[Notes on Elementals and Elementaries]
Journal of The Theosophical Society, February, 1884
Selections from a Paper read at a Meeting of the British T.S. | Notes by H.P.B.
. . . The beings which play the most important part in Arab romances are the finn, or Genii, which appear to correspond very closely to the beings known to us as the Elementals. They are said to be created of fire; to have existed before Adam; and to pervade the solid matter of the earth, as well as the firmament, “and to inhabit rivers, ruined houses, wells, baths, ovens, and even the latrine.”1
1. They are the Preta, Yaksha, Dakini—the lowest of the Hindu elementals, while the Gandharvas, Vidyadharas and even the Apsaras belong to the highest. Some of them—the former, are dangerously mischievous, while the latter are benevolent, and, if properly approached willing to impart to men useful knowledge of arts and sciences.
They “are believed often to assume or perpetually to wear the shapes of cats, dogs, and other brute animals.” “It is commonly affirmed that the malicious or disturbed finn very often station themselves on the roofs or at the windows of homes in Cairo and other towns of Egypt, and throw bricks and stones down into the streets and courts . . . I found no one who denied the throwing down of the bricks, or doubted that it was the work of finn.”2 It is believed that each quarter in Cairo has its peculiar guardian genius, or Agathodaimon, which has the form of a serpent.”3
2. Spiritualists regard them indiscriminately as the “spirit” of the dead. There is a like superstition among the uneducated in India who think that no sooner a person dies than he (or she) stations himself on the roof of his house and sits there for nine days. But if, at the expiration of that time he renders himself visible, he is considered as an unclean spirit, a “bhut” whose sins prevent him to attain Mukti and get out of Kama-loka—the abode of “shells.”
3. In every Bengal village, and we think everywhere else in India, a serpent couple is always considered the guardian spirits of a house. These serpents are the deadliest cobras. Still they are so much venerated that no one would ever throw a stone at them. Killing any of these serpents is believed to be followed invariably by the death of the impious slayer, whom the bereaved mate is sure to track out even at a great distance and kill in his turn. Instances are numerous in which such serpents have been in houses from generation to generation unmolesting and unmolested. Their departure from a house is considered the sure precursor of the utter ruin of the family. This shows a great similarity between the Egyptian and Hindu myths, which preceded them.
. . . The strange localitles which the finn are said to inhabit, remind us of certain passages in Swedenborg concerning the state of evil spirits of Heaven and Hell. The burning of incense to finn shows how idolatry may have originated, either in divine worship being offered to these beings which are usually invisible, or in fumigations being found useful to induce or to compel them to become visible. Iron is said to act as a charm against them,4 perhaps on account of its magnetic properties.
4. The same as in India.
. . . Several superhuman beings besides finn of various orders, are believed to inhabit desert places, especially the cannibal monsters called Ghools. It seems to have been a creature very similar to the Arab Ghooleh that Apollonius of Tyana saw in the desert on his way to India, and which is spoken of as an Empusa.5 . . .
5. The ghools are known under the same name in Bretagne (France) and called voordalaks in Moldavia, Wallachia, Bulgaria, etc. They are the Vampire shells, the Elementaries who live a posthumous life at the expense of their living victims.