Witch at Large: Ruminations from a Grey Perspective

Seeing Paganism in terms of being a movement, explorations of our history, societal context, comparisons to other religious movements, and general Pagan culture.

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Reflections on Melek Taus

Last week I attended an Interfaith Gala Dessert Reception to help the Yezidis Facing Genocide, featuring a delegation of Yezidis in exile here in North America and hoping to regain their homelands.

Held at Peninsula Sinai Congregation in Foster City, California, the room featured peacock feathers on each table and walls adorned with Yezidi (Yazidi) flags.  The screen upon one wall featured a large image of Melek Taus, the Peacock God of the Yezidis.

I was especially intrigued to learn how Melek Taus is conceived in Yezedi (Yazidi) religion because this figure also appears as a deity in the Anderson Faery/Feri tradition of the Craft. 

Here is an account of a contemporary reference to Melek Taus

The contingent, named Malik al-Tawus or ‘King Peacock’ after the mythical figure worshipped by the ancient religious minority, clashed with IS [ISIL] in the area west of the rebel-held city of Mosul.

Malik al-Tawus, the self-defence group, was established in 2007 to protect the Yazidi community in Iraq against attacks by Islamists.

The Yazidi religion is a syncretic combination of Zoroastrianism with Sufi Islam, dating back to ancient Mesopotamia. They believe that God and seven angels protect the world and one of these angels, named Malak Tawus and believed to be embodied by a peacock on Earth, was thrown out of paradise for refusing to bow to Adam.

I don’t know if the Yezidis who were honored at this recent reception would agree with the description of their religion as being syncretic, although most if not all religions are.  They struck me as being of a conservative bent.  This particular group represented a diaspora of Yezidis living in Canada. 

RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty reports on another Yezidi community in Armenia where Melek Taus is prominently revered and where the Yezidis recently constructed a new temple.  Perhaps their goal is not to reclaim their homeland in Northern Iraq that other diasporic communities seek.

In any case, Melek Taus, the headstrong Peacock Angel, is the central figure in the Yazidi faith.  Because he refused to bend to the will of God [the one called Allah, one would assume], conservative Muslims view the Yezidis as “devil worshippers.”  The Koran tells a similar story about Shaytan, the Devil, having been cast down into hell for defying God.

However, although Melek Taus is the most important deity to the Yezidis, they maintain that he belongs to the entire world.  About the Peacock Angel Yezidi Truth asserts that:

The Yezidis believe that they possess the oldest religion on Earth, the primeval faith that features Tawsi Melek, and that all other traditions are related to them through the Peacock Angel [although not always in the form of a peacock]. They contend that Tawsi Melek is the true creator and ruler of the universe, and therefore a part of all religious traditions.  Once he arrived on Earth he became its monarch and has since governed the world from an etheric dimension.

Melek Taus later changed his appearance and name and now has morphed and manifested in different religions around the globe.

Further, for Yazidis, Melek Taus “is above the concepts of good and evil -- comparable to fire, which can cook and warm but also burn and destroy.”  Therefore, is makes perfect sense to me that he would manifest in a religion that holds the concept of “the black heart of innocence.”  To quote the late Grand Master Victor Anderson:  “How beautiful is the black lascivious purity in the hearts of children and small animals.  This is the black heart of innocence and the root of all true rightness.”

My initial encounters with Melek Taus were in the context of Anderson Faery/Feri, although I have had very little exposure to him even within Faery.  When I first read about Melek Taus exclusive of the context of Faery, I thought his appearance there might have been the dreaded cultural appropriation.  After all, culturally speaking, Northern Iraq is a far cry from Northern California.  Now I’ve learned that he is claimed to be “a part of all religious traditions.”

My personal favorite, the image on the altar in my bedroom, is artist Paul Rucker’s interpretation. Judging by the plethora of images of Melek Taus on the Internet, it seems he’s become widely known, with many jpgs of Paul’s art and almost no attribution.

 There’s a wealth of information and a wealth images of Melek Taus on the Internet for those who wish to pursue him intellectually.  Best, however, to encounter him by performing devotional acts; then see what happens.

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Aline O’Brien (M. Macha NightMare), Witch at Large, has circled with people of diverse Pagan paths throughout the U.S., and in Canada and Brazil.  Author of Witchcraft and the Web (2001) and Pagan Pride (2004), and co-author, with Starhawk, of The Pagan Book of Living and Dying (1997), Macha has also contributed to anthologies, periodicals, textbooks, and encyclopedias.  A member of the American Academy of Religion, the Marin Interfaith Council, and the Nature Religion Scholars Network, Macha also serves as a national interfaith representative for the Covenant of the Goddess (CoG) and on the Advisory Board of the Sacred Dying Foundation.  Having spent the last eleven years developing and teaching at Cherry Hill Seminary, the first and only seminary serving the Neopagan community, Macha now serves on its Board of Directors. An all-round Pagan webweaver, she speaks on behalf of Paganism to news media and academic researchers, and lectures at colleges, universities and seminaries. www.machanightmare.com


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