Thursday, June 25, 2015

Applying History #2: Disciples of the Peacock Angel

The Dawaaseen (singular: Daasin), more commonly known as Yezidis or Yazidis, are an ethnic and religious group based primarily in Iraq but also in Armenia, Turkey, &c. They believe that they are holders of a cultural tradition which was otherwise lost when the Kurdish people converted to Islam.
For most of their history they have been most well-known for allegations of devil worship, but some people nowadays may know them from reports of persecution by Daish in Iraq. Many have expatriated from Iraq, Turkey, and elsewhere in the Middle East to Europe, especially Germany (which now has more than 100,000 Dawaaseen).
Some sources disagree on certain details of the Daasin religion. For the sake of conserving space I’ve erred on the side of the majority view. Not even YezidiTruth.org— which is dedicated to dispelling false beliefs about the Dawaaseen— appears to be written by the people it describes, so I am left only with secondhand sources.

Other names: the Izidis (worshipers of God); Êzidî/Êzîdî; Yazdani
Agriculture and domesticated animals: The Dawaaseen cultivate almonds, figs, grapes, and nuts. They raise sheep and cattle. This is how they have traditionally made their living, and they customarily regard most other kinds of business as leading to dishonesty. The goat is especially revered “because, like the Hindus’ cow, it sacrifices itself and supplies many of their needs.”
Architecture: The Dawaasen divide themselves into the Ahl al-hadr (people of the villages) and Ahl al-wabar (people of the tents). The Ahl al-hadr live in villages of up to sixty houses, which are made from brick, clay, or stone and covered with white plaster. They are divided into three rooms and supported by wood pillars. The tents of the Ahl al-wabar are typically large enough to hold five people.
Clothing: Men and married women wear shirts which are closed up to the neck. Men wear white trousers and cloaks, and women wear white skirts or white trousers. Clothing can also relate to caste (described in Social structure). Members of the peer caste wear turbans whose color signifies their subcaste; the fakirs, who were a general religious order which gradually became hereditary, wear black turbans. The Jab-Nabba subcaste of the Murids wore given to wearing woolen shirts.
Family: Clan chiefs may be polygamous, but this is an exception to the usual rule. Clans do not intermarry and do not accept converts. They believe that they are descended from Adam alone, who produced a son on his own. This son married an angel, and since that time none of their descendants were permitted to marry any of the children of Eve. Marriage happens at a young age, typically between thirteen and fifteen. Both mutual attraction and permission from the family heads are required. Property is held by men and inherited by a man’s sons. Where he has none, it is divided among the deceased’s brothers and cousins.
Mythology: The Dawaaseen respect the Torah, the New Testament, and the Koran, and some of their beliefs can be traced back to Assyrian Christianity and Islam. It is believed that the most direct connection is to a local ‘Adawiyya Sufi order whose philosophies were syncretized with local beliefs.
They believe that there is one God above all other beings, named Hâk/Haq. God created the world (which was first a pearl) but then handed it off to seven divine emanations of God’s own light, the Heptad, also called Angels or heft sirr (Seven Mysteries). Their leader is Tawûsê Melek or Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. Another of their number is Shaykh Shams al-Din (the Sun of the Faith).
It is said that when God created Adam, God commanded all the other beings to bow down to him. All did so except for Tawûsê Melek, who responded, “How can I submit to another being? For I am your illumination while Adam is made of dust!” For this cause Tawûsê Melek found favor with God and was given dominion over the world, but because of the similarities to the Iblis myth in Islam (where Iblis is cast out of Heaven for this same act) non-Dawaaseen have accused them of being devil worshipers. Because anything which God truly wills must certainly come to pass, but God did not force Tawûsê Melek to bow to Adam, the Dawaaseen believe that this was only a test on God’s part to see if God’s servant understood his place.
Of note is the Kitêba Cilwe (Book of Illumination/Revelation), which claims to be the word of Tawûsê Melek just as the Koran is the word of God through the angel Gabriel. In this book Tawûsê Melek claims that the world has been given over to him to administer it in God’s place, and it is not the place of humans to question his will. It is their duty to choose between the good and the evil, as he did when he was told to bow to Adam. While the book is believed to be a forgery, insofar as it was not written until the Twentieth Century, scholars still agree that it is an accurate reflection of Daasin beliefs.
Most interestingly, there was a fiery hell in Daasin myth, but is no longer. When Tawûsê Melek descended from Heaven for the first time, he saw the suffering of the world and cried until his tears had extinguished the fires of Hell.
Central to Daasin cosmology is the idea of cycles. Souls are reincarnated upon death, into either human, animal, or plant bodies according to their righteousness or lack thereof. Excommunication from the Daasin community can potentially expel one from this cycle, however. There are also cycles to the universe, each greater than the last and presided over seven reincarnated beings, called the akoasasa, the last of whom is always an incarnation of God. We are living in the sixth cycle.
Purity Laws: For reasons of ritual purity, the Dawaaseen do not eat cauliflower, chicken, fish, gazelle, lettuce, okra, pork, pumpkin, or the marrow of the bone. According to reports which care to mention this detail, the purity laws apply only to “holy men” and not to the laity.
Social structure: The clans of the Dawaaseen are divided into three castes: the Mrit or Murids (singular: Myur), the Pyirs or Peers, and the Sheikhs. These castes may not intermarry. The Murids, who comprise the laity, are considered disciples to individual sheikhs or peers.
Religious positions are given mostly to the peers, with some given to the sheiks, and are hereditary. Most priests are men, but women who happen to inherit such a position are given all the authority that a man would have in her position. The fakirs are the lowest-ranking members of the peer caste, charged with “menial tasks… such as hewing wood, drawing water, and collecting contributions for the upkeep of the shrine.” Kawwâls are religious musicians, employing the drum,  flute, and tambourine.
There are only five families of sheikhs, each tracing their bloodline to one of the students or brothers of the first chief sheikh, ‘Adi. Each chief sheikh is chosen from among the descendants of the previous chief. Women may not serve as the chief sheikh. The chief sheikh of the community is always a religious authority (the house of a sheikh is regarded as a place of worship) and may also be a secular authority. In some times and places, however, this authority is given to an emir.
Notable sources:
Worldbuilding: What is most interesting to me here is the idea of reincarnation. Admittedly, this concept isn’t unique to the Dawaaseen, but let’s run with it for a moment.
Turn it ninety degrees, if you would, and take a look at the idea from a new perspective: The wicked are reborn into animal and plant bodies. After being sufficiently purified, they are reborn into human bodies. What, then, is implied by the fact that we are living in an age of extinctions?
The Creed of the Eight-by-Eighty Divines is a young sect, only a generation old. It is highly concerned with the future, especially scientific developments, and has an interesting perspective of what some might call the costs of progress. Where most are disheartened by ecological damage and the extinctions of plants and animals, adherents of the Creed find this a reason to be in good spirits.
Imagine, for a moment, that there were no animals or plants, but only humans. This would imply that there were no wicked people, or at least none wicked enough to necessitate rebirth as lower lifeforms. If non-human life is being destroyed, then, it easily follows that this is a result of there being less need for them. The rising human population is also a good sign: more and more people are being purified and rising from animal and plant bodies.

Adherents of the Creed believe that this is leading to a future which is devoid of non-human life and where all people are good (or at least good enough). Food, oxygen, and other requirements will be produced by machines. Eventually, once all people have been sufficiently purified, the purpose of death will be fulfilled and God will inspire humans with the knowledge of how to make people immortal.  
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