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Dave Mockaitis

Dave is a professional astrologer that holds a diploma in Theoretical and Applied Cosmic Cybernetics (TACC), a four years program at the Avalon School of Astrology. He is also a professional graphic artist and web designer.

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The Voice of The Yesidi Copyright © Dave Mockaitis. All Rights Reserved

In her 2005 memoir, "Love My Rifle More Than You," linguist and former intelligence specialist Kayla Williams described her military experiences near the Northern Iraq-Syria border. The work is unique because it provides Western civilization an accessible yet brief glimpse of the Kurdish-speaking group, the Yezidi. The Yezidi, a Kurdish religion with ancient Indo-European roots, is thought to have developed out of the prehistoric Mitrhaic and Mesopotamian religious traditions (Yazidi). Williams was able to interact with the Yezidi in part because the Yezidi are grateful for the US occupation of Iraq that protects them from persecution by local Muslims that considered them to be devil-worshippers. Though she did not study the group extensively, she understood their religion as very ancient and concerned with angels. Most significant is Williams encounter with a Yezidi shrine on a mountaintop which she describes as "a small rock building with objects dangling from the ceiling" with alcoves for the placement of offerings (Yazidi). These dangling objects are a contemporary manifestation of an ancient practice of working with astrological phenomena in a physical, embodied way.

The iconography of the Yezidi appears to be disproportionately populated by jars. In the Yezidi version of the myth of Adam and Eve, both fill jars with their seed and wait to see what grows. When Eve yields only insects and Adam a beautiful baby boy, humanity is born and considered to be solely a result of Adam's divinity. The central figure of Yezidi faith is Melek Taus, a benevolent angel depicted as a peacock that fell from grace but redeemed himself. In repenting, the angel wept for 7,000 years filling seven jars which quenched the fires of hell (Yezidi, Melek Taus). The image of a jar or crucible, is pivotal to the work of the Renaissance alchemist. Containing experiments and energies, these crucibles speak to the notion of embodying and containing divine, powerful forces. The fact that Melek Talus wept seven jars is also significant, as the Yezidi believe that God entrusted the care of the world to a heptad of seven holy beings often conceptualized as angels (Yezidi). Closer study of Yezidi texts and scriptures may show that these seven holy beings were in fact created through the peacock angel's tears, that through containing such intense remorse and sadness, compassionate angels were forged.

This idea of containing and transforming energies in crucibles is significant in the fact that the voice of the Yezidi speaks strongest in the texts consulted by Renaissance magicians. The Picatrix has had a profound influence on Occultists since it was first collated in 10th century Arabia. Primarily a handbook on talismanic magic, the book also serves as a compilation of Arabic texts on hermeticism, astrology, alchemy and magic in the 9th and 10th centuries (Picatrix). Used by Marsilio Ficino, William Lily, and a host of other astrologers and magicians past and present, the four volume work describes a way of working with planetary energies that is grounded in both astrological practice and material reality. Working with the Picatrix entails harnessing the energy of an astrological body into a material object so that the energy can be introduced to situations the mage seeks to change (Warnock, Picatrix). Instead of deriving information and predictions from the movement of the stars, many Renaissance astrologers and magicians were deriving the actual energy of of the planets and fixed stars, themselves. This materialist approach is grounded in a tradition that can feasibly trace its roots to the observational astrologers of prehistoric Mesopotamia.

Thabit Ibn Qurra translated and collected texts in Baghdad in the late 9th century. His work, De Imaginibus ("On Images"), was a key source for the Picatrix, as it displayed a sophisticated form of astrological magic derived from the works of the Harranian Sabians. Fluent in Arabic, Greek, and Syriac, Ibn Qurra's services were invaluable at the House of Wisdom (Bayt al Hakim), a facility in Baghdad that amassed and translated current and historical texts (Warnock "Ibn Qurra", Thabit Ibn Qurra). Ptolemy and Euclid are just two scholars that were translated by Ibn Qurra. It was his knowledge of Harranian Sabian esotericism, though, that may be his most unique contribution to the field. Born in 836 CE in Harran, Mesopotamia (modern day Turkey), Ibn Qurra grew up with the Sabians of Harran, a sect of star-worshippers that received protection under Muslim rule. Like their cultural descendant, the Yezidi, the Harranian Sabians also held a belief system with an emphasis on the intervention of angels (Sabians). In the angelology of the Harranian Sabians, the link between these angels and the seven visible planetary bodies is clear. The angels are the planets and they are directly accessible through the appropriate astrological invocation (Sabians). Renaissance scholar Christopher Warnock notes that in fact the Harranian Sabians are the pagan followers of Hermes Trismegistus.

The works of Hermes Trismegistus occupy an interesting convergence of astrological and magical thought, as he figures as a sort of mythic ancestor to both traditions. Worshipped by both Egyptians and Greeks as an embodiment of Thoth or Mercury, respectively, Hermes Tristmegistus is a bit of a mystery. Many Hellenistic astrologers used his name to imbue their works with authenticity and authority. Tens of thousands of texts are attributed to him, which has led scholars to simply categorize these texts as Hermetica, referring to documents that contain secret wisdom, spells and induction procedures from the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE (Hermes Trismegistus, Hermetica). The emerald tablets of Hermes Trismegistus, considered to be one of the oldest Hermetic texts, contains the phrase "as above, so below," a dictum used by many astrologers to explain the correspondence between movements of the heavenly bodies and events transpiring on Earth (Emerald Tablet). The phrase is instructive for magicians as well, as it eloquently summarizes the the theory behind the Hermetic practice of sympathetic magic.

Hermeticists believe that everything proceeds from a source referred to as "the one" in a logical, hierarchical manner. The one source of all has a consciousness which occupies the second tier of this system. The consciousness is often referred to as the demiurge, the logos, or thought of the one. It is the repository of ideal forms and Platonic ideals which generate the next level, the anima mundi or soul of the cosmos. Warnock describes the anima mundi as "thoughts in the mind of the divine" (Warnock "Hermetic Gnosis"). Where the one source is a pure state of being and the demiurge is the capacity for thought or the possibilities which can be thought, the anima mundi is the actual content of this universal consciousness. The celestial world is comprised of the cosmos which occupies the next level and represents the mechanism which "the one" utilizes to embody the ideas arising from the anima mundi. Finally, at the bottom of the ladder is the material form and material world. Here is where the corporeal experience of humanity lies, the result of a divine source manifest through the movement of celestial bodies. This theory blends seamlessly with early Greek Stoic and Platonic thought. The dictum "as above, so below" describes the connection between the core level of reality experienced by humans and the movements of the heavenly bodies. In contemporary astrology, it is generally thought that planetary phenomena cause or are reflected in events on Earth. However, the magical tradition takes this concept one step further by harnessing or cocreating with the planetary phenomena. Many hermeticists feel that these acts even comprise a spiritual practice because by working with the planets, they come closer to "the one" (Warnock "Hermetic Gnosis).

The Picatrix is significant astrologically because it provides a wealth of examples of astrologers using Hermetic principles to contain planetary energies to create effects in the material realm. Furthermore, it solidifies the connection between the Harranian Sabians and the Yezidis of Kurdistan. Four chapters comprise the first book of the Picatrix. The first three books focus on the astrological and philosophical background behind magic, while the fourth which offers direct and explicit instructions "is about the magic of the Kurds, Nabataeans, and Abyssinians" (Warnock "Picatrix"). In a work that's comprised of more than 200 previous magical, astrological and philosophical texts, it's significant that these cultures are specifically mentioned by name (Warnock "Picatrix"). These cultural groups are also likely the source for the doctrine of planetary hours, which informs the ways in which an astrologer elects a chart. The Chaldean order of planets, the basis for working with planetary hours, was likely developed in Babylon or Mesopotamia many years before Common Era (Warnock "Planetary Hours," Chaldea). It was therefore copresent with the Kurds, Nabataeans and Abyssinians and surely comprised a part of their magical/astrological practice. It's clear that the Picatrix helps chart the metaphysical lineage of astrology. Already in Ptolemy's times, there exists a fully formed mathematical system of divination, but what Ptolemy's system lacks is a clear explanation of why the planets represent that which they symbolize. The magical/astrological tradition represents a kind of folk-science of trial and error. Approaching the planets as forces which can be worked with and embodied, the mage is in a position of active engagement with the solar system, rather than merely reporting on what is likely to transpire. The Yezidi are proof, then, that alternative astrologies are alive if not doing terribly well. As the descendants of a group with a materialist approach to the cosmos, the Yezidi may be the closest living link to the prehistoric Mesopotamian roots of astrology.