‘Angel Heart’ Revisited

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By: H.B.G.

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Angel Heart Poster artwork by Renato Casaro (detail).

Note: ‘Angel Heart’ is a difficult film to discuss without giving away key points of the story and spoiling the plot. This is a film to be relished, so we will simply laud the film here, give our Occult Purport, and hopefully not divulge too much. It’s darkly delicious.

Amongst our many favorite Satanic or Occult themed Horror Films ‘Angel Heart’ (1987), which was released 31 years ago this month, still stands among the best. It’s excellent cast and production and it’s sinister, occult-noir atmosphere – deftly blended with a haunting soundtrack – separates this masterpiece of Diabolical Cinema from the many ham-handed attempts at the Diabolical Horror subgenre. The production is pure movie magic of the highest calibre in our opinion. With a Faustian premise set in 1955’s New York City, and a story that takes us to steamy New Orleans, Angel Heart unsettles us from the very start and then proceeds to take us on a journey into the heart of one man’s personal Darkness and, finally, the discovery of an impending evil carrying a one way ticket to Hell.

The film was adapted from William Hjortsberg’s novel Falling Angel. Hjortsberg also wrote the screenplay for Legend (1985), in which Tim Curry so adeptly brought Darkness to life…

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Tim Curry as Darkness in Legend, 1985.

Like our beloved Rosemary’s Baby’ (1968), there are no overt supernatural occurrences taking place in the story (at least, not perhaps until the very end – and even that is subtle and may be up for interpretation), placing the narrative firmly in reality and from the point of view of an unsuspecting protagonist. Our protagonist is one Harold Angel (wink), a gumshoe detective hired by a Mr Louis Cyphere (wink, wink) – an unusual client with some unsettled business. Harold Angel is sent on a manhunt for ‘Johnny Favorite,’ a famous crooner who’s gone missing since the War (WWII). As our Harry Angel falls deeper into a Black Magic Mystery peopled by corruptible characters of dubious interests and backgrounds, we find ourselves intrigued by the suspicious strands of destiny and danger which draw ever tighter around our detective.

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When Harry met Louis. Curious to know whose portrait that is above De Niro.

Occult Purport

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One traditional French title for this Key is: Force majeure,

Every significant relationship our detective discovers about the missing singer – be it physician, lover, or friend – is tainted with unwholesome or diabolical elements, linking the baneful Johnny Favorite and everyone involved with him to Evil Forces.

This strongly reminds us of The Devil XV Arcana in the Tarot. Johnny Favorite and each of his accomplices are bound to Evil. The chains that bind the demons to the black half-cube (unbalanced energy) pedestal of The Devil are of their own making. They choose to remain at the feet of The Devil (notice how loose the chains are about the demon’s necks in the Tarot card shown – they could choose to leave The Devil if they were not so  enjoying being held under His power). Every “evil” act perpetrated – whether out of addiction (Dr. Fowler), Fear, Greed, Anger, Lust, Vanity or Pride – inflicts another  karmic link in the chains binding these characters to Johnny Favorite (and towards an inevitable and sticky end). Johnny Favorite binds himself to Evil and does what he does out of his own self interests without giving any thought to how it effects those around him (who are likewise bound by their choices to involve themselves with such an unsavory character), or for when it comes time for his own eventual atonement.

eac79530007a85c007c0b6ee764f9d9fInteresting to note here is that a traditional French title for The Devil Tarot key is Force majeure, meaning “superior force”, also known as cas fortuit (French) or casus fortuitus (Latin) “chance occurrence, unavoidable accident”, which is a common clause in contracts that essentially frees both parties from liability or obligation when an extraordinary event or circumstance beyond the control of the parties, such as a war, strike, riot, crime, or an event described by the legal term act of God (hurricane, flood, earthquake, volcanic eruption, etc.), prevents one or both parties from fulfilling their obligations under the contract.

Force Majeure, The Devil tarot card (coloured engraving) Above: Two Devil cards from two different Etteilla style French Tarot decks explicitly state Force Majeure. Silly Mr Etteilla felt the need to renumber this key 14 (among other changes made by the demented wigmaker).

In practice, most force majeure clauses do not excuse a party’s non-performance entirely, but only suspend it for the duration of the force majeure. Hmmm…

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Charlotte Rampling as Madame Krusemark spreads the Tarot in a promo shot.

Read our article: The Details In the Devil – Tarot

Did you know???

When Louis (Robert De Niro) blows salt from his egg onto the restaurant table, Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) takes a pinch and throws it over his left shoulder. The superstition is that by doing so you blind the devil (or your evil angel). The Left being the “sinister” side where the demon sits.Angel-Heart-Unsung-Films

And… The law firm Winesap and Mackintosh are two types of apples, traditional agents of the Devil tempting mankind. (Even though the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil is not identified as an apple in any Bible translation.)

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Mickey Rourke as Harold Angel with Charlotte Rampling as Margaret Krusemark. Angel Heart, 1987.

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Robert De Niro as the deliciously diabolical Mr Cyphere reminds us of a sober and well-dressed satyr who’s just had a manicure.

The poem about Evangeline and her lover, to which everyone refers, is “Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie” (Link: Evangeline) by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

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Lisa Bonet is bewitching in Angel Heart.

The line “How terrible is wisdom when it brings no profit to the wise” is drawn from Sophocles“Oedipus The King”. The quote is appropriate as the “final horrific revelation” trope in the story of Oedipus somewhat parallels that in Angel Heart.

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Have one in memory of Toots Sweet…

Twin Sisters Cocktail Recipe: Ingredients: 1/2 oz. light rum 1/2 oz. spiced rum 1 dash lime juice 1 dash Coca-Cola Directions: Shake with ice and strain into shot glass. Best served in a shot glass.

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Sinister Blessings of the limp left hand.

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The original skeleton Key: The Hand of Glory.

Satanic Cinema Sommelier; Our Favorite Devilish Films

An Interview with Ernest Harada: Celebrating 50 years of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’

SUSPIRIA: Dario, De Quincey and the Dark Goddess; Part 1

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The Details In the Devil – Tarot

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The Red Death prepares to deal some Fate in The Masque of the Red Death, 1964.

By H.B.G.

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A Tarot Death card, from the end credits of The Masque of the Red Death, 1964

Occult: From the Latin meaning hidden or concealed or secret. That which is hidden from view, …or seen only by the few.

A fair number of supernatural, religious, diabolical and occult horror films commonly present occult regalia such as crystal balls, Ouija boards, Tarot cards, magical diagrams, mysterious or forbidden books and all the elements commonly associated with Witchcraft, Voodoo, Black Magic or Satanic ritual. A prime example is Regan MacNeil in The Exorcist plays with a Ouija board which opens her up to demonic possession.

In real life these tropes can trigger – as experience has showed us time and time again – reactions ranging from suspicion to fear, or from derision to curiosity, fascination and even genuine interest. This path opened for us at a tender young age. We got our first printed deck of Tarot cards at age 13 (there was an early attempt at creating our own but the task was quite formidable due to our youth and ignorance) and have a real abiding passion for the Art. Our collection is now around 50 different Tarot packs.

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Many encountering the Tarot cards in person for the first time prove inquisitive. There is a genuine interest in the symbolic imagery – the weird yet somehow strangely familiar hieroglyphic language of the Tarot. The cards first appeared in Medieval Europe and the earliest examples of Tarot cards date back to Northern Italy in the early 1400’s, though their provenance has much earlier origins. Many people have some passing recognition of the cards from either horror films like Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors [1965], or Masque of the Red Death [1964]) or from a unique roommate they knew in college. Others have had a deeply suspicious (i.e. fearful) religious programming inculcated from a young age which, in no uncertain terms, deems such items as Runes, talismans and the Tarot cards as treacherous gateways towards eternal damnation. This idea has been fostered by Hollywood time and again in numerous films and television dramas. Church groups actively work to warn their congregants of the dangers of the Occult. it is their ignorance and misunderstanding of the deeper spiritual mysteries concealed within these divinatory tools that causes such fear.

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The wonderful Peter Cushing spreads the Tarot and deals the fates of men traveling by train in Dr. Terror’s House of Horrors.

For some, the call of the exotic and the taboo can prove both irresistible and upsetting. The twinkle which catches one’s eye can upset the balance of a mind confronted with  the dilemma faced when their firmly held beliefs and religious views are called into question. While trafficking with spirit boards or dabbling with divination can offer a thrill, it can also upset those who find more Truth and Wisdom about themselves than they ever expected, or even guessed, they would discover beneath the veil of mundane life. Whatever preconceived ideas people have of the Tarot cards there is often a dreaded yet curious fascination towards one or two of the 22 Major Arcana “Keys” or “Trumps”: namely XIII DEATH and XV THE DEVIL.

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THE DEVIL from The Aquarian Tarot

A very real Fear of looking into your own shadow-reflection, the darkness within, exists in most people. The Shadow, in psychological terms, is the Ego’s blindspot. Even when one has spent years in spiritual practice, and has done serious meditative work with one’s own psyche, there will always be a risk of being surprised by what lies within the inner abyss of the individual soul. Very, very, few are able to completely transcend the chains of material bondage over which The Devil so delights to lord.

The Shadow, in psychological terms, is the Ego’s blindspot.

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In a manner of speaking, The Devil in the Tarot is one’s own Shadow. Those aspects of our deepest, and most natural or instinctual (dare we say… truest), selves which we hide away from the world – and even from ourselves. All our secret traumas which have been unconsciously repressed. All our unrepentant animal urges and emotional energies we consciously suppress, (yet – to tell the truth – secretly long to exercise). Sometimes a person may seem “possessed” and the “Devil cuts loose”.  We wonder “Whatever could have possessed me?”, and say “The Devil made me do it!” We often cannot accept or even understand our own emotional responses or why we sometimes act in certain ways.

The Tarot Devil usually depicts two people, or satyrs, chained and bound to the Lord of Darkness who stands or squats menacingly above them. But either their chains are of their own making or their collars are at least loose enough to slip off if they chose to do so. But Mardi Gras is fun – though there are good reasons why we cannot have it every day; and some people have difficulty stepping away from the betting table  even when they are about to lose their shirt – or even themselves!!

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” But it lies buried.

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The Devil is numbered XV = 15 in every Tarot deck. Numerology links 15 to 6 (1+5=6). 6 is The Lovers in the Tarot. The comparisons between The Devil and The Lovers are striking in many Tarot decks. The Lovers are often in an ideal setting and are receiving benediction from an angel on high. The Devil card is like the Shadow version of The Lovers card. The blissful situation has soured or sunk to a lower level. This in itself does not indicate “evil,” however.

We will not be delving deeply into divinatory meanings here, but The Tarot Devil can, at times, be seen as inverting or perverting the divine union of The Lovers into a kind of sick co-dependency, or bondage through materialism. It can also offer us a sense of play, mirth and delicious enjoyment. rapture of the flesh rather than the spirit (but the two are really one, you know).

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THE LOVERS illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith

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THE DEVIL illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith

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The Lovers in a Marseilles style deck

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The Devil in the Oswald Wirth Tarot

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STRENGTH card from The Morgan-Greer Tarot.

However, beware of casting out your Devils that you do not lose the best part of yourself, your fundamental creative impulse, your Daemonic genius. As Joseph Campbell said: “The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.” But it lies buried. We find it beneficial to care for and nurture your inner demons just as one would for wild beasts – cautiously and with close attention and strict guidelines. Just as the woman in The Strength card (Arcana VIII or XI – depending on the deck, which Aleister Crowley re-titled “LUST“) tames the lion with gentle ease.

“Be careful when you cast out your demons that you don’t throw away the best of yourself.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche – Thus Spoke Zarathustra

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LE DIABLE from a Marseilles pattern deck

 

Additionally, The Devil in the Tarot can be an addiction to a habit or condition which has become overpowering and possessive of one’s soul, causing the individual to surrender his free will to the whims of a desire grown monstrous or even poisonous. A common example would be when instead of drinking alcohol the alcohol begins drinking you! Intoxicants, stimulants and sex can be used as rocket fuel to the Divine. They can cause ecstasy and transcendence. As stated in the Kularnavatantra: “One reaches heaven by the very things which may lead to hell.”

“One reaches heaven by the very things which may lead to hell.”

– Kularnavatantra

However, as Kenneth Grant points out in his Introduction to ‘Cults of the Shadow’: “if the sexual energies are not properly controlled and polarized, destruction awaits the practitioner who uses them without fully understanding the formula of the Left Hand Path which is, of all paths, the swiftest and the most dangerous.”

This gives credence to the ancient Tantric dictum: “The knower of truth should go about the world outwardly stupid like a child, a madman or a devil.”

– Mahavakyaratnamala

“The knower of truth should go about the world outwardly stupid like a child, a madman or a devil.”

– Mahavakyaratnamala

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Arcana XIII – Card number 13

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From an 18th century Florentine Minchiate Tarot (Etruria)

Most People dread thinking about their own death . Displaying a picture of The Grim Reaper, or turning over the Death card before their eyes will cause them to wince and whine. People hate to be reminded of their own mortality. In early decks this card is often left unnamed, only the image and the number serves to give it’s meaning.

In horror films, the appearance of the Death card inevitably means something terrible is about to occur. In reality, this card usually indicates a tremendous change to one’s circumstances or a metamorphosis taking place from within one’s soul.

But this is precisely the medieval Latin Christian theory and practice of reflection on mortality, Memento Mori – Remember Death, especially as a means of considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits. In our shallow, materialistic culture of today, which celebrates and promotes youth and beauty and shuns acknowledgement of  the aged and our inevitable end of existence, we seem to fear and try to fight off Death as something hateful and bad.

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ARCANA XIII from Jodorowsky’s  restored Marseilles pattern deck.

When one is capable of not only accepting the inevitable disintegration of one’s own organism but to even fully embrace it – and thereby to even more fully live, then we have to ask the question…

“O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”

“O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?”

1 Corinthians 15:55

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DEATH tramples upon King, Pope, Maiden and child in the Tarot illustrated by Pamela Coleman Smith for the Rider-Smith deck.

Here is an instructional video we made for our Arcana Tarot Study Group here in Osaka, Japan. @ArcanaTarotOsaka on Facebook.

Click on link below for youtube video…

How to read the Tarot: Celtic Cross spread

 

SUSPIRIA: In the Eye of the Peacock

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By: H.B.G.

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Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion in SUSPIRIA

Suspiria (1977) Is a film that stands out in horror cinema and remains perhaps the most artistic horror film ever made. There is so much going on in Suspiria that one blog post cannot cover all the occultism that saturates this film. The Three Mothers motif, inspired by the work of Thomas DeQuincey, will find it’s own exegesis in a separate post. For now, let us focus our dark-adapted eye upon a particular set piece and give the Devil His due. And please, don’t think us entirely mad until you have digested all what we are communicating to you here.

Suspiria 4When looking for the Devil in the Details in Suspiria, you cannot help but notice the sculpture of the Peacock in the film’s climactic scene. That such exquisite yet superfluous beauty as the male peacock exists at all in the world can be seen by some as proof positive of a beneficial Creator – a thumb print, if you will, of the work done by the hand of the Divine Artist. This echoes the Peacock as a symbol of Beauty, Vanity and, of course, Pride – Lucifer’s sin.

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The Fall

The infernal Serpent; he it was, whose guile
Stirred up with Envy and Revenge, deceiv’d
The Mother of Mankind, what time his Pride
Had cast him out from Heaven, with all his Host
Of Rebel Angels, by whose aid aspiring
To set himself in Glory above his Peers,
He trusted to have equaled the most High,
If he opposed; and with ambitious aim
Against the Throne and Monarchy of God
Raised impious War in Heaven and Battle proud
With vain attempt. Him the Almighty Power
Hurled headlong flaming from the Ethereal Sky
With hideous ruin and combustion down
To bottomless perdition, there to dwell
In Adamantine Chains and penal Fire,

From: Paradise Lost by John Milton

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The Fall

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A new opportunity presents itself…

In Suspiria, the presence of the Peacock with several marble spheres at it’s feet recalls certain pre-Islamic religious traditions such as the Gnostic Manichaeism philosophy, or the later Yazidi tradition wherein which the ‘Peacock Angel’ – Melek Ta’usan entity often mistakenly confused with the evil entity known as Shaitan / Satan / Iblis by Judeo-Christian and Muslim interpretation – is responsible for the 7 created worlds, and the 7 Heavens.

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The Yazidis are peace-loving monotheists, believing in God as creator of the world, which he has placed under the care of seven holy beings or angels, the chief of whom is Melek Taus, the Peacock Angel. The Peacock Angel , vowing to bow only to God the Almighty, refused to bow to God’s human creations – Adam & Eve. By refusing this direct order from the Almighty, this so-called “Fallen Angel” is granted rulership over the created world and is given the task of challenging humankind with all the difficulties of incarnated existence with it’s endless parade of Sighs, Tears and Darkness.

In Yazidi (Yezidi) tradition, The Peacock Angel – named Azazel – as world-ruler, is Prince of this world – our created, material world; and if this world, with all it’s “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” is a shadow manifested by the deepest condensation of the divine light emanated by the Almighty, would it then be a complete error to call this entity the Prince of Darkness? Azazel is the one who causes both good and bad to befall individuals, and this ambivalent character is reflected in myths of his own temporary fall from God’s favour, before his remorseful tears extinguished the fires of his hellish prison and he was reconciled with God. As observed by more than one occultist, the Devil’s power lies in that ‘He suffers.”

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A Yazidi emblem with the Peacock Angel presiding over the created world. There are 3 plumes on the head (The Trinity),  7 red feathers (The Heptad of Angels), and 12 plumed eyes (The Zodiac).

In certain Gnostic traditions a reconciliation is made between God and the Devil.

We find a peacock idol presiding over several (five? the number of the Pentagram?) spheres in the climactic scene of Suspiria, just after we witness Madame Blanc, “the Vice Directress,” (wink, wink nod) of the Dance Academy and her coven of wicked witches invoking infernal powers. The presence of  this idol is either coincidence or somebody did their occult homework. Or, perhaps, the art director was influenced by other, unseen forces?

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Count the number of “eyes” on the peacock’s tail.

Archon: Gnosticism will give some insight into The Hebdomad, the Seven Spheres or Heavens, often recognized in popular Occultism and Kabbalah as: Saturn – Cronus, Jupiter – Zeus, Venus – Aphrodite, Moon – Hekate/Diana, Mercury – Hermes, and Mars – Aries all gathered around the Sun/Sol – Apollo. Seven colors are also expressed by the spectrum, the degrees of manifest Light – a peacock’s rainbowed fan of categorized material expression of Spirit.

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Now, sometimes, when seeking out the Devil in the Details, you find the Devil looking right back out at you! Don’t drop your Tarot cards… but after a close observation of Suspiria  it appears the Peacock image in Our Lady of Sighs – Mater Suspiriorum’s – chambers has 15 “eyes” on it’s tail. Fifteen is of course the number of XV THE DEVIL card in the Tarot! 

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Whichever Tarot deck you use…

However you shuffle your cards…

THE DEVIL remains number XV !

The redemptive tears of the Peacock Angel…

Fifteen “eyes” on the peacock sculpture in SUSPIRIA…

THE DEVIL in the Tarot is numbered 15…

and, oh yes, the Hebrew letter attached to the XVth Arcanum of the Tarot – THE DEVIL card – is Ayin, which just happens to mean “an eye”.

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AYIN = Eye

The three DEVIL Tarot cards below (from three different packs) each carry a visible letter AYIN. We know our Tarot thoroughly and highly recomend it’s study.

Charms and decorations with eye-like symbols known as nazars, which are used to repel the evil eye, are a common sight across Armenia, Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Greece, the Levant, Afghanistan, Southern Spain, and Mexico and have become a popular choice of souvenir with tourists. But we digress…

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After crashing into said Art Deco peacock idol, Suzy Bannion – Our heroine in SUSPIRIA – manages to snatch a fallen peacock plumed stiletto from the overturned idol with which to dispatch the powerfully evil and wicked witch Mater Suspriorum, a.k.a. Helena Markos, by stabbing her through the neck. Mater Suspiriorum, Our Mother of Sighs, is pierced in the neck, the throat, the very reservoir of sighs! Silencing forever that corroded, blasphemous craw!

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Something about that Peacock just sticks in my craw !

But of course we do continue to sigh,

and to weep,

and to stare long and deep

into the gaping jaws of Time.

The religious persecutions and genocidal campaigns executed against the Kurdish Yazidi people of Iraq are horrendous and continue today. How often do you hear the name of the city of Mosul in Iraq in the news?  Mosul is the area closest to the largest Yazidi population in Iraq. You may recall the  2007 Mosul Massacre.

Genocide of Yazidis by ISIL

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Yazidi children have also been victims of Islamic terror and genocide.

For centuries the Yazidis have been tormented and accused of being “Devil-Worshippers.” Religious extremism in the form of the zealots of the so-called Islamic State and other forces in the region have caused untold miseries upon these people who have seen their people massacred and their children sold into sexual slavery. We must use caution so as not to pour gasoline on the fire by misrepresenting the Yazidi people as “Devil-Worshippers” in the Horror film sense of the term. Their tradition is an ancient one containing elements of Gnosticism, Sufism, Christianity and Islam – and yet is completely unique. Comparisons from a solely Christian or Islamic perspective can only result in misinterpretation and misunderstandings. It is it’s own Faith.  Please research the topic to educate yourself further.

Yazidi Woman Who Suffered IS Enslavement Lobbies Washington for Help : May 27, 2017

May we suggest:

If you have a taste for the Occult we suggest this video lecture:

Thelema and the Yezidi “Devil Worshippers”

Some few books are available…

‘Survival Among the Kurds; A History of the Yezidis’

by John S Guest

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Yazidi traditions have a strong emphasis on bodily purity.

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Yazidi gathering at their sacred site in Lalish.

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A Yazidi gathering. Yazidi traditions differ from those of their neighbors but they are most certainly not “Devil worshippers” as certain intolerant groups have claimed.

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Displaced Yazidis fleeing from genocide by the savages of the so-called Islamic State

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Islamic extremists give Yazidis only one choice: Convert or die.

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Yazidi genocide by Islamic zealots.

We await the apocalyptic splendor of a world without religiously motivated hate or genocide.

By: H. B. Gardner

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