A Short Course On the Djinn
A Short Course on the Djinn
Rosemary Ellen Guiley
In Arabian lore, djinn (also spelled jinn) are a race of supernaturally empowered beings who have the ability to intervene in the affairs of people. Like the Greek daimones, djinn are self-propagating and can be either good or evil. They can be conjured in magical rites to perform various tasks and services. A djinni (singular) appears as a wish-granting “genie” in folk tales such as in The Book of 1001 Nights collection of folk tales.
In Western lore djinn are sometimes equated with demons, but they are not the same. They are often portrayed as having a demonic-like appearance, but they can also appear in beautiful, seductive forms. The djinn are masterful shape-shifters, and their favored forms are snakes and black dogs. They also can masquerade as anything: humans, animals, ghosts, cryptids, and other entities such as extraterrestrials, demons, shadow people, fairies, angels and more.
The djinn are not confined to the Middle East, or to the past. They exist in their own realm, probably a parallel dimension, and they have the ability – and the desire – to enter our world and interact with us. The djinn have been among us in antiquity and they are among us now.
According to pre-Islamic lore, the djinn are born of smokeless fire (which in modern terms could be plasma). They live very long lives but they are not immortal. According to some accounts, they live with other supernatural beings in the Kaf, a mythical range of emerald mountains that encircles the Earth. In modern terms, they live in a parallel dimension.
The djinn like to roam the deserts and wilderness and inhabit caves. They are usually invisible, but have the power to shape-shift to any form, be it insect, animal, human, or entity. They have long been regarded as malicious and dangerous, capable of bringing bad luck, illness, disaster and death. Even when granting favors, they have a trickster nature and can twist events for the worse.
Though the djinn can be conjured in magical rites, they are difficult to control. One individual said to have complete power over the djinn was the legendary Biblical King Solomon. God gave Solomon a copper and iron magic ring that enabled him to subdue djinn, and which protected him from their powers. In some accounts, the ring was inscribed with a pentacle, and in other accounts it 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 and set them to working building the first Temple of Jerusalem and even the entire city of Jerusalem.
One story tells that a jealous djinni (sometimes identified as Asmodeus) stole Solomon’s ring while he bathed in the river Jordan. The djinni seated himself on the king’s throne at his palace and reigned over his kingdom, forcing Solomon to become a wanderer. God compelled the djinni to throw the ring into the sea. Solomon retrieved it, and punished the djinni by imprisoning him in a bottle.
According to another story, Solomon summoned the djinn to his crystal-paved palace, where they sat at tables made of iron. (In folklore, iron weakens supernatural entities.) The Qur’an tells how the king made them work at building palaces, making carpets, and creating ponds, statues and gardens. Whenever Solomon wanted to travel to faraway places, the djinn carried him on their backs.
Djinn in Muslim lore
Islamic theology absorbed the djinn; an entire chapter in the Qur’an concerns them. According to the Muslim faith, humans were created from clay and water, and angels from a special and pure spiritual light. Djinn were created from the smokeless fire, or the essential fire (plasma in modern terms). They are invisible to most people except under certain conditions; however, animals, especially dogs and donkeys are able to see them.
Djinn were on the earth before man, but it is unknown for how long. By some accounts, they were created 2000 years before Adam and Eve, and were equal to angels in stature. When Allah created Adam, he told the angels to bow to him. The angels complied but Iblis, the leader of the djinn and who had access to heaven, refused, and so he and his kind were cast out of paradise. Iblis appealed to Allah, and the djinn were granted the opportunity to redeem themselves by Judgment Day. Iblis (also called Shaytan) became a figure comparable to the Devil. His evil-minded followers are called devils, and they behave in ways similar to Western demons.
Like 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 Allah. They are responsible for their actions, and will be judged at the Last Judgment.
Muhammad had encounters with the djinn. He 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 drag away the wicks and start fires. However, they will not open a locked door, untie a tied knot, or uncover a vessel.
If a djinni is harmed or killed, even inadvertently, djinn will take revenge, bringing misfortune, illness and even death to the offenders. Muhammad said that 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. If it remains after three days, it is an ordinary snake and can be killed.
The Djinn can be converted to the faith, and Muhammad converted some of them by reciting the Qur’an to them.
The life span of djinn is much longer than humans, but they do die. They are both male and female, and have children. According to the Qur’an, they eat meat, bones, and the dung of animals. They play, sleep, and have their own pet animals, especially dogs. They live in communities organized into families and clans, and ruled by kings.
Although they can live anywhere, they prefer remote and lonely places, such as deserts, ruins, caves, and tunnels. In Middle Eastern lore they also inhabit places of impurity such as graveyards, garbage dumps, bathrooms, and camel pastures. They can live in houses occupied by people. They like to sit in the places between the shade and the sunlight, and move around when the dark first comes. They also like marketplaces, and Muslim lore holds that it is not a good idea to be the first to enter a market or the last to leave it.
Some djinn become attached to human beings and function like companion spirits. The joining of humans and djinn in marriage is still a practice in some parts of the world. A mixed marriage is believed to be capable of producing offspring, though this is not desirable. In lore, the Queen of Sheba, who fascinated King Solomon, was rumored to be part djinn.
Possession by djinn
Djinn are capable of possessing human beings. They are said to enter the blood stream and circulate rapidly through the body. They cause mental and physical problems, and also disrupt marriages and relationships. Asking a djinni to leave, or bargaining with it, may not be enough to get it to go, and someone who is trained may be needed to perform an exorcism to get it out of the body.
Modern experiences of djinn
Djinn encounters occur everywhere, and they may be interpreted as other entities rather than their true selves. This is especially the case in areas where little is known about them. Encounters with angels, fairies, demons, elementals, extraterrestrials, mysterious creatures and ghosts of the dead may be djinn in disguise, either playing tricks or carrying out an agenda.
David Morehouse, a retired remote viewer for the U.S. military, relates in his book Psychic Warrior how a head injury enabled him to have temporary visions of djinn, normally invisible to most people. 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 en Ghoul was a desolate and jagged valley carved out of the desert that spilled over from Saudi Arabia. It was renowned for its spiders.
Morehouse was accidentally shot in the helmet, which left a huge lump on his head. After this, he temporarily experienced seeing the elusive djinn. He described the conditions as:
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 en 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 was gone.