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The Yezidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority who practice a highly syncretistic religion based exclusively on oral tradition. Their myths and motifs, besides showing the influence of both Sufism and a pre-Zoroastrian Western Iranian mythology, are related to the religious movements of Late Antiquity, and reveal the vestiges of a common cultural substratum once shared by the people of the region.
Publisher: Gorgias Press LLC
Availability: In stock
SKU (ISBN): 978-1-60724-998-6
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Publication Status: In Print

Publication Date: May 24,2013
Interior Color: Black
Trim Size: 6 x 9
Page Count: 580
Language: English
ISBN: 978-1-60724-998-6
$225.00
$135.00

The Yezidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority of a few hundred thousand souls, living mainly in Northern Iraq, as well as Syria, Turkey and the Caucasus. Yezidis follow a highly syncretistic religion of their own, based exclusively on oral tradition. Yezidi mythology, besides showing the influence of both Sufism and a pre-Zoroastrian Western Iranian mythology, has also incorporated and adapted to its particular religious system certain myths and motifs which once enjoyed widespread popularity among the interrelated religious movements of Late Antiquity, ranging from Judaism through Christianity to Gnosticism and Manichaeism.

These myths and motifs, though long since relegated to oblivion in the West, can be found in the religious lore of the Yezidis, as well as of numerous other groups, both medieval and contemporary, in the Middle East. Hence it is argued that they are the vestiges of a common cultural substratum once shared by the people of the region. Placing these motifs within the context of a religious language originating in Late Antiquity is not only the key to a better understanding of Yezidi religion, but also to the way it developed and the working of oral tradition in the Middle East in general. In this context, establishing the late antique origins of some motifs reveals the way literacy interacted with orality in the region. Furthermore, it highlights the long lasting influence late antique religious thought had on the development of religious imagery and thinking in the area.

The Yezidis are a Kurdish-speaking religious minority of a few hundred thousand souls, living mainly in Northern Iraq, as well as Syria, Turkey and the Caucasus. Yezidis follow a highly syncretistic religion of their own, based exclusively on oral tradition. Yezidi mythology, besides showing the influence of both Sufism and a pre-Zoroastrian Western Iranian mythology, has also incorporated and adapted to its particular religious system certain myths and motifs which once enjoyed widespread popularity among the interrelated religious movements of Late Antiquity, ranging from Judaism through Christianity to Gnosticism and Manichaeism.

These myths and motifs, though long since relegated to oblivion in the West, can be found in the religious lore of the Yezidis, as well as of numerous other groups, both medieval and contemporary, in the Middle East. Hence it is argued that they are the vestiges of a common cultural substratum once shared by the people of the region. Placing these motifs within the context of a religious language originating in Late Antiquity is not only the key to a better understanding of Yezidi religion, but also to the way it developed and the working of oral tradition in the Middle East in general. In this context, establishing the late antique origins of some motifs reveals the way literacy interacted with orality in the region. Furthermore, it highlights the long lasting influence late antique religious thought had on the development of religious imagery and thinking in the area.

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Contributor Biography

Eszter Spät

Eszter Spät completed her PhD at Central European University in 2009. She has written on Gnosticism, Manichaeism and on Yezidi oral tradition. She is the author of "Yezidis," based on her fieldwork in Iraqi Kurdistan.

  • Table of Contents (page 7)
  • The Yezidis and Late Antique Gnosis: Introduction to Eszter Spat's "Late Antique Motifs in Yezidi Mythology and Oral Tradition (Istvan Perczel) (page 11)
  • Acknowledgments (page 17)
  • Abbreviations (page 19)
  • Introduction (page 21)
  • Religious Movements in the Middle East (page 55)
  • The Origin of the Yezidis and of Yezidi Studies (page 89)
  • The Religion of the Yezidis (page 111)
  • Religious Oral Tradition and Literacy Among the Yezidis of Iraq (page 145)
  • The Yezidi Creation Myth of Adam (page 167)
  • The Khirqe, or Garment of Faith (page 203)
  • "The Song of the Commoner": the Motif of Sleep and Awakening (page 285)
  • The Origin Myth of the Yezidis - the Myth of Shehid bin Jer (page 347)
  • The Birth of Prophet Ismail in the Yezidi "Tale of Ibrahim" (page 389)
  • Conclusion (page 423)
  • Epilogue: Late Antique Motifs and Modern Yezidism (page 431)
  • Plates (page 437)
  • Appendix I: Transcript of Recordings of the Myth of Adam and the Myth of Shehid bin Jer (page 447)
  • Appendix II: Yezidi Hymns Translated by P. Kreyenbroek (page 483)
  • Bibliography (page 545)
  • Index (page 575)
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