The div of ancient Persia, pronounced "deo, deu," or "dive," is thought to be equivalent to the European devil of the Middle Ages. In the romances of Persia divs are represented as male and female, but the male divs are considered the more dangerous. It is from their character, personified in a supposed chief, that the devil is portrayed with his well-known attributes.
The male divs, according to the legends of Persia, were entrusted with the government of the world for 7,000 years anterior to the creation of Adam, and they were succeeded by the female divs or peris, who under their chief, Gian ben Gian, ruled another 2,000 years. The dominion of the peris was terminated by Eblis (the devil of the Koran) who had been created from the elements of fire, and whose abode was previously with the angels.
Eblis or "Haris," as he was also called, became the leader of the rebellious angels when they were commanded to pay homage to the first created man. Joined by the whole race of genii, the male and female divs, that he had formerly subjugated, he was, like them, deprived of grace. Eblis and his immediate followers were condemned to suffer for a long period in the infernal regions, but the remainder were allowed to wander over the earth, a constant source of misery to themselves and to the human race.
Divs were supposed to assume various forms, especially that of the serpent, and in the drawings annexed to the Persian romances they are represented much as our own devils, ogres, and giants, in the tales of the Middle Ages. The writers of later times, both Arabian and Persian, localized the abode of these evil genii in the mountain Kaf. Their capital was Ahermanabad, the abode of Aherman their chief, who is identified with the Ahremanes of the Manicheans, that remarkable sect said to have borrowed their doctrines from Zoroaster.
The distinction of sex is a remarkable characteristic of the divs, and its evil results in a system of diabolic superstition may be read in the stories of the Ephialtae and Hyphialtae, or nightmare.
Possibly the same in origin as the Persian divs, are the devas or daivres of the Hindus, who are said to inhabit a world called, after them, Deva-Loka. There is a brief account of them in N. E. Kindersley's Specimens of Hindoo Literature (1794): "The daivers perpetually recur in their romances, and other literary works, and are represented as possessing not only material bodies, but as being subject to human frailties. Those saints and heroes who may not as yet be considered worthy of the paradises of Shivven or of Veeshnoo, are represented as inhabiting the Daiver-Logum (or Sorgum). These daivers are in number no less than three hundred and thirty million. The principal are—I. 'Daivuntren' or 'Indiren' their king; to whom report is made of all that happens among them. His court of audience is so capacious as to contain not only the numerous daivers, but also the prophets, attendants, etc. They are represented in the mythological romances of the Hindoos, as having been engaged in bloody wars, and with various success against the giants (Assoores). The family of Daivuntren consists of his wife 'Inderaunee,' and his son 'Seedera-budderen' (born from a cow), who records the actions of men, by which they are finally to be judged. II. The attendants or companions of these daivers are—1. The 'Kinnarer,' who sing and play on musical instruments. 2. 'Dumbarim Nardir,' who also perform on a species of drum. 3. 'Kimprusher,' who wait on the daivers are represented with the wings and fair countenances of angels. 4. 'Kunda-gaindoorer,' similar winged beings who execute the mandates of Veeshnoo. 5. 'Paunner,' a species of jugglers, who amuse the daivers with snake dancing, etc. 6. 'Viddiaser,' their bards, who are acquainted with all arts and sciences, and entertain them with their histories and discourses. 7. 'Tsettee,' who attend them in their aerial journeys. 8. 'Kanuanader,' or 'Dovdanks,' messengers, who conduct the votaries of Veeshnoo and Shivven to their respective paradises, and the wicked to hell (Narekah ), of which 'Eemen' is sovereign. III. The third class of daivergoel, daivers, or genii, are the eight keepers of the eight sides of the world, literally signified by their general name of 'Aushtatikcu-Pauligaur;' they are—1. 'Indiren,' who is no other than Daivuntren, named above. 2. 'Augne-Baugauven,' the god of fire. 3. 'Eemen,' king of death and the infernal regions. 4. 'Nerudee,' the element of earth represented under the figure of a giant. 5. 'Vaivoo,' god of air and winds. 6. 'Varoonen,' god of clouds and rain. 7. 'Gooberen,' god of riches. 8. 'Essaunien,' or Shivven himself, in one of his 1,008 appearances on earth."
To these principal daivers, Kindersley adds without sufficient reason the "Reeshees" of the Hindoos, and their tutelary god of virtue, "Derma-Daive."
For the true oriental doctrine of these evil genii the Zend-Avesta may be consulted; it associates the idea of evil more especially with the peris or female divs, contrary to the later romances of the Arab world. This anomaly reappears in our own fairy tales, the same characters that at times are invested with the most malignant attributes, being often described as having sylphlike grace and beauty.