In folk tradition common throughout North Africa and the Middle East, every human being has a spirit double or alter ego. The modern Arabic term for this double is Qarin (male) or Qarina (female). The Qarin is a doppelganger, shadow, or reflection. Sometimes it’s an evil twin. Spirit and human are born and die at the same moment and share an intense psychic bond, although they may be unaware of it.
Qarin may derive or be related to the Egyptian ka, an aspect of the soul or life-force, sometimes depicted as a person’s double. Although their names may be pronounced identically and sometimes even spelled identically, the spirit double Qarina is not the same as the Demon Karina who manifested to King Solomon. However some of the fears regarding Qarins may derive from conflating them with Karina.
Variations on this theme exist throughout the Semitic world:
• In Jewish folklore, human and spirit share the same gender. Human and spirit are born, marry, and die simultaneously. If you have children, they have children. When your life is tragic, so is theirs. This spirit reflection lives on the other side of the mirror.
• In Egyptian and some Arabic folklore, a man possesses a female Qarina while women have a male Qarin. Very complex relationships form. If you marry someone, their Qarin and Qarina marry, too. If you divorce and remarry, there are repercussions on the other side of the mirror, too.
• In Moroccan folklore, relationships are even more complex. Each individual possesses a star double up in the sky and a leaf on the Tree of Paradise as well as the standard spirit double. All four—human, spirit, leaf, and star—are cosmically linked. If we get sick, so do our spirits. The star pales; the leaf withers. When we die, the spirit dies too. The star becomes a shooting star and falls from the sky. The leaf falls from the tree.
As long as Qarin and human lead parallel lives with no interaction, there’s rarely any trouble, but sometimes the Qarin becomes fixated or jealous of its human counterpart, in which case those evil twin tendencies may start to manifest. Trouble develops when the Qarin is infertile but the human counterpart has children or if the Qarin lusts after its human twin. Sometimes Qarins sabotage human relationships from jealousy or because they wish to keep their humans all to themselves. Qarins visit their humans in dreams for sex. (If you compulsively dream of having sex with yourself or someone who looks just like you, this may be more than narcissism.)
In some parts of the Semitic world, the Qarin is just a fact of life, something that exists but which one rarely, if ever, has contact with. Sometimes Qarins behave like allies, especially those whose health and well-being is linked to yours. In other places, however, Qarins are feared. The Qarin may threaten the child of its human counterpart. The Qarin is a formidable opponent if it’s angry with you because it knows you like it knows itself. A Qarin will not kill you because it will die with you, but a Qarin with no children may threaten your children because it will suffer no corresponding loss.
Amulets are used to protect against the Qarin, especially:
• Fish-shaped amulets
• The Seven Covenants of Solomon (
Umm es Subyan.)
• Put seven grains each of seven different kinds of grain in a charm bag. Hang near a cradle, carry, or wear.
The Qarin is generally invisible, but the psychically gifted may sense or see them. Qarins are doppelgangers. Looking at your Qarin is like looking into a mirror. Some Qarins are also able to assume the form of cats or dogs.
Creatures: Cats and, to a lesser extent, dogs. These animals may be the Qarins in disguise or some Qarins may just be inordinately fond of them. (Odds are if you’re crazy about cats, so is your Qarin.) Cats and dogs may also serve as messengers of the Qarin.
Qarin folklore includes all kinds of admonitions against harming or even offending cats. The cat may be the Qarin or these may be vestiges of ancient traditions that considered cats holy.
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.