Dev (or div) are monstrous creatures in Iranian, Armenian, Turkic and Albanian mythology, comparable to fiends or ogres. They consist of a body similar to a human, but giant, with two horns, relishing human flesh, powerful cruel and stone-hearted with teeth like a boar.
Despite their physical shape, like jinn and shayatin (demons), the cause of demonic possession and insanity is ascribed to them. Their natural opponents are the peri, a fairy-like spirit originated from Iranian tradition. Some of them use primitive types of weapons such as stones, while others appear as warriors with armors and weapons. Additionally to their physical strength, some of them are masters of sorcery, overcoming their enemies with magic.
Dev probably originate from Avestan daeva, evil spirits created by the principle of evil in Zorastrianism, Ahriman. During the Islamic period, the idea of daeva changed to the notion of dev; monstrous creatures in physical shape, with long teeth and claws, often compared to Western ogre. The first translations of the Quran into Persian language seem to have transliterated the Quranic evil jinn as dev, leading to some confusions of both distinct types of creatures. Later they have been adapted by many cultures among the Islamic Ottoman Empire.
According to Tabari, the malicious devs are part of a long chain of pre-adamic creatures, preceding the benevolent peris, whom they fight a constant battle. However, not all exegetes agree with that. The Islamic philosopher Al-Razi conjectured that the devs are souls of the wicked dead, turned into dev after their death.
In Persian folklore, devs are supposed to look like horned men, with animal heads and hooves. Some take the form of a snake or a dragon with multiple heads. However, as shapeshifters, they can take almost every other form too. They are feared during night, the time when they are awake, since it is said that darkness increases their power. Ghulam Husayn Sa’idi’s Ahl-i Hava (people of the air), discussing several folkloric beliefs about different types of supernatural creatures, describes them as tall creatures living on islands or in the desert and can turn people into statues by touching them.
In Armenian mythology and many various Armenian folk tales, the dev (in Armenian: դև) appears both in a kind and specially in a malicious role, and has a semi-divine origin. Dev is a very large being with an immense head on his shoulders, and with eyes as large as earthen bowls. Some of them may have only one eye. Usually, there are Black and White Devs. However, both of them can either be malicious or kind.
The White Dev is present in Hovhannes Tumanyan’s tale “Yedemakan Tzaghike” (Arm.: Եդեմական Ծաղիկը), translated as “The Flower of Paradise”. In the tale, the Dev is the flower’s guardian.
Jushkaparik, Vushkaparik, or Ass-Pairika is another chimerical being whose name indicates a half-demoniac and half-animal being, or a Pairika—a female Dev with amorous propensities—that appeared in the form of an ass and lived in ruins.
According to the Islamic legends of Persia, the dev have been entrusted to govern the earth 70,000 years before the creation of Adam, until they had been superseded by peri and jinn ruled by Jann ibn Jann. However, when Jann ibn Jann offended heaven, an army of angels led by Iblis came down to earth, commanded by God to overthrow him. Iblis succeeded with the aid of some traitorous dev. When God created the first human, Iblis and his rebellious angels refused to do homage and joined the jinn and dev, he just defeated before. His immediate followers were sent to the infernal regions of the underworld, while the rest of them were allowed to wander the earth as constant source of misery and suffering. Both Arabs and Persians located their new capital in Mount Kaf, the city of Aherman-Bad, named after Ahriman, who became their current king.