Walls, town

And port,


From death,

Gray sea

Where breaks

The wind

All sleeps.

In the plain

Is born a sound.

It is the breathing

Of the night.


It roars

Like a soul

That a flame

Always follows.

The higher voice

Seems a shiver.

Of a leaping dwarf

It is the gallop.

He flees,  he springs,

Then in cadence

On one foot dances

At the end of a stream.

The murmer approaches,

The echo repeats it.

It is like the bell

Of a cursed convent,

Like a crowd sound

That thunders and roars

And sometimes crumbles

And sometimes swells.

God!  The sepulchral voice

Of Djinns!…What noise!


We flee beneath the spiral

Of the deep staircase.

My lamp has already died,

And the shadow of the ramp,

Which crawls along the wall,

Ascends to the ceiling.

The swarm of Djinns is passing,

And it whirls, hissing.

Old conifers,  stirred by their flight,

Crackle like burning pine.

Their herd, heavy and swift,

Flying in the vacant space,

Seems a living cloud

With lightning flashing at its edge.

They are so near! – We keep clear

This room where we defy them.

What noise outside! Hideous army

Of vampires and dragons!

The beam of the loosened ceiling

Sags like soaked grass,

And the rusted old door

Trembles, unseating its hinges.

Cries from hell, voice that roars and weeps!

The horrible swarm,  driven by the north wind,

Doubtless, or heaven! assails my home.

The wall bends under the black batallion.

The house cries out and staggers tilted,

And one could say that, ripped from the soil,

Just as it chases a dried-out leaf,

The wind rolls it along in a vortex.

Prophet!  If your hand spares me

From these impure demons of the night,

I would go prostrate my bald forehead

Before your sacred incense burners!

Make their breath of sparks

Die on these faithful doors,

And make the talons of their wings

Scrape and cry in vain at these black windows.

They have passed! – Their cohort

Takes flight and flees,  and their feet

Stop beating on my door

With their multiple blows.

The air fills with a sound of chains,

And in the nearby forests

All the great oaks tremble

Bent beneath their fiery flight!

The beatings of their wings

Fades in the distance.

So vague in the plains,

So faint, that you believe

You hear the grasshopper

Cry with a shrill voice

Or the hail crackling

On the lead of an old roof.


Strange syllables

Still approach us

Thus, of the Arabs,

When the horn sounds,

A chant on the shore

Rises up in moments,

And the dreaming child

Has dreams of gold.


The funerary Djinns,

Files of death,

In the shadows

Hurry their step;

Their swarm rumbles;

Thus, deep,

Murmers a wave

That no-one sees.

This vague sound

That falls asleep,

It is the wave

On the edge;

It is the moan,

Almost extinct,

Of a saint

For a death.


One doubts

The night…

I listen :-

All flees,

All fades,




The poem Les Djinns,  written in 1875 by Victor Hugo,  the French novelist,  is a description of a horde of Djinn invading a North African seaport.  There are a number of translations of this poem into English however this particular translation is by Robert Lebling,  author of ‘Legends of the Fire Spirits’, a comprehensive account of the  ‘wondrous, often troublesome, and sometimes terrifying spirit beings of ancient Arab and Islamic tradition’.  For more information on Robert Lebling see here .

The photograph heading this blog entry was taken in October 2019 at the grotto of Lalla Aisha Qandisha,  a powerful female Djinn who is also known under a number of names across north Africa.  She has powers to both possess and antagonise mostly men as well as to heal people of ailments.  In appearance she has the face and body of a beautiful woman and the legs of a goat or a camel.  The grotto can be found at the town of Sidi Ali Ben Hamdouch,  on Zerhoun mountain near Meknes and is close to the shrine of Sidi Ali Ben Hamdouch,  the founder of the Hamadcha fraternity.  The saint and Lalla Aisha have a complicated relationship that I shall discuss further,  with more photographs of both the saint’s Zaouia and Lalla Aisha’s grottos,  in a later blog post.