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Tawûsî Melek: The Peacock Angel of the Yazidi Religion

Written by Sara Bozyel

Even though the Yazidis are often classified as dedicated to polytheism –the belief in or worship of more than one god– a closer examination will prove the claim of this classification wrong. Tawûsî Melek, as translated in English, The Peacock Angel, is one of the central figures of Yazidi life and beliefs. Not just being a part of their mythology, The Peacock Angel is intertwined and attached to the Yazidi religion. To go further with Tawûsî Melek and its stories, first, we must know its origin and where it comes from.

1.1 Yazidism

Yazidism is the monotheistic religion of the Kurdish Yazidi people and is rooted in ancient Iranian traditions related to Zoroastrianism and leaning back thousands of years (2). Its spiritual center is the Valley of Lalish –a mountain valley and temple in Shekhan, Duhok Governorate, northern Iraqi Kurdistan (5). Yazidism is considered -by its believers- to be the oldest religion in the world and the first authentic monotheistic faith (3). In the 12th century CE, the Sufi Muslim Sheikh Adi founded Yazidism. He and his followers blended ancient Kurdish beliefs with religious concepts and practiced from the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), creating one unduplicated, elaborated, and misunderstood religion (2). Below is a picture of the Valley of Lalish:

Though it has borrowed from many other religions, Yazidism accepts no converts. One must be ethnically Yazidi to practice Yazidism (2). The separation between Yazidism and other faiths is mainly a result of centuries of harsh persecution of Yazidis by Muslims and Christians. This is because the principal deity of Yazidism, the Peacock Angel (Tawûsî Melek), has long been falsely equated with Shaitan, a fallen angel in Islam equivalent to the Christian Satan (2). As a result of this misconception, Yazidis have been targeted mercilessly as ''devil-worshippers'' in genocides (2). Yazidis call themselves Ezdi or Ezidi, translated as ''worshippers of the Angel.'' ''Yazidi'' is often spelled ''Yezidi,'' and though the origin of this term is uncertain, different scholars have separate opinions about it. However, nothing has become definite.

1.2 Yazidis and the History

The Yazidis are an ancient religious and ethnic group primarily residing in the Kurdistan region, spanning parts of Iraq, Syria, Turkey, and Iran. They follow a syncretic faith, blending elements from various religions. Central to their beliefs is the veneration of Tawûsî Melek, the Peacock Angel, whom they consider the chief of the archangels and creator of the world.

Throughout history, the Yazidis have faced persecution and forced conversions due to their distinctive religious practices. They have endured invasions and marginalization, such as during the Arab conquests in the 7th century and Ottoman rule in the 16th century (3). The Yazidis garnered global attention when ISIS targeted them in 2014, resulting in genocide (3). Many Yazidis were murdered, and thousands were displaced, with women and girls facing particularly horrific treatment. Despite these challenges, the Yazidis have tenaciously preserved their religious and cultural identity. They continue to practice their ancient rituals, including a pilgrimage to the sacred site of Lalish (3). Efforts are underway to rebuild their communities and provide support to survivors.

Today, the Yazidis strive for recognition, protection, and the freedom to practice their faith without discrimination. Their history is marked by resilience as they navigate adversity while preserving their unique religious heritage. International support has played a crucial role in raising awareness and aiding their recovery.

2.1 Yazidi Religion

Yazidism –as mentioned before– is a syncretic religion practiced by the Yazidis, an ancient religious and ethnic group primarily residing in Kurdistan. It blends elements from various faith traditions, including ancient Mesopotamian religions, Zoroastrianism, Islam, and Christianity (1).

Central to Yazidi beliefs is the veneration of Tawûsî Melek, the Peacock Angel, whom they consider the chief of the archangels and the creator of the world. Yazidis believe Tawûsî Melek was entrusted by a supreme being with caring for the world (1). They view it as a benevolent figure who guides and protects humanity. Yazidis uphold a belief in a transcendent and distant supreme being, with the Peacock Angel serving as the intermediary between humans and this divine entity. They embrace the concept of reincarnation and the transmigration of souls (1). Purity and cleanliness hold great significance in Yazidi religious practices, both physically and spiritually (3). They adhere to specific dietary restrictions and observe rituals to maintain purity. Lalish, a temple located in northern Iraq, is their most sacred site, where important ceremonies and rituals occur. Yazidi's religious structure is hierarchical, led by sheiks who serve as spiritual leaders and guides for the community (3). Their religious knowledge is passed down through oral tradition.

Despite historical challenges and persecution, Yazidis strive to preserve their unique religious identity. Their faith serves as a source of strength, resilience, and communal unity. They continue to practice rituals, maintain traditions, and uphold their belief in Tawûsî Melek as a central figure in their spiritual worldview.

2.2 Tawûsî Melek

The story of the Peacock Angel and the Yazidis' one-god system is deeply rooted in their mythology and faith:

According to Yazidi cosmology, there was a time when the world was in chaos and darkness. In response, Tawûsî Melek, as a divine being, descended to Earth in the form of a peacock (4). He took on the task of confronting and vanquishing the forces of evil, thereby bringing light, order, and harmony to the world (4). This act of defeating darkness and restoring balance established Tawûsî Melek as a symbol of divine wisdom, knowledge, and purity (4). Yazidis emphasize a monotheistic belief system, centered on the worship of a single supreme being. They refer to this deity as "Xwede" or "Xweda" and view this transcendent and remote God as the creator of the universe (1). The Yazidis perceive Tawûsî Melek as a heavenly entity that acts as an intermediary between humans and the supreme being (1). He serves as a guide and protector of humanity, carrying out the divine will and overseeing the world.

It is crucial to note that Yazidis do not worship Tawûsî Melek as a separate or independent deity. Instead, they venerate him as a manifestation or reflection of divine attributes and qualities. Tawûsî Melek represents the mercy, love, and compassion of the one true God (4). Yazidis believe that through Tawûsî Melek, they can access the divine presence and seek guidance and protection. The Yazidi faith places a strong emphasis on purity, both in a physical and spiritual sense. They engage in rituals and practices to maintain spiritual cleanliness and seek closeness to the divine. Pilgrimage to the sacred site of Lalish, located in northern Iraq, is an essential aspect of their religious observance (4).

Overall, the story of Tawûsî Melek and the Yazidis' one god system forms the cornerstone of their religious beliefs. It reflects their monotheistic worldview, reverence for the divine, and aspiration for spiritual connection and guidance in their lives. These beliefs have shaped the Yazidis' religious identity and continued being central to their cultural heritage.


  1. Arakelova, V., & Asatrian, G. (2003). Malak-tawus: The peacock angel of the yezidis. Iran and the Caucasus, 7(1), 1-36.

  2. Bonta, M. (2022, April 26). Yazidi Religion History, Beliefs, and People.

  3. Eislund, S. (2019, June 24). Yazidism. World History Encyclopedia.

  4. Tawûsî Melek. (n.d.). DBpedia.

  5. UNESCO World Heritage Centre. (n.d.). Lalish temple.


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