Who are the Yezidi?
The Yezidi are a Kurdish-speaking people group that mostly live in northern Iraq.
Their religious practices borrow from different belief systems. While Sufi terminology is embedded in their vocabulary, some Yezidi are circumcised following the practices of Judaism. They also practice baptism like in Christianity.
Some who have studied the Yezidi have concluded that they are bird worshippers. The preeminent deity among the Yezidi is named Melek Tawus, a Peacock Angel. The Yezidi believe God created Melek Tawus, who was the first of seven archangels that he made before Adam. When Adam was made, God told the archangels to bow to him, but Melek Tawus refused. God then praised Melek Tawus and gave him jurisdiction over the earth. Yezidis believe God’s command was only a test, which Melek Tawus passed.
To some, Melek Tawus’ rebellion against God is reminiscent of Lucifer’s rebellion against God as recorded in the Bible. This is one reason why many consider the Yezidi devil worshippers.
The Yezidi have had numerous conflicts with their Muslim neighbors over the centuries due in part to the belief that they worship the devil. The Yezidi call Melek Tawus “Shaytan,” which is the word the Quran uses for “Satan.” Muslims also identify Melek Tawus’ rebellion with Satan’s rebellion, but instead of being lauded by God for his refusal like in the Yezidi version of the story, he is cursed. The Yezidi’s story of what happened after Melek Tawus’ rebellion, according to Muslims, is a sinister edit of the story inspired by Satan himself.
Modern reporting suggests the Yezidi still hold firm to their controversial beliefs. In 2007, Sean Thomas, a writer for The Telegraph in London, England, wrote about his time with the Yezidi and concluded the group worshipped a bird. But, while speaking with a Yezidi spokesman, he was told this about their religious beliefs:
“We believe [Melek Tawus] is a proud angel, who rebelled and was thrown into hell by God. He stayed there 40,000 years, until his tears quenched the fires of the underworld. Now he is reconciled to God.”
The Yezidi’s use of a peacock may also have origins associated with Satan and demons. In some ancient religions in Turkey, for example, the imagery of birds represents the swift aerial movement often associated with how spirit-beings travel.
Finally, Church of Satan founder Anton LeVay is his book, The Satanic Bible, refers to the Yezidi as “a sect of devil worshippers” (p. 43), adding speculation that there is more to the Yezidi's belief system that the veneration of a bird.
Devil Worship: The Sacred Books and Traditions of the Yezidiz by Isya Joseph (1919