YAZIDI NON-SATANISM & PLUTONIC PEACOCK PLUMAGE
To be perfectly clear, the Yazidi people are not Satanists. They’re also not devil worshipers. In fact, I read that they don’t even want the topic brought up.
A sometimes insular and frequently persecuted religious and ethnic minority–most recently ISIS targeted them for violent extermination–Yazidis (also spelled “Yezidi”) end up on the tail-end of a lot of devil worship scares.
Most religious, ethnic, or cultural outgroups gets branded “Satanists” eventually, but in this case the danger from such association becomes particularly pointed.
Given that, maybe I shouldn’t even bring it up here. But a couple of recent conversations with some actual Satanists put the topic on my mind, and I’m having trouble setting aside certain ideas. Chiefly when it comes to the subject of the peacock.
The Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Religion’s Christine Allison calls the Yazidis “one of the world’s most endangered religious minorities,” noting that although they “once inhabited a wide area stretching across eastern Turkey, northern Syria, northern Iraq, and western Iran” only Iraq still hosts a significant population.
National Geographic reported in 2014 that “the Yazidis have inhabited the mountains of northwestern Iraq for centuries.”
Though most of them are ethnically Kurdish, their religious beliefs divide them from their neighbors. “While its exact origins are a matter of dispute, some scholars believe that Yazidism was formed when the Sufi leader Adi ibn Musafir settled in Kurdistan in the 12th century,” Nat Geo writes, distinguishing the faith as a mix of some Muslim, Zoroastrian, and Mithraistic beliefs.
A figure called Melek Tawûs (or “Tawsi Melek”) forms the centerpiece of the Yazidi faith. Yazidi Truth, a humanitarian site that promotes education about Yazidi culture, calls Melek Tawûs “the ‘Peacock Angel,’ the true creator and ruler of the universe.”
Yazidis are monotheistic but believe that nested hierarchies of angels act as intermediaries between god and the Earth, with the Peacock Angel being the most prominent and revered.
Unfortunately, to some Muslims this sounds a lot like heresy, and the Peacock Angel, being in some ways a fallen angel, sounds too much like Satan.
Allison writes that in reality “Yazidism has no conceptualization of an Evil Principle; indeed, they find the word ‘Satan’ so offensive that a taboo exists against pronouncing it, or even words that resemble it.” Much like the city of Scottsdale.
But as usual, the libel of devil worship clings to minority populations like cultural irradiation that’s just barely begun its half-life.
Old Anton LaVey–whom I’m now stuck berating two weeks in a row, thanks a million Avon Books–tossed a few brands onto the witch fire himself with the publication of 1972’s The Satanic Rituals.
This book (which, depressingly, is actually old Anton’s best work, fuck-ups and all) not only conflated Yazidism with devil worship but actually complained that anybody would say otherwise, whining about “attempts to whitewash the religion and deny that it was devil worship.”
The modern Church of Satan attempted a Saving Throw in 2014 by labeling the Yazidi practices “misperceived devil worship“…thus doing precisely what their conveniently now-dead founder/prophet complained about others doing, while somehow magically also claiming this was his intent all along.
But at least they finally got their facts straight after 42 years.
Long story short, as a Satanist I have no real stake in Melek Ṭawûs. However, if people are so intent on extracting Satanic wisdom from the example of a peacock, I think that’s an easy job. Instead of the Yazidis, we should just look to Darwin.
There’s a lot of animal imagery rolled up into Satanism. Everybody loves a good Sabbatic goat, whereas centuries of witchcraft paranoia have granted sinister appeal to cats.
Conspiracy assholes are always trying to link owls to the ancient god Moloch–whom they claim is Satan, because what the hell. But as we learned on Black Mass Appeal you’d have a much easier time tying owls in with Lilith. And of course, late-breaking Bible retcons made snakes forever associated with devildom.
But the menagerie can always diversify a bit. Proverbially, people refer to a peacock’s plumage as an image of pride, but this is a little short-sighted.
After all, those feathers aren’t a vanity project, they have a job to do. In a 2013 study, biologist Roslyn Dakin found that just the “eyespots” in a peacock’s tail account for roughly half of its success attracting a mate.
Charles Darwin initially found the peacock a bit of a puzzle, as that plumage was certainly not doing it any favors for eluding predation. “The sight of a feather in a peacock’s tail makes me sick!” he wrote in 1860.
Eventually Darwin figured out that the peacock actually illustrated the conceit of selection pressures rather neatly. Because really the peahen, rather than the peacock, is what the story’s all about.
By comparison, a peahen’s plumage looks like a Photoshop error or some kind of freak, earth-toned albinism. But no, of course that drabness is on purpose; which is to say, it’s useful.
The peacock and the peahen both have a job to do: getting adorable peachicks hatched and out of the nest. Their approaches to this–we might even say their priorities as to which bit of the process to put the most work into–seem radically different, but at the same time they are both still getting the job done.
If a peacock served as a symbol of Satanism, the significance would not be a devil/angel myth or even any ideas about pride (since I don’t think peacocks are necessarily any more “proud” than countless other types of animals).
Rather, I think the Satanic lesson of the peacock is that there’s more than one way to accomplish the same goal. And as Satanists it is both wise and prudent for us to remind everyone and ourselves from time to time that just because someone else’s approach may appear radically different from yours, that doesn’t mean they’re not still doing the job.