Although this book has been out for several years, Legends of the Fire Spirits: Jinn and Genies from Arabia to Zanzibar (2010) by Robert Lebling has much to recommend it, particularly for researchers looking into cultural traditions that might contain stories or references similar to reported paranormal and/or extraterrestrial encounters today. In fact, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been more reference to this text in the various UFO/Paranormal communities with whom I interact.
Lebling has assembled an almost exhaustive survey of Middle Eastern, Central Asian, North African and Arab/Islamic stories and sources that detail all the reported creatures that are said to reside principally in that realm that paranormal investigator, John A Keel, referred to as the Super Spectrum. In other words, that realm which is usually invisible to humans because it is “less materially dense” or operates on a “different frequency,” at least according to the denizens who populate it and those humans who have had chance encounters with them. In fact, in one of his earliest paranormal works, Jadoo, Keel mentions that he had come upon stories of the jinn during his travels in India and Egypt and that they reminded him of similar stories from Ireland.
What emerges from these accounts, textual and oral, historical, anecdotal and some quite recent, is a startlingly consistent set of stories told of beings, variously called jinn, djinn, jann, jnun, or in their more sinister forms, ifrit, marid, shaytan, who inhabit the planet, right along side humanity, with their own lives, societies, and agendas and who, for a variety of reasons, occasionally, purposely or not, interact with humans.
In Islamic tradition all the jinn, of which there are several tribes or races, were created from “smokeless fire” prior to humanity and so might be understood as being the first native inhabitants on the planet. It is said they have taken to remote areas to live, like deserts and ruins, because these are the places that humans have forsaken and humans take up a lot of space. Some jinn are good and some are bad, just like humans. Some of them are religious, some are not. Some jinn hate humans and seek to haunt, possess or make them sick. Some are attracted to humans and religious jurists in Islam have occasionally had to rule on whether or not jinn/human marriages could be considered legitimate. Some individuals have either claimed to be, or have been charged with being, jinn/human hybrids.
What I found fascinating was the sheer amount and variety in the accounts. It seems that Lebling has left no text unread, or authority unconsulted. In fact, was almost overwhelming. All the accounts taken together provide a clear narrative, across time and cultures, concerning these beings, where they live, what they do with their time, what their origins may have been and why there are so many of them.
Additionally, Lebling notes similarities between accounts of jinn abducting humans and alien abduction stories, the lengthy and rather torrid history of jinn taking, sometimes by force or trickery, human lovers, just as some aliens are said to do. Apparently, there is a well established tradition of jinn in Northern Africa who often appear as large hairy Bigfoot like creatures. Lebling doesn’t have the time or space to compare the accounts of jinn to every other culture in the world, but it’s pretty clear from at least some of his references, that there is no “type” of being recounted in other places (little people, giant people, grey, red or tiny black people, intermittent monsters or terrifying ghouls) that jinn have not been associated with in the written Islamic sources.
It’s not clear to me whether Lebling actually believes in jinn as such, but he does seem to take the stories seriously. To this end, he has augmented his historical researches with more recent internet accounts about encounters with jinn, and at least two reported instances of jinn allegedly revealing themselves online for the purposes of self-disclosure. If nothing else, such proves, as he indicates, that the belief in jinn is alive and well across the world, in many, many places. He seems to imply that many Americans believe in jinn too, they just call them reptilians, or greys from Zeta Reticuli or Bigfoot, or whatever.
The one flaw of the book is that it is completely lacking in any illustrations. It contains no maps, no charts, nothing that might make the vast amount of information in the book easier to absorb. This seemed curious to me since there are many traditional pictures and illuminations that have been made of jinn that the Brooklyn Museum and other collections have contributed to the public domain. And surely, there must be some fanciful rendition of the traditional jinn homeland in the mountains of Qaf. In fact, when I got online, I found a ready cache of djinn inspired artwork available through the video gaming, animation and comics communities, although granted, in such contexts they are often called genies. The text would be much more complete and fun with such material added as grist for the mill.
I decided to get online and try to find some easy evidence of reported jinn activity (by name) and it didn’t take me long. The first search produced two youtube videos, one a compilation of alleged jinn encounters on film, and another a supposed jinn that was accidentally captured on video during an artillery raid on a Syrian neighborhood. The alleged jinn is seen walking in the background to the upper left. I found the soldier chanting the call to prayer with bombs exploding all around him a bit more unnerving. There’s a Japanese band named Jinn and there is a soon to be released film about the jinn called, predictably, JINN.
Of further interest are the investigations into the phenomena of the moaning and singing sands that have been reported in large desert areas around the world, including in the U.S. These sounds have long been associated with jinn and they are beautiful and mysterious. In fact, I could listen to them for hours. It turns out that scientists have figured out how the sounds occur, but they don’t yet know exactly why or how each location generates its specific tones or why some locations generate multiple tones, sometime in harmony. It’s good that there are still mysteries in the world. In fact, as one friend who listened to the moaning desert tones put it, “Scientists have just discovered the mechanism for the moaning. How do they know that jinn aren’t in the winds that blow across the dunes to begin the song?”