"The passage of the Tigris transferred me from Mesopotamia into Assyria, and I stood upon the ruins of Nineveh, 'that great city,' where the prophet Jonah proclaimed the dread message of Jehovah to so many repenting thousands whose deep humiliation averted for a time the impending ruin. But when her proud monarchs had scourged idolatrous Israel and carried the ten tribes into captivity, and raised their hands against Judah and the holy city, the inspired strains of the eloquent Nahum, clothed in terrible sublimity as they were, met their full accomplishment in the utter desolation of one of the largest cities on which the sun ever shone. 'Nineveh is laid waste! who will bemoan her? She is empty, and void, and waste; her nobles dwell in the dust; her people are scattered upon the mountains, and no man gathereth them.'
"Where her gorgeous palaces once resounded to the strains of music and the shouts of revelry, a few black tents of the wandering Arab and Turkoman are now scattered among the shapeless mounds of earth and rubbish, -- the ruins of the city, -- as if in mockery of her departed glory; while their tenants were engaged in the fitting employment of weaving 'sackcloth of hair,' as if for the mourning attire of the world's great emporium, whose 'merchants' were multiplied above the stars of heaven. The largest mound, from which very ancient relics and inscriptions are dug, is now crowned with the Moslem village of Neby Yunas, or the prophet Jonah, where his remains are said to be interred, and over which has been reared, as his mausoleum, a temple of Islam.
"Soon after leaving the ruins of Nineveh, we came in sight of two villages of the Yezidees, the reputed worshippers of the devil. Large and luxuriant olive-groves, with their rich green foliage, and fruit just ripening in the autumnal sun, imparted such a cheerful aspect to the scene as soon dispelled whatever of pensive melancholy had gathered around me, while treading upon the dust of departed greatness. Several white sepulchres of Yezidee sheiks attracted attention as I approached the villages. They were in the form of fluted cones or pyramids, standing upon quadrangular bases, and rising to the height of some twenty feet or more. We became the guests of one of the chief Yezidees of Baa-sheka, whose dwelling, like others in the place, was a rude stone structure, with a flat terrace roof. Coarse felt carpets were spread for our seats in the open court, and a formal welcome was given us; but it was evidently not a very cordial one. My Turkish cavass understood the reason, and at once removed it. Our host had mistaken me for a Mahometan towards whom the Yezidees cherish a settled aversion. As soon as I was introduced to him as a Christian, and he had satisfied himself that this was my true character, his whole deportment was changed. He at once gave me a new and cordial welcome, and set about supplying our wants with new alacrity. He seemed to feel that he had exchanged a Moslem foe for a Christian friend, and I became quite satisfied of the truth of what I had often heard, -- that the Yezidees are friendly towards the professors of Christianity.
"They are said to cherish a high regard for the Christian religion, of which clearly they have some corrupt remains. They practise the rite of baptism, make the sign of the cross, so emblematical of Christianity in the East, put off their shoes, and kiss the threshold when they enter a Christian church; and it is said that they often speak of wine as the blood of Christ, hold the cup with both hands, after the sacramental manner of the East, when drinking it, and, if a drop chance to fall on the ground, they gather it up with religious care.
"They believe in one supreme God, and, in some sense at least, in Christ as a Savior. They have also a remnant of Sabianism, or the religion of the ancient fire-worshippers. They bow in adoration before the rising sun, and kiss his first rays when they strike on a wall or other object near them; and they will not blow out a candle with their breath, or spit in the fire, lest they should defile that sacred element.
"Circumcision and the passover, or a sacrificial festival allied to the passover in time and circumstance, seem also to identify them with the Jews; and, altogether, they certainly present a most singular chapter in the history of man.
"That they are really the worshippers of the devil can only be true, if at all, in a modified sense, though it is true that they pay him so much deference as to refuse to speak of him disrespectfully, (perhaps for fear of his vengeance;) and, instead of pronouncing his name, they call him the 'lord of the evening,' or 'prince of darkness;' also, Sheik Maazen, or Exalted Chief. Some of them say that Satan was a fallen angel, with whom God was angry; but he will at some future day be restored to favor, and there is no reason why they should treat him with disrespect.
"The Christians of Mesopotamia report that the Yezidees make votive offerings to the devil, by throwing money and jewels into a certain deep pit in the mountains of Sinjar, where a large portion of them reside; and it is said that when that district, which has long been independent, was subjugated by the Turks, the pacha compelled the Yezidee priest to disclose the place, and then plundered it of a large treasure, the offerings of centuries. The Yezidees here call themselves Daseni, probably from the ancient name of the district, Dasen, which was a Christian bishopric in early times. Their chief place of concourse, the religious temple of the Yezidees, is said to have once been a Christian church or convent. The late Mr. Rich speaks of the Yezidees as 'lively, brave, hospitable, and good-humored,' and adds that, 'under the British government, much might be made of them.'
"The precise number of the Yezidees it is difficult to estimate, so little is known of them; but it is probable that we must reckon them by tens of thousands, instead of the larger computations which have been made by some travellers, who have received their information merely from report. Still they are sufficiently numerous to form an important object of attention to the Christian church; and I trust, as we learn more about them, sympathy, prayer, and effort, will be enlisted in their behalf. It will be a scene of no ordinary interest when the voice of prayer and praise to God shall ascend from hearts now devoted to the service of the prince of darkness, 'the worshippers of the devil'! May that day be hastened on!"