A Djinn (genii, ginn, jann, jinn, shayatin, shaytan) is in Arabic lore, a type of interfering spirit, often demonlike, but not equivalent to a Demon. As are the Greek Daimones, Djinn are self-propagating and can be either good or evil. They possess supernatural powers and can be conjured in magical rites to perform various tasks and services. A Djinn appears as a wish-granting “genie” in many Arabic folktales such as those in The Book of One Thousand and One Nights.
In pre-Islamic lore, the Djinn are malicious, are born of smokeless fire, and are not immortal. They live with other supernatural beings in the Kaf, a mythical range of emerald mountains that encircles the earth. They like to roam the deserts and wilderness. They are usually invisible but have the power to shapeshift to any form, be it insect, other animal, or human.
King Solomon used a magic ring to control Djinn and protect him from them. The ring was set with a gem, probably a diamond, that had a living force of its own. With the ring, Solomon branded the necks of the Djinn as his slaves.
One story tells that a jealous Djinn (sometimes identified as Asmodeus) stole the ring while Solomon bathed in the river Jordan. The Djinn seated himself on Solomon’s throne at his palace and reigned over his kingdom, forcing Solomon to become a wanderer. God compelled the Djinn to throw the ring into the sea. Solomon retrieved it and punished the Djinn by imprisoning him in a bottle.
According to another story, Solomon took Djinn to his crystal-paved palace, where they sat at tables made of iron. The Qur’an tells how the king made them work at building palaces and making carpets, ponds, statues, and gardens. Whenever Solomon wanted to travel to faraway places, the Djinn carried him there on their backs.
Solomon forced the Djinn to build the Temple of Jerusalem and all of the city as well.
Djinn in Muslim Lore
Islamic theology absorbed and modified the Djinn; some became beautiful and good-natured. According to the Muslim faith, humans are created from clay and water, and the essence of angels is light. Djinn were created on the day of creation from the smokeless fire, or the essential fire. They are invisible to most people except under certain conditions; however, dogs and donkeys are able to see them.
They were on the Earth before human beings, but it is unknown how long. By some accounts, they were created 2,000 years before Adam and Eve and are equal to angels in stature. Their ruler, Iblis(also called Shaytan), refused to worship Adam and so was cast out of heaven, along with his followers. Iblis became the equivalent of the Devil, and the followers all became Demons. Iblis’ throne is in the sea.
As do humans, Djinn have free will and are able to understand good and evil. The Qur’an states that the purpose of their creation is the same as that of humans, which is to worship God. They are responsible for their actions and will be judged at the Last Judgment. It is said that Hell will be filled with Djinn and humans together. Conflicting stories about the Djinn abound, similar to conflicting stories about Angelsand Demons. According to some accounts, there are three types of Djinn:
1. Those who are able to fly. These Djinn can be heavy or light, tall or thin, and are shape shifters with very flexible bodies.
2. Those who reside in a given area and cannot travel out of that area. They may live in abandoned houses.
3. Those who manifest as snakes, scorpions, creeping animals, and dogs (especially Black Dogs, who are devils or Iblis) and cats. A cat should not be chased away early in the morning or late at night, lest it be a shape-shifted Djinn, who will take revenge.
Muhammad warned the people to cover their utensils, close their doors, and keep their children close to them at night, as the Djinn spread out at night and take things. He also warned people to put out their lights, as the Djinn could drag away the wicks and start a fire. However, they will not open a locked door, untie a knot, or uncover a vessel. If people find a snake in their house, they should call out to it for three days before killing it. If the snake is a shape-shifted Djinn, it will leave.
The Djinn can be converted, as sura 72 of the Qur’an indicates: “It has been revealed to me that a company of the Djinn gave ear, then they said ‘we have indeed heard a Qur’an wonderful, guiding to rectitude.’ ” Muhammad converted Djinn by reciting the Qur’an to them. However, all Djinn are unreliable and deceitful, even if converted. The Djinn will guard graves if commanded to do so by Witchcraft; in Egypt, it is bad luck to open a pharaoh’s tomb, for the guarding Djinn will harm anyone who violates the sacred space.
The life span of Djinn is much longer than that of humans, but they do die. They are both male and female and have children. They eat meat, bones, and dung of animals. They play, sleep, and have animals. Descriptions of their appearances vary. They may have the legs of a goat, a black tail, or a hairy body. They may be exceptionally tall and have their eyes set vertically in their heads.
Although they can live anywhere on the planet, they prefer deserts, ruins, and places of impurity like graveyards, garbage dumps, bathrooms, camel pastures, and hashish dens. They also can live in the houses where people live. They love to sit in places between the shade and the sunlight and move around when the dark first falls. They also like marketplaces, and Muslims are warned not to be the first to enter the market or the last to leave it.
In Islam, it is believed that humans are unable to get in touch with the deceased, learn about the future or what happens after death, or be healed, as these phenomena are in God’s realm. Djinn have limited powers in these areas. Djinn can appear to humans as the spirits of the dead and communicate with the living through visions and voices. Those who learn the medicinal qualities of plants through the plants’ talking to them are actually speaking with devils. It was the Djinn who taught humans Sorcery. (See also : Watchers.)
Djinn will eat human food, stealing its energy, unless people say the name Allah prior to eating. Marriage between Humans and Djinn As do Fairies, Djinn fall in love with humans and marry them. There is no direct evidence of it, and no children have qualities of both Djinn and human. A clan in the United Arab Emirates claims to descend from a female Djinn. There is controversy over whether it is lawful to marry Djinn, but most Islamic jurists believe it is unlawful. There also seems to be controversy as to whether a mixed marriage will be able to produce children. If the mother is human, the children will be visible and look like humans. If the mother is Djinn, the children will be invisible.
Djinn interfere in human relationships. If they fall in love with a human, they try to disrupt marriages and other relationships.
Possession by Djinn
Ordinary human acts can kill or hurt Djinn without people being aware of doing so. When that happens, Djinn possesses the offending people in order to take revenge on them. Others who are vulnerable to possession are those who live alone, for Djinn are opposed to community.
As do the daimones, pairs of Djinn stay with each person. One whispers good; the other whispers evil. The moods of humans can be affected by the Djinn, ranging from happiness to sadness for no known reason. Although they are able to affect peoples’ minds and bodies, they have no power over the soul or heart. When possessed, the person appears to be insane and exhibits signs of anger, anxiety, and depression. A woman’s voice will sound like a man’s, and a man’s voice will sound like a woman’s. Physical symptoms include nausea after eating, headaches, frequent desire to fight, heavy shoulders, a constant feeling of dissatisfaction, and a desire to commit suicide.
Modern Experiences of Djinn
Djinn are still prominent in modern superstitions, and encounters with them occur all the time. They are visible in great numbers to those who can see them. In the Middle East, beliefs about Djinn are strong in certain areas. Upper-middle-class people in urban areas tend to look upon Djinn beliefs as superstition, but in rural and remote areas, the Djinn hold sway.
David Morehouse, a retired remote viewer (clairvoyant) for the U.S. military, relates in his book Psychic Warrior how he had temporary visions of Djinn due to a head injury. He was among American troops camped with Jordanian troops for training exercises in Jordan at Baten el Ghoul, which means “Belly of the Beast.”
The Jordanians considered it a haunted valley, where the Demons came out at night to murder people. It was not unusual to have one’s sleep interrupted by the screams and howls of frightened Jordanian soldiers who swore in the light of day that they had seen a Demon. . . . Baten el Ghoul was a desolate and jagged valley carved out of the desert that spilled over from Saudi Arabia. There was no life there except arachnids.
Morehouse was accidentally shot in the helmet, an injury that left a huge lump on his head. After this, he experienced Djinn:
Sometime in the night, my eyes opened to a surreal light outside the tent. It was like the light of an eclipsed sun and wasn’t coming from any stove. It filled the night sky. The entire Baten el Ghoul and the hills beyond were bathed in the strange bluish gray light; I walked to the edge of the bluff and stared into the valley. Dark figures moved effortlessly across its floor, like apparitions. They poured from the rocks in various heaps and shapes and moved about the clusters of tents.
I could hear muffled cries from the Jordanian encampment, and momentarily I thought we were being overrun by thieves or Israelis. Panicked, I turned to run for help. Colliding with one of the figures, I reflexively closed my eyes, except I didn’t collide. I walked right through it. Turning around I watched the figure disappear over the edge of the bluff. After that, the lump on his head disappeared.
Further Reading :
- Ahmad, Salim. Revealing the Mystery behind the World of Jinn. Booksurge.com: 2008.
- al-Ashqar, Umar Sulaiman. The World of the Jinn and Devils. Translated by Jamaal al-Din M. Zarabozo. New York: Al-Basheer Company for Publications and Translations, 1998.
- de Givry, Emile Grillot. Witchcraft, Magic and Alchemy. 1931. Reprint, New York: Dover Publications, 1971.
- Frieskens, Barbara. Living with Djinns: Understanding and Dealing with the Invisible in Cairo. London: Saqi Books, 2008.
- Morehouse, David. Psychic Warrior: Inside the CIA’s Stargate Program: The True Story of a Soldier’s Espionage and Awakening. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1996.
Djinn are the indigenous spirits of the Middle East and North Africa. They preceded Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the area but have since traveled the world with Islam and are now found far from their original home. In Neil Gaiman’s novel, American Gods, a Djinn is envisioned driving a taxi in New York City. There’s no reason to think this far-fetched.
Djinn is sometimes used to indicate both singular and plural, but in Morocco, Djinn refers to an individual spirit. The plural is jnoun.
Djinn constitute a vast community of spirits. They come in all shapes and sizes and vary in power and temperament. Djinn have hierarchical societies that parallel those of humans. Thus Chemharouch is a king of Djinn. Some Djinn are fascinated by people and behave very much like orishas. They can be benevolent protectors. Others just want to be left alone.
The name Djinn derives from Old Arabic and means “covert” or “darkness.” Most Djinn are secretive, covert spirits who are invisible most of the time. Many are ambivalent toward people. They are nocturnal, preferring to sleep during the day. They haunt ruins, cemeteries, and crossroads. Blood appeals to them, and so they may be found in slaughterhouses.
Djinn like liminal spaces: they have a tendency to take up residence at the threshold of homes. It’s crucial not to step on the threshold but over it and also never to throw anything on the ground without giving warning, especially liquids or waste products. Djinn who are rudely awakened tend to reflexively strike out: they cause illness, sudden stroke, and/or paralysis that will resist medical treatment, responding only to magical and shamanic cures.
• Some Djinn are skilled shape-shifters and may appear in any form.
• Some Djinn are consistently benevolent and are venerated and loved.
• Some Djinn are consistently temperamental, treacherous, hostile, and malevolent: the very embodiment of evil spirits. People may propitiate them, but the motivation is fear.
In recent years, Djinn have been blamed for encouraging suicide bombers.
Djinn are spiritual devotees, too. There are Pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Djinn; each is allegedly most likely to help humans who share their religious persuasion although the most generous Djinn are kind to all and the most malevolent are equal-opportunity offenders. Djinn love and crave heat. They live in the desert, by hot springs, and in bathhouses. They despise the cold, and Djinn in colder climes tend to be grouchy.
Djinn hate salt and fear iron and steel. All may be used to keep them far away. They don’t like noisy, crowded places although they are curious spirits and will venture out to observe or even participate in fairs, markets, and festivals. Djinn enjoy stories and can be pacified or lured by telling exciting, suspenseful tales. They will hover quietly in corners and listen. In the manner of Scheherazade, should you need to keep a Djinn calm or play for time, keep telling stories. If you anticipate dealings with Djinn, it’s not bad to maintain a repertoire of tales, just in case.
Djinn have a code of honor. Even the most malevolent Djinn will honor a promise or vow. (Make sure that you do, too.) Djinn appreciate favors done for them and respectful behavior.
Also known as:
Jinn; Genie; Jinni
Djinn famously manifest as snakes, cats, or dogs. It’s considered dangerous to injure, kill, or even annoy any of these creatures as it may be a Djinn in disguise.
The most powerful individual Djinn have personal preferences in terms of offerings as well as colors. Please see individual entries for more details.
The traditional offering involves pouring oil over flour. Jewish Djinn like fruit jam. Christian Djinn have the reputation of eating anything, but that may just be from the Islamic perspective. Djinn tend to like alcoholic beverages, candles, and incense, especially benzoin.
They hate salt. Make sure anything given to them was prepared without salt, or it will be rejected and their enmity earned.
- Aisba Qandisba
- Bagblet el Qebour
- Kel Asuf
- Lalla Malika
- Lalla Mira
- Lalla Mkouna
- Maezt-Dar L’Oudou
- Bent Mkoun
- Lalla Rekya Bint El Khamar
- Mimoun, Sidi
- Mimouna, Lalla
From the Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses– Written by Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.
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