Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 34.djvu/491

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
475
THE YEZIDEES, OR DEVIL-WORSHIPERS.

and who resides at Baadri, in the district of Shechan. He receives a considerable tribute from his people, and has in turn to keep Tip the temple and grave of Sheik Adi. The present chief is Myrza Bey, a son of Hussein Bey, who a few years ago died of drunkenness. He was the third of eight brothers, and had no right to the succession, but he formed a party and advanced claims. In the contest which followed, his elder brothers fell by his hand, and he thus made himself master of the situation. He then managed to make his peace with the Turkish Government, and was recognized by it. The Myr, as the chief is called, has supreme control of all the possessions of the Yezidees. To deny a wish expressed by him is to incur very unpleasant results in this world, and also to bring upon one's self the consequences of having offended the bodily descendant and representative on the earth of the great prophet Sheik Adi. All contests are settled at his tribunal, not by any fixed law, but according to his will and passing mood. Bloodshedding is atoned for by pecuniary indemnity; adulterous women are executed by their husbands without further proceedings. The Turkish Government is satisfied to receive its tribute, and lets the internal affairs of the people alone. It deals with the Myr, to a certain extent, as a state within a state. The Yezidees will not serve in the Turkish army, because their religion forbids them to mingle with the hated Mussulmans, but escape by paying a good round commutation fee yearly. The people are at the lowest stage of civilization, with no hope of rising so long as Sheik Adi's rules are in force. Under the influence of these conditions and of the prejudices of their neighbors against them, they have become a sinister, malicious, treacherous people. The rite of hospitality, so sacred among the Bedouins, is unknown to them. No one can feel safe among them. They attach no value to human life. To these ordinary dangers are added those arising from the embarrassing etiquette of conversational intercourse with them; for if any one inadvertently lets escape the word devil, Satan, or anything sounding like it, he commits a mortal offense; and to cut off his head is a God-pleasing act, and a sacred duty of the Yezidee, the fulfillment of which will insure him a place in paradise. Several letters are in like manner wholly banished from the language, chiefly those which contain the sound of a "shun"; also the Arabic word nallet, "Thou art damned," which was spoken by God to the fallen angel when he pitched him into hell. Therefore all words containing similar sounds are set aside, and other combinations not belonging to any language are used in their stead.

The Yezidees in the level regions of Shechan are quiet farmers and stock-raisers, paying their tribute to the Turkish Government without remonstrance; but on the Jebel Sindiia they are