Genii (Roman mythology) were attendant spirits. Everyone had
two of these tutelaries from his cradle to his grave. But the Roman
genii differ in many respects from the Eastern. The Persian and Indian
genii had a corporeal form, which they could change at pleasure. They
were not guardian or attendant spirits, but fallen angels, dwelling in
Ginnistan, under the dominion of Eblis. They were naturally hostile to
man, though compelled sometimes to serve them as slaves. The Roman
genii were tutelary spirits, very similar to the guardian angels spoken
of in Scripture (St. Matt. xviii. 10). (The word is the old Latin geno, to be born, from the notion that birth and life were due to
these dii genitales.)
(birth-wit) is innate talent; hence propensity, nature, inner man. “Cras genium mero curabis”
(to-morrow you shall indulge your inner
man with wine), Horace,
xvii. 14. “Indulgere
(to give loose to one's propensity), Persius,
v. 151. “Defraudare genium suum”
(to stint one's appetite, to deny one's
self), Terence: Phormio,
i. 1. (See above.
Tom Moore says that Common Sense went out one moonlight night with
Genius on his rambles; Common Sense went on many wise things saying,
but Genius went gazing at the stars, and fell into a river. This is
told of Thale by Plato, and Chaucer has introduced it into his Milleres Tale.
So ferde another clerk with astronomye:
He walkëd in the feeldës for to prye
Upon the sterrës, what ther shuld befall,
Till he was in a marlë pit i-fall.
Canterbury Tales, 3,457.
My evil genius
(my ill-luck). The Romans maintained that two genii attended every
man from birth to death—one good and the other evil. Good luck was brought about by the
agency of “his good genius,” and ill luck by that of his “evil genius.”
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894