The Mystery ofAzhdahak

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The people you will likely encounter in the Geghama mountain range will either be Herders, Scientists or Tourists.

It is the beauty of mount Azdhahak and its surroundings have long attracted tourists from worldwide. Yet the probability of different hiking groups encountering each other is small. Factors such as the distance from villages, the weather conditions i.e. thunder, lightning, hail, snow and fog with which can bring visibility down to 2-3 meters at most.

Yazidis - engaged in cattle breeding

The Yazidis - these people are one of the national minorities of Armenia. Nomadic stockbreeding is their major occupation. In the rest of Armenia they also breed sheep and goats. By the summertime they move their herds up into the Geghama Mountains to feed them on a healthy diet of succulent grass and fresh spring water. These cattle produce the most ecologically pure milk, from which the Yazidis make cheese, butter, matsun, tan. They live in military tents with families and even with infants. Their language is Kurmanji, north Kurdish dialect. However in order to define their separate identity the Yazidis call their language "Ezdiki".

The Yazidis (endo-ethnonym: Ezdi) are an ethno-confessional group whose main identity is their religion known as Yazidism or Sharfadin. Yazidism was shaped during the 11th-13th centuries AD in the town of Sinjar, north Iraq. Sinjar remained the center of Yazidism until the present day. Upon the Sinjara mountains is located the most sacred place of the Yazidis, the temple of Lalesh. This is the resting place of Sheikh Adi Ibn Musafir Al-Hakkari (founder of the Adawiyya Sufi order: Born in the village of Bait Far in Syria in the 1070's - died at Lalesh 1162). Each Yazidi is expected to make at least one pilgrimage here.

The folk culture of the Yazidis, the greatest wealth of folklore, the social structure of the Yazidi society, as well as the customs and norms of behaviour are all stipulated by the unique religious ideology of this people.

Yazidi's settlement

For a long time Yazidism remained an enigma for researchers, travelers and even the nations the Yazidi live in, because of the secretive and esoteric nature of their religious doctrine. This resulted in a wrongly applied epithet of Devil-worshippers to the Yazidis (Satan's worshippers, Toufelsanheltern). The Yazidis as zoroastrians esteem the Sun as the prime source of life and its light the visible presence of God on earth. Fire is also revered, it being seen as another aspect of the sun nature on the earth. This causes them to be referred to as "sun-worshippers" or "fire-worshippers". The Yazidis are similar to the Zoroastrians; both are strictly forbidden to desecrate fire, including verbal desecration. Extinguishing fire by water in any circumstances is also forbidden, as that is desecration of two elements at once.

Yazidism is a syncretic doctrine. It combines the belief in the One God with the veneration of the Holy Trinity - Melek Tawuse (the Peacock Angel), Sheikh Adi and Sultan Yazid (all being the incarnations of God), as well as an extensive popular Pantheon including a number of divinities, saints and patron-deities having their parallels both in the Iranian and Semitic traditions. Melek Tawuse (Taw-Sun, u-and, se-a shadow, Melek-the Archangel) - the principal member of the Holy Trinity is an ambivalent figure combining the features and attributes of a divinity with the nature of the fallen angel. Therefore so-called Apology of Satan existed in Yazidism that is - Any abusive treatment of Melek Taus is punishable and there is even a taboo on the word "Satan" itself. There are many stories and legends about Tawuse Melek only exist in oral form. One legend tells that Tawuse Melek refused to obey the man, for that the God punished Melek Tawuse expelling him from paradise and appointed him to rule the hell. For 7000 years Tawuse Melek has languished in loneliness and during these years he has flooded the hell with tears. The God forgave him and ennobled him to the sky.

Inside the tent

Homemade bread

Yazidi's settlement

Yazidism is not missionary religion. Yazidism cannot be adopted as a religion; a Yazidi can only be born from the Yazidi father and Yazidi mother. The apology of Satan in many ways approximates the Yazidi doctrine with Sufism traced fragmentarily in some other aspects of this unique religion.

There are three main castes in Yazidi's society: the Shaykhs, the Pirs (clergy) and Murids (laymen). Of course, the hierarchical structure of the Yazidi society is far more compounded and is represented by some more social strata (e.g. Kochaks, Faqirs, Qawwals, Farrashes), however, they are important only for the spiritual centre of Yazidism, processes like the temple service, organization of religious festivals, etc. Each Yazidi, regardless to his caste affiliation, is entitled to spiritual tutors from the Shaykh and Pir families and above all, a "brother" or a "sister" of the after-life". This spiritual guidance is a crucial element of Yazidi society. It is the basic element of their cultural and religious preservation and identity.

A crucial objective of spiritual discipleship that determines the membership in the Yazidi community is retaining the three basic principles of the Yazidism: ruling out miscegenation, intermarriage with the heterodox, a rigid pursuit of Yazidi Faith.

Yazidis believe in reincarnation. Influenced by the zoroastrism the Sun, the Earth, the Water, the Air and the Fire play basic role in Yasidi's cosmogony. These elements are considered as as the most sacred elements.

A 25 year old yazidi mother

Yazidis identity, in the course of its multi-century development, has elaborated the two clearly recognizable components: the distinct delimitation from the Islam - religiously and from the Kurds - ethnically. That may be caused by the permanent persecution of the Yаzidis along with Christian communities by the Ottoman Turkish government and the Kurds. As a result Yаzidis migrated to Transcaucasia in 19th and later in early 20th century to Armenia, and later to Russia. These two countries with friendly Christian environment became the homeland for this nation.

The Yazidis of Armenia have many times proved their patriotism to the country and greatly assisted the Armenian people in their struggle for independence against the Turks in 1918, when Turkish aggression threatens Armenia and in the beginning of 1990 when Azerbaijan began attacking the Armenian frontier. The Yazadi population of Armenia has been reduced in recent years due to economic migration. Most of these migrants are laymen (Mureed), while members of the clerical caste (Pir), who are entrusted with the upkeep of the culture, remain to keep the religious instruction of those still living in Armenia.

It is clear that the Yazidis are truly one of the most ancient nations of the world, having preserved their national identity, language, ceremonies and traditions.

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In writing this paper, use was made of excerpts from the book "The Ethnic Minorities of Armenia" by G. Asatryan and V. Arakelova.