Reincarnation, the Sanjak, and an ancient Yezidi prophecy
by Nallein Satana al-Jilwah Sowilo
Reincarnation is one of the beliefs that Yezidis maintain to this day from their homeland of India. Reincarnation is normally found only in the Dharma teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Zoroastrianism. Mainstream Zoroastrianism does not teach or believe in reincarnation, but the very orthodox or esoteric Zoroastrians advocate reincarnation.
Yazidis use the metaphor of a change of garment to describe the process of reincarnation, which in Kurmanji they call kiras guhorîn (‘changing the garment’). If a Yezidi soul becomes very impure by doing evil actions while on Earth, it may reincarnate in the body of a person associated with a different religion, such as Islam. The greatest punishment for a Yezidi is to be evicted from the Yezidi religion.
The clues to reincarnation are found in the gathas of Zoroastrian scriptures. One passage that stands out says the soul of a wrongful person returns to stay in the house of wrong or house of worst mind until it realizes the truth to progress to wholeness and immortality.
After death the body goes through a series of cleansing rituals in order for the soul to prepare itself to leave the body before being buried. After death of the material body, the soul remains with that body waiting to pass into the afterlife. After the body is washed, clay or water from Lalish is placed in mouth of the deceased. The body is then buried with the head pointed east and facing the North Star. The North Star is the star of Melek Taus where souls ascend after death.
After death the soul crosses the Sirat Bridge and is judged by Sheikh Adi (an avatar of Melek Taus) who descended to earth as the last avatar of Melek Taus to lead Yezidis on the path of righteousness.
If the soul is judged sinless and without karma, Sheikh Adi will act as an intercessor with Melek Taus in order to transport the soul into heaven. When a soul has advanced spiritually through rounds of reincarnation, it reaches godhead and has no reason to return to a material body. The soul will then reside in heaven with Melek Taus.
Heaven and Hell in Yezidi thought
In Yezidi tradition hell no longer exists. Yezidis believe that Melek Taus wept for forty thousand years and collected his tears in seven jars which he used to extinguish the fires of hell, thereby eliminating hell forever. Without hell souls can now to resolve past karma and evolve through reincarnation to reach godhead.
The Spiritual Science of Reincarnation
Without a spiritual understanding of Melek Taus, one’s soul cannot advance to godhead. Instead, it will return to earth to be reborn until through self-purification it reaches to godhead.
The soul transmigrates through different bodies according to its past activities (karma) and remains bound after death to the cycle of repeated rebirths and death. When the soul is ready to incarnate on earth, the soul may have already passed through a long series of different bodies in order to experience various levels of conscious awakening. The soul can progress through bodies of different species of life before reaching the best form—that of a human being. In this way the soul may experience all its various material desires in different forms.
After a person has finished his or her life, the activities of the person coalesce into a seed of consciousness. All of one’s life collectively influences the state of one’s mind at the time of death that will determine the soul’s trajectory in the afterlife. The soul is covered by the subtle body, which exists within a gross material form and is made up of the five elements of earth, air, fire, water and ether.
When the physical body can't function the soul is set free and enters the planetary logos. The planetary logos is spiritual consciousness that affect all human life on earth. It is cosmic energy which soul merges into during the creation of a new material body. Of the planetary logos the most important is the sun’s planetary influence.
By developing devotional service to Melek Taus the soul can enjoy spiritual harmony and spiritual unity with God. A devotee should engage in daily sun worship in order remove karma from the soul. Through devotion we can become free from the cycle of reincarnation.
The word sanjak means 'banner' or 'flag'. Tradition holds that the seven sanjaks were brought by Yezidis from their ancient homeland of India to Iraq. The sanjaks are the most sacred idols of the Yezidis that were fashioned by Melek Taus of brass or copper in his image of peacock.
Melek Taus is the head over six great archangels, and is both supreme God and emanation of God on earth. The seven sanjaks each represents one of the seven great angels including Melek Taus.
The seven sanjaks also corresponded to the seven Yezidi lands, also called Sanjaks. These lands covers the area where Yezidis live from Shingal in Iraq, Aleppo in Syria, Iran to Muscovy (Caucasus Mountains) the most important site in Muscovy is Mountain A.
The peacock lamps are kept at Lalish, the sacred valley and home to Yezidi religious leaders called Mir, a Persian word meaning prince. Each year during the festival called the Parading of Peacock, the Yezidi prince takes sanjaks to tour the Yezidi village. During parade the village community pays their respects to Melek Taus and leave offerings. The qawals sang their sacred hymns and recite sermons, the prince explains the Yezidi religion and perform religious rites.
The sanjak itself is design of cosmic universe, representing the sky pole or axis mundi which depicts Melek Taus as Pole Star setting atop of the 'Axis of the World' or axis mundi. Among the Hindus, the devotees of Murugan uses arati lamp of peacock that is lit during Deewali. The only difference is ritual uses of sanjak and aarati is that the sanjak is the murti while Hindus use them to illuminate the murti. Murti is literally the ‘face’ of divine spirit embodiment.
On Yezidi altars a sanjak is placed facing Lalish, so during prayer to Melek Taus they are facing the center of earth. During worship the devotees anoint the sanjak with oil and light the sacred fire as mantras are chanted. Fire is light of soul and sun, and energy of Melek Taus, from fire Melek Taus brought forth the creation of universe in form of cosmic fire.
An Ancient Yezidi Prophecy
An ancient Yezidi prophecy states that when the 'blue star' al-Qud makes it appearance in the heavens, the Fifth Age of this world will commence. These will be the days of purification for everyone on earth. The Yezidi name for the North Star is al-Qud and this will come when Melek Taus reveals himself as rainbow halo around the sun.
Yezidis maintain that when Melek Taus returns to earth as a peacock or rainbow along with the six great archangels, he will send messages to holy men around the world, who will take them to the world and give them to representatives of all nations.
The Fifth Age will begin as a time of war not only for Yezidis but for all mankind. We can see this already happening with the migration of Yezidis from their ancient holy mountain of Shingal. The prophecy states that this will force the Yezidis to migrate to the four corners of world, including the return to their ancient homeland of India.
During this great war, Yezidis will be the source of enlightenment to Muslim and Christian nations. Only Lalish and other ancient holy sites will be oases for refugees who seek shelter. This war will be an entirely spiritual war over material matters. Material matters will be dissolved by spiritual message of those who remain alive to recreate a new world and usher in the new Golden Age of Melek Taus.
[A version of this article first appeared in Sanskriti Magazine of March 1st 2015.]
About the Author
Nallein Satana al-Jilwah Sowilo is descended from a long line of magi or mai, the caste of ancient religious and ritual leaders who read the sacred Avesta and other chants, do pujas and practice divination and astrology.
Born in the Yezidi holy village of Shingal, she was named Nallein Tiffany Sowilo at birth. At age 13, she received her spiritual name Yezidi al-Jilwah. She currently resides in Los Angeles, California where she teaches yoga and serves the Yezidi cause worldwide.
Yezidi al-Jilwah is a practicing mai and offers puja services, Vedic astrology, Vedic gemstones consulting, gem stone sales, and mantras.
Author Nallein Satana Al-Jilwah Sowil can be reached at lotussuns 'at' gmail dot com.