::Literate Blather::
Friday, November 21, 2008
Gods of Death

A Collection of Ancient Gods of Death and the Underworld

Death is ever enticing – a luring beacon that finally consumes us all. It’s the inevitable fate of every living creature. Death even takes entire civilizations (Rome and Maya for example). It is the destination we all reach. The finish line for all of us is rot, decay, and a return to dirt.

Yet most modern Western cultures have become quite adept at ignoring or avoiding any discussion about death. Ever try to bring death up at a cocktail party? There
won’t be many takers.

The en
ormity of our mortality has spawned centuries of mythology around death. Most cultures from Greeks to the Aztecs have developed narratives and destinations for the lost souls – and the immortal caretakers who will greet us there.

Western civilization has given
us Christianity – where we are guided to heaven’s door by angels and even saints. There, of course, we’ll find lots of bright golden light, fluffy clouds, and the throne of God and Jesus. We also have concocted the dreaded Grim Reaper, a scathe-welding figure in a dark cowl that visits us on our deathbeds.

DaRK PaRTY has collected some of the more interesting Gods of Death that ancient civilizations have bestowed upon us. When you come to the end of the line perhaps you’ll be greeted by one of them.


Origin: Greek Mythology

Title: God of the Underworld

Also Known As: The Unseen One, The Rich One, The Silent One (the Romans later adopted Hades, but renamed him as Pluto)

Symbols: Helm of Darkness (which makes him invisible)

Known Associates: Parents Cronuss and Rhea, brothers Zeus and Poseidon, sisters Demeter, Hestia, and Hera. Married to Persephone. Pet: Cerberus, the three-headed dog
Residence: The
underworld, also known as Hades. A foggy, gloomy abode for the dead

Description: Despite being feared by mortals (priests averted their eyes when making sacrifices of black sheep to him), Hades was a rather passive ruler with a goal of maintaining a strict division between the living and the dead. He forbade the dead from leaving his kingdom and would become enraged if they tried to escape. His personality was rather dark and melancholy and he was not very popular among his peers. He spent most of his time in Hades ensconced on his ebony throne rather than cavorting with his fellow gods on Mount Olympus

Influence Today: Hell is often referred to as H
ades in Christian mythology

Dis Pater

Origin: Celtic Mythology

Title: God of the Underworld

Also Known As: Dis, Father of Riches

Symbols: Precious gems

Associates: Aerucra, the Celtic earth goddess, was his consort

Residence: The underworld

Description: Little is known about Dis Pater, but it is believed that he was once a god of wealth, but eventually
became associated with death because gems and precious metals were found in the earth. When the Celts and the Gauls were defeated by the Romans and integrated into Roman culture, Dis Pater morphed into Pluto, the Roman god of death

Influence Today: A Russian goth rock metal band is called Dis Pater and the Dispater also appears as a deity in fantasy role-playing game Advanced Dungeons & Dragons


Origin: Aztec Mythology

Title: God of the Dead and King of Mictlan (the lowest level of the Aztec underworld)

Also Known As: Lord of Mictlan

Symbols: A blood-splattered
skeleton, a toothy skull, spiders, owls, bats

Known Associates: His wife Mictecacihuatl and bats, owls, and spiders

Residence: A windowless castle on the 9th and lowest level of the Aztec underworld
Description: The most powerful of several Aztec gods and goddess of death. Priest who worshipped him sometime ate human flesh. He is most often presented as a blood-soaked skeleton, but to Aztecs the skeleton was a symbol of fertility and abundance

Influence Today: The Aztec gods are mostly forgotten, but there was a comic dedicated to Mictlantecutli and a heavy metal band from L.A. bears his name


Origin: Irish Mythology

Title: Phantom
Queen, Great Queen

Also Known As: Morrigu, Morrighan, Mor-Rioghain
Symbols: A crow, especially t
hose crows that eat the dead after a battle. Also depicted as an eel, wolf, and a cow

Known Associates: Badb, the goddess of war, and Macha, a goddess of sovereignty

Residence: The Irish countryside

Description: She is often depicted a goddess associated with the violent death of warriors – sometimes interchangeable with her sisters B
abd and Macha. She appears as a crow and various animals, but can also appears as an old hag

Influence Today: Another forgotten old god, but a German black metal band bears her name and she appears as a character in the video game series Capcom


Origin: Egyptian Mythology

Title: God of the Underworld

Also Known As: He who is upon his mountain, He who is in the place of embalming, Guardian of the Veil Symbols: The color black, the flail, nine bows, and jackals

Known Associates: Son of Set, the Evil One, and married to Nephthys (also his sister)

Residence: The Realm of the Dead

Description: Most often portrayed as a black man with the head of a jackal and carrying a flail. Anubis is associated with rotting bodies and scavengers that ate the flesh of the dead. He was also associated with the embalming of mummies. He was in c
harge of admission to the Egyptian Realm of the Dead. Later, Anubis was downgraded to a minor god (losing out to the more popular Osiris)

Influence Today: Anubis is often portrayed in comics and video games. He’s also been a character of fantasy TV shows such as BeastMaster and Stargate. Anubis also appears in Neil Gaiman’s novel “American Gods”


Origin: Norse/Finnish Mythology

Title: Goddess of He

Also Known As: N/A

Symbols: She carries a dish called “Hunger” and a dagger called “Famine.”

Known Associates: Daughter of Loki. Her serving maid is Ganglot

Residence: Enormous estates called the “Halls of Hel” in a section of Niflheim (the mist world)

Description: She appears as a woman with half her skin black and the other half white. She is a gloomy, frowning woman. She is often associated with those who die from sickness or old age

Influence Today: Hel is a god in Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but remains nearly forgotten


Chinese Mythology

Title: Lord of Death

Also Known As: Yamaraja, Yanluowang or Yan

Symbols: N/A

Known Associates:
His father Surya and his twin sister Yami. His commander is Lord Shiva, the Destroyer

Residence: The world of the dead and Hell

Description: Yama is portrayed with green or red skin and usually riding a water buffalo. He uses a rope to pull the souls of the dead from their bodies. He is considered the first mortal who died and then become the god and guardian of the underworld

Influence Today: N/A


Origin: Slavic Mythology

Title: God of the Underworld

Also Known As: Cryrillic and Volos

Symbols: Associated with dragons and cattle.

Known Associates: Enemy of the thunder god Perun

Residence: Slavs considered the world a giant tree. The branches were heaven and the roots the underworld. Veles, in the form of a serpent, lived coiled around the roots in underground caves and passages. Here he ruled over the dead.

Description: Often depicted as a snake or a dragon with the horns of a ram and having a long beard. He often sent heralds to the
land of the living. He was worshipped at the beginning of winter when Slavs thought the border between life and death faded

Influence Today: N/A

Baron Samedi

Origin: Voodoo Mythology

Title: Loa of the Dead

Also Known As: Baron Samdi, Bawon Samedi or Baron Saturday

Symbols: Phallic symbols

Known Associates: His wife is Maman Brigitte

Residence: At the crossroads of where dead spirits journey to Guinee, the land of the dead

Description: Depicted with a white top hat and wearing a black tuxedo. He wears dark glasses over his white, skull-like face. He is fond of disruption, obscenity, debauchery, and his known to enjoy rum and tobacco

Influence Today: He was a villain in the James Bond film “Live and Let Die.” A British rapper goes by the same name and he’s been featured as a character in Marvel Comics as a villain of Doctor Strange.


Origin: Etruscan Mythology (northern Italy)

Title: Goddess of Death

Also Known As: Old Age, Old Woman, and She Who Stops

Symbols: N/A

Known Associates: Laran, god of war, Selvens, civil god, and Turan, the goddess of love

Residence: At the gates of death where she led the dead souls into the Underworld

Description: A woman with a veiled face. She is thought to be very gloomy and depressing

Influence Today: N/A


Origin: Gaul Mythology (later Roman)

Title: God the Underworld and Punisher of Broken Oaths

Also Known As: Later transformed into/associated with Pluto, Hades, and Dis Pater

Symbols: N/A

Known Associates: He is associated with demons, monsters, and giants

Residence: Lived in the land of the dead

Description: A gnarled, hairy giant with a beard (may have been a Cyclops). He was considered a punishing and evil god

Influence Today: Orcus appears in several role-playing games as a demon prince and god of the undead, including Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, NetHack, and Empire of the East. He has appeared in comic strips as well.

A Question of God

The Death of Poetry

Mike Snider's poem "In the Dark Woods"

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