Born of smokeless fire, the djinn are hidden from our physical senses, though nonetheless mighty and powerful entities. In the West, they’re known as Genie, for the most part, associated with fairy tales and Hollywood. No exact origins of these supernatural beings are clear, but they’ve been worshiped by many Arabs since ancient times. The legend of the djinn has branched off into many different forms and all with their own interpretation. Modern Islam may call them purely malevolent entities analogous to demons. Many New Age spiritual groups state them to be purely malicious as well. Claiming them to be the source of shadow people, aliens, and demons who are in total opposition to humanity’s best interests. Though there’s a much bigger picture concerning their history. In pre-Islamic times djinn were considered wonderous supernatural beings capable of free will; able to do good or evil, and everything in between just like humans. The term djinn was also applied to various supernatural entities throughout Arabic folklore. However, djinn were never considered gods or immortal. They eat, sleep, breed, and die similar to people, just with a ridiculously longer lifespan.

An enslaved djinn

All Scholars agree their mythology originated in the Near East/Arabian civilizations. What culture they directly spawned from is up for debate. The earliest accounts state they were spirits who dwell in the desert or unclean places and mostly took the forms of animals. The djinn were said to inspire poets and artists similar the Muses from Greek mythology. They could do just as much evil as good and had unique personalities with individual desires just like humans. They could cause diseases, conflict, and mental illness. With some going so far as to claim madness was caused by djinn possession. Considered mostly to stick to their own kind; superstition of the past states they made feared places their home. Such as desolate dark areas with little human traffic. Despite such enigmatic origins concerning the legend of the djinn they would go on to have a place in the mythology of many mainstream religions throughout history.

In Islamic theology, the djinn are invisible entities that walked the Earth long before humanity. They’re classified as entities undetectable by human sense organs along with angels and other spiritual beings. Angels are made of light, djinn fire. Angels are instruments of God and lack free will, whereas djinn were created with complete free will to do as they please. They lived on Earth when it was young. With many djinn nations, and tribes flourishing in pre-human civilizations. The djinn chose corruption over virtue, willfully committing horrendous deeds upon one another. Then one day Allah sent an army of angels to battle them in an apocalyptic confrontation. After the war between the supernatural entities, the djinn were driven out from the hospitable lands of the Earth to islands, the sea, and desolate locations. For this, the djinn would have a permanent grudge against humankind for being given the Earth they once had dominion over.

Evil djinn are beyond horrifying

The corrupt Djinn were defeated and banished. Yet, there was one among them that chose righteousness and never followed his kin’s sinful ways, becoming highly favored by Allah. The djinn’s name was Iblis, who was so pure and righteous he was allowed to walk freely among the angels in heaven. Iblis worshiped Allah with all his heart, showing the height of virtue the djinn had always been capable of. Allah would then test the entity when humans were created out of clay (earth.) Allah told all heaven to prostrate themselves before the new creation. The angels did so without hesitation, but Iblis refused. Even when Allah directly commanded him to bow, he defied the creator. It was never meant for the beings of heaven to worship humanity, it was requested by Allah as a sign of respect. Kneeling to them was to acknowledge their special place in creation, and relationship with God. Yet Iblis thought he was superior to humans. Thinking them weak and lesser creatures. How could something made of clay ever be on par with living fire? Jealousy and pride grew within the once righteous djinn. Ibis asked for eternal life until the end of days. Allah granted the request even though Iblis had just defied him. The arrogant Iblis then challenged the creator, swearing an oath in God’s might and honor that he shall lead humanity astray. Allah accepted the challenge, telling Iblis to tempt humans all he wants. Yet all true servants of the Lord of the Universe would be immune to the influence of the djinn race. Allah cursed Iblis for all time, until the day of judgment, and cast him out of heaven forever. Hence djinn are on Earth to test the willpower of mortal humans for them to choose good or evil.

In Islamic tradition the prophet, Muhammad was sent to both djinn and human communities to spread Allah’s message. They were under Allah’s judgment just like people and could gain access to heaven or hell depending on how they lived their lives. The Quran’s version of Solomon, an ancient king of Israel, was granted dominion over the djinn by God to use their supernatural powers to build the first Temple (In the modern Bible it was demons.) The Muslim version of the djinn is very distinct yet has much in common with other culture’s mythologies. Such as the djinn being placed parallel to humans, just beyond our physical plane of existence.

Djinn are just beyond the material existence

In ancient times the djinn were incredibly popular in folklore. One of the most well known being the Arabian Nights, and the famous tale of Alladin who receives a magic lamp which contains a djinn (genie) that grants three wishes. Though, there’s many different cultures with folklore about them, or at least supernatural entities similar to djinn. Such as the three different types of djinn mentioned in the story Ma’ruf the Cobbler. In many tales the djinn are used by protagonists to be able to travel instantaneously across vast distances, allowing ancient writers to fill plot holes with them consistently. In the West, they’re analogous to faery folklore. They’re also featured in some of the oldest recorded civilizations of Mesopotamia. The ancient Sumerians believed in Pazuzu, who was made famous by the movie the Exorcist. Pazuzu being a wind djinn with a canine face, bulging eyes, and a scaly body. The Babylonians had their own version of djinn. In Jewish mythology, the shedim (mentioned in the podcast episode Monster Legends 3) resemble the classic depiction of the Arabian djinn. Similar entities are even found in Buddhism and Hindu traditions as well. Of course in the case of Christianity, it’s a no-brainer they’d be classified as demons. In Guanche Mythology of the Canary Islands, there are similar type entities too, so there’s really no shortage of djinn lore from civilizations all throughout history.

Djinn can take on the forms of humans or animals and are capable of dwelling in all conceivable inanimate objects (hence the legends of a genie in a bottle.) These entities vary greatly in levels of power and magical abilities as well as personalities. Though supernatural, they have all the bodily needs analogous to humans, with similar desires and weaknesses, including mortality. They are however much less dense and aren’t chained by physical limitations, usually appearing as wisps of smoke or humanoid flames in their natural form. The djinn greatly enjoy punishing humans for perceived slights, intentional or not, and are responsible for many outbreaks of disease and horrendous accidents. They’re also said to be responsible for many cases of mental illness, capable of easily possessing the mind and body of the weak-willed. However even though djinn are incredibly powerful, they aren’t invincible, and can even be killed. Human beings who know the proper magical procedure can exploit them to their own advantages, in some cases even enslaving them by binding them to worldly items (most of the time a jar, lamp, or bottle) then be magically compelled to grant three wishes to anyone who sets them free.

The forms Djinn may take are countless

When enslaved to grant wishes many different things can come from such a prospect. For example, depending on the djinn’s moral compass, making a wish can either be a huge boon in fortune, or a horrible fate worse than death. Djinn can be good, neutral, or evil just like humans, and if the person making a wish doesn’t possess the attributes necessary to keep a malevolent Djinn in line, then those wishes could be twisted to the point they become dangerous. If the human making the wish has a weak mind or willpower the djinn could just outright deny the request as well. Though evil djinn will most of the time attempt to harm their foolish “masters” or ruin their lives outright. However if someone frees a sinister djinn, they can usually be defeated through wits because of their overwhelming arrogance. One simply has to play to their ego and superiority complex, with folk heroes usually tricking evil djinn back into their prisons (lamp, bottle, or jar.)

Make a wish…

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