Peri the Wind High, Low

I had heard of peris as basically Persian fairies, which is more or less true, but there’s a little more to it than that. In Persian mythology, including but apparently not limited to Zoroastrian beliefs, the peris seem to have been originally regarded as fallen angels who were denied entry into Paradise until they’ve done penance. And no, at least according to Wikipedia, there’s no etymological connection between “peri” and “paradise,” the latter actually coming from an old Iranian term for “walled enclosure.” I don’t think there’s any connection between “peri” and “fairy,” either, although the fact that the terms basically rhyme probably contributed to Europeans linking the two. There’s also a similarity with at least some fairy lore in that they’re more or less between good and evil. Internet sources suggest that most of the earlier mentions of peris make them totally bad, while more recently they came to be thought of as mostly good. They would sometimes reveal the future to humans, while other times they deceived people and caused natural disasters. These spirits were physically beautiful, and often depicted with wings.

The generic name for the home of the peris was Paristan, sometimes associated with the Koh-e-Qaf, either a single magical mountain at the farthest point of the world, or a mountain range surrounding the known world. The peris were in a state of constant enmity with the divs, devils who would lock the peris in iron cages because they refused to commit to evil.

I’m not sure if this meant peris were allergic to iron like European fairies are often said to be. Peris eat perfume, which repels the divs. In Islamic mythology, peris and divs are both considered types of jinn. The most notable usage of the peri in more modern literature appears to be that of the nineteenth-century Irish poet Thomas Moore, not to be confused with Sir Thomas More. Part of his Lalla-Rookh was the story of a peri who was tasked with giving an angel the gift most dear to God in order to gain entrance to Paradise. After trying a drop of blood from a dying soldier and a sigh from a woman standing by her lover who was dying of plague, the peri finally succeeded with the tear of a repentant old man crying at the sight of a child praying. This story was made into an oratorio by Robert Schumann. Other peri stories I’ve found online are variations on those of a mortal man taking an immortal wife, then losing her through some sort of carelessness.

This entry was posted in Fairy Tales, Islam, Mythology, Persian, Religion, Zoroastrianism and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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