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The Yezidis: The History of a Community, Culture and Religion

The Yezidis: The History of a Community, Culture and Religion
Birgul Acikyildiz

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Yezidism is a fascinating part of the rich cultural mosaic of the Middle East. The Yezidi faith emerged for the first time in the twelfth century in the Kurdish mountains of northern Iraq. The religion, which has become notorious for its associations with 'devil worship', is in fact an intricate syncretic system of belief, incorporating elements from proto-Indo-European religions, early Iranian faiths like Zoroastrianism and Manichaeism, Sufism and regional paganism like Mithraism. Birgul Acikyildiz here offers a comprehensive appraisal of Yezidi religion, society and culture. Written without presupposing any prior knowledge about Yezidism, and in an accessible and readable style, her book examines Yezidis not only from a religious point of view but as a historical and social phenomenon. She throws light on the origins of Yezidism, and charts its development and changing fortunes - from its beginnings to the present- as part of the general history of the Kurds. Her book is the first to place Yezidism in its complete geographical setting in Northern Iraq, Turkey, Syria and Transcaucasia.

The author describes the Yezidi belief system (which considers Tawusi Melek - the 'Peacock Angel' - to be ruler of the earth) and its religious practices and observances, analysing the most important facets of Yezidi religious art and architecture (including funerary monuments and zoomorphic tombstones) and their relationship to their neighbours throughout the Middle East. Acikyildiz also explores the often misunderstood connections between Yezidism and the Satan/Sheitan of Christian and Muslim tradition. Richly illustrated, with accompanying maps, photographs and illustrations, this pioneering book will have strong appeal to all those with an interest in the culture of the Kurds, as well as the wider region.

Author Info

A specialist in medieval Islamic and Ottoman art and architecture, and an expert on Yezidi religion and culture, Birgul Acikyildiz is Professor of the History of Art at Mardin Artuklu University. Before taking this post she was Research Fellow in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford, and taught in the Department of Islamic Art and Archaeology of the University of Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne.


'Birgül Acikyildiz’s amazing book... shows how rich and varied is the culture-compost of the area between Iraq and Syria now being forcibly homogenised and ethnically cleansed by Isis.'
William Dalrymple, Guardian

'This is a major, innovative study of one of the least known religious communities of the Middle East…[it will] probably long remain the definitive work on Yezidi material culture.'
Martin van Bruinessen, Professor of the Comparative Study of Contemporary Muslim Societies, Utrecht University

'A fascinating narrative and photographic journey through Yezidi religion, society and material culture.'
Nelida Fuccaro, Lecturer in Modern History of the Arab Middle East, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

'It is particularly gratifying to see the publication of a scholarly work that takes into account both the living tradition and the archaeological and architectural aspects of the Yezidi heritage...A book that makes a real contribution to Yezidi studies.'
Philip G Kreyenbroek, Professor of Iranian Studies, Georg-August University, Göttingen

'An invaluable introduction to Yezidi architectural and spiritual history…An indispensable reference book.'
Sebastian Maisel, Assistant Professor for Arabic and Middle East Studies, Grand Valley State University, Allendale

'A remarkable and original interdisciplinary work on Yezidi history, religion and material culture.'
Khalil Jindy Rashow, Consular at the Ministry of Iraqi Foreign Affairs, Baghdad

'A superb introduction and overview of this ancient and much misunderstood people group… Açikyildiz writes with an immensely readable style.'
Marion James, Today's Zaman

‘...a clear and comprehensive introduction to this religious community’

Bibliographic Info

Imprint: I.B.Tauris
Publisher: I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd.

ISBN: 9781784532161
Publication Date: 19 Aug 2014
Number of Pages: 304
Height: 216
Width: 138
Illustrations: 74 bw, 26 colour, 25 line drawings, 13 maps

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