Izates Izad Yazidi
A man prays at the door of the holiest shrine in the Yazidi faith, the tomb of Sheikh Adi, in the town of Lalish in northern Iraq. Photograph by David Honl, ZUMAPRESS.com/Corbis (Image Source: nationalgeographic.com)

Creative Commons License D. CATHERINE | 2018
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There are some intriguing parallels between the birth-exile-return narrative pertaining to the first century Prince Izates (as per Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews XX ch. 2.1–2[1]) and the birth-exile-return narrative pertaining to “Sultan Êzîd”, who, according to Yazidi oral tradition,[2] was purportedly the seventh century Umayyad Caliph, Yazīd ibn Muʿāwiya. There are also intriguing parallels between the divine conception of the “only begotten” Izates (born circa 1 CE) and the “only begotten” Jesus (John 3:16) whose miracle of turning water into wine (John 2:6–11) was evidently adopted by the persona of Yazīd ibn Muʿāwiya in the Yazidi narrative where he reportedly turned river water into wine. Note also that the birth of Sultan Ezid is commemorated at or near the winter solstice in proximity to the date of birth of both Mithras and Jesus.

The present writer suspects that the Yazidi account of their putative founder Yazid (ibn Muʿāwiya) may have originated as religious dissimulation during a time of increased persecution against pagans, the non-Abrahamic traditions and the Shīʿa communities. In a religious environment that was likely hostile to the Yazidi, they would’ve needed to disguise and safeguard their (clearly) controversial doctrines, as well as the person they perceived to be their founder, who I propose is the first century CE (Zoroastrian or Yazdani) Prince Yazd/Izad (“Izates” in Antiquities) who became King thus “Sultan” following the death of his father, King Monobaz I. The two narratives also suggest that the Yazidi biography of the seventh-century Yazīd ibn Muʿāwiya has assimilated certain biographical details from the lives of the first-century Prince Izad and Jesus.

In these accounts, Izad (son of Monobaz) and Yazid (son of Muʿāwiya) are both ascribed a miraculous if not divine conception; both are exiled from northern Syria to Basra in southern Iraq (in order to protect them); both have some relation to a daughter of a dignitary in Basra; both, upon reaching maturity, return to their fathers who are ruling in Syria; and both are associated with a controversial religious conversion story (that to some extent deviates from historical fact). To reiterate: the present writer suspects that the “Sultan Ezid” venerated by the Yazidis likely does not refer to the Umayyad Caliph Yazid ibn Muʿāwiya (647–683 CE), but instead originates in the ‘Zoroastrian’ or ‘Yazdani’ Prince Izad (c. 1–55 CE). Presumably, Prince Yazd/Izad, since birth, was considered an incarnation (khas) of a Yazata (Angel / Holy Being)—thus his name “Yazd/Izad” and also the name of the subsequent Yazidi sect that venerates Tawsi Melek (Melek Taus)—the “Peacock Angel” as the preeminent divine being.

Furthermore—and likely for the very same purpose of dissimulation in order to disguise their controversial, esoteric/gnostic doctrines and to safeguard their secretive rites (by way of a secret society)—the present writer suspects that the Yazidi community further adopted (in name and reputation) the orthodox Islamic Sufi Shaykh ʿAdī ibn Musāfir (thus “Shaykh ʿAdī”) primarily as a convenient screen to obfuscate Prince Izad’s first-century contemporary who was known to the gnostic Mandaean and Syrian Christian communities as “Addai” (=“Thaddeus” =Judas Thomas). Many might say that this is a mere coincidence; but consider the influence that the gnosticism associated with ‘Thomas’ had on the gnosticism of the Near East, and especially consider the various Yazidi gnostic accounts of the divine “Pearl” (Pleroma) and symbolic “Khirqe” (Cloak) in comparison with the “Hymn of the Pearl” and “Robe of Glory” from the Gnostic Acts of Thomas. These in turn can be compared with the “Pearl of Great Price” (Matthew 13:45-46) and the Nazarene communal proscription “not to cast Pearls before swine” (Matthew 7:6).

In the (polemical) birth-exile-return narrative pertaining to “Sultan Ezid”,[2] it should be noted that the “sur” refers to the divine “Mystery”, which the Yazidi equate with the “nur” (divine Light): the essential or primary attribute of the divine Self perceived as Angel and considered the eternal heavenly counterpart to the temporal earthly self. It could be argued that the Yazidi reference in the birth narrative to “that very night [in Basra]… all pregnant women had twin sons” is a convoluted allusion to the gnostic mystery (“the presence of the sur”) associated with the presence in Basra of not only Prince Izad but also Thomas/Didymus “the twin”. In this regard, compare the gnostic Mani’s twin spirit perceived as an Angel called al-Taum ‘the Twin’; this is likely the heavenly Angel (Angelos Christos) or divine Self that qualifies and confers the epithet “Thomas/Twin” as well as the suprasensory “Robe of Glory” which in turn qualifies and confers the symbolic Khirqe (Cloak), but which of course antecedes the time of Mani (c. 216–274 CE). Compare the following from the gnostic Mandaean tradition:

The [heavenly or divine] Body is that of Adam Qadmaia [compare the Qabalah’s Adam Qadmon], the ‘First Adam’, Adam Kasia, the Mystic or Secret Adam [compare the Shiʿa “Hidden Imam”] who preceded the human Adam called Adam pagria (physical man) by many myriads of years, for the macrocosm preceded the microcosm and the Idea of the cosmos was formed in human shape, so that through the creation of the one the creation of the other ensued.[3]

However, when the Yazidi mention “the ninety-year-old wife of Muawiya, who turned into a fourteen year old virgin on her wedding night,” this legendary material is obviously not originating in real-life biography but clearly incorporating some garbled form of mythos. Without wanting to digress, I would suggest that the “fourteen year old virgin on her wedding night” is a typological artifact from lunar/menstrual mythos referencing the full moon at 14 days and/or the peak stage of ovulation approximately 14 days into the menstrual cycle (keeping in mind that the 29.5-day lunar cycle is a natural analogue of the menstruation cycle of approximately 28 days, both of which are termed menses ‘monthly’ in Latin).

In some aspects the episode also parallels e.g. first century astro-gnostic mythos pertaining to the relations between Helios (King Simon / Dunamis) and Selene (Queen Helene / Ennoia). Which is to say, within the context of a mythical birth narrative adopted as gnostic birth narrative: following the conjunction of the sun and moon (or king and queen), soon thereafter the crescent light of the new moon (or prince) as ‘son’ is ‘born’ upon the orb of the moon, and the moon can also be said to have shifted or transformed from its waning or dark “crone” phase (thus the “90 year old”) to its new moon or waxing “maiden” phase which is fulfilled in the full moon at 14 days (thus the “fourteen year old virgin”). In such way, the moon is considered as bride or consort to the sun, and this is the only way that a ninety year old wife can turn into a so-called fourteen year old virgin—which suggests that key typological details from lunar mythos have become garbled in the biography and hagiography pertaining to the Umayyad caliph.

It is also not insignificant that key Nazarene representatives—particularly Judas Thomas sent by James-the-Zaddik to the communities in the east—were operational and taking refuge in not only the greater Adiabene region of northern Mesopotamia but also Charax-Spasini (Basra) in southern Mesopotamia. In fact the doctrinal origin of Prince Izad’s conversion to the Jewish Nazarene “Way”—primarily by way of Judas Thomas = “Thaddaeus”, thus “Addai”—is to be found in the Notsrim (i.e. Notsrei Brito “Keepers of His Covenant”) who were living in exile in the Palestinian wilderness or the “Land of Damascus” (i.e. Petra and the Trans-Jordan) and who gained much of their network-and-subsistence support from the Royal House of Adiabene (i.e. Queen Helen and King Izad).

One can surmise, that following the death of the Magi King Izad (c. 55 CE) and Rome’s crushing defeat of the Jewish messianic uprising (66–73 CE)—which also led to a scattering of the remaining Judeo-Christian Nazarenes—a portion of Izad’s kin and community reverted back to their previous religious beliefs and practices, but in a syncretistic form that was founded on either Zoroastrian or pre-Zoroastrian Yazdani angelology and included some elements from Judaism, nascent Syrian Christianity, Gnosticism and Sufism, as well as a veneration of the solar Orient. It is likely from within this Adiabene community and the generations which followed that the doctrines of the Yazidi first arose—the bulk and core of which certainly existed centuries before the time of the Umayyad Caliph Yazid ibn Muʿāwiya.

Izates Yazidi Adiabene
Map showing the Land of Adiabene (c. 55 BC) – east of Syria and Osrhoene. Map by Robert H. Hewsen (Image Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Source References:

[1] Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews (XX ch. 2.1–2):

Monobazus [I], the King of Adiabene, who had also the name of Bazeus [possibly also “Agbarus/Abgarus”], fell in love with his sister Helena, and took her to be his wife; and begat her with child. But as he was in bed with her one night, he laid his hand upon his wives belly, and fell asleep, and seemed to hear a voice, which bid him take his hand off his wives belly, and not hurt the infant that was therein: which, by God’s providence, would be safely born, and have an happy end. This voice put him into disorder. So he awakened immediately, and told the story to his wife. And when his son was born, he called him Izates [compare the New Persian Izad, Middle Persian Yazad, Avestan Yazata, meaning ‘Venerable/Holy Being’]. He [the King] had indeed Monobazus [II] his elder brother by Helena also; as he had other sons by other wives besides. Yet did he openly place all his affections on this his only begotten [Greek monogenēs] son Izates. Which was the origin of that envy which his other brethren, by the same father, bore to him: while on this account they hated him more and more; and were all under great affliction that their father should prefer Izates before them.

Now although their father were very sensible of these their passions, yet did he forgive them; as not indulging those passions out of an ill disposition, but out of a desire each of them had to be beloved by their father. However, he sent Izates, with many presents, to Abennerig, the King of Charax-Spasini [i.e. Basra], and that out of the great dread he was in about him, lest he should come to some misfortune by the hatred his brethren bore him: and he committed his son’s preservation to him. Upon which Abennerig gladly received the young man; and had a great affection for him; and married him to his own daughter, whose name was Samacha. He also bestowed a country upon him, from which he received large revenues.

But when Monobazus [I] was grown old, and saw that he had but a little time to live, he had a mind to come to the sight of his son before he died. So he sent for him, and embraced him after the most affectionate manner, and bestowed on him the country called Carræ [i.e. the land east of Harran, called Adiabene]. It was a soil that bare amomum in great plenty. There are also in it the remains of that ark, wherein it is related that Noah escaped the deluge; and where they are still shewn to such as are desirous to see them. Accordingly Izates abode in that country [Adiabene] until his father’s death.

But the very day that Monobazus died, Queen Helena sent for all the grandees, and governors of the Kingdom; and for those that had the armies committed to their command: and when they were come, she made the following speech to them: “I believe you are not unacquainted that my husband was desirous Izates should succeed him in the government; and thought him worthy so to do. However, I wait your determination. For happy is he who receives a Kingdom not from a single person only, but from the willing suffrages of a great many.” This she said in order to try those that were invited, and to discover their sentiments. Upon the hearing of which, they first of all paid their homage to the Queen, as their custom was: and then they said, that “They confirmed the King’s determination; and would submit to it; and they rejoiced that Izates’ father had preferred him before the rest of his brethren; as being agreeable to all their wishes. But that they were desirous first of all to slay his brethren, and kinsmen; that so the government might come securely to Izates. Because if they were once destroyed, all that fear would be over, which might arise from their hatred and envy to him.” Helena replied to this, that “She returned them her thanks for their kindness to her self, and to Izates: but desired that they would however defer the execution of this slaughter of Izates’ brethren, till he should be there himself, and give his approbation to it.” So since these men had not prevailed with her, when they advised her to slay them, they exhorted her at least to keep them in bonds, till he should come; and that for their own security. They also gave her counsel to set up some one, whom she could put the greatest trust in, as a governor of the Kingdom in the mean time. So Queen Helena complied with this counsel of theirs: and set up Monobazus [II], the eldest son, to be King; and put the diadem upon his head, and gave him his father’s ring, with its signet: as also the ornament which they call Sampser and exhorted him to administer the affairs of the Kingdom, till his brother should come. Who came suddenly, upon hearing that his father was dead: and succeeded his brother Monobazus, who resigned up the government to him.

[2] Eszter Spät, Late Antique Motifs in Yezidi Oral Tradition, Doctoral thesis submitted to Department of Medieval Studies, Central European University, Budapest, 2009, pp.74–75:

Yezidi Sultan Ezid - Izad - Izates

[3] E.S. Drower, The Secret Adam: A Study of Nasoraean Gnosis, London: Oxford University Press, 1960, pp.21–22.

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