March 17, 2015

The Yezidi New year and its connections with other ancient civilizations

By Nallein Satana Al-Jilwah Sowilo 

The Yezidis celebrate their New Year, Sera Sal i.e. the Head of the Year, with great fanfare. Sera Sal falls on Wednesday in the month of April and is also known as Red Wednesday. This commemorates the day when Tausi Melek, the Peacock Angel, came to Earth for the first time, millions of years ago.  Tausi Melek calmed the planet earth by spreading his peacock wings of rainbow colours and blessed the entire world. One of the key feature of Yezidi New Year celebration is the colouring of eggs, a tradition that can be traced back to ancient Sumerian and Babylonian celebration of spring festival of Ishtar. These coloured eggs are the symbolic representation of Tausi Melek’s  rainbow colours that he is believed to have used for blessing the earth with fertility, hence, the rebirth of the spring season. The eggs are painted red, blue, green, and yellow. The womenfolk’s decorate their homes by placing red flowers and coloured egg shells on top of their front doors so that Tausi Melek can recognize their abode for the blessings.

The Yezidi calendar is dated to be 6764 years old, therefore, it has its origin about 4764 years before the arrival of Christianity and more than 5000 years before the arrival of Islam. On this particular day, at dawn, women dress up in colourful clothing’s and go to the nearby cemeteries with pots of dishes, candies, lamps and other offerings for the dead and fairies which are said to return to earth on Sere Sal. These offerings include oranges, apples, dates, coloured eggs etc. The graves gets transformed into banquets for the spirits that return to their graves, and the offerings are made. Women take to singing and dancing with dehol (drum) and zorna (shawm). Table clothes are spread around on the ground in between the graves and women proceed to feast upon variety of offerings. Also, Red flowers are plastered on doors so the Peacock angel could recognize his people. The colour red represents sacrifice which is demanded of all Yezidis. 

At Lalish, the place where the holy temple for the Yezidis are located,  a bonfire is lit to welcome Tausi Melek. The fire is the divine source of God and Sun. Eggs are boiled to represent how earth was liquid and then got solidified with the coming of Lalish. Marriage is forbidden during the month of April while the earth springs to life. Also forgiveness take place at this time. Many who have been enemies reconcile with mediation by a priest or friend for the sake of the New Year.

One of the most salient feature of the Yezidi New Year is the Parade of the Sanjaks/Peacocks. Sanjaks are bronze lamps surmounted with peacocks. These Sanjaks are taken out from their designated homes, and paraded through the streets of the Yezidi villages. Some Yezidis believe that the Sanjaks have strong Indian connections particularly because of their similarity with the Hindu diyas (lamps) which the Hindus light up in their temples and on auspicious occasions. There are seven Sanjaks in total, each representing six great angels and Tausi Melek. The largest and most important one is the Sheikhni, representing Tausi Melek. At night Mir, the representative of Tausi Melek attends to the Sanjaks with prayers, and offering of incense and oil is made followed by rounds of musical entertainments throughout the entire night. 

The Yezidi new year has resemblances to New Year of the Hindus marked by Holi. Like the Yezidi New Year , Holi also marks the beginning of Spring. Also just as the Yezidis offer lamps (which resembles the Hindu Aarti lamps), the Hindu also have similar fire offerings known as Holika Dahan where bonfires are lit the day before Holi followed by singing and dancing. On the day of the Holi, natural colours are used to show love for each other as divine living entities. The use of colors in both the cultures on New Year day as well as the lighting of lamps in both the cultures point out to inherent connections in the essence of the two beliefs that binds both the Hindus and the Yezidis, two most ancient civilizations on earth.

May the whole world be blessed. May the Yezidis survive all genocides


April 7, 2006


By Ed Corrigan

London Ontario: It is indeed an honour to be invited to celebrate the Yezidis New Year with you. This is year 6756 in the Yezidis calendar. The Yezidis are an ancient and proud people from the heart of Mesopotamia, the birth place of civilization and the birth place of many of the world’s religions. For comparative purposes the Yezidis calendar is 4,750 years older than the Christian or Western calendar. Their calendar is 990 years older than the Jewish religious calendar. The Yezidis is 5329 years older than the Muslim Calendar, currently the year 1427.

There are about 10 Yezidis families in London, Ontario. They are a most interesting minority community. I thank Mirza Ismail for the invitation to this celebration. I have had the privilege of representing Yezidis refugees in the past.

Yezidis are largely based in Iraq but are also found in Syria, Turkey and Iran. There are Yezidis also in Armenia and many have been forced to flee their homeland and many now reside in Germany.

The Yezidi religion is the third largest religion in Iraq after Islam and Christianity. The Yezidis religion was pioneered in Mesopotamia during the Sumerian period four thousand years before BC. It must be regarded as one of the oldest religions in the world, and consequently has greatly influenced mankind’s history. The Yezidis is the historical fore bearer of Judaism and Christianity and Islam. It is contemporaneous to Zoroastrianism and Mithraism.

The Yezidi’s ancient language is close to the Assyrian and Aramaic languages. But, afterwards and due to the Islamic expansion the Yezidis were exposed to the Arabic influences. Throughout history the Yezidis have been subjected too much destruction and oppression. Their holy books “Jalwa and Musaf Rash” were stolen. Their Holy Places destroyed.

Because, the Yezidis were different in religion, and had their own separate unique culture, language and political structures they become as victims of various forces that transverse the Middle East over the past 6,000 years. Yet they survive to this day.

The Yezidis were exposed to a policy of expulsion and assimilation and that is why they fled to the mountains and then many migrated to the European countries especially, Germany in the last century from Turkey. They were then followed by Yezidis from Syria and finally from Iraq. As a result of the Iraqi Ba’ath government policy which aimed to replace Yezidis with Muslims of Arabic nationality on Yezidis agriculture lands and driving the Yezidis from their own lands with the aid of an embargo. This campaign severely affected the Yezidi social and economic situation. Their plight has unfortunately been largely ignored by mankind and in particular by the West in recent years.

In the recent years, the Kurdish Question has over shadowed the Yezidis issue. It appears that the Kurds were trying to assimilate the Yezidis and trying to obscure the Yezidi identity as a separate culture.

History shows that the Yezidis religion was pioneered and developed in Mesopotamia, and we knew also that many other religions were born in same area, like for example, Mithraism and Zoroastrianism. That means, when those religions first came into existence, there were no nations only religious social and political structures that made up the ancient societies that existed in the birth place of human civilization. All Middle Eastern societies and Western civilization owe a profound debt to the religions that sprang from the fertile soils of Mesopotamia.

In terms of human history the concept of nationality is only recent innovation of the last few hundred years. It followed the religious political and social organization that governed most of human kind. Yezidis are from that socio-religious tradition.

It is said that Yezidis religion may be the original Kurdish religion. However, today the Kurds which comprise a nationality are not the same as the Yezidis, although they speak the same language. Yezidis believe in one God without any companion, and the seven Angels. Most of Kurds have become Moslems and were deprived from their Yezidi religion, many by force.

The Yezidis have preserved their religion in spite of the horror of massacres, expulsions and assimilation and forced conversion. That means not all Yezidis are Kurds, but that the Kurds were at one time Yezidis. This point is important in that the Yezidis today are an independent people, religion and culture. They should be recognized as such and protected. They are an important part of our past.

Yezidis were there at the very beginning of human civilization. Above all they are survivors. There are according to some authorities 650,000 to a million Yezidis today. Let us hope that the Yezidis continue to thrive and prosper in the 21st Century as they are an important part of our history and of humanity. To lose the Yezidis is to lose part of our own human heritage.