Yazidi, the worshipers of the Peacock: religion

This article is also available in: Italiano

First part of a 3-episode series dedicated to the Yazidis and their faith. In this episode: the origins, the peacock angel and Sheikh ‘Adi

“Gli adoratori del pavone” by Giuseppe Furlani

All the information on the Yezidis that you will read in this series of 3 articles is derived from “The worshipers of the peacock” by Giuseppe Furlani, an illustrious Assyrologist of the last century, who in 1930 wrote this book, a milestone in the studies on this faith. In fact, it includes not only some notions about the Yezidis (theme of this first episode), but even a very rare translation of the two sacred texts and a series of documents of fundamental importance for understanding their nature and behavior.


The edition of Jouvence also includes other writings but in this series we will focus only on the last parts of the text, in my opinion most useful for a wide-ranging look. For those interested in learning more about the subject, we invite you to purchase this text or, if you prefer English: “Nineveh and Its Remains” by A.H.Layard and if you prefer French: “Les Yézidis – Adorateurs du Diable” by Joachim Menant, both recommended by Furlani himself.

The origins

“The religion of the Yezidis is monotheistic; however, it preserves a certain number of semi-divine or even divine beings who are something intermediate between the supreme God and man – a kind of angels sent by God – which give it a certain polytheistic character. Due to its general character, it is closer to Islam than to the other great religions of Anterior Asia; however, it has some practices in common with Christianity. “

Originally it must have had a greater affinity with Iranian dualism; indeed the adoration of that being who in the beliefs of Christians and Muslims is the Devil, but who is not in the Yezidic ones, is probably nothing more than the ancient worship of the principle of evil, typical of the dualism of Iran. [..] They have some affinity with some ideas of the Ismaili, as well as with the sect of the Druze. On the other hand, they do not seem to have any relationship with the paganism of the ancient Assyrians.

In these words we can trace some of the fundamental points to understand the origins of the Yezidis’ creed, which is of decisive importance for the correct development of our journey. In fact, the text immediately makes it clear that they are not worshipers of the devil but of angels and that, although there are some elements in common, their creed does not derive in any way from the ancient Mesopotamian faiths.


Because of a whole series of characteristics that we will see later, they are in fact more similar to realities such as those of the Ahl Haqq and / or the Druze, religions which, despite having an Islamic basis, draw on even more ancient beliefs and which, as in in this case, they tend to create ethno-religious groups. This is because the faith does not accept conversions and, consequently, believers, despite being of Kurdish ethnicity, are to be seen almost as a reality in their own right within the Kurdish reality (mainly Sunni), so much so that clashes are not rare .

Melek Ta’us, the Peacock Angel

“In their doctrine, on the other hand, he is the supreme of the angels, who after his fall and repentance was put back by God in the primitive and pre-eminent degree. Melek Ta’us is a good God, he is in a certain sense their true God, the active and efficient God, while the supreme God is inactive and does not care for the world. […]

They are so far from worshiping the Devil that they do not have it at all in their religion: they even deny the existence of evil which, they say, is nothing but the complex of those events that are not pleasing to man. Furthermore, as Melek Ta’us corresponds to Jesus Christ in the Christian religion, so Sheikh ‘Adi corresponds to the Prophet Muhammad of Islam.

The Melek Ta’us, or “the peacock angel”, is certainly the most discussed element and which has most fascinated scholars of all time, but is often misinterpreted. His figure is in fact a hybrid between the angel Gabriel and Satan, resulting for some difficult to understand. As we will observe in the next episode, in fact, the Melek Ta’us, with its mistake and repentance, serves man to understand his mistakes and how to remedy them, thus nullifying the evil and relativizing it to a precise moment.

The Melek Ta’us

Furlani connects him in particular to Christ for his role as a semi- / divine figure, but as explained in their sacred book, everything happens in a much simpler and less bloody way and therefore a simple “demonstration for humanity” . The peacock, on the other hand, is a derivative of a Muslim legend that would see him as “the serpent’s helper” in tempting Eve; precisely because of its being associated by the Yezidis with Gabriel and by the Muslims with the Devil will be one of the reasons for tension. It must be said that, albeit with some differences, the peacock is also present in the Druze symbology. Sheikh ‘Adi, as we shall see, is much more like the figure of Muhammad (however present in Yezidism), especially in the guise of “divine reformer saint”. But be careful: the Muhammad of this creed is much closer to the Shiite world and for this reason Sheikh ‘Adi also has the power, for example, of infallibility.

Sheikh ‘Adi

“One day he received a divine revelation which told him to go to a Christian convent and occupy it. When ‘Adi showed up at the convent, the two monks who were the only ones living in the place refused to give it to him. convent with violence, Sheikh ‘Adi went to live in a cave nearby.

After some time, however, the monks, repentant, deprived themselves of their right to the convent in his favor. They begged him to finally communicate a spark of his power. Satisfied with their repentance ‘Adi said: “I give you this cave as a dwelling and I give this ground the ability to cure all diseases of the mouth. Whoever rubs your mouth with the dust of this place, at the same time invoking your names. he will get healing instantly. ” “

In reality, as it turns out shortly after in the text, Sheikh ‘Adi represents himself a kind of prophet of Yezidism, but for purely coincidental reasons. ‘Adi ibn Musafir was in fact a Sufi disciple of al Ghazali and al Gilani who, wanting to take refuge to meditate, took refuge in a Christian convent near Lalish. Here he wrote texts such as “The doctrine of the Orthodox” and “The book of the formation of the soul”, which allowed him to create a certain following around his tomb, which for some time will even be a pilgrimage destination.

Shaykh ‘Adi’s mausoleum in Lalish

With the loss of their entourage, however, some Yezidi families will arrive in this now uninhabited territory, continuing the sanctification of ‘Adi but tying it to their creed. As already said before, in fact, the origin of this sect is not 100% clear, but there is no doubt that it contains many Islamic elements; it is therefore probable that they attributed changes to a single character that took much more time and subject.

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