Death deity

Death deity

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Deities associated with death
Death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

take many different forms, depending on the specific culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 and religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

 being referenced. Psychopomp
Psychopomp
Psychopomps are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage...

s, deities of the underworld
Underworld
The Underworld is a region which is thought to be under the surface of the earth in some religions and in mythologies. It could be a place where the souls of the recently departed go, and in some traditions it is identified with Hell or the realm of death...

, and resurrection deities
Life-death-rebirth deity
A dying god, also known as a dying-and-rising or resurrection deity, is a god who dies and is resurrected or reborn, in either a literal or symbolic sense. Male examples include the ancient Near Eastern and Greek deities Baal, Melqart, Adonis, Eshmun, Attis Tammuz, Asclepius, Orpheus, as well as...

 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 culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

s have incorporated a god
God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....

 of death
Death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

 into their mythology
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

 or religion
Religion
Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that establishes symbols that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to...

. As death, along with birth
Childbirth
Childbirth is the culmination of a human pregnancy or gestation period with the birth of one or more newborn infants from a woman's uterus...

, 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


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
Rhetoric
Rhetoric is the art of discourse, an art that aims to improve the facility of speakers or writers who attempt to inform, persuade, or motivate particular audiences in specific situations. As a subject of formal study and a productive civic practice, rhetoric has played a central role in the Western...

.

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.

List of death deities

Deity Name Culture/Religion Category References
Mictlantecuhtli
Mictlantecuhtli
Mictlantecuhtli , in Aztec mythology, was a god of the dead and the king of Mictlan , the lowest and northernmost section of the underworld. He was one of the principal gods of the Aztecs and was the most prominent of several gods and goddesses of death and the underworld...

Aztec
Aztec mythology
The aztec civilization recognized a polytheistic mythology, which contained the many deities and supernatural creatures from their religious beliefs. "orlando"- History :...

Underworld, Lord
Ankou
Ankou
Ankou is a personification of death in Breton mythology as well as in Cornish and Norman French folklore.Ankou is also known as "Aräwn".-Background:This character is reported by Anatole Le Braz, writer and legends collector of the 19th century...

Breton
Breton people
The Bretons are an ethnic group located in the region of Brittany in France. They trace much of their heritage to groups of Brythonic speakers who emigrated from southwestern Great Britain in waves from the 3rd to 6th century into the Armorican peninsula, subsequently named Brittany after them.The...

Ereshkigal
Ereshkigal
In Mesopotamian mythology, Ereshkigal was the goddess of Irkalla, the land of the dead or underworld. Sometimes her name is given as Irkalla, similar to the way the name Hades was used in Greek mythology for both the underworld and its ruler.Ereshkigal was the only one who could pass judgment and...

Babylonian Underworld
Nergal
Nergal
The name Nergal, Nirgal, or Nirgali refers to a deity in Babylon with the main seat of his cult at Cuthah represented by the mound of Tell-Ibrahim. Nergal is mentioned in the Hebrew bible as the deity of the city of Cuth : "And the men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, and the men of Cuth made Nergal"...

Babylonian secondary Underworld http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/409455/Nergal http://www.infoplease.com/ce6/society/A0835244.html
Iku Yoruba, Yoruba influenced syncretic religions such as Santería
Santería
Santería is a syncretic religion of West African and Caribbean origin influenced by Roman Catholic Christianity, also known as Regla de Ocha, La Regla Lucumi, or Lukumi. Its liturgical language, a dialect of Yoruba, is also known as Lucumi....

, Umbanda
Umbanda
Umbanda is an Afro-Brazilian religion that blends African religions with Catholicism, Spiritism and Kardecism, and considerable indigenous lore....

 and Candomblé
Candomblé
Candomblé is an African-originated or Afro-Brazilian religion, practised chiefly in Brazil by the "povo de santo" . It originated in the cities of Salvador, the capital of Bahia and Cachoeira, at the time one of the main commercial crossroads for the distribution of products and slave trade to...

Yama
Yama
Yama , also known as Yamarāja in India and Nepal, Shinje in Tibet, Yanluowang or simply Yan in China, Yeomla Daewang in South Korea and Enma Dai-Ō in Japan, is the lord of death, in Hinduism and then adopted into Buddhism and then further into Chinese mythology and Japanese mythology. First...

: Yama (Hinduism)
Yama (Hinduism)
Yama is the lord of death in Hinduism, first recorded in the Vedas. Yama belongs to an early stratum of Indo-Iranian theology. In Vedic tradition Yama was considered to have been the first mortal who died and espied the way to the celestial abodes, thus in virtue of precedence he became the ruler...

, Yanluo, Enma
Yama (Buddhism and Chinese mythology)
Yama the name of the Buddhist dharmapala and judge of the dead, who presides over the Buddhist Narakas , "Hells" or "Purgatories". Although ultimately based on the god Yama of the Hindu Vedas, the Buddhist Yama has developed different myths and different functions from the Hindu deity...

Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

, Chinese
Chinese mythology
Chinese mythology is a collection of cultural history, folktales, and religions that have been passed down in oral or written tradition. These include creation myths and legends and myths concerning the founding of Chinese culture and the Chinese state...

 Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, Japanese Buddhism
Mot Canaan
Canaan
Canaan is a historical region roughly corresponding to modern-day Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and the western parts of Jordan...

ite
Cichol Celtic
Celtic polytheism
Celtic polytheism, commonly known as Celtic paganism, refers to the religious beliefs and practices adhered to by the Iron Age peoples of Western Europe now known as the Celts, roughly between 500 BCE and 500 CE, spanning the La Tène period and the Roman era, and in the case of the Insular Celts...

Morrigan
Morrígan
The Morrígan or Mórrígan , also written as Morrígu or in the plural as Morrígna, and spelt Morríghan or Mór-Ríoghain in Modern Irish, is a figure from Irish mythology who appears to have once been a goddess, although she is not explicitly referred to as such in the texts.The Morrigan is a goddess...

Celtic
Celtic polytheism
Celtic polytheism, commonly known as Celtic paganism, refers to the religious beliefs and practices adhered to by the Iron Age peoples of Western Europe now known as the Celts, roughly between 500 BCE and 500 CE, spanning the La Tène period and the Roman era, and in the case of the Insular Celts...

Anubis
Anubis
Anubis is the Greek name for a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife in ancient Egyptian religion. In the ancient Egyptian language, Anubis is known as Inpu . According to the Akkadian transcription in the Amarna letters, Anubis' name was vocalized as Anapa...

Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

Lord of the Underworld
Osiris
Osiris
Osiris is an Egyptian god, usually identified as the god of the afterlife, the underworld and the dead. He is classically depicted as a green-skinned man with a pharaoh's beard, partially mummy-wrapped at the legs, wearing a distinctive crown with two large ostrich feathers at either side, and...

Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

Lord of the Underworld http://www.philae.nu/akhet/NetjeruO.html http://www.egyptianmyths.net/osiris.htm
Tuoni
Tuoni
In Finnish mythology, Tuoni was the god of the Tuonela ....

, with his wife and children
Finnish
Finnish mythology
Finnish mythology is the mythology that went with Finnish paganism which was practised by the Finnish people prior to Christianisation. It has many features shared with fellow Finnic Estonian mythology and its non-Finnic neighbours, the Balts and the Scandinavians...

Thanatos
Thanatos
In Greek mythology, Thanatos was the daemon personification of death. He was a minor figure in Greek mythology, often referred to but rarely appearing in person...

Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

Personification of Death
Hades
Hades
Hades , Hadēs, originally , Haidēs or , Aidēs , meaning "the unseen") was the ancient Greek god of the underworld. The genitive , Haidou, was an elision to denote locality: "[the house/dominion] of Hades". Eventually, the nominative came to designate the abode of the dead.In Greek mythology, Hades...

Greek
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

Lord of Underworld
Ghede Haitian Vodou
Ogbunabali
Ogbunabali
Ogbunabali is the traditional Igbo Death deity. His name is considered to be a literal description of his character as he is said to kill his victims in the night, these usually being criminals or those who have committed an unspeakable taboo....

Igbo
Igbo mythology
Ọdinani, also Ọdinala, Omenala,Omenana, Odinana or Ọmenani is the traditional cultural beliefs and practises of the Igbo people of West Africa...

Azrael
Azrael
Azrael is the name of the Archangel of Death in some extrabiblical traditions. He is also the angel of death in Islamic theology and Sikhism. It is an English form of the Arabic name ʿIzrāʾīl or Azra'eil , the name traditionally attributed to the angel of death in some sects of Islam and Sikhism,...

Arabic
Izanami
Izanami
In Japanese mythology, is a goddess of both creation and death, as well as the former wife of the god Izanagi-no-Mikoto. She is also referred to as Izanami-no-kami.-Goddess of Creation:...

Japan
Japanese mythology
Japanese mythology is a system of beliefs that embraces Shinto and Buddhist traditions as well as agriculturally based folk religion. The Shinto pantheon comprises innumerable kami...

 (Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

)
Hine-nui-te-pō
Hine-nui-te-po
Hine-nui-te-pō is a goddess of night and death and the ruler of the underworld in Māori mythology. She is a daughter of Tāne. She fled to the underworld because she discovered that Tāne, whom she had married, was also her father. The red colour of sunset comes from her.All of the children of Rangi...

Maori
Maori mythology
Māori mythology and Māori traditions are the two major categories into which the legends of the Māori of New Zealand may usefully be divided...

Kisin, Uacmitun Ahau Maya
Maya mythology
Mayan mythology is part of Mesoamerican mythology and comprises all of the Mayan tales in which personified forces of nature, deities, and the heroes interacting with these play the main roles...

Lord of Underworld
Ishtar-Deela Nakh
Vainakh mythology
The Vainakh people of the North Caucasus include the modern Chechens and Ingush, who are today predominantly Muslim in religion. Nevertheless, their folklore has preserved a substantial amount of information about their pre-Islamic pagan beliefs...

Lord of Underworld
Santa Muerte
Santa Muerte
Santa Muerte is a sacred figure venerated in Mexico, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs. The name literally translates to "Holy Death" or "Saint Death." Mexican culture since the pre-Columbian era has maintained a certain reverence towards death, which can be seen in...

Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

Grim Reaper
Death (personification)
The concept of death as a sentient entity has existed in many societies since the beginning of history. In English, Death is often given the name Grim Reaper and, from the 15th century onwards, came to be shown as a skeletal figure carrying a large scythe and clothed in a black cloak with a hood...

Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

Personification of Death
Mara
Mara (Hindu goddess)
Mara is a Hindu goddess of death.In Hinduism, Mara brings death in the same way that Kama brings love and intimacy. On their own, neither is important, but act more as attributes than as deities...

Hindu
Hindu
Hindu refers to an identity associated with the philosophical, religious and cultural systems that are indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. As used in the Constitution of India, the word "Hindu" is also attributed to all persons professing any Indian religion...

Māra
Mara
-Social groups:*Mara people, in northeastern India and western Myanmar* Mara language, a language spoken by Mara people*Mara Salvatrucha, a violent criminal gang in Mexico, Central America, Canada, and the United States...

Latvian
Latvian mythology
Latvian culture, along with Lithuanian, is among the oldest surviving Indo-European cultures. Much of its symbolism is ancient. Its seasons, festivals, and numerous deities reflect the essential agrarian nature of Latvian tribal life...

Giltinė Lithuania
Lithuanian mythology
Lithuanian mythology is an example of Baltic mythology, developed by Lithuanians throughout the centuries.-History of scholarship:Surviving information about Baltic paganism in general is very sketchy and incomplete. As with most ancient Indo-European cultures Lithuanian mythology is an example of...

Dahaka
Zahhak
Zahhāk or Zohhāk is an evil figure in Iranian mythology, evident in ancient Iranian folklore as Aži Dahāka, the name by which he also appears in the texts of the Avesta...

Persian
Persian mythology
Persian mythology are traditional tales and stories of ancient origin, some involving extraordinary or supernatural beings. Drawn from the legendary past of the Iranian cultural continent which especially consists of the state of Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Central Asia, they reflect the...

Morana
Marzanna
Maržanna, Mara, Maržena, Morana, Moréna, Mora, Marmora or Morena is a Slavic goddess associated with death, winter and nightmares. Some sources equate her with the Latvian goddess Māra, who takes a person's body after their death...

Slavic
Slavic mythology
Slavic mythology is the mythological aspect of the polytheistic religion that was practised by the Slavs before Christianisation.The religion possesses many common traits with other religions descended from the Proto-Indo-European religion....

Mors
Mors (mythology)
In ancient Roman myth and literature, Mors is the personification of death equivalent to the Greek Thánatos. As the Latin noun for "death", mors, genitive mortis, is of feminine gender, but ancient Roman art is not known to depict Death as a woman. Latin poets, however, are bound by the...

Roman
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

Pluto
Pluto (mythology)
In ancient Greek religion and myth, Pluto was a name for the ruler of the underworld; the god was also known as Hades, a name for the underworld itself...

Roman
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

Orcus
Orcus (mythology)
Orcus was a god of the underworld, punisher of broken oaths in Italic and Roman mythology. As with Hades, the name of the god was also used for the underworld itself. In the later tradition, he was conflated with Dis Pater, who was the Roman equivalent of Pluto.Orcus was portrayed in paintings in...

Roman
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

Dis Pater
Dis Pater
Dis Pater, or Dispater was a Roman god of the underworld, later subsumed by Pluto or Hades. Originally a chthonic god of riches, fertile agricultural land, and underground mineral wealth, he was later commonly equated with the Roman deities Pluto and Orcus, becoming an underworld deity.Dis Pater...

Roman
Roman mythology
Roman mythology is the body of traditional stories pertaining to ancient Rome's legendary origins and religious system, as represented in the literature and visual arts of the Romans...

Erlik
Erlik
Erlik, or Erlig, is the god of death and underworld in Turkic and Mongolian mythology.According to Siberian mythology, Erlik was the first creation of Tengri or Ulgan, the creator god, but Erlik's pride led to friction between the two, and he was banished to the underworld.In the myths of the...

Turkic Underworld
Odin
Odin
Odin is a major god in Norse mythology and the ruler of Asgard. Homologous with the Anglo-Saxon "Wōden" and the Old High German "Wotan", the name is descended from Proto-Germanic "*Wodanaz" or "*Wōđanaz"....

Norse
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

Hel
Hel (being)
In Norse mythology, Hel is a being who presides over a realm of the same name, where she receives a portion of the dead. Hel is attested in the Poetic Edda, compiled in the 13th century from earlier traditional sources, and the Prose Edda, written in the 13th century by Snorri Sturluson...

Norse
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

Freyja Norse
Norse mythology
Norse mythology, a subset of Germanic mythology, is the overall term for the myths, legends and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore, with some aspects surviving...

Erio Basque
Basque mythology
The mythology of the ancient Basques largely did not survive the, albeit late, arrival of Christianity in the Basque Country between the 4th and 12th century AD...


In fiction


In the universe of George Orwell's novel 1984, "Death Worship" was the common propagandistic English-language translation of the name of the governing philosophy of Eastasia (more accurately translated as "Obliteration of Self"). This ideology presumably made some allusion to Buddhist cultural concepts, but was functionally indistinguishable from the totalitarian "oligarchical collectivist" ideologies of the other two superpowers (Ingsoc
Ingsoc
Ingsoc is the political ideology of the totalitarian government of Oceania in George Orwell's dystopian science fiction novel Nineteen Eighty-Four.-Fictionalised origin of Ingsoc:...

 in Oceania and "Neo-Bolshevism" in Eurasia).

Death is the protagonist in the science fantasy
Science fantasy
Science fantasy is a mixed genre within speculative fiction drawing elements from both science fiction and fantasy. Although in some terms of its portrayal in recent media products it can be defined as instead of being a mixed genre of science fiction and fantasy it is instead a mixing of the...

 novel On a Pale Horse
On a Pale Horse
On a Pale Horse is a fantasy novel by Piers Anthony, first published in 1983. It is the first of eight books in the Incarnations of Immortality series...

.

See also

  • Death (personification)
    Death (personification)
    The concept of death as a sentient entity has existed in many societies since the beginning of history. In English, Death is often given the name Grim Reaper and, from the 15th century onwards, came to be shown as a skeletal figure carrying a large scythe and clothed in a black cloak with a hood...

  • Santa Muerte
    Santa Muerte
    Santa Muerte is a sacred figure venerated in Mexico, probably a syncretism between Mesoamerican and Catholic beliefs. The name literally translates to "Holy Death" or "Saint Death." Mexican culture since the pre-Columbian era has maintained a certain reverence towards death, which can be seen in...

  • List of deities
  • Lunar deity
    Lunar deity
    In mythology, a lunar deity is a god or goddess associated with or symbolizing the moon. These deities can have a variety of functions and traditions depending upon the culture, but they are often related to or an enemy of the solar deity. Even though they may be related, they are distinct from the...

  • Solar deity
    Solar deity
    A solar deity is a sky deity who represents the Sun, or an aspect of it, usually by its perceived power and strength. Solar deities and sun worship can be found throughout most of recorded history in various forms...

  • Afterlife
    Afterlife
    The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

  • Psychopomp
    Psychopomp
    Psychopomps are creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage...