Yazidis believe that god created the world by casting a white pearl into the cosmic ocean. As it sunk into the depths, the pearl shattered, becoming the substance from which the material universe would be formed. To assist in his work, god created the Peacock Angel, Tawsi Melek. Six more angels were fashioned by god to assist Tawsi Melek, greatest of the angels, in his creation of the world.

After the earth was created it began shaking uncontrollably. Tawsi Melek descended from heaven in the form of a peacock and stopped the shaking. He then transferred the rainbow colors of his plumage to the earth, filling it with flora and fauna. The place that Tawsi Melek descended to is Lalish, the mountain holy to the Yazidis.

I visited Lalish to learn more about the Yazidi religion. In a narrow valley that meanders towards the crest of the short mountain are clustered many of this religion’s holiest sites. There are graves, shrines, and strange minaret-like structures. Many of these have symbols carved into their surfaces.

While I wandered through Lalish I asked locals about the meanings of the symbols. While some have obvious meanings (the Peacock in the last image is Tawsi Melek), many were more mysterious. Below are photographs along with speculations about their possible meanings.

Animal

An animal tied by the neck, which might indicate that it is being given as an offering.

carving of an animal

Chamomile

A twelve-petaled flower that resembles chamomile.

carving of a plant resembling chamomile

Cinquefoil

A five-petaled flower that resembles a cinquefoil. However, cinquefoils are not native to West Asia.

carving of a cinquefoil flower

Kissing Animals

carving of two animals that appear to be kissing

Sun, Moon, Staff

carving of a sun, moon, and staff

A Place for Burning Oil

yezidi censer

Tomb of Sheikh Adi

The peacock in the pediment above the door is Tawsi Melek. To the right of the door is a black snake. This might have once been a living snake that had attacked the residents of Lalish. It might also be the physical manifestation of one of the seven angels.

picture of the door to the yezidi temple