On the night of August 10 the people of San Diego looked up in the sky and saw exactly what thousands of Yazidi men, women, and children trapped on the slopes of Mount Sinjar saw: a supermoon, the moon closer to our planet than it will be for more than another year.
In the day leading to the super, or perigean moon, I searched the web trying to find something out about this people on the verge of extermination. There isn’t much. First the shock of learning that for nearly a thousand years a faith described as syncretic and nonviolent had withstood the never ending storm surge of monotheism spinning across the Middle East and Mesopotamia…
…Followed by the realization that, as with most religious minorities who don’t force their beliefs on other groups and rely on oral tradition to teach their children, the few written accounts of the Yazidis are nearly all by outsiders who offer mainly speculation as to when the religion started, or why, or what its roots are.
I did find this from Professor Refaat Y. Ebied, of the University of Sydney: “It is written in the Yazidi books : ‘When they see the sun rise they kiss the place where his rays first fall; they also kiss the spot where the moon first casts its rays and the one which last receives them.’”
That night I wondered if the Yazidis were blessing the spot on Mount Sinjar where the supermoon’s first rays had fallen, even as the sacred mountain was becoming their grave? Offering neither water nor shade the rocks of Mount Sinjar I’d seen in the newscasts did not look different from the rocks at the summit of Cowles Mountain, or from the mountains of the moon for that matter.
What could make tens of thousands of San Diegans, my family, my neighbors, so terrified that we would run for the nearest mountain in nothing but our pajamas because we know that any delay, any time taken to pack a bag or grab a coat would mean the death of everyone?
And once on top of that mountain we are marooned by gangs of predators circling below…coyotes in the night, wolves, mountain lions even, we could make a run for it—like an elephant herd we could put the strongest on the outside, carry the babies in the center, the beasts couldn’t get everyone…but those circling below us do not stop when their bellies are full like mere animals; they are humans, ordained by their God to monotheize the mountain, and tomorrow the world.
As the moon reached its full supersize that night four rays of light shot diagonally out of her. At last the moon had a flag, and I thought of all the soldiers who had marched to this basic design of the diagonal cross, now revealed to be cosmic, shining across the black sky.
With martial anthems roaring through my mind I saw great armies of the despised and marginalized, warriors recruited form all of the wisdom traditions so long spurned and persecuted striking back, marching across the planet, reconsecrating abandoned shrines, and ending the reign of those who worship an invisible God endlessly crafted in the fires of their own nightmares.
A midnight cricket found itself crooning on the wrong side of my screen and when I slid the screen open the cross in the sky vanished, the music stopped. The supermoon was still there but now radiating a rainbow halo. I shut the screen and the cross reappeared, along with the armies and the music and the flags…a ragged prayer limped out into the night, to who or what I no longer knew, pleading that all of the women, children, and men looking up at the same moon half the world away would be alive in the morning to bless the new day.
Since the night of the supermoon the media has declared the emergency on Mt. Sinjar over. Thanks to U.S. airstrikes and successful counterattacks by the Kurdish army, the Yazidi have gotten off the mountain and onto the road of exile and uncertainty.
No one knows how many loved ones they left on the mountain with no soil bury them under, faces turned to the sun and the moon.
Nat Krieger works for San Diego Unified where, on good days, he fixes computers. Nights spent wandering though 10th Century Andalusia resulted in a recently completed work of historical fiction.