Yezidism—Its Background, Observances and Textual Tradition
Philip G. Kreyenbroek
The Edwin Mellen Press
There is probably no factor that has influenced the perception of Yezidism, both in the Middle East and in the West, as much as the erroneous epithet “devil-worshipper”. In the past, when there was open hostility between the Muslim community and the Yezidis, the epithet probably did more than any theological debate1 to make it clear to all that the Yezidis were non-Muslims who were not entitled to any protection under Islamic Law. Moreover, it seemed to justify the severe ill-treatment to which they were regularly subjected.2 For Western scholars, a genuine academic curiosity about the phenomenon of devil-worship may have been blended with a romantic interest in this secretive but cleanly and friendly group of Oriental ‘pagans’, whose strange cult might contain traces of one or more of the great ancient religions of the Middle East.3 This combination of romantic appeal with an intriguing intellectual challenge probably accounts for the intense academic interest in Yezidism of the latter half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth.4 Evidence of this interest began to emerge in the 1830s and 1840s with the works of travellers such as Ainsworth, Badger and Layard,5 whose works clearly inspired further scholarly curiosity.