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.
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.
Emperor(s) of Youdu (Capital City of the Underworld)
Kings of the Ten Underworld Palaces
The rest only have surnames including Li, Yu, Lu, Bi, Lu and Xue.
Four Kings of the Underworld
Ghost Kings of the Five Regions
Ghost Kings of the Five Regions (Ver.2)
Governors of Fengdu
Imperial Censor of Fengdu
Four Generals of the Direct Altar of Fengdu
Eight Generals of the Inner Altar of Fengdu
Eight Generals of the Outer Altar of Fengdu
Ten Masters of the Underworld
(Note: in some versions, Xie Bian and Fanjiu are the He Wuchang and Bai Wuchang.)
Four Strongmen of Fengdu
Two Agents of Fengdu
Wardens of the Nine Prison of Fengdu
Administers of the Six Paths of Rebirth of Fengdu
Judges of Fengdu
Jeoseung Sacha, gods/messengers of death
Jangseung, Korean totem poles
In the novel The Book Thief, Death is the narrator of the story.
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 them for the rest of their life. However, shinigami are more like Grim Reapers with freakish appearances than deities who are worshiped. 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).
In the first campaign of the roleplaying adventure podcast The Adventure Zone, the character Kravitz is a bounty hunter who apprehends people disrupting the natural order of life and death. He even remarks on being called the Grim Reaper by some societies. While Kravitz starts out as a minor antagonist in the story, he returns as an ally to the heroes. Kravitz is gay and the romantic love interest of Taako, one of the main protagonists.
Death, due to its prominent place in human culture, is frequently imagined as a personified force, also known as the Grim Reaper. In some mythologies, the Grim Reaper causes the victim's death by coming to collect that person. In turn, people in some stories try to hold on to life by avoiding Death's visit, or by fending Death off with bribery or tricks. Other beliefs hold that the Spectre of Death is only a psychopomp, serving to sever the last ties between the soul and the body, and to guide the deceased to the afterlife, without having any control over when or how the victim dies. Death is most often personified in male form, although in certain cultures Death is perceived as female (for instance, Marzanna in Slavic mythology, Dhumavati in Hinduism, or La Catrina in Mexico).Februus
In ancient Roman religion, Februus, whose name means "purifier", was the god of purification. He was also worshipped under the same name by the Etruscans as the god of purification, and also the underworld. For the Etruscans, Februus was also the god of riches (money/gold) and death, both connected to the underworld in the same natural manner as with the better-known Roman god Pluto.
Februus may have become the Roman Febris, goddess of fever (febris in Latin means fever) and malaria. These are possibly connected with the sweating of fevers, which was considered a purgative, washing, and purification process.
Februus is possibly named in honor of the more ancient Februa (also Februalia and Februatio), the spring festival of washing and purification. Februus' holy month was Februarius (of Februa), hence English February, a month named for the Februa/februalia spring purification festival which occurred on the 15th of that month.
These spring purification activities occurred at about the same time as Lupercalia, a Roman festival in honor of Faun and also the wolf who nursed Romulus and Remus, during which expiatory sacrifices and ritual purifications were also performed. Because of this coincidence, the two gods (Faun and Februus) were often considered the same entity.Itztlacoliuhqui
In Aztec mythology, Itztlacoliuhqui is the god of frost. He also represents matter in its lifeless state.
The Nahuatl name Itztlacoliuhqui is usually translated into English as "Curved Obsidian Blade". J. Richard Andrews contends that this is a mistranslation, and that the correct interpretation is "Everything Has Become Bent by Means of Coldness", or "Plant-Killer-Frost".In the Aztec calendar, Itztlacoliuhqui is the lord of the thirteen days from 1 Lizard to 13 Vulture. The preceding thirteen days are ruled over by Patecatl, and the following thirteen by Tlazolteotl.
The creation of this god appeared in the Aztec myth of creation. Tonatiuh, the Sun god, demanded obedience and sacrifice from the other gods before he will move. Enraged at his arrogance, the god of dawn and the planet Venus, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, shoots an arrow at the Sun. However, the dart misses its mark, and the Sun throws his own back at the morning star, piercing the Lord of Dawn through the head. At this moment, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli is transformed into the god of obsidian stone and coldness, Itztlacoliuhqui.
Itztlacoliuhqui is a part of a holy trinity of birth, life, and death. He takes the place of death in this particular trinity. Birth is taken by Tezcatlipoca and life by Itzpapalotl, Itztlacoliuhqui's female counterpart.
Itztlacoliuhqui's iconography depicts a straw broom (tlachpānōni) in his hand, symbolizing the function of this wintry death deity as the cleaner of the way for new life to emerge thereafter.List of expressions related to death
This is a list of words and phrases related to death in alphabetical order. While some of them are slang, others euphemize the unpleasantness of the subject, or are used in formal contexts. Some of the phrases may carry the meaning of 'kill', or simply contain words related to death. Most of them are idioms.Santa Muerte
Nuestra Señora de la Santa Muerte (Spanish: [ˈnwestra seˈɲora ðe la ˈsanta ˈmweɾte]) (Spanish for Our Lady of Holy Death), often shortened to Santa Muerte, is a female deity or folk saint in Mexican and Mexican-American folk Catholicism. A personification of death, she is associated with healing, protection, and safe delivery to the afterlife by her devotees. Despite condemnation by leaders of the Catholic Church, her cult has become increasingly prominent since the turn of the 21st century.
Since the pre-Columbian era Mexican culture has maintained a certain reverence towards death, which can be seen in the widespread commemoration of the Day of the Dead. Elements of that celebration include the use of skeletons to remind people of their mortality. The worship of Santa Muerte is condemned by the Catholic Church in Mexico as invalid, but it is increasingly firmly entrenched in Mexican culture.Originally a male figure, Santa Muerte generally appears as a skeletal female figure, clad in a long robe and holding one or more objects, usually a scythe and a globe. Her robe can be of any color, as more specific images of the figure vary widely from devotee to devotee and according to the rite being performed or the petition being made.As the worship of Santa Muerte was clandestine until the 20th century, most prayers and other rites have been traditionally performed privately at home. Since the beginning of the 21st century, worship has become more public, especially in Mexico City after a believer called Enriqueta Romero initiated her famous Mexico City shrine in 2001. The number of believers in Santa Muerte has grown over the past ten to twenty years, to an estimated 10–20 million followers in Mexico, the United States, and parts of Central America. Santa Muerte has similar male counterparts in the Americas, such as the skeletal folk saints San La Muerte of Paraguay and Rey Pascual of Guatemala.Xolotl
In Aztec mythology, Xolotl (Nahuatl pronunciation: [ˈʃolot͡ɬ] (listen)) was the god with associations to both lightning and death. He was associated with the sunset and would guard the Sun as it traveled through the underworld every night. Dogs were associated with Xolotl. This deity and a dog were believed to lead the soul on its journey to the underworld. He was commonly depicted as a monstrous dog. Xolotl was the god of fire and lightning. He was also god of twins, monsters, misfortune, sickness, and deformities. Xolotl is the canine brother and twin of Quetzalcoatl, the pair being sons of the virgin Coatlicue. He is the dark personification of Venus, the evening star, and was associated with heavenly fire.Yama
Yama (listen ) or Yamarāja is a god of death, the south direction, and the underworld, belonging to an early stratum of Rigvedic Hindu deities. In Sanskrit, his name can be interpreted to mean "twin". In the Zend-Avesta of Zoroastrianism, he is called "Yima".According to the Vishnu Purana, Yama is the son of sun-god Surya and Sandhya, the daughter of Vishvakarma. Yama is the brother of Sraddhadeva Manu and of his older sister Yami, which Horace Hayman Wilson indicates to mean the Yamuna. According to the Vedas, Yama is said to have been the first mortal who died. By virtue of precedence, he became the ruler of the departed, and is called "Lord of the Pitrs".Mentioned in the Pāli Canon of Theravada Buddhism, Yama subsequently entered Buddhist mythology in East Asia, Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka as a Dharmapala under various transliterations. He is otherwise also called as "Dharmaraja".Yanluo Wang
In Chinese Mythology, Yanluo Wang (閻羅, Wade-Giles: Yen-lo) is a Chinese deity and the ruler of the underworld Diyu. The name Yan Luo is a shortened Chinese transliteration of the Sanskrit term Yama Raja (閻魔羅社). He is also the judge of the underworld and passes judgment on all the dead.
According to legend, he is often equated with Yama (Buddhism), but actually, Yanluo Wang has his own number of stories and long been worshipped in China. His personification is always male, and his minions include a judge who holds in his hands a brush and a book listing every soul and the allotted death date for every life. Bullhead and Horseface, the fearsome guardians of hell, bring the newly dead, one by one, before Yan Luo for judgement. Men or women with merit will be rewarded good future lives, or even revival in their previous life. Men or women who committed misdeeds will be sentenced to torture and/or miserable future lives. Yanluo is not one particular god. There were said to be cases in which an honest mortal was rewarded the post of Yanluo.
Lists of mythological figures