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Djinn

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Artist's conception of a genie coming out of a bottle
Artist's conception of a genie coming out of a bottle

Djinn, Jinn, or Genies are powerful spirits of nature, the desert, and the elements as conceived within the Near Eastern and North African traditions. Belief in djinn spans from Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean and their presence is found in a variety of cultures, but most prominently among Arabic people and those who work within the Islamic tradition.

In pre-Islamic times, shrines and altars of veneration were built to honour and seek aid from helpful djinn, while apotropaic charms and amulets were used to ward off harmful djinn. According to Islamic teachings djinn are created from a smokeless fire by Allah, whereas man was formed from clay. They inhabit the earth as an invisible race with their own cultures and tribes, and it is believed that all the religions of the world have djinn followers. In Islamic theology all demonic entities are actually djinn and not fallen angels, as angels cannot fall. In these traditions, the evil djinn are known as "shaitan" (adversaries) and are warded off or rebuked though supplications, prayers, and talismans, while helpful djinn are greeted and welcomed.

Djinn have a variety of forms, shapes, and temperaments. Some are helpful and some are dangerous. Known as master shape-shifters, they may take on the form of animals when they appear to humans, often black animals with distinctive features. The idea of djinn appearing as black animals is furthered by the fact that conjurers often have djinn familiars in the form of pets. Djinn are also known to inhabit cemeteries, deserts, caves, and abandoned places. Explorers of these places report seeing strange animals or hearing disembodied voices — these are the djinn.

There are different categories of djinn, each with differing temperaments, proclivities, and forms:

  • Marids are considered some of the most powerful djinn, with great magical powers. Various depictions of wish-granting genies are actually depictions of marids.
  • Ifreet are cunning djinn, with an infernal temperament, and are known for their quickness to punish those who offend them. They particularly enjoy turning people into animals. British Soldiers in Egypt were warned about ifreets who would lead them astray should they head towards the pyramids.
  • Ghouls are djinn who dwell in graveyards and abandoned places. Their name derives from the Arabic word "ghul" meaning to "seize" and they are thought to be related to the Gallu demon of ancient Mesopotamia. Ghouls are blood-drinkers who often take the shape of hyenas. There are special ghouls who take on the form of alluring females who appear in the desert and lead travelers to their death. Ghouls are also the type of evil djinn associated with the Latin terms incubi and succubi.
  • Jann is a term referring to the average djinn of average rank, though it sometimes is used to refer to female djinn.

Historically, ceremonial magicians who work with djinn have associated them with the goetic spirits of the Solomonic tradition, and many sorcerers believe that the djinn and the goetic spirits are one and the same. Concepts and methodologies shared between the goetic tradition and the djinn tradition show enough similarities to support such familiarity between djinn and goetic spirits.

The existence of djinn is taken for granted in various Islamic, Arabic, Mediterranean, and North African countries, where folk-magical customs have developed around human interactions with the invisible race. These customs involve a variety of magical practices and prescriptions, such as what to do when moving into a new home to remove troublesome djinn while encouraging friendly djinn to take residence, and how to deal with thieving djinn who may be taking your possessions. Hoodoo psychic readers, spirit workers and root doctors who work with the djinn in the Islamic tradition call upon or enlist djinn to help carry out their spells.

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