The djinn have sent ripples of interest through paranormal circles recently, thanks to the publication of Legends of the Fire Spirits (Lebling, 2010) and The Vengeful Djinn (Guiley & Imbrogno, 2011), which have introduced djinn lore to a contemporary western audience.
Djinn are beings made of ‘smokeless fire’, recognised throughout the middle east and the Arabic-speaking world. Created by Allah after the angels, they fell from His favour when they refused to bow before human beings. Expelled from our world as a consequence, many of them do not regard humans kindly. Some will seize any opportunity to supplant us or do us harm.
Reputedly, these beings were created male and female. They pre-date Islam but some have supposedly converted to the faith whilst others remain outside. Some are attracted to humans, yet tend to enjoy playing tricks on us. Some relish mainly the infliction of harm. Others are enlightened beings, yet these tend to remain aloof both from humans and their own kind. And there seem to be others besides whose motives and agenda remain a mystery.
Within cultures that recognise djinn they are often regarded as a single explanation for phenomena which, in the west, are regarded as distinct. Whereas ghosts, abducting aliens and mysterious beasts such as sasquatch and the chupacabra may appear unrelated to a western eye, elsewhere they are regarded equally as manifestations of djinn. The possibility that the djinn offer a unified theory of strangeness is the key theme of Guiley and Imbrogno’s The Vengeful Djinn.
I hope to thrash out later my views on why a unified theory of the paranormal is problematic, but firstly I decided to summon a djinni and gain a better ‘feel’ for these entities. I chose to adapt a ritual I’ve seen copied and pasted around the internet, which involves writing on a mirror what appears to be a statement of intent in phonetic Arabic, specifying the gender and type of djinni to be summoned. The ritual begins and ends with the lighting and blowing out of three coloured candles, to the accompaniment of an opening and closing incantation repeated three times.
I carried over these elements into my ritual, although the words on the mirror I wrote onto paper, taping them to the glass beforehand to save time. I used ‘Ali Allah hamal jinni muschna shamal al-amari closun ontei‘ to specify a male djinni of the lowest, least powerful rank. And I opted for identical white LED candles, because these are more convenient and safer in a confined space.
Djinn can be nasty, so I placed the mirror in a Triangle of Art and kept the LED candles safely inside a protective, roughly circular area marked out by string. There were seven of us inside the ‘circle’. We planned to fortify our boundary of string by reciting in English the 99 Beautiful Names of Allah, placing around the circumference the strips of paper onto which we’d printed them. Also in the circle were a ouija board and planchette, for use in speaking with the djinni. For good measure, in the triangle, I also placed my ghostbox, made from a transistor radio with a component intentionally hacked to force it to scan the AM waveband without locking onto any specific channel. This would supply a randomised ‘voicebox’ for the djinni, which it could also use for communication in addition to the ouija.
To open the session I burnt incense made from asafoetida, wormwood and dittany of Crete, a combination that might traditionally be supposed to attract ‘low’ entities. Then we entered the circle, recited the 99 names, and I delivered three times the incantation, ‘Allah shafim barat shiu kamir‘, switching on one of the LED candles after each.
Something perturbing happened almost right away: the ghostbox in the triangle stopped scanning at exactly the moment we addressed our first question, and remained locked on a local news channel, which was not only disappointing but also distracting. We were all seasoned magicians, however, so we did not succumb to the temptation of supposing the summoning had failed, blithely dipping outside the circle to set the ghostbox right.
It’s vital to appreciate that in an important sense, magick never fails. What better trick to entice us out of our protection than to make it seem the ritual hadn’t worked? Instead, we simply accepted that the ghostbox was now lost. (In retrospect, I should have kept it inside the circle.)
Things were slow to start – again, perhaps this was a ruse to convince us the summoning had failed. The planchette was moving, but so weakly and indecisively that I repeated the incantation. Finally it roamed to ‘YES’, in answer to our repeated question whether the djinni was present. We noticed it indicated its responses with the tip of the planchette, rather than through the window in the centre.
On ouija duty were Soror E and Soror M, our two female members. No one apart from myself had read up on the djinn, or had even been aware that this was how we would be spending the evening, so conditions were good for testing the entity.
In response to, ‘What is your gender?’ the planchette beneath the hands of our sorors moved to ‘M’ for male. I was the only one aware that the statement of intent on the mirror specified a male. In answer to, ‘What is the initial of the djinni who rebelled against Allah?’ the planchette moved directly to ‘I’ for ‘Iblis’, the correct answer, which – when I revealed this information to the group – elicited some raised eyebrows. (It’s so funny, as Ramsey Dukes has pointed out [2011: 22], how no one, not even experienced magicians, actually expects magick to work.) Perhaps it was a coincidence; perhaps it was unconscious telepathy by Sorors E and M; in either case, we now had a sufficient basis for an experience of having summoned a djinni.
Communication was still slow, however, and vague. We invited the djinni to manifest some physical effects, such as changing the channel on the ghostbox or producing knocking sounds. Having listened to the audio record, there is perhaps a distant-sounding knock immediately after my first request, but eventually the djinni stated via the ouija that it couldn’t deliver. The vague responses continued, until Soror M noticed that the radio was saying something about ‘women introducing men’, and wondered whether this was a communication that male members of the group should take up the ouija. Fraters B, K and Q stepped up to the breach and we started to receive some stronger answers, but there were no more instances of the strikingly transpersonal responses that had been attained through Sorors E and M.
The gist of the conversation was as follows:
Do the djinn exist?
What is your attitude to human beings?
Why do you hate us?
There was a good deal of gibberish mixed in with the answers, which the djinni more than once declared was intentional. But perhaps ‘EVJK’ was meant to be ‘EVIL’, with the last two letters shifted each by one place.
Is Allah the One God, and is Mohammed His Prophet?
Evidently, our djinni had converted to Islam, or was pretending to have done so.
What is your age?
This was then denied immediately afterwards and revised down to ’90’.
Do the djinn favour humans who are Moslem?
It was then revealed that the djinn despise all humans, regardless of their religious tradition.
Do you have a plan for the human race?
Are you responsible for all of the phenomena that we call ‘paranormal’?
Some of it?
Are you responsible for UFOs?
Are aliens real?
Are you responsible for ghosts?
Bigfoot and other strange animals?
Where do you live?
DJINNI: FIRE YSJDRQ DURY.
The first word makes sense, but when challenged concerning the rest the djinni immediately confessed that it was talking gibberish.
Do you tell the truth?
Do you inhabit the same space as we do?
Is there a way that we can get to where you live?
Is there a way that you can get to where we live?
Are you in this room with us now? In the triangle?
There was some discussion about whether we should liberate the djinni, using the technique we have previously used with spirits of the human dead. The djinni stated that he wanted us to do this, but I was reluctant. The djinni had told us that he hated and wanted to burn us; my gut feeling was that if we tried to liberate him, he would just sit back and laugh.
Frater B invited the djinni, as a fire spirit, to affect the candles at the corners of the triangle. Immediately, one of them burnt out, but the djinni then denied via the ouija that he had caused this to happen.
Satisfied that I had at least obtained answers to all the questions I’d prepared, we gave the djinni leave to depart. It refused, and persisted in moving the planchette. But after I’d recited the ritual’s closing incantation three times, ‘En tien Allah cluman‘, turning off one of the LED candles on each recitation, the planchette ceased roaming and the spirit seemed to have gone. Yet before anyone set foot outside the circle, we performed a final, vigorous IAO banishing.
Overall, the session seemed to me to have been quite successful – especially the response to the test questions. The knocking sound captured on the audio is not evidence of anything, but certainly occurred at the right moment, and sounds completely at odds with the physical space we were actually in: a common characteristic of paranormal audio effects. What struck me most of all, however, was how tricky and malevolent the manifestation had been. It seemed as if the djinni had thrown the ghostbox back in our faces, more interested in using it as a trick to coax us outside the circle than in communicating through it. The palpable hatred of humans and the desire to burn us were not exactly endearing either. Given that this djinni was supposedly among the least powerful and most friendly, I would think hard before I summoned one from higher up the ranks.
A djinni knocks in response to our invitation? [MP3, 300Kb, 20 secs]
Ramsey Dukes (2011). How To See Fairies. London: Aeon.
Rosemary Ellen Guiley & Philip J. Imbrogno (2011). The Vengeful Djinn: Unveiling the Hidden Agendas of Genies. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn.
Robert Lebling (2010). Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar. London & New York: I.B. Tauris.