List of death deities

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Yama, the Hindu god of death and Lord of Naraka (hell). He subsequently entered Buddhist, Chinese, Tibetan, Korean, and Japanese mythology as the king of 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 are 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. In monotheistic religions, death is commonly personified by an angel instead of a deity.

Occurrence[edit]

In polytheistic religions 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. This deity may actually take the life of humans or, more commonly, simply rule over the afterlife in that particular belief system (a single religion may have separate deities performing both tasks). The deity in question may be good, evil, or neutral and simply doing their job, in sharp contrast to a lot of modern portrayals of death deities as all being inherently evil just because death is feared. Hades from Greek mythology is an especially common target. 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.

A death deity has a good chance of being either male or female, unlike some functions that seem to steer towards one gender in particular, such as fertility and earth deities being female and storm deities being male. A single religion/mythology may have death gods of both genders existing at the same time and they may be envisioned as a married couple ruling over the afterlife together, as with the Aztecs, Greeks, and Romans.

In monotheistic religions, the one god governs both life and death (as well as everything else). 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.

African mythology[edit]

Igbo[edit]

Yoruba[edit]

Ancient Egyptian[edit]

  • Aker (Egyptian mythology)
  • Andjety, an old Egyptian god
  • Anubis, guardian of the dead,[1] mummification, and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion
  • Aqen, a rarely mentioned deity in the Book of the Dead
  • Duamutef, one of the four sons of Horus
  • Hapi, one of the four sons of Horus
  • Imset, one of the four sons of Horus
  • Kherty
  • Medjed, a funny looking god mentioned in the Book of the Dead
  • Nephthys, Anubis' mother; sister of Osiris; also a guardian of the dead. She was believed to also escort dead souls to Osiris.
  • Osiris, lord of the Underworld[2]
  • Qebehsenuef, one of the four sons of Horus
  • Seker, a falcon god of the Memphite necropolis who was known as a patron of the living, as well as a god of the dead. He is known to be closely tied to Osiris.

American mythology[edit]

Mictēcacihuātl as depicted in the Codex Borgia

Aztec[edit]

Cahuilla[edit]

Guarani[edit]

Haida[edit]

Inca[edit]

Inuit[edit]

Mayan[edit]

Narragansett[edit]

Other[edit]

Taíno[edit]

Vodou[edit]

Canaanite Mythology[edit]

Caucasian Mythology[edit]

East Asian Mythology[edit]

Chinese[edit]

Emperor(s) of Youdu (Capital City of the Underworld)

Kings of the Ten Underworld Palaces

  • Chiang Ziwen
  • Bao Zheng
  • Dong Ji
  • Huang Xile

The rest only have surnames including Li, Yu, Lu, Bi, Lu and Xue.

Four Kings of the Underworld

  • Bao Zheng
  • Han Qinhu
  • Fan Zhongyan
  • Kou Zhun

Ghost Kings of the Five Regions

  • Cai Yulei
  • Zhao He
  • Zhang Heng
  • Duzi Ren
  • Zhou Qi

Ghost Kings of the Five Regions (Ver.2)

  • Shen Cha
  • Yang Yun
  • Yan Di (Shenlong)
  • Ji Kang
  • Immortal Wang

Governors of Fengdu

  • Deng Ai
  • Ji Ming

Imperial Censor of Fengdu

  • Han Yi
  • Zeng Yuanshan
  • Jiao Zhongqing
  • Ma Zhong
  • Song Youqing
  • Guan Yu (note: different from the famous general of three kingdoms)
  • Wu Lun
  • Tu Cha

Four Generals of the Direct Altar of Fengdu

  • Ma Sheng
  • Ma Chuanzhong
  • Chen Yuanbo
  • Guo Zhongyou

Eight Generals of the Inner Altar of Fengdu

  • Wei Tin, Ghost Capturing General
  • Liu Chu, Ghost Restraining General
  • Wang Jian, Ghost Flailing General
  • Meng E, Ghost Interrogating General
  • Che Zi, Guardian of the East Gate
  • Xia Dali, Guardian of the West Gate
  • Lie Weizhi, Guardian of the South Gate
  • Sang Tongguai, Guardian of the North Gate

Eight Generals of the Outer Altar of Fengdu

  • Zhang Yuanlian
  • Chen Yuanqing
  • Li Yuande
  • Fan YuanZhang
  • Du YuanZhen
  • Liu Yuanfu
  • Chang Yuan
  • Jia Taoyuan

Ten Masters of the Underworld

  • A Bang, Bull Head
  • Luo Cha, Horse Face
  • Xie Bian, Wondering God of the Day
  • Fan Wujiu, Wondering God of the Night
  • Hei Wuchang (Black Impermanence)
  • Bai Wuchang (White Impermanence)
  • Huangfeng (responsible for insects)
  • Paowei (responsible for animals)
  • Yusai (responsible for fishes)
  • Guaiwang (responsible for Hungry Ghosts)

(Note: in some versions, Xie Bian and Fanjiu are the He Wuchang and Bai Wuchang.)

Four Strongmen of Fengdu

  • Zhang Yuanzhen, Taiyi Strongman
  • Hu Wenzhong, Tri-day Strongman
  • Sun Zhongwu, Demon-smiting Strongman
  • Tang Bocheng, Ghost-smiting Strongman

Two Agents of Fengdu

  • Xun Gongda, Great God of the Black Sky
  • Liu Guangzhong, Great God of the Black Fog

Wardens of the Nine Prison of Fengdu

  • Wang Yuanzhen
  • Zhen Yan
  • Yao Quan
  • Shi Tong
  • Zhou Sheng
  • Diao Xiao
  • Kong Sheng
  • Wu Yan
  • Wang Tong

Administers of the Six Paths of Rebirth of Fengdu

  • Cao Qing, Administer of the Path of Heaven
  • Tien Yan, Administer of the Path of Ghosts
  • Cui Cong, Administer of the Path of Earth
  • Ji Bie, Administer of the Path of Gods
  • Chen De, Administer of the Path of Hungry Ghosts
  • Gao Ren, Administer of the Path of Beasts

Judges of Fengdu

  • Cui (Chief Judge)
  • Wang Fu
  • Ban Jian
  • Zi He
  • Jia Yuan
  • Zhao Sheng
  • Zhang Qi
  • Yang Tong
  • Fu Po
  • Zhu Shun
  • Li Gong
  • Xue Zhong
  • Rong Zhen
  • Lu Zhongce
  • Chen Xun
  • Huang Shou
  • Zhou Bi
  • Bian Shen
  • Cheng De
  • Liu Bao
  • Dong Jie
  • Guo Yuan

Korean[edit]

Sacha Bonpuri

  • Yeomra, King of the Underworld
  • Shiwang, the Ten kings of the Underworld

Cheonjiwang Bonpuri

  • Daebyeol, Supreme King of the Underworld

Jeoseung Sacha, gods/messengers of death

  • Gangnim Doryeong, leader of the death gods
  • Hwadeok Sacha, reaper of death in fire
  • Yonggung Sacha, reaper of death at sea
  • Danmul Sacha, reaper of death in wells
  • Tusok Sacha, reaper of death by rock or stone

Jangseung, Korean totem poles

  • Cheonha Daejanggun, village guardian and the great general of all under heaven
  • Jihayeojanggun, village guardian and the great general of the underworld

Japanese[edit]

  • Izanami, when she died she became queen of the underworld, Yomi, and goddess of the dead
  • Enma, god and ruler of the dead in Japanese Buddhism

European mythology[edit]

Albanian[edit]

Balto-Slavic[edit]

Basque[edit]

Celtic[edit]

Etruscan[edit]

  • Aita, god of the underworld
  • Culga, a female underworld spirit
  • Februus, god of purification, death, the underworld, and riches
  • Mani, spirits of the dead
  • Mania, goddess of the dead
  • Mantus, god of the underworld
  • Orcus, god of the underworld
  • Tuchulcha, an underworld spirit
  • Vanth, winged spirit of the underworld

Finnish[edit]

Greek[edit]

Hades with his dog Cerberus
  • Acheron, god of the river Acheron, one of the seven rivers of the underworld
  • Alpheus, god of the river Alpheus, one of the seven rivers of the underworld
  • Charon, ferryman of the dead
  • Cocytus, god of the river Cocytus, one of the seven rivers of the underworld
  • Erebus, the primeval god of darkness, his mists encircled the underworld and filled the hollows of the earth
  • Eridanos, god of the river Eridanos, one of the seven rivers of the underworld
  • Erinyes, chthonic deities of vengeance
  • Hades, king of the underworld[8]
  • Keres, goddesses of violent death, sisters of Thanatos
  • Lampades, torch-bearing underworld nymphs
  • Lethe, goddess of the river Lethe, one of the seven rivers of the underworld.
  • Macaria, goddess of the blessed death (not to be confused with the daughter of Heracles)[9]
  • Persephone, queen of the underworld; wife of Hades and goddess of spring growth[10]
  • Phlegethon, god of the river Phlegethon, one of the seven rivers of the underworld.
  • Styx, goddess of the river Styx, a river that formed a boundary between the living and the dead, one of the seven rivers of the underworld
  • Tartarus, the darkest, deepest part of the underworld, often used for imprisoning enemies of the Olympians
  • Thanatos, personification of death, Roman counterpart is Mors[11]

Roman[edit]

  • Dea Tacita, goddess of the dead
  • Di inferi, ancient Roman deities associated with death and the Underworld
  • Dis Pater, god of the underworld
  • Lemures, the malevolent dead
  • Libitina, goddess of funerals and burials
  • Manes, spirits of the dead
  • Mania, goddess of death
  • Mors, personification of death, Greek equivalent is Thanatos
  • Nenia Dea, goddess of funerals
  • Orcus, punisher of broken oaths; usually folded in with Pluto
  • Pluto, ruler of the Underworld
  • Proserpina, queen of the underworld
  • Soranus, underworld Sabine god adopted by the Romans
  • Viduus, god who separated the soul and body after death

Norse[edit]

Rán uses her net to pull a seafarer into the depths in an illustration by Johannes Gehrts, 1901
  • Freyja, presides over Fólkvangr; chooses half of those who die in battle
  • Hel,[12][13] goddess of the dead and queen of Helheim, where people who didn't die in battle or drown went after death
  • Odin[12][13] presides over Valhalla and gets half of those who die in battle; there they train for Ragnarok
  • Rán, sea goddess who collects the drowned in her net

Mesopotamian Mythology[edit]

North and Central Asian Mythology[edit]

Oceanian mythology[edit]

South Asian Mythology[edit]

Elamite[edit]

Hindu/Vedic[edit]

Persian/Zoroastrian[edit]

Southeast Asian Mythology[edit]

  • Batara Kala (Balinese mythology), god of the underworld in traditional Javanese and Balinese mythology, ruling over it in a cave along with Setesuyara. Batara Kala is also named the creator of light and the earth. He is also the god of time and destruction, who devours unlucky people. He is related to Hindu concept of Kala, or time. In mythology, he causes eclipses by trying to eat the Sun or the Moon.
  • Shingon (nat) (Burmese)
  • Kumakatok (Philippines), hooded and cloaked harbingers of death that would knock on doors of the dying
  • Sidapa (Philippines), god of the death and lifespan in traditional Visayan mythology; resides in Mt. Majaas. Sidapa is prominently known for defeating the other gods in order to take a Bulan boy to be his consort or child-bride.
  • Magwayen (Philippines), the goddess of afterlife and the first ocean deity, according to Cebuano and Hiligaynon legends. Known for being the goddess who collects souls and takes them to Sulad with her boat.
  • Pong Lalondong (Toraja), god of death

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 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. He also makes a cameo appearance in Interesting Times.

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, while the Faith of the Seven worships The Stranger as one of Seven Aspects of God representing Death and the Unknown.

In the works of J. R. R. Tolkien, especially The Silmarillion, Nàmo AKA Lord Mandos is the Doomsman of the Valar, Judge of the Dead and Lord of the Halls of Mandos (where Elves await reincarnation and humans retreat before making the Journey into the Beyond).

In the CW TV show Supernatural, Death makes a crucial appearance. He is portrayed as existing alongside God since the beginning of time and being so ancient he cannot remember when he came into existence; he may even be older than God. In the show he is the oldest and most powerful of the Four Horsemen-Death, Famine, War and Pestilence. He is not portrayed as a villain.

In the Sailor Moon franchise, the last Sailor Guardian (of the Sol System) introduced is Sailor Saturn. Her powers revolve around destruction, ruin, and death and she can be thought of as a "god" of sorts (all Sailor Guardians can). Her weapon is the Silence Glaive that is capable of utterly obliterating and destroying entire worlds/planets if used to its maximum potential.

In the Marvel Comics Universe, the personification of death is Mistress Death.

The Transformers mythos features the character of Mortilus, a Cybertronian deity who represents death and who later betrayed his brethren and was destroyed, leading to the longevity of the Transformer race. A similar character is The Fallen, a member of the Thirteen Primes who is identified as the guardian of entropy.

In the manga and anime, Death Note, gods of death (shinigami) exist in their own realm and are owners of Death Notes, which are used to kill humans. When a note falls into the human world, the person who touches it first becomes the new owner of the note, can recognize the god of death to whom it belongs, and the god follows him/her for the rest of his/her life. They are more like freaky looking Grim Reapers than deities who are worshiped though. This is because shinigami are a fairly recent concept in Japanese folklore directly inspired by the European figure of the Grim Reaper, and thus, aren't "true" death gods. Despite their Western origin, many people will refer to both the Death Note characters and the folklorical shinigami using the Japanese name instead of the English translation or even "Grim Reaper". For similar cases of shinigami being more akin to Grim Reapers in anime, see Bleach (anime) and Soul Eater (anime).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-10-26. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  2. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-05-26. Retrieved 2012-10-30.
  3. ^ http://www.goddessaday.com/mayan/mictecacihuatl
  4. ^ http://www.azteccalendar.com/god/Mictlantecuhtli.html
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ "TUONI - the Finnish God of the Underworld (Finnish mythology)". godchecker.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  7. ^ "KALMA - the Finnish Goddess of Death (Finnish mythology)". godchecker.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  8. ^ [1] A page describing Hades.
  9. ^ "MACARIA (Makaria) - Greek Goddess of Blessed Death". www.theoi.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  10. ^ "Classical Mythology: Hades Takes a Wife: Persephone". InfoPlease. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  11. ^ "THANATOS - Greek God of Death (Roman Mors)". www.theoi.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  12. ^ a b Kveldulf Gundarsson. (1993, 2005) Our Troth. ISBN 0-9770165-0-1
  13. ^ a b 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.
  14. ^ "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
  15. ^ "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.
  16. ^ "Nergal - www.GatewaysToBabylon.com". www.gatewaystobabylon.com. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  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