that they are the only source of the energy that the universe and organisms rely on. Also we see the greatness of God from the sun and the natural elements as we say if you think God is not found then think about the power of sun and the nature and you will see the God. I recommend you to read this http://www.yeziditruth.org/yezidi_religious_tradition But even in this website there’s some incorrect information so please be aware…
Q: Thank you. That is a lot of very interesting information. I have learnt a lot more about the Ezidi faith. Just a few more queries. The special people who memorise the holy stories- can they be women too? I have seen pictures of Sheikhs on facebook, blessing people. Do these exist in your form of faith, who/ what are they and what is their role?
A: Yes they can be women and we have women who tell religious stories or text but the number of men are much more especially within Qawal categories…The Qawels
The Qawels are the bards and sacred singers. They bring forth religious knowledge, sacred hymns, songs and stories at special Yezidi gatherings and ceremonies, and they do so to the accompaniment of flutes, tambourines and other sacred instruments. Their roles are hereditary, and their wisdom is normally passed from parent to child. They reside principally in the Beshiqe-Behzani region of northen Iraq.
Sheikhs, who memorise religious texts, are mainly from the Qawal category as mentioned above however, other people can do that if they want and this is totally dependent on the person him/herself again…for example, my grandfather knows all most all religious text and role in Yazidism but he is not a formal religious leader.
We have also Kochek …The Kocheks, or “seers,” are servants of the Sanctuary of Lalish. Because they are blessed with spiritual gifts, such as clairvoyance, they can psychically diagnose illness and they even know the fate of a soul after leaving the body of the deceased. There are only a few Kocheks left, and they mostly reside in the Sinjar Mountains of northern Iraq. The female counterpart of Kocheks are known as Faqras. They are recognized as holy women with supernatural power. Kocheks and Faqras can come from any of the three main castes.
Q: Is anybody writing down any of the information they have memorised?
A: Recently, in 2005, the Ministry of higher Education in Kurdistan-Iraq finally agreed that Yazidi people can study and learn from a religious book called EZIDIATI…This book contains all prayers, traditional, many but not all religious texts and roles…This book is at many levels from primary school to middle school to secondary school…and now the Yazidi children are learning it.
Q: Why is there a preference for white clothing?
A: WHITE CLOTHES are a symbol of peace in our religion so almost all Yazidis
wear white clothes… We mean by that the human heart must be white, and we must act as a peaceful and truthful person.
Q: Does the faith have any formal organisation? Is there any idea yet of the amount of loss to the religion from the Daesh genocide in terms of the people holding the information in their memories?
A: Yazidi have a high spiritual religious committee that runs everything about the religion
Yes, Yazidis have lost some of the religious leaders during Daesh attacks.
Q: And finally what does your religion mean to you? How has it helped you in your life?
A: For me personally, I am not such a religious person but I believe in God and my religion but I am not doing all religious roles such as prayer and so on…My religion means for me a peace. I and all Yazidi people learn how to be a very peaceful people. For example, in one of our prayer we say ”’God please save all people on the earth and all organisms including Yazidis’. This means we are pray for everyone before praying for ourselves as Yazidis. My religion teaches me how to respect other people from different religions on the basis of humanity not religion…This point makes Yazidis a target because we never ever had targeted any people even when we were powerful historically and we always forgave those who were killing us.
In conclusion, Yezidism and its roles and traditions are not something obligational for the believer. I mean our religious people do not force us to pray or carry out religious roles and so on and it totally depends on person and that is the best part about my religion.
Wow, what an interesting and inspiring religion. Thank you so much for sharing this with me and for answering all my questions.