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What are Djinn?

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What are Djinn?

The djinn often take a human form - but that doesn't make them any less dangerous.

Image © Michael Goldman/Getty Images, licensed to About.com

In the series of stories that comprise The Thousand and One Nights, Scheherazade tells tales of mystical creatures from beyond the veil. These creatures are djinn, and they are staples of Arab and Persian folklore and legend. Often called “genies” by the Western world, the djinn can take on many forms, and appear in a variety of sizes and shapes. Typically, they are associated with the element of fire.

Stephen Wagner, our About.com Guide to the Paranormal, says that in the Muslim world, djinn were believed to be created of “fire without smoke,” according to the Quran.

According to the legends, djinn are usually fairly hostile, and don’t take well to being bossed around by humans. However, in some stories, a magician may take control of a djinn – but be warned, a djinn who feels betrayed won’t hesitate to exact revenge! Even a djinn who appears to be friendly and accommodating is still unpredictable at times.

In Brill’s First Encyclopedia of Islam 1913 – 1936, the djinn are described as “intelligent, imperceptible, capable of appearing under different forms, and of carrying out heavy labors.” Like many magical beings, the djinn have evolved over time – in early, pre-Islamic Arabia, they were “the nymphs and satyrs of the desert.” It was only later, during the early Islamic period, that they became known as demonic and evil.

Also called “jinn,” these creatures appear in a number of Arabic and Persian tales and legends. The most famous of these – to Westerners, at least – is probably the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp, which imprisoned a powerful djinn, or genie. In some traditions, the djinn appears as a familiar that a magician controls, rather than a separate, sentient being.

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