Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/490

This page has been validated.


THE Yezidees, sometimes called "Devil-worshipers" are one of the half-dozen curious and interesting sects outside of Islam who live in Mesopotamia. But little is known of their inner life except to the initiated, for they resist all attempts to question them; and, when driven into a corner, will put off the inquirer with a fiction. The acceptation of these stories as true has been the origin of mistaken conceptions concerning them. Complete reservation of their religious precepts from strangers is one of their most binding obligations. To make secrecy more effective, the founder of the sect. Sheik Adi, decreed that only a single person at a time should be initiated into the mysteries, and designated as the person to whom the secret should be confided, the eldest heir of the tribe of Hassan el Bassri. Previous to his initiation this person is to be instructed in written Arabic, knowledge of which is forbidden to all others of the race, under penalty of death and loss of eternal salvation. The instruction takes place in a room from which all other persons are excluded. The text-book is the Koran, the only book obtainable in the country; but as this book contains many unflattering mentions of the devil, whose name no Yezidee must hear or pronounce or read, a friendly Christian is employed to procure the copy to be used and carefully cover all places where the devil is named with wax. If now by any accident the devil's name should be seen on the page during the studies, the book is shut at once, with an invocation, and thrown into the fire, and another one is procured. When the course of instruction is completed, the Koran is burned at once, because it is a wicked, blasphemous book, which should not be tolerated in the house of a Yezidee except under the sternest necessity. Instead of being devil-worshipers, as they are commonly called, the Yezidee religion is so fortunate as to have no devil.

By a most extraordinary accident the author obtained the sacred book of the Yezidees, whose place of concealment is known only to the single initiated, and was able to keep it long enough to copy it. Previous to entering upon the analysis of its contents, it will be proper to give a short account of the Yezidee people. They belong to the Kurdish race, and claim a population of three million souls. They are distributed in villages, residence in cities being forbidden, a few living in the provinces of Damascus, Aleppo, and Diarbekir, a greater number in the province of Mosul and the Russian district of Erivan. They are all subject, body and soul, to a chief who must be of the family of Sheik Adi,