List of death deities

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Yama, the Hindu god of death and Lord of Naraka (hell).
Maya death god A way as a hunter, Classic period

Deities associated with death take many different forms, depending on the specific culture and religion being referenced. Psychopomps, deities of the underworld, and resurrection deities are commonly called death deities in comparative religions texts. The term colloquially refers to deities that either collect or rule over the dead, rather than those deities who determine the time of death. However, all these types will be included in this article.

Many have incorporated a god of death into their mythology or religion. As death, along with birth, is among the major parts of human life, these deities may often be one of the most important deities of a religion. In some religions with a single powerful deity as the source of worship, the death deity is an antagonistic deity against which the primary deity struggles. The related term death worship has most often been used as a derogatory term to accuse certain groups of morally abhorrent practices which set no value on human life, or which seem to glorify death as something positive in itself.

Occurrence[edit]

In polytheistic religions or mythologies which have a complex system of deities governing various natural phenomena and aspects of human life, it is common to have a deity who is assigned the function of presiding over death. The inclusion of such a "departmental" deity of death in a religion's pantheon is not necessarily the same thing as the glorification of death which is commonly condemned by the use of the term "death-worship" in modern political rhetoric.

In the theology of monotheistic religion, the one god governs both life and death. However in practice this manifests in different rituals and traditions and varies according to a number of factors including geography, politics, traditions and the influence of other religions.

Babylonian mythology[edit]

Ceramic representation of Mictlantecuhtli

Aztec mythology[edit]

Celtic mythology[edit]

Inca mythology[edit]

Japanese mythology[edit]

  • Shinigami

Egyptian mythology[edit]

  • Anubis, guardian of the dead,[6] mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion.
  • Osiris, lord of the Underworld.[7]
  • Nephthys, Anubis' mother, and sister of Osiris, was also a guardian of the dead. She was believed to also escort dead souls to Osiris.

Finnish mythology[edit]

Greek mythology[edit]

Hades with his dog Cerberus
  • Hades, king of Underworld.[9]
  • Persephone, queen of the Underworld, wife of Hades and goddess of spring growth.[10]
  • Hecate, goddess of magic, night, moon, ghosts, necromancy and crossroads
  • Thanatos, spirit of death and mortality.[11]
  • Macaria, daughter of Hades, goddess of the blessed death (not to be confused with the daughter of Heracles).[12]
  • Melinoe, daughter of Persephone and Hades (or Zeus disguised as Hades), goddess of the restless undead, (ghosts etc.)
  • Angelos, a daughter of Zeus and Hera who became an underworld goddess.
  • Lampades, torch-bearing Underworld nymphs.
  • Erebus, the primeval god of darkness, his mists encircled the underworld and filled the hollows of the earth.
  • Tartarus, the darkest, deepest part of the underworld.
  • Keres, goddesses of violent death, sisters of Thanatus.
  • Keuthonymos, an Underworld spirit and father of Menoetes.
  • Lamia, a vampiric Underworld spirit or spirits in the train of Hecate.
  • Menoetes, an Underworld spirit who herded the cattle of Hades.
  • Mormo, a fearsome Underworld spirit or spirits in the train of Hecate.
  • Styx, goddess of the river Styx, a river that formed a boundary between Earth and the Underworld.

Norse mythology[edit]

Roman mythology[edit]

  • Dis Pater, god of the underworld
  • Mors, personification of death
  • Orcus, punisher of broken oaths; usually folded in with Pluto
  • Pluto, ruler of the underworld

Misc African mythology[edit]

Santa Muerte Blanca

Misc American mythology[edit]

Hindu mythology[edit]

Misc East Asian mythology[edit]

Misc European mythology[edit]

Misc Pacific Islands mythology[edit]

Misc Southwest Asia mythology[edit]

In fiction[edit]

Death is the protagonist in the science fantasy novel On a Pale Horse, book one in a series of 8 books, the "Incarnations of Immortality". In the novel The Book Thief Death is the narrator of the story.[citation needed]

Death is the name of one of the "The Endless" in the DC Universe.[citation needed]

Death is a recurring character in the Discworld series written by Terry Pratchett. Books featuring Death include Mort, Reaper Man, Soul Music, Hogfather and Thief of Time.

In A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin the guild of assassins known as the Faceless Men believe that all death deities are simply different incarnations of the same god, known to them as the Many-Faced God or Him of Many Faces.

In the CW TV show Supernatural, a personification of death makes a crucial appearance. He is portrayed like an old man with a unique understanding of his work. He is not portrayed as a direct villain.

In the manga and anime of the popular hit series Sailor Moon, the tenth and last Sailor Soldier of the Moon Kingdom, Sailor Saturn, is the Sailor Soldier of all silence, destruction, oblivion, nothingness, ruin, and death. Her weapon is the Silent Glaive that is capable of utterly obliterating and destroying entire worlds and planets if used to its maximum potential.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The counterpart to these deities of sky, air, water, and earth was the underworld, the realm of the dead, originally seen as ruled by the powerful Goddess Ereshkigal." Ruether, Rosemary Radford. Goddesses and the Divine Feminine: A Western Religious History. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23146-5
  2. ^ "After consulting his mistress Ereshkigal, the queen of the Nether World, he admits Ishtar" Kramer, "Ishtar in the Nether World According to a New Sumerian Text" Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research. 1940. Google scholar results as the JSTOR link is unlikely to be universally available.
  3. ^ http://www.gatewaystobabylon.com/gods/lords/undernergal.html
  4. ^ http://www.azteccalendar.com/god/Mictlantecuhtli.html
  5. ^ http://www.goddessaday.com/mayan/mictecacihuatl
  6. ^ http://www.anubis.org/anubis.html
  7. ^ http://www.anubis.org/osiris.html
  8. ^ http://www.godchecker.com/pantheon/finnish-mythology.php?deity=TUONI
  9. ^ [1] A page describing Hades.
  10. ^ http://www.infoplease.com/cig/mythology/hades-takes-wife-persephone.html
  11. ^ http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Thanatos.html
  12. ^ http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Makaria.html
  13. ^ http://www.theoi.com/Khthonios/Gorgyra.html
  14. ^ a b c Kveldulf Gundarsson. (1993, 2005) Our Troth. ISBN 0-9770165-0-1
  15. ^ a b c The dwelling one went to after death varied depending on where one died, at the battlefield or not. If not at the battlefield, one would go to Hel (not to be confused with the Christian Hell). Of the slain at the battlefield, some went to Folkvang, the dwelling of Freyja and some went to Valhalla, the dwelling of Odin (see Grímnismál). The ninth hall is Folkvang, where bright Freyja. Decides where the warriors shall sit. Some of the fallen belong to her. And some belong to Odin.
  16. ^ Jaimoukha, Amjad M. (2005-03-01). The Chechens: a handbook (1st ed.). Routledge. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-415-32328-4. Retrieved 2009-08-14. 
  17. ^ Duchesne-Guillemin, Jacques (1982), "Ahriman", Encyclopaedia Iranica 1, New York: Routledge & Kegan Paul, pp. 670–673 
  18. ^ Micha F. Lindemans (27 July 1997), "Asto Vidatu", Encyclopedia Mythica